Jul 14 2015

Review: The Slim, Secure Lenovo ThinkPad T550 Ultrabook

This Ultrabook delivers the power of a desktop in a condensed form factor.

Offering a suitable replacement for most desktop computers, Lenovo’s ThinkPad T550 Ultrabook overcomes most of the drawbacks typical of the form factor, such as a lack of processing power, security concerns, limited battery life and fragility.

In our tests, the T550 earned an impressive Passmark Performance Benchmark score of 2,231, placing the mini notebook on par with most desktop systems and even entry-level workstations in terms of raw performance. It can easily drive the included 64-bit version of Windows 7, plus every other program that we tried, including Excel and Photoshop.

The 8 gigabytes of included DDR3 RAM offers plenty of kick and can be expanded to 16GB if needed. The 256GB high-performance, solid-state drive also helps the T550 fly through hard-disk performance benchmarking.

While a small form factor makes Ultrabooks susceptible to loss or theft, Lenovo provides several security features to safeguard data. Important data can be locked down via the integrated fingerprint reader, which supports the ability to assign biometric authentication methods to multiple users for bootup, hard drive access and administration. Files written to the hard drive are automatically encrypted in a lightning-quick process that doesn’t degrade performance, thanks to the large amount of RAM working with the SSD drive.

Working a full day with a notebook can be challenging, especially when users are nowhere near a power source. But the T550 offers impressive battery life, lasting just over 13 hours in testing thanks to the manufacturer’s new Power Bridge Technology. Lenovo has split the main battery into two components: an internal one that always remains inside the notebook, and an external one that can be swapped out.

The ThinkPad drains the swappable battery first, then switches over to the internal one. Users then have about three hours to replace the external battery with a fresh one, at which point the T550 will begin to drain that before switching back to the internal battery. Our test unit included a three-cell and a six-cell external battery, which combined with the internal unit to equal more than a workday of runtime.

Portability sometimes equates to fragility, so the T550 has been ruggedized in certain areas according to the MIL-STD810G testing procedure, which certifies devices as rugged enough for military use. It passes mil-spec testing for resistance to high pressure, humidity, vibration, high temperature, temperature shock, low pressure, low temperature, solar radiation, fungus, salt fog and dust. The keyboard is also spill-resistant, so a minor mishap with a water bottle won’t destroy the computer.

The T550 packs many features into its 4.7-pound frame and simultaneously conquers a lot of the problems typical of mobile computing. It’s one of the few Ultrabooks that can reliably replace desktops in most offices while also faring well on the road.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad T550

Processor: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 5600U Dual-Core
Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM
Hard Drive: 256GB SSD
Dimensions: 10.2x15x.9 inches
Weight: 4.7 pounds


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