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Sensitive to onscreen flickering? Take caution when purchasing these Lenovo ThinkPad SKUs

These popular Lenovo ThinkPad laptops suffer from pulse-width modulation (Source: Own)
These popular Lenovo ThinkPad laptops suffer from pulse-width modulation (Source: Own)
The ThinkPad T, X, and P families are home to Lenovo's more well-known models including the 14-inch T480, 15-inch T580, X380 convertible, and 15-inch P52 workstation. While their design, features, and performance are generally very well received, many may be unfit for users who are sensitive to flickering lights. Be wary when purchasing the following ThinkPad models.

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an important but not often discussed property of laptop displays. PWM describes the flickering of the LED backlight that some laptop displays may employ in order to control the brightness of the screen. As our page on PWM details, the constant flickering can cause eyestrain and headaches for users especially if they have to stare at the screen for hours throughout the day.

Unfortunately, PWM is present on a wide array of laptops including some of Lenovo's most popular models. We've tested multiple SKUs of the ThinkPad T480, T480s, x380 Yoga, and P52s and most of them utilize PWM to control the brightness of the display. Whether or not each model exhibits PWM will depend on the native resolution as our table below shows.

What's more notable here is not the fact that PWM is present since it is a common method of brightness control. Instead, it is the fact that we can detect PWM at brightness levels of up to 99 percent on these ThinkPad models whereas most other notebooks normally utilize PWM at much lower brightness levels below 50 percent. This means that using one of the these laptops on a brightness setting other than maximum can potentially cause users to experience eye fatigue.

Thankfully, the majority of users will never notice any flickering from laptop displays during regular use. On the other hand, users who are sensitive to onscreen flickering may want to be wary of which ThinkPad models to buy according to the list below.

ThinkPad T480 review

ThinkPad T480s review  

ThinkPad X380 Yoga review

ThinkPad T580 review

NotebookNative ResolutionPWM?Frequency (Hz)
Lenovo ThinkPad T4801920 x 1080No--
Lenovo ThinkPad T480s1920 x 1080Yes, from 0 to 99 percent brightness990.1
Lenovo ThinkPad T480s2560 x 1440No--
Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga1920 x 1080Yes, from 0 to 99 percent brightness1000
Lenovo ThinkPad T5803840 x 2160Yes, from 0 to 99 percent brightness952.4
Lenovo ThinkPad P52s1920 x 1080Yes, from 0 to 91 percent brightness21550
Lenovo ThinkPad P52s3840 x 2160Yes, from 0 to 99 percent brightness980.4

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 06 > Sensitive to onscreen flickering? Take caution when purchasing these Lenovo ThinkPad SKUs
Allen Ngo, 2018-06-19 (Update: 2019-04-30)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.