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Lenovo Thinkpad T480 SSD Upgrade

by Samuel Goh
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Lenovo Thinkpad T480 Teardown

The Lenovo Thinkpad T480 is my second Lenovo laptop and my first Thinkpad. A couple of weeks into my new role, it seems that the existing 128GB SSD will not be enough to meet the storage demands at work. So here I am, looking to upgrade the existing SSD in my Lenovo Thinkpad T480.

The Lenovo Thinkpad T480 is a great workhorse! Mine came configured with Lenovo-branded (Toshiba OEM I heard) 128GB 2242 NVMe M.2 solid-state drive (SSD) and a Western Digital Black 500GB 7200RPM SATA 3 hard disk drive (HDD).

Both the storage size and the performance of the existing SSD had been found to be wanting. You will come to understand why the more you read into the article.

So What Are The SSDs That Are Compatible With The Lenovo Thinkpad T480?

First and foremost, the Lenovo Thinkpad T480 uses a M.2 2242 SSD instead of the M.2 2280 variant that is kind of the de facto standard size in the market right now. Secondly, the T480 uses an NVMe standard, instead of the slower SATA 3 standard.

There are a number of SSDs in the market that are compatible with the Lenovo Thinkpad T480. You won’t go wrong with any of them:

  • Lexar NM520 M.2 2242 NVMe SSD (available up to 512GB @ SGD 131)
  • Toshiba RC100 M.2 2242 NVMe SSD (available up to 480GB)
  • LiteON T11 M.2 2242 NVMe SSD (available up to 512GB @ SGD 125)
Lenovo M.2 2242 NVMe SSD 128GB & Lexar NM520 M.2 2242 NVMe SSD 512GB
Lenovo M.2 2242 NVMe SSD 128GB & Lexar NM520 M.2 2242 NVMe SSD 512GB

I pick up the Lexar NM520 512GB through Taobao and am happy with the performance after installation.

Upgrading the Lenovo Thinkpad T480 SSD

Part 1: Physical Installation

Lenovo Thinkpad T480 Teardown
Lenovo Thinkpad T480 Teardown

Opening up the Lenovo Thinkpad T480 was a breeze. It’s just a couple of screws on the rear cover and a guitar pick.

Lenovo Thinkpad T480 SSD Upgrade
Lenovo Thinkpad T480 SSD Upgrade

The M.2 2242 NVMe slot is hidden behind a black film. The physical installation of the SSD involves unscrewing the existing SSD, removing it and then replacing it with the new Lexar SSD. Now, this is the straightforward and easy part.

Part 2: Cloning the SSD

The more complicated part lies in cloning your existing SSD’s data to the new SSD. To make my life easier, I purchased an external NVMe M.2 SSD enclosure – the Orico TCM2-C3 (you will see more review on this awesome little enclosure later). It can fit NVMe M.2 SSDs of all sizes – from the smallest 2242 to the de-facto standard 2280. It also supports USB 3.1 Gen 2! This is how the Orico TCM2-C3 looks like:

Orico NVMe M.2 SSD Enclosure TCM2-C3
Orico NVMe M.2 SSD Enclosure TCM2-C3
Orico NVMe M2 SSD Enclosure Attached to Lenovo Thinkpad T480 Laptop
Orico NVMe M2 SSD Enclosure Attached to Lenovo Thinkpad T480 Laptop

It doesn’t mean you will need the SSD enclosure to clone your existing SSD.

If your laptop has an internal HDD, you can use that too. Otherwise, any external HDD will do the job just fine.

To clone the SSD, I used a freeware called Macrium Reflect, you can read more about how to use the Macrium Reflect to clone your existing SSD here.

How the Lexar NM520 M.2 NVMe SSD 512GB Performs on the Lenovo Thinkpad T480?

So how do the new Lexar NM520 M.2 NVMe SSD 512GB performs? Does it perform better than the existing Lenovo (Toshiba) M.2 NVMe SSD 128GB?

Let’s look at the benchmarks below:

Lenovo (Toshiba) 2242 NVMe M.2 128GB SSD CrystalDiskMark Performance
Lenovo (Toshiba) 2242 NVMe M.2 128GB SSD
Lexar NM520 2242 NVMe M.2 512GB SSD CrystalDiskMark Performance
Lexar NM520 2242 NVMe M.2 512GB SSD

I think the benchmarks are pretty conclusive. I am extremely pleased with the improvement in both read and write speed of the new Lexar SSD, especially in the write department.

The difference is heaven and earth.

I don’t really trust OEM storage drives and the factory-fitted Lenovo (Toshiba) SSD didn’t change my point of view one bit. Most factory-fitted OEM storage drives are just poor when it comes to performance. Of course, there are exceptions but these are far and few between.

Sometimes the best upgrade for a PC or laptop can be the upgrade of an existing storage drive and this might just be one of those times.

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