We tested and compared the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 versus Thinkpad T490 in terms of Performance, Display Quality, Portability, Price, Battery life & more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the test results and below you will find the in-depth reports of each Lenovo ThinkPad Laptop.
Ranking First: Lenovo ThinkPad T490
- Great Work Station Performance & Display
- Large & Fast SSD Storage
- Long battery runtime & warranty
- More expensive than ThinkPad T590
The most important key data:
- Intel Core i5-8265U / 8GB Ram / 512GB SSD / 14″ FullHD Panel (400 nits)
- Size and weight: 329 x 227 x 18.9 mm, 3.22 lbs
- Including 3 years on-site manufacturer warranty.
Design & Ports
The first impression after unpacking:
The Thinkpad T490 is another corner flatter and lighter than my over four year old T440s. Overall, it is very chic and pitch-black. The device feels valuable and stable. The surface has a “rubberized”, somewhat softer touch in contrast to older Thinkpads, which feel like hard plastic.
Also noticeable: a fairly strong rubber smell, but this is barely noticeable after three weeks. The display lid is stable and the hinges are tight. Positive: It can be opened with one hand without any problems. All in all, it’s valuable and chic.
The interfaces are arranged on the left and right, with the exception of the SIM card slot, which is found on the back. A note about the USB 3 ports: They are really stiff.
On the left: USB-C [AC power] / USB-C Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C / USB 3.1 (Gen 1) / HDMI / Headphone – mic combo & MicroSD card reader
Right side: Smart card reader / USB 3.1 (Gen 1) / RJ45 & Kensington lock slot
Keyboard & Touchpad
The backlit keyboard corresponds relatively exactly to the 14 inch devices since the 30 series. Very positive: A status LED is finally integrated in the shift key again. It takes getting used to: the scaled down picture up and down keys.
The two-stage backlighting can be switched through as before with Fn + space bar. (on, brighter, off). Typical Lenovo: Depending on the viewing angle, it dazzles more than letters glow. But still great under problematic lighting conditions.
The keys are a bit less smooth than on older backlight keyboards (40s), and a bit softer. They hardly clatter at all when typing, but the keystrokes are transferred to the tabletop more strongly than on older models.
The top row of the keyboard contains the F-keys, and there is a small gap after every four keys. After a short try with the “ThinkPad compact keyboard with TrackPoint 0B47222”, I really appreciate this. The F-keys are also assigned the control functions (volume, screen brightness, etc.). With Fn the respective functionality can be selected, with Fn + Esc permanently.
The keyboard as such is first class, there’s nothing to complain about. Clearly defined pressure point, pleasant haptics and enough stroke, even if not quite as much as in older T models.
The touchpad with three mouse buttons above has become even larger. The surface is unfortunately not made of “glass” but of plastic and therefore feels a bit rough.
As a trackpoint user, I turned it off because I constantly accidentally initiated mouse movements with the palms of my hands while typing.
In contrast to older models, the Windows driver does not offer an own surface anymore. Both trackpoint and touchpad work easily, including the Windows gestures (e.g. dragging three fingers down).
Lenovo itself advertises the anti-reflective 14 inch display as: “Power-saving Full-HD-IPS display (1,920 x 1,080, 400 cd/m²)” This is one of the high-quality options that are currently offered. Alternatively, the T490 can be equipped with
HD-TN display (1,920 x 1,080, 250 cd/m²), anti-reflective
Full-HD IPS (1,920 x 1,080, 250 cd/m²)
Full HD IPS touch screen (1,920 x 1,080, 300 cd/m²)
Full-HD-IPS with PrivacyGuard (1,920 x 1,080, 400 cd/m²)
WQHD-IPS with Dolby Vision® (2,560 x 1,440, 500 cd/m², 100% Adobe color space coverage)
can be ordered. The WQHD display is unfortunately glossy.
Lenovo uses displays from different suppliers under the same name. The test device has an NE140FHM-N61 from BOE installed.
The first impression was very positive. Bright, sharp and evenly illuminated, the bios and later the operating system welcomes you. The color reproduction is subjectively also okay. My perception during the test:
- super contrast
- black is really black
- the brightness is completely sufficient
- font reads “as printed”
- videos run smoothly (Linux, Windows)
- the mouse pointer draws a track on a dark background during fast movements (Windows)
- page down and Page Up have a minimal lag under Firefox
none / capped Screen Bleeding
- you can really work with this display, no comparison to the earlier TN panels. From time to time the “slow” switching time is disturbing. For serious image processing, calibration may be recommended.
The camera is mounted centrally above the display and offers a mechanical iris. This saves the removal. The lid can still be folded 180 degrees, but lifts the device slightly at the back.
The device originally reached me with Bios Ver. 1.08. With this Bios version, the loudspeakers are constantly noisy unless the sound card is muted (Fn + F1). After an update to Ver. 1.09 you at least save the manual muting, the noise only occurs when audio is also played.
The volume of the noise is constant, doesn’t get louder at least with increasing volume, but is even more annoying at low levels. The latest Bios Ver. 1.44 does not bring any further changes.
The loudspeakers in the T490 are again placed above the keyboard and sound quite solid in comparison to older Thinkpads. Little to no bass, mid and high frequencies thin but clean. The quality can still be improved a good bit under Windows with the Dolby driver software.
For example, I use the following settings on the T440s, which allows the stereo effect to be extended a bit and you can understand movies e.g. from ~ Vol. 10 instead of ~ Vol. 50:
The built-in Core i5-8265U has four real cores with eight threads and offers “VT-d” in opposition to simpler models in addition to “VT-x”. Both options can be enabled in the bios. The 8 GB RAM is soldered to the motherboard.
As mass storage a 512 GB SAMSUNG MZVLB512HBJQ-000L7 is used, which is connected via PCIe 3.0.
The internal 3 cell Lithium-Polymer battery provides 50Wh . Lenovo states a runtime of up to 16 hours. Additionally, the included 65W power supply “RapidCharge: 65W USB-C Adapter 80% in 1 hour”. The quick charge function also worked as hoped for in the test.
The following are the benchmark results (in mains operation, biossetting “maximum performance”, driver and Windows 10 on default settings)
- 3DMark -> Graphics Score: 327 / CPu Score: 2126
- Cinebench R15 determined: 43.12 fps / 485 ps
- Geekbench 4.3.3 Bios 1.09 -> Single-Core 4427 / Multi-Core 12585
According to the measurement results, the Samsung SSD is connected with four lanes and is racy fast in practice, absolutely nothing to complain about.
Bitlocker in software is not measurable and the sandbox starts within a few seconds. Top!
However, the rather high performance also leads to high power dissipation, which was especially noticeable during the PCMark benchmarks due to a continuously running fan combined with a device that is “hot” on the bottom. You shouldn’t put the T490 down on its feet under load. The fan’s volume, which often starts up under Windows even under light load, is quite high compared to my T440s.
Alternatively, the device is currently available with i7 processor and Nvidia GPU, after the heat development of the test device, I wonder if this makes sense. TPFanControl is functional in principle, but reports a second sensor (pwr) besides the CPU. I didn’t deal with it during the testing.
The soldered Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 9560 ac/a/b/g/n (867 / 1734 Mbps) module worked fine while working under Linux and Windows 10.
How does Linux work on the T490?
In short: Very good, it was really fun. The battery control works with TLP 1A (lower charge threshold, force discharge & still full charge if needed). With tlp-rdw the WiFi card can be switched off automatically when connected to a router, if you pull the cable, it is switched on again automatically.
The battery life is incredible compared to my T440s, I did not manage to really demand the battery, it just lasts too long. With WiFi, Firefox and light load you should get 8 hours or more.
Unfortunately I could not test it in one piece. DVDs run smoothly under Linux with the VLC player, you have to set the sound to at least 50% and it is still quite weak/thin.
A practical test was spontaneous: A video phone call to the call center in India, 😉 worked under Linux, so the camera is working too.
The display and the really good Linux compatibility would be reason enough to buy. Also positive are the large and fast SSD, the battery life and the computing power, which is why the ThinkPad T490 is ranking first vs ThinkPad T590.
Ranking Second: Lenovo ThinkPad T590
- Excellent battery life
- Cheaper than ThinkPad T490
- Very comfortable input devices, keyboard with number pad
- Substandard Full HD screen
Abandoned by the display. The Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is the larger version of the popular ThinkPad T490. The larger case has a number of advantages, and the ThinkPad T590 is also the lightest 15.6-inch ThinkPad in the T Series to date. However, it is inferior to its smaller sister model in a very important aspect.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad lineup, the T series plays an extremely important role, but this is especially true for the models with a 14 inch display. However, the Lenovo/IBM ThinkPad T series is also sold in versions with 15.6 inch screens, which get considerably less media attention and probably sell less well.
Nevertheless, these are interesting laptops because not everyone wants to use a laptop with a 14 inch display and the 15.6 inch models of the T series are supposed to combine the qualities of a ThinkPad with the larger screen surface.
Our current test device is the Lenovo ThinkPad T590, the newest model in the T series with a 15.6 inch display. It follows the ThinkPad T580 and is the ninth model in the ThinkPad T500 series.
Compared to its smaller sister models in the T series, the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is much more similar to the ThinkPad T490 than the ThinkPad T490s. Therefore, we will also compare the ThinkPad T590 with the ThinkPad T490 in detail.
The other business laptop comparison devices come from other manufacturers. Above all, the HP EliteBook 850 G5, the Dell Latitude 5590 and the Fujitsu LifeBook U758 compete with the Lenovo ThinkPad T590.
The specific model number of our test device is 20N4002VGE. This configuration is equipped with an i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD, LTE as well as a Full HD display and the Nvidia GeForce MX250. This upscale configuration is currently available in the US for around $900.
Design & Ports
Just like the other models of the T series, the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 has also been given a redesign. Compared to the ThinkPad T580, the case has been completely redesigned, whereby, typical ThinkPad, there is also continuity in many areas.
The entire case is still kept in a black tone (with a few spots of color, like the TrackPoint) and the hinges are still drop-down hinges with silver metal caps that allow an opening angle of 180 degrees. You have a good grip on the lid and it can also be opened with one hand.
A new design element on the inside and a common feature with the Lenovo ThinkPad T490 is the speaker grille, which Lenovo places above the keyboard right between the hinges. Moreover, the base unit is less rounded on the bottom than on the ThinkPad T580.
According to Lenovo, the case’s outer shell consists almost entirely of a fiberglass composite plastic. Additionally, the lower half of the case is reinforced with a magnesium frame, whereby Lenovo has adopted the basic construction of the ThinkPad T580. Externally, the material has changed considerably, though. The lower half of the case of the ThinkPad T580 wasn’t varnished, but on the outside it was made of rough plastic – for a mid-range device, the haptics of the older 15-inch model was relatively cheap.
Lenovo makes it better in the ThinkPad T590, because the entire case is varnished or rubberized in the newest model, just like in the Lenovo ThinkPad T490. This surface is velvety soft with a light grip and feels much more valuable than the previous model’s bare plastic. However, the material is comparatively sensitive to dirt.
Generally, there’s almost nothing to criticize about the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 in terms of quality. The base unit is very stable and can only be twisted slightly. Moreover, you can’t press in the wrist-rest and keyboard area. The case’s workmanship was also impeccable. The display cover is the weakest area of the case, as it can be twisted much more than the base unit and also transfers pressure to the LCD panel quite quickly.
This shouldn’t be a reason for concern in everyday use, though. The Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is a fairly robust laptop that should survive the everyday life in an office environment or on business trips well.
The difference in size compared to the 14 inch Lenovo ThinkPad T490s and ThinkPad T490s is very clear. After all, the ThinkPad T590 is the most compact of the 15.6 inch business laptops in comparison. In comparison to the ThinkPad T580, the dimensions have only been slightly adjusted.
The case of the ThinkPad T590 is a few millimeters less long, whereby the display bezel underneath the screen has shrunk slightly.
More has changed in terms of weight, as the ThinkPad T590 is about 0.44 lbs lighter than its predecessor. Our test device is still a model of the heavier type; the ThinkPad T590 without a dedicated GPU should be a lb lighter. The weight gap to the ThinkPad T490 remains large, but the ThinkPad T590 is at least almost as light as some older 14 inch T-ThinkPads. Whilst the 15.6-inch models used to be real rascals, they are now quite portable.
Despite the redesign, the connectivity has hardly changed in comparison to the Lenovo ThinkPad T580. The full-size SD card slot has been exchanged for a microSD card slot. Otherwise, there is no change in the number and configuration of ports.
This also means, for example, that the ThinkPad T590 still has only one Thunderbolt 3 port, which is connected with two PCIe lanes. The biggest restriction resulting from this: When using a dock, you can only operate a maximum of one external 4K UHD monitor (3.840 x 2.160) with a refresh rate of 60 Hz.
The connections themselves are practically the same, but in different positions. While most of the ThinkPad T580’s ports were still on the right side, they are now on the left, which is also due to the fact that you now have the fan outlets on the right – right-handed mouse users may have to live with warm hands. On the positive side, you now have USB-A ports on both sides, which increases the flexibility when plugging in USB devices. The previous model required USB-A devices to be plugged in on the right-hand side, unless you wanted to use a USB-C adapter.
Last year, all T Series ThinkPads were equipped with a full-size SD card reader, but this year there is not one left. Lenovo also does without the SD card reader in the large Lenovo ThinkPad T590 and instead serves its users a microSD card reader. This is incomprehensible because there would definitely be enough space for a full-size SD card reader.
The microSD card reader’s performance in the benchmarks with the reference memory card, Toshiba Exceria Pro M501 UHS-II, corresponds approximately to the SD card reader’s performance in the Lenovo ThinkPad T580. Thus, the microSD card reader is on average fast, the SD card reader of the Fujitsu LifeBook U758 is about as fast. In return, the full-size SD card reader of the Dell Latitude 5590 is more than twice as powerful. Only the HP EliteBook 850 G5 of the 15-inch business laptops has to manage without an SD card reader.
The Intel Wireless AC 9560, a current 2×2 solution from Intel, serves as the Lenovo ThinkPad T590’s WiFi module. It delivered a very good performance both in the benchmark test and in everyday use. In addition to the wireless local connection, the ThinkPad T590 also offers Bluetooth 5.0 and Ethernet in the form of the Intel I219-V module – the corresponding RJ45 port is integrated on the right side of the case.
The whole thing is rounded off by WWAN in the form of an LTE card called Fibocom L830-EB, which is built into our model ex factory. You can also optionally purchase the ThinkPad T590 with an integrated NFC module.
The camera records a rather blurred and noisy image. Together with the microphones, which at least record voices relatively clearly, the webcam is only just suitable for video telephony.
Safety & Upgradability
As usual with business devices, the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 has a wide range of security features not found on consumer laptops. For example, the smart card slot and also the Kensington lock slot on the right side of the case. Fingerprint sensors are now also available in laptops for private customers and the ThinkPad notebook naturally has one, whereby it is a touch-based model.
Additionally, there is also an infrared camera that can be used for face recognition and thus, as an alternative to the fingerprint reader, for quick and secure login with Windows Hello.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is a larger ThinkPad T490 in terms of case. Therefore, it also adopts its design in terms of maintainability as much as possible. That means: You have to remove the base tray in order to access the interior. This is secured with numerous screws (which get stuck in the case) and clips. In addition, you have to remove the SIM slot on the back of the case before you can remove the base tray.
Especially the opening of the clips can be tricky, you should be very careful and without too much force. You have to loosen the clips on the back first, then on the sides. Once the clips and screws have been loosened, the bottom tray can be removed – the clips on the front edge must not be loosened, they open automatically when the maintenance flap is pulled forward.
If you close the case again, the clips at the front are again a small obstacle, because you have to hook them one by one before you screw the case back on – otherwise the case might not close properly.
If you take a look at Lenovo’s Hardware Maintenance Manual for the ThinkPad T590, it becomes clear that the commonality with the ThinkPad T490 goes far beyond the external design. The two ThinkPads share their motherboard design, which makes the ThinkPad T590 a larger version of the ThinkPad T490.
Consequently, the ThinkPad T590 takes over the T490’s limitations in terms of maintainability and upgradeability: The RAM is partially soldered, but still upgradeable, as there is a single SO-DIMM slot. A maximum of 40 GB is possible in our test device with 8 GB soldered RAM. If one has a model with 16 GB soldered RAM, the maximum increases to 48 GB. The WiFi module is also soldered, as Lenovo uses Intel’s CNVi technology, which partially shifts the WiFi module into the CPU. The M.2-2280 SSD is upgradeable in return.
You could also possibly upgrade a WWAN module, whereby this is already present in our test device. Compared to the ThinkPad T580, the upgradeability has worsened because there were two RAM slots in the older model and the WiFi module wasn’t soldered yet.
The internal battery is only screwed, not glued or soldered. You can also clean the cooling system and renew the thermal paste if necessary. The keyboard can also be easily replaced by the user, should it be defective.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Lenovo doesn’t make any experiments with the keyboard, because the Lenovo ThinkPad T590’s two-stage backlight keyboard is very similar to the keyboard of the Lenovo ThinkPad T580. The chiclet keys are arranged in a layout with six vertical rows of keys and the keyboard takes up the full width of the case thanks to the existing number pad.
However, some keys of the main keypad had to be reduced in size due to the number pad, for example the keys to the left of the Enter key or the keys to the right of the space bar. This means that the smaller Lenovo ThinkPad T490 has a full-size keyboard, whereas you have to accept a smaller layout on the larger ThinkPad T590 because of the number pad. In our opinion, Lenovo should rather use a less wide number pad instead of shrinking the main keypad.
The smaller layout might require some time to get used to. Apart from that, the Lenovo ThinkPad T590’s keyboard fulfills our high expectations. The keys have a long stroke of 1.7 mm by today’s standards with a very pleasant pressure point that is neither too hard nor too soft.
The typing noise of the keys isn’t loud but rather muffled, and the slightly concave, rounded keys nestle pleasantly against the skin with their smooth surface. Frequent typists will have their fun with such keyboards, especially since the keyboard is also embedded in the case in a completely stable manner. This is an important factor, because even a good keyboard can provide a bad typing feel if it gives way due to the case’s lack of stability.
The trackpad’s touch-sensitive surface is just as large as on the ThinkPad T580 laptop – 10 x 7 cm. Lenovo doesn’t make any changes to the touchpad’s material either; the ThinkPad T series still generally includes touchpads made of plastic.
This has a smooth surface, which provides a good gliding ability, but doesn’t feel as high-quality as comparable surfaces made of glass. Because it is a clickpad, you can press the surface of the trackpad into the lower 2/3. The click mechanism is crisp and the clicks are not too loud. If you only glide your finger over the touchpad, the surface is absolutely stable, we couldn’t detect any wobbling.
On the software side, there’s nothing to criticize, the touchpad is very precise and multi-touch gestures are implemented cleanly and smoothly. All in all, it may not be the best touchpad, but it is a very good one.
In addition to the touchpad, Lenovo, as in almost all ThinkPads, also installs the red TrackPoint. The poiting stick (which in this case comes from Synaptics) allows precise control of the mouse cursor without forcing the user to remove his hand from the keyboard.
Associated with the TrackPoint are the three buttons above the touchpad, all of which have a short stroke with a defined pressure point. The middle button is used for scrolling, but can also be used as a classic middle mouse button.
As much as there are similarities to the Lenovo ThinkPad T490, the ThinkPad T590’s screen isn’t one of them. This is not only due to the different size (15.6 inches instead of 14), but also to the display options that Lenovo offers. All three LCD options are matte IPS screens; a glossy option or a TN screen isn’t available unlike the smaller sister model.
The display resolution of the ThinkPad T590 is always at least 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD), Lenovo doesn’t offer an HD display (1,366 x 768) on this ThinkPad laptop. Lenovo offers two different monitors with Full-HD resolution, one supports on-cell touch and the other is a non-touch screen. The two Full-HD monitors each have a brightness value of 250 cd/m² as well as an NTSC color space coverage of only 45% according to Lenovo’s data sheet.
The third LCD option is a 4K UHD display (3,840 x 2,160), which is designed to double the brightness value of 500 cd/m² and cover 100% of the AdobeRGB colour space. This display is clearly the premium option, which is why it also supports Dolby Vision HDR.
What’s missing in comparison to the ThinkPad T490 is a higher quality Full HD option. Thus, users only have the choice between below average Full HD displays or the big leap to the 4K UHD display, which could be an overkill for many.
Since the 4K-UHD display is currently not yet available, we are of course testing a model with a Full-HD monitor, whereby this is the non-touch variant. The display exceeds the stated brightness value of 250 cd/m² with an average brightness of 262 cd/m². Thus, the screen, which came from LG in our test device, is slightly brighter than in the predecessor Lenovo ThinkPad T580 and the Dell Latitude 5590.
In return, the HP EliteBook 850 G5 has a much brighter Full-HD display, and the Fujitsu LifeBook U758 is also better equipped in this respect. This applies to the 14 inch models, ThinkPad T490 and ThinkPad T490s with their higher quality and significantly brighter low power Full HD displays anyway.
We couldn’t detect PWM on the display and backlight bleeding is only weakly present. The display is also fairly evenly illuminated with 88%.
There isn’t a great color cast ex works, which is why calibration doesn’t mean a huge leap forward in subjective representation – as always, we provide the corresponding color profile free of charge. Some deviations, as for example in the saturation, cannot be removed even with a calibration. Subjectively, the representation is quite ok, specially due to the good contrast value of 1200:1.
The fact that it is not enough is due to the underground colour space coverage. The small sRGB color space can only be covered to 58%, so that colors are displayed very distorted. This display is completely unsuitable for professional work with colors.
With its matt surface, the LCD panel is suitable for outdoor use because the brightness is in the range of over 200 cd/m². However, you should rather forget about using it in the sun, but in the shade the contents of the display are clearly visible.
Typical for IPS, the screen’s colors are very stable in the viewing angle. The brightness does indeed decrease at extreme viewing angles, but at least the display doesn’t show an IPS glow effect.
Lenovo offers four different Intel “Whiskey Lake” series processors for the ThinkPad T590: The Core i5-8265U, the Core i7-8565U, the Core i5-8365U, and the Core i7-8665U. The latter two processors have the vPro feature, which is especially important for large enterprise customers.
The graphics unit is either the Intel UHD Graphics 620, which is integrated in all available processors, or the optional Nvidia GeForce MX250, which can be combined with either an i5 or an i7, unlike the ThinkPad T490, where Lenovo strangely only allows configurations with i7 and MX250. In terms of memory, there is 8 or 16 GB of soldered DDR4 2400 RAM.
There is also a DDR4-2400 SO DIMM slot at the side of this one, so that a maximum of 40 to 48 GB memory is possible, depending on how much RAM is soldered. A single M.2-2280 SSD with 256, 512 GB or 1 TB serves as mass storage.
The Intel Core i7-8565U is a current processor of the “Whiskey-Lake” series. It is an ultra-low-voltage processor with a TDP of 15 watts and four processor cores, which have a maximum clock speed of 4.6 GHz and a basic clock speed of 1.8 GHz. Comparisons with other CPUs can be found in our CPU comparison list.
Lenovo has increased the TDP in the ThinkPad T590. Instead of 15 watts, it is initially 29 watts in the Cinebench multi-core test, with which the processor cores work with a maximum of 3.3 GHz. The CPU temperatures rise to a maximum of 82°C during a single Cinebench run. The T590 can’t maintain this consumption permanently. The processor consumption starts to fluctuate in the cinebench loop, it ranges between 20 and 25 watts, and at times it even drops briefly to 15 watts. The CPU clock rates accordingly fluctuate in a range of about 2.5 to 3 GHz.
The CPU performance of the sister model ThinkPad T490 is slightly higher on average under continuous load because the T490 delivers its performance more stable. In return, the ThinkPad T580 is slightly slower than its successor. The competitors from Dell, HP and Fujitsu are all clearly slower than the ThinkPad T590 – but these comparison devices are all still equipped with the older “Kaby Lake Refresh” processors.
The CPU performance is also fully available in battery mode.
The ThinkPad T590 is partly at the top of the comparison field in PCMark’s benchmarks – which isn’t surprising in view of the comparatively powerful components as well as the performance-sparing Full HD resolution. The ThinkPad T580 comes off worse in these benchmarks, which is probably mainly due to the twice as high resolution. The Lenovo ThinkPad T590 always ran smoothly in everyday use.
Lenovo has radically simplified the equipment in terms of mass storage. Instead of the 2.5 inch slot, which optionally also contained an M.2-2280 SSD in an adapter, there is only a single M.2-2280 SSD. In addition, the possibility of installing a second, smaller M.2-2242 SSD in the WWAN slot is also eliminated.
The speed of the 512 GB SSD, which was manufactured by Toshiba in our test device, definitely profits from the design change in comparison to the ThinkPad T580. Only two PCIe 3.0 lanes were available for the M.2-2280 SSD. In return, the Toshiba SSD, which delivered a very good performance in our test, is connected with four lanes in the ThinkPad T590.
The Nvidia GeForce MX250 is a refresh of the Nvidia GeForce MX150, which means that the now already outdated Nvidia Pascal technology is still used here. The ThinkPad T590 contains the higher clocked 25 watt version of the MX250. Comparisons with other graphic chips are possible with our GPU benchmark list.
The GPU’s performance is pretty much the same as the MX250’s performance in the smaller ThinkPad T490. Compared to the 25 watt version of the Nvidia GeForce MX150 in the predecessor ThinkPad T580, the GPU of the T590 is 7 to 26% faster, depending on the benchmark.
A decent performance boost, but the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q in the premium model ThinkPad X1 Extreme remains unattainable. This graphics chip is almost twice as fast in the 3DMark benchmarks.
The GPU performance is completely available in battery mode.
The Nvidia GeForce MX250 is definitely not a graphics chip suitable for serious gaming. New games only run on greatly reduced detail settings, which is why this GPU is rather something for casual gamers – the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q in the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is more than twice as fast.
At least: The ThinkPad T590’s graphics chip can maintain its performance in the Witcher 3 loop throughout and it is also a bit faster than the Nvidia GeForce MX150 in the predecessor ThinkPad T580.
Noise & temperature levels
The ThinkPad T590’s fan usually, but unfortunately not always, stands still in idle. The active cooling system gets a maximum of 35.8 dB(A) under load, which isn’t really disturbing yet. Overall, the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is a rather reserved laptop in this respect.
We could detect coil beeping, but it’s only audible when you hold one ear directly to the keyboard.
The cooling system of the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is a heavy challenge under load. This can already be seen in the outside temperatures, as the Lenovo laptop warms up to a maximum of 56.3°C on the underside in the stress test. The ThinkPad notebook gets even warmer in the Witcher 3 test. We measured a maximum of 57.3 °C at a hotspot, but the fan also remains a bit quieter with 33.5 dB(A).
You should avoid using the notebook on your lap under load because such high temperatures can become unpleasant in the long run. At least the wrist-rest stays reasonably cool, but this area also warms up slightly compared to idle.
In the stress test with Prime95 and FurMark it becomes clear that the ThinkPad T590, as a comparatively slim office laptop, isn’t made for continuous load. At the beginning of the stress test, the processor can consume 17 watts; for a short time the consumption even increases to 25 watts. Thus, the CPU clock rate under load is a maximum of 2.7 GHz. After about 5 minutes, however, the consumption and CPU clock rate drop significantly until the CPU finally consumes only 5 watts, the CPU clock rate is then only 400 MHz.
The GPU can’t keep its clock rate either, after about 15 minutes it’s only 800 MHz. The temperatures are within a safe range, actually the CPU and GPU could run with a higher clock rate after a certain point – but that doesn’t happen.
Interestingly enough, the CPU performance remains throttled even after the stress test, while the GPU can again exploit its performance potential.
Thus, especially the CPU-heavy physics performance of 3DMark 11 turns out significantly lower. A restart solves this problem. Lenovo would probably have to fix this error with a driver or BIOS update.
Instead of on the bottom, Lenovo places the ThinkPad T590’s speakers on the top between the hinges. This position is advantageous because the sound always sounds the same regardless of the surface structure of the base. Unfortunately, the loudspeakers are of rather poor quality, lacking bass and also volume.
The ThinkPad T580 had its loudspeakers in the unfavorable position on the bottom, but they were louder. The loudspeakers of HP’s competitor, the EliteBook 850 G5, are also louder.
Instead of the loudspeakers, you can also use the combo audio output. In combination with external loudspeakers or headphones, one has a much better sound.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T590 reflects the development of the smaller ThinkPad T490 in terms of battery. Instead of the PowerBridge system with one internal and one external, expandable hot-swap battery, Lenovo only uses a single internal battery in its latest ThinkPads.
This has a capacity of 57 watt hours in the case of the ThinkPad T590 laptop, which makes the battery a bit larger than in the ThinkPad T490. For comparison: The Lenovo ThinkPad T580 had a maximum capacity of 105 watt hours with the large extended external 72 watt hour battery, thus about twice as much.
We also tested such a configuration of the ThinkPad T580, which is why we were quite surprised that the ThinkPad T590 even performs better despite a battery that is half as large. The ThinkPad T590 also performs well in comparison to the competitors from Dell and HP. The battery life in the WiFi test is about 10.5 hours.
In addition to the normal WiFi test, which we carried out with an LCD brightness value of 150 cd/m², we carried out this test again with the maximum brightness. In this scenario the battery life was reduced to about 8 hours.
At this point, the low-power displays of the T490 and T490s show their advantages – in this test, both suffer from a very similar reduction in battery life, but the 14 inch screens achieve significantly higher brightness values of up to 400 cd/m².
A side effect of switching to a single internal battery is a shorter charging time. Whilst the ThinkPad T580 with the large 105 watt hour battery combination needed almost 4 hours until both batteries were fully charged again, the ThinkPad T590’s charging time was only a little more than two hours.
The Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is the lightest and most compact 15.6-inch T Series ThinkPad yet. If you used to be forced to go with the smaller 14-inch model if you didn’t want to have a huge “clunker”, that’s not necessarily the case today. Nevertheless, the smaller Lenovo ThinkPad T490 probably remains the more attractive choice for most users.
This is also due to the fact that the T490 and T590 are very similar in many ways. Lenovo uses the same motherboard design for both and also materials and construction method are identical. Thus, the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 has a robust case with a very good array of ports, communication and security functions, but the ThinkPad T490 also offers this.
This also applies to the comfortable input devices with the very good keyboard, whereby the T590 can at least offer an advantage for some users with its number pad. Moreover, the battery life of the ThinkPad T590 is better than that of the ThinkPad T490, at least in the Full HD variant, thanks to the larger 57 watt hour battery.
The ThinkPad T590 offers above average CPU performance and the ThinkPad laptop’s fan usually stands still, but this is also the case with the T490.
The larger display could be seen as an argument for the ThinkPad T590. However, the quality of the LCD panel leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to the T490 and its low power full HD display, because color values and brightness are clearly inferior. Although Lenovo offers an interesting 4K UHD option as an option, the majority of the T590 models should be sold with the absolutely below average Full HD display.
Other weak points, like the case that’s difficult to open, the microSD card reader (instead of a full-size SD card reader), the high case temperatures, as well as the Thunderbolt 3 port, which is only connected with two PCIe lanes, the T590 takes over from the ThinkPad T490 in return. This also applies to the dropped PowerBridge feature.
If only the mediocre Full HD display wasn’t there: The ThinkPad T590 is a good notebook, but the LCD disappoints us, which is why the Lenovo ThinkPad T590 is ranking behind vs ThinkPad T490.
Overall, we can recommend the ThinkPad T590 as a powerful and comparatively mobile 15.6 inch laptop for productive applications, but we think that the ThinkPad T490 is the better choice if you don’t need the number pad.