Serious business users who want a large display and business-class security can't go wrong with Lenovo's ThinkPad T560. The system provides fast performance for heavy multitasking and long enough battery life to get you through a transcontinental business flight, and its top-tier keyboard is just icing on the cake. Other 15-inchers are sleeker and more portable, but the ThinkPad T560 is the most well-rounded.
Design and portability
There are plenty of 15-inch laptops on the market that are slimmer and lighter than the 4.8-lb. ThinkPad T560. Dell's 4.4-lb. XPS 15 stands out as a more commuter-friendly option, though it's not as secure or durable as the ThinkPad T560. If you can live with a slightly smaller display, the ThinkPad T460 is a whole pound lighter.
But compared to other business-class 15-inchers, Lenovo's system is actually relatively portable. Dell's 5.6-lb Latitude E5570, for example, is both thicker and heavier. That's less true if you opt for the ThinkPad T560's extended battery, which adds about an extra half pound to the system's weight. The extended battery still comes highly recommended, though, since it nearly doubles the laptop's battery life — but more on that later.
Commuters and frequent travelers will appreciate the ThinkPad T560's extremely durable design. The system sports a glass-fiber-reinforced shell that feels extremely sturdy and rigid; I didn't notice a hint of flex in the lid or keyboard deck. Lenovo says the system has MIL-SPEC-grade durability and was designed to withstand short drops and dings.
You get a generous array of ports with the ThinkPad T560. The right edge has two USB 3.0 ports, a mini DisplayPort for connecting to monitors and projectors, and a lock slot for physically securing your laptop at your desk.
On the left side, you get an Ethernet port, an SD card reader for expanding the system's internal storage and a third USB 3.0 port.
Security-minded workers will find a lot to like here. The ThinkPad T560 comes with all the standard business-class security options, including Trusted Platform Module-based hardware encryption and Intel vPro technology that enables corporate IT departments to remotely manage the system.
Small business owners will probably get more use out of the fingerprint scanner, an optional feature that can be added for $20. It's a great perk for workers who want to keep their laptops locked down without fussing with a password every time they turn their machines on. Unfortunately, the T560 comes with a swipe-based fingerprint scanner that isn't as reliable as the single-touch scanner on systems like the ThinkPad T460s. It occasionally failed to recognize my print, asking me to swipe a second time.
The ThinkPad T560's advantage over similar systems, like the ThinkPad T460, is, of course, its large 15.6-inch screen. My review unit came equipped with a 1920 x 1080, nontouch display, which is just sharp enough for a screen this size. It feels roomy enough for screen-intensive tasks like editing large spreadsheets, and split-screen multitasking is comfortable.
I'm a big fan of the matte finish that comes on most ThinkPad models, including this one. The screen has an anti-glare coating that wards off distracting reflections from windows and overhead lights. And while many matte displays are a bit on the dim side, this one offers average brightness, which is good for typical indoor use.
A couple of other display options are available, including a 1080p touch screen. I wouldn't recommend that option, since power-hungry touch panels tend to drain your battery in a hurry. You can also opt for a low-res, 1366 x 768 display, which most workers should avoid.
True to the ThinkPad brand, the T560 comes with a top-notch keyboard that's perfect for marathon typing sessions. You get an extremely generous 2.41 millimeters of key travel, which is well above the 1.5mm that we consider the minimum for a work laptop. The keys also offer good amount of feedback on each stroke, even if they don't feel quite as snappy as the keys on the ThinkPad T460.
In addition to the standard touchpad, the ThinkPad T460 includes a red TrackPoint nub amidst the G, H and B keys. This lets you precisely control your mouse cursor without moving your hands from home row on the keyboard, but it can take some getting used to if you're a TrackPoint newbie.
If longevity is your top priority, there's no better laptop than the ThinkPad T560. The system lasted longer on our battery test than any other laptop we've ever tested — at least, if you opt for the extended, six-cell battery. With the beefier battery attached, the T560 ran for 21 hours and 3 minutes, which is about twice as long as this system ran with the standard, three-cell battery. That's long enough to last through two complete workdays and then some.
Even the standard battery life of 10 hours and 10 minutes is pretty impressive when you consider that the average 15-inch laptop runs for just over 6 hours on the same battery test, which simulates continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. Rival systems, including the Toshiba Tecra A50(5:59) and Dell Latitude E5570 (7:17), all lagged well behind the T560.
Heavy multitasking is no problem for the ThinkPad T560. My review unit came equipped with an Intel Core i5-6300U processor with 8GB of RAM, a configuration that allowed me to breeze through my workday without a hitch. Some rival 15-inchers are even more powerful, though.
The T560 racked up a very solid score of 6,210 on the Geekbench 3 benchmark test, which measures overall performance. That score's pretty good for the money, even if it lags slightly behind the category average of 7,625. Pricier systems like the Core i7-6820HQ-equipped Dell Latitude E5570 (12,148) blow the ThinkPad T560 out of the water, but the Dell's performance is overkill for the average worker.
The T560 also did pretty well on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in a very solid 4 minutes and 14 seconds. That time beats the category average of 5 minutes and 5 seconds, but runs about a minute behind pricier rivals.
The ThinkPad T560 can be ordered in a huge variety of hardware configurations through Lenovo.com. The baseline model offers a low-res 1366 x 768-pixel display, a Core i5-6200U processor with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, all for $809.
Our midrange review unit hits a much better sweet spot for the average worker. It comes equipped with a higher-res 1920 x 1080-pixel display, a more powerful Core i5-6300U processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of speedy solid-state drive (SSD) storage, all for $1,286.
It's hard to find fault with the ThinkPad T560. It's simply the best 15-inch business laptop on the market, combining solid performance with strong security, a quality keyboard and a durable design. It's absolutely epic battery life doesn't hurt, either.
Commuters who don't mind sacrificing a bit of screen space might be better off with Lenovo's more portable ThinkPad T460, which is similar to the T560 but has a smaller, 14-inch display and slightly shorter battery life. Dell's XPS 15 is also a solid pick thanks to its relatively lightweight design, but it lacks business-class durability and security. That makes the ThinkPad T560 the big-screen business laptop to buy.