Lenovo ThinkPad T490 vs. T490s: Which should you buy?

The ThinkPad T490 and T490s are both clearly cut from the same cloth despite the latter option being a bit more portable. If you need extra performance, only the T490 comes with an optional NVIDIA MX250 dedicated GPU, and it's also your only choice if you'd like a display with WQHD resolution and HDR. The T490s does have a larger battery that will ultimately provide longer life with similar hardware, though RAM is not upgradeable like in the T490.

Both laptops provide optional LTE connectivity, both have generous port selection (with some differences), and both are available with FHD low-power display. Let's take a look at a breakdown of specs available across both models.

ThinkPad T490 vs. T490s tech specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 ThinkPad T490ThinkPad T490s
Processor8th GenIntel Core i5-8265UIntel Core i5-8365U vProIntel Core i7-8565UIntel Core i7-8665U vPro8th GenIntel Core i5-8265UIntel Core i5-8365U vProIntel Core i7-8565UIntel Core i7-8665U vPro
RAM8GB, 16GB, 32GBDDR4-2400MHz8GB, 16GB, 32GBDDR4-2400MHz
Storage128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TBM.2 PCIe NVMe SSD128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TBM.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display size14 inches14 inches
Display resolution1366x768 (HD) non-touch1920x1080 (FHD) non-touch1920x1080 (FHD) touch1920x1080 (FHD) low-power, non-touch2560x1440 (WQHD) non-touch1920x1080 (FHD) non-touch1920x1080 (FHD) touch1920x1080 (FHD) low-power, non-touch
GraphicsIntel UHD 620NVIDIA MX250 (2GB)Intel UHD 620
PortsUSB-C 3.1Thunderbolt 3Two USB-A 3.1HDMI 1.4RJ45 EthernetmicroSD card readerMicro-SIMSmart Card reader3.5mm audioUSB-C 3.1Thunderbolt 3Two USB-A 3.1HDMI 1.4Lenovo Ethernet AdaptermicroSD card readerMicro-SIMSmart Card reader3.5mm audio
LTEFibocom L850-GL 4G LTE-AFibocom L850-GL 4G LTE-A
BiometricsFingerprint readerIR cameraFingerprint readerIR camera
CameraFront-facing 720pWebcam shutterFront-facing 720pWebcam shutter
Dimensions12.95 inches x 8.94 inches x 0.70 inches(329mm x 227mm x 17.9mm)12.95 inches x 8.89 inches x 0.63 inches(329mm x 225.8mm x 16.1mm)
WeightFrom 3.23 pounds (1.46kg)From 2.81 pounds (1.27kg)
ColorBlackBlack, Silver

Design and features

From a distance, these two laptops look identical, though the T490s keeps its weight lower than the T490 partly thanks to a thinner chassis (0.63 inches compared to 0.70 inches). If you need the most portable option possible, go with the T490s. Both laptops have passed MIL-STD 810G durability testing to prove they can withstand conditions not normally seen in an office setting, and both have dual-hinge setups for the lid that allows them to open about 180 degrees.

Port selection is virtually the same except for the Ethernet port and location of the microSD card reader. The T490 has the full RJ45 hookup on its right side, as well as a handy card reader on the left side, allowing you to quickly pop in extra storage for easy transfers. With the T490s, you'll have to invest in Lenovo's proprietary Ethernet dongle to get a full-size connection.

The microSD card reader on the slimmer laptop is bundled with the Micro-SIM slot along the back edge of the laptop, meaning you will need a SIM extractor tool every time you want to pop in or out a card. It's far less convenient, but only if you're often using removable storage. Yes, both laptops feature LTE-A connectivity if you want to stay connected everywhere.

Both laptops feature a fingerprint reader built into the right palmrest, and both have the option to add an IR camera to go along with the standard 720p webcam with privacy shutter. Both also have a dTPM 2.0 chip and Kensington lock slot.


Both laptops have a number of enticing display options, including 1080p touch and non-touch, and both have a 1080p low-power option that is ideal for extending battery life as far as possible. A 1080p option with PrivacyGuard — a filter that effectively blocks out anyone but you from seeing your screen — is expected for both laptops sometime this year.

For Enterprise buys or if you want to keep your purchase as on budget as possible, the T490 has a 768p option. It's pretty drab and unexciting, but it's there. Likewise, if you want to go above FHD, only the T490 has a WQHD non-touch display option that hits 500 nits brightness thanks to Dolby Vision HDR. In our testing, it hit 100% sRGB and AdobeRGB color reproduction, making it an ideal choice for anyone working with editing or design software.

Performance and price

Thanks to an optional NVIDIA MX250 dedicated GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM, the ThinkPad T490 should be your go-to choice if you want to enjoy a better gaming experience or if you're looking at a bit of specialized work. The T490s is stuck with integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics, which is also the baseline option in the T490 if you don't opt for the MX250.

Other than the GPU, the other main difference in performance between these two laptops is RAM. The T490 can be taken apart after purchase for a RAM upgrade, while the T490s is stuck with whatever you choose from the factory. This generally elevates the price since you will want to select as much as you think you'll need for years to come, whereas you can save money with the T490 by going with low RAM and upgrading later.

The M.2 SSD in the T490 and the M.2 SSD in the T490s can both be upgraded after purchase, which in both cases can save you money at checkout. Both laptops have 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 processor (CPU) options, as well as vPro counterparts, which offer strong performance.

The T490s portability factor is heightened by a larger 57Wh battery, allowing you to go longer without a charge. Combined with a low-power display option, you should expect upwards of 10 hours of life from a charge. The T490 would come close with a similar low-power display, but the 50Wh battery won't quite offer the same life.

As for price, the T490 can be had for a lower starting cost thanks to the HD display option, and prices for the T490 do remain marginally cheaper as you scale up in hardware. Lenovo does, however, fluctuate its prices often based on coupons and online discounts, so you might see a different situation when buying.

The ThinkPad T490 is the better pick for most people

Thanks to more display choices, including WQHD HDR, a dedicated GPU option, and full-size Ethernet, the T490 is a more versatile pick. It also has LTE connectivity and decent battery life, especially if you opt for the low-power display.

The ThinkPad T490s is the more portable option

Thanks to a slimmer and lighter body, LTE connectivity, and larger battery, the T490s is the better option for those who want to stay as mobile as possible. It will generally cost a bit more than the T490, but it will be worth it for those on the road.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.