Battery Life

Perhaps more than most devices, a small laptop like the ThinkPad A285 is more likely to be used away from the desk, and therefore battery life is fairly important. Lenovo offers a 48 Wh battery inside the 12.5-inch chassis, which like the Intel based ThinkPad X280, has moved away from the dual-battery system and moved to just a single battery which isn’t replaceable by the end-user. This lets Lenovo cut some size and weight, but one of the nice factors of the older models was an optional larger battery for those that needed it, or the ability to swap out the rear battery if needed.

To test the battery life we have several scenarios. Our 2013 battery life test is very light, and with today’s PCs is almost an idle rundown. The newer battery life test is much more CPU intensive, and generally is more representative of what you’d see for basic tasks. Finally, we test the laptop on movie playback. The display is calibrated to 200 nits to keep a consistent brightness across all devices.

2013 – Light

Battery Life 2013 - Light

With just a 48 Wh battery, the ThinkPad A285 can’t compete, and sits right at the bottom with the worst battery life we’ve seen in a while, at just one minute over six hours. We’ll dig into why in a minute.

2016 – Web

Battery Life 2016 - Web - Normalized

Our newer web test taxes the CPU quite a bit more, and generally knocks down the battery life significantly on any low-powered device. That is the case here, but the difference is not as dramatic as some of the other devices.

Movie Playback

Battery Life Movie Playback

Generally movie playback is the most efficient test we have, but there’s something not right with Raven Ridge and movie playback. The decode can be offloaded to the media block, so in theory the CPU should be in its lowest power state for this test, but surprisingly the A285 fares worse here than in the web test. That result is mimicked by the other Raven Ridge laptop in our graph.

Normalized Results

Battery Life 2013 - Light Normalized

Battery Life 2016 - Web - Normalized

Finally we remove the battery capacity from the equation to see how many minutes of battery life each device gets per Wh of battery. The Raven Ridge devices sit right at the bottom.

Digging Into Power Draw

On any system there are always various components drawing power at all times. The display is generally the highest power consumer on any system at idle, and the amount of energy it draws varies on the size, brightness, and resolution. For instance, the display of a Surface Book 2 15-inch draws about 7.65 Watts at 100% brightness. Setting the display down to 200 nits drops its power draw to 4.1 Watts. Meanwhile the rest of the system pulls just 1.43 Watts at idle.

Raven Ridge, it appears, has a power draw problem. We saw it on the Acer Swift 3, and we’re seeing it again on the Lenovo ThinkPad A285. The base power draw is quite high, which makes the battery deplete much more quickly than it should. Let’s look at some numbers:

For this test, we've set the display to 100% brightness while the rest of the system is idling, with Windows set to shut off the display after a couple of minutes. The graph above includes both the Surface Book 2 (Green/Blue) and the ThinkPad A285 (Red), plotting the total power draw of each system. Since the display itself is only on for a couple of minutes, the first part of the graph is with the display at 100%, while the remaining section of the graph shows the system's average idle power draw.

Breaking things down, we see that the ThinkPad A285 starts out with an average power draw of 8.62 Watts with its display on and the system idling. Waiting a few minutes for the display to turn off, and we see that the average system power consumption drops by just over 4 Watts to 4.6 Watts. This is a significant drop, but not significant enough. The Surface Book 2 in the same scenario idles at a little more than one-third of this, meaning the A285 – and specifically, the Raven Ridge platform inside – is drawing an additional 3 watts at full idle. This is a huge amount of power to draw at idle, and leads to the less than amazing battery life results on Raven Ridge devices.

Some of the draw will be from the DDR4 memory, since most Ultrabooks leverage LPDDR3 to reduce the power usage, but that is not going to be all of it. It looks like AMD has some work to do in order to get its power usage in check if they want to better compete in the laptop space. They need their Haswell moment.

Charge Time

The flip side of the coin is charge time, and Lenovo tends to offer quite quick charge rates. The ThinkPad A285 ships with a 65-Watt AC Adapter, which is much larger than the adapter that ships most laptops of this size, and it is rated to charge 80% of a charge in just 60 minutes. It connects via USB Type-C.

Battery Charge Time

Not only does the 48 Wh battery get filled to 100% in the shortest amount of time, Lenovo even beats the 60 minute time for 80% by seven minutes.

Display Analysis Wireless, Audio, Thermals, and Software
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  • Gasaraki88 - Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - link

    I'm just not impressed. I thought an AMD iGPU would be very good and the 4 core/8 threads would be killer. But a Intel i5 with a MX150 is faster, better gaming, and better battery life.

    I was hoping for something from AMD but disappointed once again.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Sunday, December 23, 2018 - link

    Agreed. I was really hoping this would be good. A SSD, A series APU, mobile 4G LTE service, all in a compact long battery life device is exactly what I want. But so many compromises, such low performance, for that high of a price? I'll have to pass. I guess the razer stealth will have to be my next laptop instead.

    Lenovo was able to fit a 45 watt dual core I7 and a 100Wh battery in the 12 inch X230, their inability to do that with more modern hardware is stunning.
    Reply
  • hanselltc - Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - link

    This thing is just sad. A laptop with not great components in a not great platform. Lets hope AMD really shake their mobile lineup up. If the idle powerdraw issue as well as the common thermal limitations are resolved, these are single chips that offer more GPU but less CPU, which on mobile could mean decent mobile light gaming. Reply
  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - link

    As usual Lenovo appears to be being far too conservative on the CPU temperature limit. I get that these are business systems, but even in that workload I notice mine hitting those low clocks after getting warm too.

    I was going to suggest using Intel XTU to up that temperature limit, but...Not Intel. Any way to do that here?
    Reply
  • GreenReaper - Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - link

    Lenovo Vantage is... dubious - I'm not a fan of it auto-installing with admin privileges doing goodness-knows what. The worst part is that the lovely useful battery gauge also leaks handles, which means Explorer (and the system) gets slower over time and maybe even crashes. To turn it off: Right click the taskbar, Toolbars, Lenovo Vantage Toolbar.

    It's not the only Lenovo thing to do that - I've been in the forums a number of times.
    Reply
  • bananaforscale - Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - link

    That Cinebench multicore result is probably a driver/BIOS issue. I have an Acer Nitro 5 with the same APU and the result is 600+. It also rose by 30-ish points after a BIOS update (which also fixed what was probably a power state bug), and before that the original result was 530 that jumped to 570 after removing a "CPU driver". (530 to 604 just with software updates.)

    And it still leaves thermal headroom unused so it could be even better.
    Reply
  • pifaa - Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - link

    In UK, A285 is available with Ryzen7 and 16GB RAM. Several months ago there was a version with second - removable battery, but for some reasons they've cut it. AMD should put extra effort with drivers though. And some cheap SSD for that kind of money is not relevant. Reply
  • LindseyLopez - Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - link

    good laptop Reply
  • RoboJ1M - Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - link

    One thing that they don't really point out in this review is this:
    Finding a Raven Ridge APU with two RAM slots and a dual channel controller is HARD!
    You should point this out! All the other Raven Ridge laptops in that list are single channel but not stated in their specs, it's really hard to find this stuff out.
    My wife bought herself an HP Elitebook 745 with raven ridge after we got a guarantee that is dual channel.
    You need dual channel APUs, it's wants all the bandwidth you can find.
    And out had an Ethernet socket, a spring loaded collapsible one.
    Reply
  • Rookierookie - Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - link

    Basically any Lenovo Ryzen notebook has dual channel options. Reply

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