ThinkPad and IdeaPad are two of the most recognized laptop series made by Lenovo. Which are the main differences between the two? Which models from both series are the best options for you to buy right now? Find out in this article.
Lenovo is known for its ThinkPad laptop series. ThinkPad laptops are powerful, durable, and high-end laptops for business users and professionals. But over the years Lenovo introduced new laptop series oriented toward different markets.
The ThinkBook line is ThinkPad’s sub-brand, characterized by eye-catching design and powerful hardware. Lenovo’s IdeaPad devices are all-around machines made for a variety of purposes. Yoga convertibles are thin and portable 2-in-1 laptops and tablets. Finally, Legion laptops are powerful gaming machines aimed at hardcore gamers.
This many laptop series may create confusion in case you’re into buying a new convertible made by Lenovo. The complexity rises with a huge number of models in each series. Today, we will make the process of picking your next Lenovo laptop a bit easier. We will show the best models from the ThinkPad and IdeaPad lines. Ten models in total, aimed at different users and different use cases. But before delving deep into ThinkPad and IdeaPad brands, let’s talk a bit about Lenovo.
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Lenovo was founded in China in 1984. The company struggled during its early years. It tried, and failed, to establish itself in different niches. They’ve failed at importing televisions and creating digital watches. The first major success for the company wasn’t related to manufacturing. Instead, Lenovo succeeded as a QA company for computers sold in China.
Lenovo’s first successful product were circuit boards capable of processing Chinese characters. Lenovo produced these boards for IBM’s personal computers. Another major success for the company was the Tianxi computer. It was super popular PC sold in the growing Chinese market.
But the company didn’t make a major push into western markets until Lenovo acquired IBM’s personal computer business in 2005. The acquisition brought not only the world-famous ThinkPad brand but also IBM’s sales channels and offices located in western countries. The second major acquisition took place in 2014. That was the year when Lenovo bought Motorola from Google.
Today, Lenovo is an international company with offices all over the world. It’s headquartered in Beijing, China. The company is known for its laptop business and was leading the global notebook market in 2018. HP topped Lenovo in the first three quarters of 2019. Today, Lenovo is the second-largest notebook manufacturer in the world.
Lenovo also manufactures desktop computers, smartphones, TVs, and IoT/Smart Home products. Its smartphone business is mostly done under the Motorola brand. Despite that, Lenovo still releases flagship smartphones under its primary brand. Motorola returned to the premium segment after a two-year hiatus with the recent Razr 2019 foldable and the upcoming Motorola Edge+ models.
But in its heart, Lenovo is a PC manufacturer. It’s still the world’s biggest PC manufacturer. The majority of these numbers come from laptops from its two biggest brands. ThinkPad and IdeaPad. Let’s delve into both brands and find out major differences between the two.
Differences Between ThinkPad and IdeaPad Brands
ThinkPad brand is one of the most recognizable laptop brands today. Richard Sapper, a famous industrial designer, designed the first ThinkPad in 1990. The manufacturing began in 1992. IBM developed the first generation of ThinkPad devices in its facility located in Yamato, Japan. The original design was based on a traditional Bento lunchbox. The lunchbox is a simple black square that hides its savory contents until opened.
ThinkPad laptops aim businesses and professionals. Both niches demand powerful machines. Machines that are durable and reliable, and ThinkPad laptops provide just that. Built from magnesium, titanium, or carbon fiber reinforced plastic, ThinkPads are tough computers known to last for decades.
ThinkPads were the only laptop brands used in space for decades. They are still the most common notebooks found on the ISS, with some models working for a decade and a half. ThinkPad line and its military-grade build quality are famous all over the world.
Thick black boxes featuring premium components and the signature TrackPoint device are still the benchmark for durability and reliability. Lenovo diversified the lineup over the years in a push to attract new customers. The efforts proved successful. The current ThinkPad portfolio includes ultimate business laptops, powerful workstations, and rugged machines made for extreme conditions. But also sleek ultrabooks and versatile 2-in-1 devices.
ThinkPad line is the premium Lenovo line of laptops. It offers excellent performance and build quality. It’s made for everyone in need of reliable and powerful portable machines.
IdeaPad, on the other hand, is a more recent laptop sub-brand aimed at the mainstream market. Lenovo launched the line in 2008 to provide users with more choices. The company wanted to offer solid performers that won’t break the bank. And the line proved a massive success.
They offer solid performance, sleek design, and relatively affordable price. Lenovo markets IdeaPad convertibles as all-around devices. They are great for basic tasks such as browsing the web or watching videos. But they can also offer powerful performance and even a solid gaming experience.
IdeaPad laptops aren’t as durable or rugged as ThinkPad devices. Lower-tier models feature plastic materials and are rather bulky. But members of the IdeaPad 700 and 900 series are sleek ultrabooks with aluminum bodies, excellent displays, and powerful innards. Since they cover such a wide gamut of use scenarios most users will find a perfect device among the broad IdeaPad line.
IdeaPad laptops are popular among home users and students. They offer excellent performance for less money compared to ThinkPad devices or competitor brands.
Today, we will talk about the best ThinkPad and IdeaPad notebooks for a wide range of use cases. We covered five categories in both lineups. Let’s begin.
Best ThinkPad Laptops
Best high-end - ThinkPad P73
If you want the best of the best, take a look at the ThinkPad P73. This is an extreme workstation machine that features top of the line hardware. First of all, we have the Intel Xeon E-2276M vPro CPU with six cores and 12 threads. Next, there’s 128 GB of RAM, more than enough for any usage scenario. Finally, the device boasts the Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000. A professional graphics card with 16 GB of VRAM.
The display is a 17.3-inch IPS with 4K resolution. It’s bright and with solid color accuracy. It offers below-average contrast but a wide color gamut. The factory calibration is a bit too cool but you can fix this by manually calibrating the screen. The battery of the P73 is excellent. It offers almost 10 hours of life when under moderate load (movies, browsing). However, the device has some CPU-related heat issues that can lead to throttling under heavy use.
Despite thermal issues, the ThinkPad P73 offers superb performance. The keyboard is excellent, as it should be in every ThinkPad laptop. TrackPoint implementation is also pretty nice. Build quality is superb. The laptop features an IR camera with facial recognition, which is a nice touch. Its chassis is virtually indestructible. While this model shows some thermal issues, it’s still an excellent device.
Best workstation – ThinkPad P1
While the ThinkPad P1 is the best workstation and the best ThinkPad you can find, it also sports a ridiculous price. If you want an excellent workstation ThinkPad without shelling out enough money to buy a new car, check out Lenovo ThinkPad P1.
This is a powerful workstation equipped with a powerful Xeon E-2176M with 6 cores/12 threads. You get 32 GB of RAM, which is enough for almost any use case. The Quadro P2000 is a solid professional video card as long as you don’t want to play games. Finally, the base model comes with 512 GB SSD. While this can be too low for some users, you can find a second SSD slot under the hood, allowing for an easy upgrade. You get the excellent TrackPoint implantation that accompanies okayish touchpad.
The aluminum chassis is of superb quality. You can bend it a bit if you apply lots of force but that’s pretty much it. The 1080p, 15.6-inch IPS display offers great brightness. It also features excellent contrast and deep color saturation. The keyboard is one of the best you can find on a laptop. Battery life is average, providing about 5 and a half hours under medium load. Performance is top of the line thanks to a powerful CPU and loads of RAM.
Overall, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is an excellent workstation device. Its performance is great even in 2020. Its build quality is worthy of the ThinkPad branding, and the keyboard is one of the best on the market. If you’re looking for a powerful mobile workstation that doesn’t feature extreme price and internals, ThinkPad P1 is the best choice at the moment.
Best affordable - ThinkPad E595
If you’re looking for an affordable ThinkPad laptop the ThinkPad E595 is a great choice. It sports a mainstream price but offers classic ThinkPad advantages. Stuff like rugged chassis, TrackPoint, comfortable and full-sized keyboard, and powerful hardware. The CPU used is AMD’s Ryzen 7 3700 U that offers great performance for the price. 8 gigs of RAM is enough for office use and light productivity applications.
The SSD only has 256 gigabytes, which can be low for most users. Luckily both memory and storage are upgradable. You get one RAM slot and one SATA slot (populated by a dummy) for easy upgrade. The touchpad is average at best but you get TrackPoint which is much more usable. The 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display is fantastic for the price. It features very good brightness, excellent contrast, and average color gamut.
Battery life is excellent. The battery can last more than eight and a half hours with moderate use. This is a standout result at this price point. Overall, the ThinkPad E595 is a superb bang for the buck. It won’t blow your mind but at its price point but it is one of the top contenders in the mid-range market.
Best for business users – ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen
If you’re a business user who looks for a light and mobile device that comes with premium specs and modern design, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the top choice. The device looks sleek and is quite thin and light. The magnesium and carbon fiber case weighs in at only 1.1 kg. it’s rigid, stable, and won’t crack or bend under pressure. The only potential negative are a bit too wide side bezels considering the price.
The keyboard is the same as on the other ThinkPad models. It’s very enjoyable to type on and is among the best on the market. Touchpad and TrackPoint are both excellent. Very precise and easy to use. The display is a 14-inch 1080p IPS unit with high brightness and excellent contrast values. Colors are vivid and saturated but the factory calibration is a tad too cool. The device sports a fingerprint scanner along with an optional IR camera for added security.
Performance is superb thanks to the powerful Comet Lake Core i7 with 6 cores/12 threads and 16GB of RAM. 1TB SSD should be enough for most users. The laptop features integrated Intel graphics so forget about serious gaming. Battery life is excellent, as long as you go with the 1080p model. You’ll get 11 and a half hours under moderate load. On the other side, the 4K model suffers from poor battery life.
The seventh generation of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a perfect business laptop. It’s light but rugged and durable. It comes with top of the line keyboard and precise TrackPoint for using the device on the go. Its display is more than solid. The thin body hides the latest Core i7 CPU, which is more than enough for any task you might throw at it.
If you need something even more powerful, check out the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme.
Best rugged – ThinkPad Yoga 11e
The ThinkPad Yoga 11e is the best-rugged ThinkPad you can get. If you need a durable laptop for a student or if you need a laptop that you can use anywhere, this is the right choice. The chassis is a thick block of reinforced plastic. It endured 12 different military-grade tests and 200 regular durability tests.
The body features tough hinges that allow the display to rotate 360 degrees. The keyboard is water-resistant but also surprisingly enjoyable to type on. You get an average 11-inch display that won’t impress anyone but it’s good enough for basic usage. The CPU is powerful enough for browsing the web, word processing, and watching videos.
The battery life is solid. It offers full-day use under low load. If should last enough through an average school day. Overall, the ThinkPad Yoga 11e is a cheap but durable laptop. It’s great for students and those who seek a rugged but inexpensive laptop. It features an amazing keyboard, solid battery and performance, and average screen.
Best 2-in-1 - ThinkPad X1 Yoga 4th Gen
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a terrific 2-in-1 convertible. It’s super light at 1.35 kg, it has a premium aluminum unibody, and it features great hardware. That unibody aluminum case really is something. It has a stunning design and near-perfect build quality. It isn’t as sturdy as its carbon fiber brethren but you won’t be able to find any weakness in it. Security features include a fingerprint scanner along with an IR camera supporting Windows Hello.
Moving on to the keyboard, which is also near perfect. The keystroke is a bit too shallow but everything else is top notch quality. The touchpad could be larger but thanks to the TrackPoint you won’t be needing it. The 14-inch 1080p display is stunning. It has high brightness, excellent colors, and great contrast for an IPS panel. You also get wide color gamut, with the only noticeable downside being high response time.
You can rotate the screen by 360 degrees. You can also use touch control, which works great. Performance is solid thanks to the Core i5-8265U CPU with 4 cores/8 threads and 8 GB of RAM. If you need more power, there’s a variant of this model that comes with the Core i7, 16 gigs of RAM, and 512GB SSD. Battery life is also great. With the average load, the battery can last for almost 10 hours. Overall, this is a superb 2-in-1 device that definitely should get your attention.
Best IdeaPad Laptops
Best for gaming - IdeaPad L340 Gaming
IdeaPad line contains many different models. Among those are a couple of gaming models. The best one is the IdeaPad L340 Gaming that comes with 9th generation Core i5 CPU and GTX 1650 GPU. First of all, the case is made of plastic but it has an excellent finish. It simulates metal and is quite sturdy. The keyboard is very good. Enjoyable to type on, but not of great quality. The touchpad is okay. It’s finicky and not very precise.
The display, on the other hand, is amazing. It’s a 15.6 1080p IPS panel with solid brightness. The panel comes with a great contrast ratio. Other advantages are: saturated colors, and above-average color gamut. The gaming performance is solid. The CPU is a potent one but a GTX 1650 won’t allow for a 1080p gaming with high details. Expect around 30 frames with high settings when playing AAA titles. Esports titles, on the other hand, will run flawlessly. When it comes to storage you get a 256 GB SSD coupled with 1 TB HD.
The battery life is quite good for a gaming laptop. You’ll get almost 8 hours under moderate load and 1 hour under heavy load and max screen brightness. Storage is okay. 512GB SSD can prove as too small for most gamers. Overall, this is a solid budget laptop with an amazing screen, good keyboard, and a sturdy chassis. There’s a Core i7 version that packs 16GB of RAM and 1.25TB of storage. It costs about 20 percent more but packs noticeably slower GTX 1050.
Best for light use - IdeaPad S145
If you need a home laptop for light surfing and watching YouTube, the inexpensive IdeaPad S145 fits the bill. It features an extremely affordable price and for it, you get a solid CPU for the price and 4 gigs of RAM. The body is made of plastic and isn’t of the greatest quality. But, for the projected use, it’s good enough.
The 15.6-inch TN display with 1366 x 768 resolution isn’t great either. Its brightness is passable, with low contrast. Colors are solid after manual calibration, with slightly below average color gamut. The keyboard is pretty good. Enjoyable for long typing sessions and without serious downsides. The touchpad on the IdeaPad S145 is large and easy to use with great precision.
The combination of Pentium Gold 5405U with 2 cores and 4GB of RAM is enough for everyday use. You’ll be able to surf the web, watch YouTube and movies, and use Microsoft Office suite. Even some light gaming is possible if you’re a fan of 2D indie titles and esports games. The battery is average, providing about six hours of life under medium load. Overall, the IdeaPad is a solid choice for a home laptop for light usage.
Best for students - IdeaPad 730s
If you’re a student in need of a highly portable notebook that also offers great performance take a look at the IdeaPad 730s. The case is only 11.9mm thick and weighs in at just over 1kg. Despite its minuscule weight and thickness, the aluminum case is stable and sturdy to pressure. The keyboard is excellent for long typing sessions. With a medium actuation force and just-right level of feedback, this is a perfect keyboard for college students. The glass touchpad is quite large and very precise. A solid mouse replacement.
The screen is very good. The IdeaPad 730s features 13.3-inch 1080p IPS panel. It has high brightness, solid contrast, crisp colors, but also average color gamut. Another downside is slow response time. Performance is great for most use cases. The Core i5 CPU with 4 cores/8 threads has lots of power and 8GB of RAM is enough for most tasks. The only potential downside is a small, 256GB SSD storage.
Battery life is another plus. Under medium load, it can provide more than 11 hours of life. Another great thing about the IdeaPad 730s is its price. It’s noticeably cheaper than the competition (Dell XPS 13, Surface Laptop 3), with its price being up to 40 percent lower. Overall, this is a great ultrabook for students who need high portability and lots of power for a relatively affordable price.
Best 2-in-1 - IdeaPad Flex 14
Slim and compact, the IdeaPad Flex 14 with AMD Ryzen CPU is the best 2-in-1 IdeaPad model on the market. It sports a fairly low price, packs solid hardware, and features solid build quality. High-quality plastic chassis is rigid and sturdy. It flexes a bit, but only if you apply heavy force.
The keyboard is solid for the price. Keys are comfortable to type on but feel a bit shallow. This may trouble users who spend hours each day typing. The touchpad is large, smooth, responsive, and fairly precise. Finally, the touchscreen works perfect. The display is average. It has a solid brightness but contrast is subpar. Colors are vivid but the color gamut is average. Another noticeable shortcoming is low PWN frequency at brightness levels below 90 percent. This can cause headaches and eye strain in some users.
The battery on the IdeaPad Flex 14 is pretty good. Medium load will drain it in about seven and a half hours. The equipped Ryzen 5 3500U (4 cores/8 threads, 3.7 GHz boost clock) packs enough power for office use, surfing and multimedia consumption. Overall, the IdeaPad Flex 14 is a solid 2-in-1 convertible packing lot of bang for the buck.
Best high-end - IdeaPad S940
If you’re looking for a high-end IdeaPad offering look no further than the IdeaPad S940. With a highly attractive aluminum case, fantastic HDR 4K display, and excellent performance, this is one of the best ultrabooks on the market. Let’s start with the case. It’s a unibody aluminum chassis that won’t flex easily and that looks stunning. The notebook is very thin (12mm) and light (1.23kg) making it one of the most portable ultrabooks around.
The keyboard is very comfortable to type on. Keys have a bit too short travel, which is expected from a device this thin. The glass-made touchpad is precise and pleasant to use, with a large enough surface. The 4K IPS display features incredible brightness levels along with excellent contrast. Colors are richly saturated with wide color gamut.
Core i7-8565u combined with 16GB of RAM is enough for virtually any usage scenario. You can watch videos. You can use Microsoft Office, but also work in demanding applications without issues. The 512GB SSD could become an issue later on. Luckily, the SSD is replicable. The battery could prove an issue. It offers up to five hours of usage under moderate load. Those who want a longer battery life could opt for a 1080p version of the IdeaPad S940.
Overall, the IdeaPad S940 is a stunningly beautiful ultrabook. It features an amazing display and a great keyboard. It packs enough force to tackle any usage scenario. Its main issues are lackluster battery life and somewhat small storage space.