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Recent Lenovo ThinkPad laptops have a problem with defective Thunderbolt Controllers

Recent Lenovo ThinkPad laptops have a problem with defective Thunderbolt Controllers
Recent Lenovo ThinkPad laptops have a problem with defective Thunderbolt Controllers
Since 2018, most ThinkPads bank on USB C as the sole charging connector. For users, USB C has many advantages over proprietary connectors. Right now though, Lenovo has some problems with the USB C connectors in the ThinkPads, as they sometimes fail due to faulty Thunderbolt Controllers.

USB C is a great standard. It is the first truly universal USB port, promising a bright future where one port really can do anything & render dongles obsolete. One of the best features of the small port: USB Power Delivery (PD). Laptops can charge with up to 100 W over USB C thanks to PD. Proprietary charging ports become unnecessary and both phones and laptops can be charged with one charger. Also, USB C enables the use of universal power banks. All in all, the universal standard has many advantages.

Lenovo puts USB C into all ThinkPad laptops since 2017. Since 2018, the standard has replaced the proprietary Slim tip charger in almost all models. A step forward, considering the advantages of the universal standard. But now, there is a problem: 2017, 2018 and 2019 ThinkPads struggle with defective USB C ports.

A description of the problem can be found over at Lenovo's support site: The issue may happen after 6 to 12 months and it may have several impact levels. Sometimes, the USB C port may fail completely, sometimes the HDMI video-output may be unavailable. Also, the Thunderbolt Controller might produce error messages. The system might not charge anymore through USB C as well.

Lenovo remains quiet about the reason for the failures, but the list of affected ThinkPad laptops leaves only one logical explanation: Only ThinkPads with Thunderbolt Controllers are affected, so the Intel Thunderbolt Controllers seem to the cause of these issues.

Only more expensive models like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, ThinkPad T480 or ThinkPad X390 are affected. More affordable L/E ThinkPads are free of issues, as are ThinkPads with AMD processors.

  • T470
  • T470s
  • T480
  • T480s
  • T490 / P43s
  • T490s
  • T570 / P51s
  • T580 / P52s
  • T590 / P53s
  • X1 Carbon 2017 / 5th Gen
  • X1 Carbon 2018 / 6th Gen
  • X1 Carbon 2019/ 7th Gen
  • X1 Yoga 2017 / 2nd Gen
  • X1 Yoga 2018 / 3rd Gen
  • X1 Yoga 2019/ 4th Gen
  • X1 Tablet 2018/ 3rd Gen
  • X280
  • Yoga 370
  • X380 Yoga
  • X390
  • X390 Yoga
  • P51
  • P52
  • P71
  • P72

Luckily, Lenovo has already released driver and firmware updates for all affected ThinkPads. Users of these models should install these updates as fast as possible. If there are issues regardless, Lenovo's support should be contacted. The only solution in this case seems to be a motherboard exchange.

Update: We have followed up on this topic with two more articles:

ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 failure: What's happening, why it's happening, and how to fix it

Lenovo statement: Thunderbolt firmware responsible for ThinkPad USB C failures

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 01 > Recent Lenovo ThinkPad laptops have a problem with defective Thunderbolt Controllers
Benjamin Herzig, 2020-01-22 (Update: 2020-01-26)
Benjamin Herzig
Editor of the original article: Benjamin Herzig - Editor
In 2010 I started to get more and more involved with technology, especially notebooks have been my passion ever since. Of course I came across the detailed tests of Notebookcheck very quickly. With time I learned more and more about notebooks and started writing small reviews about notebooks in forums and blog pages. To earn some extra money during my studies I turned my hobby into my profession and joined the team of Notebookcheck in 2016. My personal interest is especially in business notebooks.