Home Technology Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 review: A basic business laptop

Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 review: A basic business laptop

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This entry-level ThinkPad is no more—and no less—than it seems.




thinkpade14gen2hero

Jared Newman / IDG

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  • Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

Think of Lenovo’s ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 as the business laptop for the rank and file.

While the C-suite might make off with something sleeker, like the $1,850 ThinkPad X1 Nano, the E14 hews closer to the $1,000 range and makes no attempt to hide its economy-class trappings, relative to fancier ThinkPads. Weighing 3.5 pounds and measuring 0.7 inches thick, it’s one of Lenovo’s heftier business laptops, and its features—which include an ethernet jack and anti-glare screen—are decidedly utilitarian.

Style points aside, the ThinkPad would be a solid laptop if not for its substandard trackpad and below-average battery life. As it stands, it’s a laptop that workers can tolerate, as opposed to one that they’ll truly love.

ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 tech specs

Our ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 sells for $1,048 on TigerDirect and has the following specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 with Iris Xe graphics
  • Display: 14-inch, 1920×1080 IPS matte-finish
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Biometrics: Fingerprint reader
  • Webcam: 720p with privacy shutter and Windows Hello face recognition
  • Left side: USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 (always on), HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Right side: USB-A 2.0 Gen 1, gigabit ethernet, Kensington lock
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Weight: 3.51 pounds (4.19 pounds with power brick)
  • Dimensions: 0.70 x 12.75 x 8.66 inches
thinkpade14gen2rightside Jared Newman / IDG

Behold, a rare ethernet jack sighting.

Lenovo sells many other variants, including those with Core i3, Core i7, and AMD Ryzen 5 processors, though the company’s website makes pricing difficult to gauge. (The baseline Core-i3 model, for instance, has a list price of $1,249, which is $200 more than what TigerDirect charges for our review unit, but it’s down to $600 in a Memorial Day sale.) Expect to spend in the neighborhood of $1,000 for all but the most basic configuration.

In any case, the lack of discrete GPU and H-Series CPU options puts the ThinkPad E14 squarely in the realm of office-drone productivity laptops—a point that’s emphasized by the rare sighting of an ethernet port on its right side. Lenovo does say that it offers an option for Nvidia GeForce MX450 graphics, but at present it’s not available on the company’s website.

Design and display

Aesthetically speaking, the E14 is pretty much the quintessential ThinkPad, right down to the trackpoint nub, trio of trackpad buttons, black chassis, and red accents. Its hefty plastic case has no discernible flex, and it meets an array of ruggedness requirements under the MIL-STD 810H standard.

thinkpade14gen2leftside Jared Newman / IDG

This isn’t Lenovo’s thinnest or lightest ThinkPad, but it is sturdy.

The non-touch display folds down to a 180-degree angle. While its 300-nit brightness level is on the dim side for a higher-end laptop, the matte finish does help counteract glare if you’re computing outside. At maximum brightness, the screen was perfectly legible even with the sun at my back.

Trackpad and keyboard

Because this is a ThinkPad, you can expect chunky keys with plenty of tactile feedback. And my suspicion with the ThinkPad E14 is that the laptop’s thickness allows the backlit keyboard to be even chunkier.

These are compliments. While some folks might prefer a more lightweight feel, I love the travel on ThinkPad keyboards, and the E14 affords more of it than some other models. The aforementioned X1 Nano, for instance, has less depth, and its keys fall down with a clack, versus more of a soft tactile bump on the E14.

thinkpade14gen2keys Jared Newman / IDG

The keyboard is wonderful, but the trackpad feels a bit cramped.

If only the trackpad could keep up. For a 14-inch laptop, the E14 trackpad is on the small side, especially with its dedicated mouse button row on top. The bigger problem has to do with friction. The E14 trackpad just isn’t as smooth as the models on most other laptops in the $1,000-and-up price range, so your finger might get stuck as it’s sliding across the screen.

Webcam, security, audio and extras

The ThinkPad E14’s meat-and-potatoes approach extends to its webcam and speakers. The former is a 720p resolution camera similar to those on most other Windows laptops, while the latter produce audio that’s reasonably loud but lacking in high-end crispness. With a pair of 2-watt speakers mounted on the laptop’s undercarriage, their Harman Kardon branding and custom Dolby tuning can only do so much.

Lenovo does have its security bases covered, though. A fingerprint reader is built into the power button along the ThinkPad E14’s right side, and the camera supports Windows Hello so you can sign in with just your face. Like other higher-end Lenovo laptops, the E14 also has a physical camera privacy shutter that shows a red dot when it’s covering the lens.

thinkpade14gen2shutter Jared Newman / IDG

Flicking the privacy shutter covers the camera (and disables face recognition).

Also worth noting: Lenovo’s Vantage software has some useful customization features. You can swap the Function and Ctrl keys without a trip to BIOS, tweak the camera’s brightness and contrast levels, and set a maximum charge threshold (to prevent battery wear if it’s plugged in most of the time). Lenovo even lets you customize the F12 key to launch specific apps, websites, or keyboard commands.

Performance

As a business laptop with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, the Lenovo ThinkPad E14 delivers pretty much what you’d expect on the performance front, through its battery life and graphics are both letdowns.

Let’s start with PCMark 10, but keep in mind the chart below is slightly deceiving. We don’t often get Core i5 laptops from vendors, so a few of the laptops in our comparison run Core i7 chips instead. We’d expect those more powerful chips to fare better in PCMark, but the ThinkPad E14 didn’t fall too bar behind with a score of 4,578. Compared to the Core i5 chips in HP’s Envy 14 and Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+, Lenovo’s laptop fell somewhere in between.

thinkpade14g2pcmark10 Jared Newman / IDG

The ThinkPad E14 came in just slightly behind laptops with better processors.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the ThinkPad E14 came in closer to the top in our HandBrake test, which involves encoding a large video file. Because this test puts laptops under sustained, heavy loads, it’s a good measure of endurance. The E14’s bulky enclosure likely gives it more room to dissipate heat compared to some slicker and slimmer Core i7-powered laptops.

thinkpade14g2handbrake Jared Newman / IDG

The ThinkPad E14 encoded our video file in 44 minutes—not bad for an office laptop.

The ThinkPad E14 also turned in a solid performance in Cinebench, which is HandBrake’s opposite—a quick test of both single- and multi-threaded performance. 

thinkpade14g2cinebench Jared Newman / IDG

With scores of 954 (multi-threaded) and 204 (single-threaded), the ThinkPad E14 had no problems with performance in short bursts.

Unfortunately, the same wasn’t true in our battery rundown test, where the ThinkPad E14 lasted through 10 hours and 48 minutes of looping video playback. While the ThinkPad E14 doesn’t have any obvious battery-draining features, the battery itself is on the small side, with a full charge capacity of 45,730 Whr. We frequently see laptops in the 50,000- to 60,000-Whr range, and they predictably get much better battery life. The E14 may fall short of a full work day. The good news is that it can charge back to 80-percent capacity in about an hour.

thinkpade14g2battery Jared Newman / IDG

10 hours and 48 minutes isn’t terrible for our video rundown test, but other modern thin-and-light laptops have lasted for much longer.

The ThinkPad E14 isn’t a great option for gaming, not surprisingly. Even if you could convince your IT manager to let you install Steam on this laptop, its Time Spy score of 1,082 falls well below that of other laptops with Iris Xe graphics.

thinkpade14g2timespy Jared Newman / IDG

In case you couldn’t tell by looking at it, the ThinkPad E14 is not a gaming laptop.

A laptop with no surprises

With the ThinkPad E14 Gen 2, you know exactly what you’re going to get. It’s a basic business laptop with a solid selection of ports, decent productivity performance, and a basic anti-glare screen. Its most exemplary feature is its keyboard, but that’s counterweighted by a disappointing trackpad and middling battery life. The rank and file could do worse, but they could also probably do a bit better as well.

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  • Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2

    Lenovo’s budget ThinkPad E14 Gen 2 has a lovely keyboard and work-friendly frills, but the trackpad feels subpar for the price.

    Pros

    • Keyboard feels great to type on
    • Anti-glare display works well in sunlight
    • Ethernet and HDMI ports built in

    Cons

    • Trackpad could be smoother and larger
    • Mediocre battery life
    • Thick and heavy design

Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.

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