Lenovo ThinkPad L580 Review – Pay extra for reliability

The L580 is a fairly cheap business laptop, which can also appeal to the average consumer, if they are prepared to pay extra for the sturdy housing. Only the top of the screen lacks some sturdiness and it is a pity that you can only upgrade the SSD with an m2 copy, while there is room for a SATA disk. The keyboard of the L580 is pleasant and the cooling does not produce much noise, while the battery life is fine with more than eight hours when browsing and more than ten hours when watching video. However, if you’re purely concerned with specs, faster laptops can be found for less.

Pros

  • Sturdy housing
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Good battery life
  • Cooling is not too noisy

Negatives

  • Screen twists
  • SSD only upgradeable with m2
  • Relatively expensive

Lenovo’s ThinkPad laptops generally have a good reputation. They are sturdy, easy to upgrade and have a nice keyboard. With the E580, Lenovo’s “entry-level ThinkPad,” came a blot on the ThinkPad record, as it lacked the ruggedness and easy upgradeability we expect from ThinkPads that you pay for. In our review, we called the E580 a consumer IdeaPad, with a ThinkPad logo. The ThinkPad L series, which we look at in this review, is a step more expensive than the E series, so we are curious whether the L580 meets our expectations.

As far as the exterior is concerned, the L580 immediately does a lot better than the E580. Instead of the thin, silver-gray plastic, the rough, black plastic that we are used to from the ThinkPads has been used for the housing, which immediately gives a firmer impression. On the L series, Lenovo has also used metal hinges for the screen, which extend into the screen edge. The sturdiness of the housing and the hinge are therefore very good, but the screen could have been a bit firmer, despite the metal, because if you grab it by the corners, it can be twisted too easily.

The sides of the housing house quite a few connections, although an extra USB-A connection would not have been a superfluous luxury. On the right, next to the outflow opening of the cooling, there is a USB 3.0 and the mini-jack connection. There is also a USB 3.0 connection on the left, just like an HDMI 1.4 and a gigabit Ethernet connection. There is also a micro-sd reader, where we would rather see a full-size card reader. Above that reader is a cover for the SIM slot. The version of the L580 we tested does not have a 4G modem on board, but if you order a custom L580, you can order an additional modem for about a hundred euros. You can also install it yourself, because an m2 slot has been kept free for it and the SIM card holder is already in the laptop.

You can see that the L580 is a somewhat more business-like laptop than the previously tested E580, not only by the SIM slot, there is also a smart card slot in the laptop and there are two USB-C connections. The connection closest to the hinge is intended for the charger, but you can also connect a normal USB-C device to it. Charging is possible at a voltage of 20, 15, 9 and 5 volts. At the low voltages, charging is not fast enough to fill the battery during use, but it is convenient that the laptop also accepts low voltages, in case you only have a weaker charger of, for example, a smartphone at hand and the laptop battery is empty. It also works the other way around, because the supplied 65W charger can supply voltages from 5 to 20 volts, so you can also charge your smartphone or tablet with your laptop adapter.

Of the two USB-C connections, the right one looks a bit strange, because Lenovo has placed a connector next to it that is intended to connect a ThinkPad dock together with the USB connection. If you don’t have a dock, you can use the connection as a normal USB-C connection, for example to connect an HDMI 2.0 screen using a hub, something that is not possible with the standard HDMI connection.

On the inside of the L580 is of course the keyboard, with the touchpad and the fingerprint scanner below it. Lenovo has not incorporated it into the touchpad, as some competitors do, so you don’t sacrifice a ‘mouse surface’. The fingerprint scanner isn’t the fastest, but it recognizes your finger well and that’s the most important thing.

The keyboard of ThinkPad laptops generally makes us happy and that is also the case with the L580. The keys have a dimple. They have a lot of travel and clear feedback. The keyboard takes up some space in height and the L580 is certainly not a thin 15″ laptop, but what you sacrifice in volume, you get back in typing comfort. The touchpad, as we are used to from ThinkPads, is also doubled, with a touchpad with hidden buttons and a trackpoint with three obvious buttons below the spacebar, neither of which we have any complaints about, although the trackpoint won’t become our favorite input device anytime soon, it’s quite precise and the touchpad follows one or more fingers , as you might expect.

benchmarking

The L580 we tested is a model from the United Kingdom, because a Dutch version was not available. The only difference between the two versions is the processor, because the UK model has a Core i7-8550U, while the Dutch version has to do with an i5-8250U. The scores are therefore not representative of the Dutch model, but we can see how the cooling is doing and to what extent the processor has to clock back in order not to get too hot. In addition, the ThinkPad E580 we tested recently also featured an i7-8550U processor, so a one-to-one comparison can be made.

In Cinebench Multi, the L580 scores at least slightly more than ten percent faster than the E580 with the same CPU, while the E and L do the same in the single test. Cinebench is a render benchmark and therefore a nice method to show raw processor power, but in practice all processor cores are rarely fully loaded, as in this benchmark. We have therefore also included the benchmark results from 3DMark, Photoshop and Lightroom. They show that the L580 performs as expected. You could boost the performance a bit by adding a second memory module, because the L580 is equipped with only one stick of DDR4, which can therefore not work in dual channel. Under load, the noise level of the cooling remains within limits. You can hear the fan whirring, but we know laptops that make a lot more noise.

If you want to upgrade the hardware, there is unfortunately no handy hatch in the bottom of the laptop. You will have to unscrew the entire bottom plate. It feels a lot firmer than the E580 and you don’t have to worry about damaging your laptop when removing it. Under the bottom plate you will find the memory slots and something that looks like space for a 2.5 “disk. However, Lenovo has chosen not to use a normal SATA connection, but to put an m2 SSD in a bracket and to connect to the motherboard using a flat cable. So you can upgrade the SSD if necessary, but only with another M2 SSD. A shorter M2 slot next to that of the wireless network card is still free and intended for a 4G modem.

Image quality and battery life

Lenovo provides the L580 model available in Dutch webshops with an IPS screen with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. On Lenovo’s own site you can also put together an L580 yourself and opt for a TN panel with a resolution of 1366×768 pixels, but we wouldn’t know why you would choose that. The IPS screen is probably the same as what we encountered in the E570 and E580, because when we measure the screen using our SpectraCal C6 colorimeter and CalMAN 5 software, the maximum brightness and contrast turn out to be the same.

The L580 screen appears to be neater calibrated than that of the E580. With the grayscale measurement we arrive at a very low deviation, which is caused by a slightly too low average gamma value and a slightly too low color temperature. The primary and secondary colors are also better with the L580 than with the E580, but there are still significant outliers. Still, it is a good screen, because the deviation from the maximum saturated colors is less troublesome than a disturbed white balance.

Finally, we look at the battery life. The E and L580 both have a battery with a capacity of 45Wh, but Lenovo has managed to make the L series considerably more economical. That could be partly due to the hard disk in our test E580, which consumes more than the SSD in the L580, but the difference is still significant. In percentage terms, the difference is smaller in the video test, but the L580 also performs much better there with the same battery capacity. The L580 scores well for a 15″ laptop.

Conclusion

In contrast to the E580, we find its more expensive brother, the L580, to be a real ThinkPad. The housing feels a lot firmer and the screen is sturdy at the bottom, thanks to the metal hinges that extend into the screen. Still, the entire screen is not sturdy, because if you grab it at the top, it can be twisted. The panel is the same as in the E580 and E570, but better calibrated and the battery is also the same as in the E580, but the L580 manages to drag out a considerably longer battery life.

In our opinion, the L580 is the laptop that the E580 should have been: a laptop that generally feels a lot more solid than the average consumer model, and has smooth hardware and good battery life. You pay a bit more for this semi-business model than for a ‘regular’ laptop. For example, a Lenovo Ideapad 520 costs seven hundred euros and the Asus Vivobook S15 nine hundred euros, but it also has a 1TB hard drive. Acer has the Aspire 5, which is also equipped with an MX130 video card, for seven hundred euros. The L580 costs about a thousand euros. That additional cost will provide you with a Windows 10 Pro license, a smart lock and preparation for a 4G modem, among other things, but the average consumer will not care much about that. You should be willing to pay extra for the sturdiness, the good keyboard and the battery life of the L580, because those are the points on which the laptop distinguishes itself.

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