Good build quality
Nice security features
Poor battery life
The Thinkpad E14’s middling performance, poor battery life, and underwhelming display put it below many laptops in its class. Its security features and sturdy build may be enough to sway some, but most looking for a laptop suited for a day’s work would be better suited by a laptop with longer battery life and faster performance.
About the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2
The specs of our review unit were as follows:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7
- Memory: 16GB 3200Mhz
- Storage: 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD
- Display: 14-inch LED 1080p 300Hz 100% sRGB
- Ports: 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x USB-C 4, 1x HDMI, 1x ethernet
- Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 6
- Battery: 90Whr
- Weight: 3.62 pounds
- Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches
- Warranty: 12-month limited hardware warranty
The ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 starts at about $620 and goes all the way up to nearly $1,500 depending on your configuration. The lowest configuration will get you an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, while the highest configuration comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD.
Editor's note: Lenovo has notified us that the particular configuration we reviewed is currently out of stock, with no precise date on when it will return. We'll update this review when available.
What we like
Rock-solid build quality
In the ThinkPad E14 Gen 2, Lenovo has crafted a laptop that feels nearly weightless. Its matte finish feels less likely to slip from your hands than the slick finish on something like a MacBook, and the rubber feet on the bottom prevent the laptop from shifting around while you work. It’s a bit thicker, though not so much that it’s inconvenient to take on the road, and it’s light enough to bring to work without weighing you down.
Through heavy workdays and casual browsing, the E14 never felt clunky or showed any signs of poor construction. It’s as easy to carry as a book when your restless legs wander from room to room or hop on the train to start your journey to the office. It’s hard to trust carrying your laptop around if you’re not sure it’ll survive the scuffle of a hectic life, but this one you can.
The keyboard and trackpad are a joy to use
For anyone looking to get serious work done on their laptop, this keyboard is up to the task. The ThinkPad’s backlit keys have plenty of space, deliver a satisfying click, and provide a comfortable typing experience suited for a heavy workload. Generally, if the keys are too narrow, don’t have sufficient space between them, or lack enough depth to give a satisfying click, spending a long time hunched over your laptop can be uncomfortable or even grueling. That’s not the case with this E14.
Comfort aside, the keyboard provides additional utility in its function keys. There are the usual buttons for things like adjusting the volume and brightness, as well as muting the laptop’s microphone (no more worrying your whole team’s going to hear you struggle to keep your barking dogs quiet during a meeting). Other function keys control things like screen projecting as well as answering and ending calls. Bundled together, the function keys equip the E14 with a few handy tools that make handling all your work needs from your laptop less of a hassle.
The trackpad is precise and smooth without notable stutters or hiccups. You can’t press down from anywhere on the pad like you can with the MacBook, but you can always tap if you’ve enabled that option. The E14 also comes equipped with Lenovo’s signature TrackPoint, the tiny, red eraser-like nub that rests between the G, H, and B keys, with accompanying left, right, and center click buttons below the space bar. It’s not for everyone, as it relies on finger pressure instead of finger movement and functions more like a joystick, but ThinkPad fans and those willing to take the time to adapt might enjoy it instead of the trackpad.
Security features will keep things locked down
If you’re going to use a laptop for work, it’s good to know that all your documents and communications are secure, even if there’s nothing seriously confidential. Lenovo’s added a few extra touches to the E14 to give it a nice security boost. First, there’s the IR scanner next to the laptop’s 720p webcam, which allows for more precise facial recognition than you can get with a camera alone. This is one way you can secure your laptop: getting it to unlock only if it recognizes your face.
There's also a fingerprint scanner, which adds another layer of security, but acts secondary to the IR scanner if you have both enabled. You only need one of the two to unlock your laptop, but it’s nice to have both turned on to make sure your bases are covered. You can even require a physical key (usually in the form of a special file on a USB drive) to log in, if that’s more your style.
Enabling these security measures isn’t much trouble even if you skip the process during setup. Just hop into the Windows 10 settings, awkwardly stare at the camera for a few seconds, tap your finger on the scanner a few times, and then you’re all set. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have set up a few additional hurdles for prying eyes to hop through.
What we don’t like
Underwhelming performance for productivity
The best build and keyboard can’t make up for poor performance, especially on a machine meant for getting work done. We discovered there’s a large performance gap between the Intel Core i5-1135G7 in this machine and a Core i7 from the same generation, so you’re better off getting the more expensive E14 model in this case—or something else like the Dell XPS 13 altogether.
For CPU-intensive tasks like 3D rendering and transcoding large video files, the Core i5-1135G7 is slow. It took the laptop 18 minutes in Blender (a program used for 3D design) to render an image and 44 minutes to transcode a 4K video to 1080p in Handbrake. The Core i7-1165G7 can complete the same tasks twice as fast.
Thankfully, the chassis never reached high temperatures to scorch your lap, but its fans began running several times during Google Meet calls with just Microsoft Edge and Slack open. The noise wasn’t overbearing, but it happened frequently enough to become a nuisance. This might be fine for a less expensive laptop, but for a $900 machine, the E14’s performance doesn’t provide much confidence in being able to toss any heavy tasks its way.
Its battery life won’t get you through a full workday
While Lenovo's touted battery life of up to 8.7 hours for the E14 is a bit above the minimum you’d want for a work machine, it fell well below that mark in our testing. For our battery testing on all laptops, we set the display to 200 nits of brightness and rotate through several webpages on Chrome until the battery dies.
Despite a few rounds of double-checking our testing and fiddling with settings, we only managed to squeeze about five hours and 30 minutes of juice out of our review unit, and that was only after we’d enabled Windows’s battery saver feature to kick in at 10%. With so many laptops offering notably better battery life at similar price points, the E14’s low battery performance is a serious dent in its sleek matte armor.
For a machine that’ll carry you through your day, you’ll want a display that can adapt to different environments—say, your porch on a sunny work-from-home day, or a dim nook in your office where you can get a moment of solitude—without straining your eyes. The ThinkPad’s 1080p LED display only hits 249 nits at its highest brightness, which is well below what you’d need to see things clearly outside while the sun’s out.
While that limits its flexibility beyond a well or dimly-lit room, the display does have a matte finish similar to an e-reader that reduces glare from artificial light and goes easy on your eyes. It’s not enough to save the laptop from a display that doesn’t shine, but it’s a nice addition that should make reading long memos and sitting through long all-hands meetings a bit less strenuous.
Should you buy it?
No, its performance and battery life make it unreliable for getting work done
The ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 is a well-built laptop with a trackpad and keyboard that instill confidence with every peck and tap. Its matte display reduces glare, which comes in handy when glaring lights burst through. Lenovo’s additional security features add additional barriers that keep away any unwanted peeps at your files and folders.
For nearly $1,000, though, it’s hard to look past the laptop's most glaring flaws. At about five and a half hours, its battery life isn’t enough to get through a full day’s worth of work. The E14's benchmark scores were significantly lower than other laptops you can get for the same price, including Apple’s similarly-priced M1 MacBook Air, which lasts longer without breaking a sweat, or surprisingly affordable HP Envy x360, which offers better performance and battery life at a notably lower price.
Though the ThinkPad E14 Gen 2's design is attractive and its keyboard and trackpad work brilliantly, its shortcomings make it hard to be sure it will handle a full workload for most people, especially as the battery degrades over time. That’s a tough hurdle to overcome for a laptop that’s framed largely as a productivity device, and plenty of laptops avoid the issue altogether without costing much more.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Electronics
Jordan has been writing about and reviewing technology since 2017, with products ranging from tablets and apps to fanny packs and home office gear.
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