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Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Review

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X13 ($683 starting, revised at $974) is not a 13-inch version of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. We’re still waiting for that notebook to arrive in the recently leaked ThinkPad X1 Nano. So, what is the ThinkPad X13? Ignore the brand; the laptop feels more like a T Series ThinkPad. And that’s not bad. Today, we are here with our Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review.

Last updated on September 20, 2020 12:13 pm

Where the ThinkPad X1 Carbon style combines with content, the ThinkPad X13 leans more heavily on the latter. It trades in thin bezels and portability for a practical design with a great feature set. The keyboard is still great, there are plenty of ports, and the chassis has been tested for military durability. But that’s all expected from a ThinkPad.

What stands out about the ThinkPad X13 is AMD, not Lenovo. A powerful AMD Ryzen Pro 4000 CPU gives the ThinkPad X13 a performance advantage over competing for business laptops, including much more expensive models. The ThinkPad X13’s outstanding performance and competitive price are just enough to help me forgive an uninspired design and below-average battery life.

Specifications

Lenovo ThinkPad X13
Price:$974
CPU:AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U
RAM:8GB
Storage:256GB SSD
Display:13.3-inch, 1080p
GPU:AMD Radeon
VRAMN/A
Battery life:7 hours and 50 minutes
Size: 12.3 x 8.6 x 0.7-inches
Weight: 2.8-pounds

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: design

This feels like a missed opportunity. Instead of using the first-generation laptop to modernize the distinctive ThinkPad design, Lenovo took the easy way out by reusing the ThinkPad X390 template. The X13 looks almost similar to its spiritual predecessor, except that the lid is made with carbon fiber, whereas the deck is magnesium alloy.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Review

It’s rugged to the touch and features all the traditional ThinkPad attachments, including a rubber pointer, discreet touchpad clicks with red accents, and an illuminated “i” on the ThinkPad lid. Add to that the fingerprint sensor, a 180-degree foldable hinge, and webcam cover, and it makes for a reasonably practical design. What bothers me about the ThinkPad X13 is what it looks like. The edges above and below the screen are massive by today’s standards, resulting in a laptop with a bigger footprint than its competitors.

Beyond the size, the chinky bezels make the ThinkPad X13 look obsolete, and a detective could identify me using the fingerprints I left on the lid. If there is one advantage to the extra space, it is that the X13’s power button is on the deck rather than on the side, a small concession all things considered. I can’t criticize Lenovo too much for not advancing the design of the X13; although this is a ThinkPad X brand laptop, it is more affordable than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon or X1 Yoga. Maybe the company is committed to the rumored ThinkPad X1 Nano.

The files stored in the X13 are protected by a fingerprint sensor and an optional IR camera for secure and fast login. Our unit did not come with an IR camera, but the fingerprint sensor was reliable. I stopped using a password as soon as I had set it in the Windows Hello settings.

There is a wide range of ports for the ThinkPad X13, so you don’t need a dongle to connect peripherals or upload photos. On the right side, there is a USB 3.2 Type-A input and a Kensington lock. Turn to the left, and you’ll see two USB-C inputs, an Ethernet expansion port, a second USB 3.2 Type-A connector, an HDMI, and a headphone/mic jack. As a reminder, Thunderbolt 3 is Intel technology, so that you won’t find it on this AMD-powered laptop.

On the back of the laptop is a microSD card slot, which you won’t find on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon. I’m glad to see it again, although you’ll need those comfortable to close PIN-shooters that come with your smartphone to access the microSD.

Now, about the size. The ThinkPad X13 is 12.3 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches and 2.8 pounds thicker and heavier than the Asus ExpertBook B9450 (0.6-inches, 2.2-pounds) and less portable than the Apple MacBook Air (0.6-inches, 2.8-pounds). The 14-inch Dell Latitude 9410 (0.8-inches, 2.9-pounds) is coarser than its rivals.

Keyboard, Trackpoint, and TouchPad

I don’t have anything to add that I haven’t said in previous ThinkPad reviews. Simply put, the keyboard of the ThinkPad X13 is fantastic. Each key was countered with a tactile bump that made my fingers jump from one letter to the next. Those hollow keys we’ve been praising for years feel like an impossible amount of travel for such a thin laptop. My only complaint with the keyboard is the layout. For the smaller chassis, Lenovo has shrunk the arrow keys and the adjacent Alt, PrtSc, and Ctrl keys.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Review

I’m on Team Left Ctrl, but I know a few of my colleagues who would take offense at these shrunken right-sided keys. The 4 x 2.5-inch touchpad will get the job done, but those with larger hands may have difficulty performing Windows 10 gestures. My sausage fingers scraped off the edges of the rectangular surface as I swapped Windows with pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipes.

If you cherish the home row, the red rubber studs (also called pointer) can be used as a touchpad without having to take your hands off the keyboard. I’m not a member of his cult-like following, but the nub reacted as I expected – the cursor moved in whatever direction I pressed.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: display

The 13.3-inch, 1080p (Full-HD) display on our review unit touches all our recommended scores, making it great for both productivity work and multimedia consumption. It’s a good display, but what helps is the anti-reflective finish, which can often come at the expense of image quality. The panel has passed the eye test. The sumptuous interior of a dance hall was enriched with beautiful gold shapes, the smallest details of which were visible on this Full-HD panel.

Red velvet dresses were a lively scarlet, but I suspect they would have popped more on a shiny panel. Anyway, I enjoyed using the X13’s accurate, colorful display. Our colorimeter showed that the X13’s display is capable of covering 72% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. It’s a good result, but the panel is less colorful than the MacBook Air (80%), ExpertBook B9450 (83%), and the Latitude 7310 (77%). The category is, on average, at the top of all these laptops, with 83%.

I’m more worried about the maximum brightness, which peaks at only 278 nits. The Latitude 7310 (277 nits) is just as weak, while the Asus ExpertBook B9450 (302 nits), Apple MacBook Air (386 nits), and the category average (382 nits) are above our 300-nits preference.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: audio

The dual speakers on the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 sound fair, but their downward trajectory can be problematic. The “Tangerine” from Glass Animals was clear and full of energy when the laptop was placed on my wooden desk. Those sweet tunes were smothered when I put the laptop on my thick cotton training sweat or, to a lesser extent, on my leather couch. The vocals sounded hollow, and the mix of electric guitar and synthesizer got confused when the volume went above 70%.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: performance

AMD sets the bar for mobile with its Ryzen 4000 CPUs, and the Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U in combination with 8GB RAM in the ThinkPad X13 is further proof. By the way, the “Pro” means that this chip is specially designed for business laptops. Think vPro from AMD, which means IT administrators get manageability features not found in standard CPUs. If your employer assigns you a ThinkPad X13, all you need to know is that this notebook flies.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Review

I’ve loaded several websites on 25 tabs into the new Microsoft Edge browser without noticing a hint of delay. I couldn’t even pick a URL on a new tab before the previous one had finished loading. I didn’t see any delay even with four 1080p YouTube videos and two Twitch streams in the background.

The ThinkPad X13 flexed its muscles on the Geekbench 5 comprehensive performance test with an excellent score of 4,935. That crushes the Asus ExpertBook B9450 (2,830), the Latitude 7310 (3,464), and the average of the premium laptop (4,060). Close your eyes, Apple fans, the MacBook (2,738) is ashamed of this test.

If Geekbench was a home run, the ThinkPad X13 hit a grand slam on our handbrake test and only needed 10 minutes and 45 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p. The race didn’t come close; the Latitude 7310 came second with a time of 19:39, while the MacBook (27:10) and the Asus ExpertBook B9450 (28:24) were struggling.

Also, the 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD in our rating unit was not disappointing. It duplicated a 5GB multimedia file in 7 seconds for a speed of 745.1 megabytes per second. This puts it in the same straitjacket as the Asus ExpertBook B9450 (771.1 MBps) and the Dell Latitude 9310 (877 MBps), while the Apple MacBook Air (1,301.9 Mbps) continues to lead the way.

Oh, how the tides have turned. While AMD chips now have a performance advantage over Intel, the Iris Xe chips in Intel’s 11th Gen chips seem destined to break new barriers in the graphics industry. Until then, integrated graphics are suitable only for casual gaming and light photo/video editing work. The AMD Radeon graphics in the ThinkPad X13 played Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm at 29 frames per second, a frame less of our 30-fps threshold. That’s playable, but not ideal.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: battery life

Well, this is a disappointment. With a running time of 7 hours and 50 minutes on our battery test, which includes continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 fell short of the category average battery life of a 10-hour premium laptop. The ThinkPad X13 also lagged far behind the runtimes of competing laptops, including the Latitude 7310 (12:18), ExpertBook B9450 (16:42), and MacBook Air (9:31).

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: heat

The ThinkPad X13 has a mild temperature under heavy load. The bottom of the laptop reached 99 degrees Fahrenheit after we played a 15 minute, 1080p video. That may feel warm against your bare thighs, but it’s also a non-issue. More importantly, the trackpad, TrackPoint, and center of the keyboard stayed at a comfortable 84 degrees and 94 degrees, respectively.

Price and configuration options

With a price of $683 for the base model, the ThinkPad X13 is one of the most affordable and cheap business laptops and much less expensive than any other ThinkPad X series laptop. That basic model has one big drawback: a 13.3-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel display. The other specifications, an AMD Ryzen 3 Pro 4450U CPU, 8GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD, are adequate for most applications, but you’ll want to upgrade the display. 786p should be extinct by 2020.

Lenovo was kind enough to make that upgrade on our $974 review unit, which has a 13-inch, 1080p (Full-HD) touchscreen, an AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB of SSD. For $1,535, you can charge the X13 with a Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U CPU, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 13.3-inch, 1080 screen with 500 nits of brightness.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Conclusion

To be blunt, my first impressions of the ThinkPad X13 were unfavorable. The lunches are chunky, and the laptop is less portable than most of the competition’s 13-inch models. And when I saw that the ThinkPad X13 had lasted less than 8 hours on our battery test, I thought it was DOA. However, the more I used the laptop, the more I liked it. Like most AMD Ryzen 4000-powered laptops, the ThinkPad X13 delivers excellent performance at a reasonable price when compared to business laptops that run on Intel 10th generation vPro chips.

Office users have no problems loading multiple spreadsheets or making media-heavy PowerPoint presentations. On top of its fast performance, the ThinkPad X13 offers all the usual ThinkPad stuff – a comfortable keyboard, military-grade durability, and lots of ports – along with a handful of useful features, including a webcam cover, fingerprint sensor, and an optional IR camera. That’s a lot of laptop for about $1,000.

The ThinkPad X13 stripped away all the seductive qualities of the X1 Carbon and left the practical pieces behind. If the sub-battery life is a lot shorter, we recommend using the Asus ExpertBook B9450 or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8th Gen). Otherwise, the X13 is an excellent option for small businesses that need fast performance in a portable package without breaking the budget.

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 delivers fast performance and lots of security features in an affordable 13-inch package, but battery life is short.

PROS
  • Outstanding performance
  • Durable chassis
  • Best-in-class keyboard
  • Plenty of ports
  • Competitively priced
CONS
  • Subpar battery life
  • Thick display bezels
  • No Thunderbolt 3
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