Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 review: It’s almost great
If you’ve read any article where I talk about Lenovo’s ThinkPad family, you probably know I don’t really like how they look. I’ve never really been a fan of the ThinkPad laptops, and while I respect them for being such an iconic part of Lenovo’s history, I just don’t like that design. The Lenovo ThinkBook series has always been much more interesting to me, and getting to review the latest ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 mostly proved me right.
There’s a lot I really love about this laptop. It’s super thin and light, and it looks and feels great for a silver laptop (and I’m not always a fan of silver laptops, either). Plus, it has great display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and it has a really nice keyboard and trackpad. It’s almost everything I would want for it to be one of the best laptops out there.
It is held back by a couple of things, though, namely the below-average webcam and the battery life. I can’t completely fault Lenovo for that last part, though, as that’s just what happens with a lot of laptops using Intel P-series processors. It’s not a perfect device, and these drawbacks make it a little hard to recommend wholeheartedly, but on the whole, it’s still a great laptop, and I think it’s worth considering.
Lenovo provided the ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 for the purposes of this review. However, the company did not have any input into its contents or provide any sort of compensation for its production.
Navigate this review:
- Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4: Pricing and availability
- Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4: Specs
- Design: I wish ThinkPads looked more like this
- Display: It’s very sharp, but the webcam isn’t
- Keyboard and touchpad: Lenovo has nailed it
- Performance: It’s fast, but it doesn’t last very long
- Lenovo software
- Should you buy the lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4?
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4: Pricing and availability
- The Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 is available directly from Lenovo, though you may be able to find it at other retailers
- The official starting price is $849, but existing configurations currently start around $935
Lenovo originally announced the ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 at this year’s MWC, and it launched later in April. The laptop has an official starting price of $849.99, though the models currently available from Lenovo start at around $935. The company often runs discounts on its laptops, so the actual price tends to fluctuate. There’s also an AMD-powered version of the laptop that’s a bit cheaper.
As with most business laptops, you’ll probably do best buying directly from Lenovo, but some configurations may show up at major retailers like Amazon or Best Buy.
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4: Specs
|CPU||Intel Core i5-1240P (12 cores, 16 threads, up to 4.4GHz, 12MB cache)|
|Graphics||Integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics (80 EUs)|
|Display||13.3-inch IPS, WQXGA (2560 x 1600), 227 DPI, 100% sRGB, up to 300 nits, TÜV Rheinland low blue light|
|Body||297 x 211 x 14.9 mm, 1.23kg|
|Storage||256GB NVMe PCIe 4 SSD|
|Audio||Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Audiom audio by Harman
Dual array microphones with AI-based noise cancelling
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6E 802.11ax 2×2
|Camera||720p webcam with privacy shutter, fixed focus|
|Material||Anodized sandblasted aluminum|
|OS||Windows 11 Pro|
Design: I wish ThinkPads looked more like this
- The Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 comes in a dual-tone Storm Grey color, which looks great yet subdued
- It’s a very light laptop, and the hinge is easy to open with one hand
Like I said at the top, I really don’t care for the overall design language of the ThinkPad lineup, and while I’m not usually a fan of silver laptops either, the ThinkBook 13s actually looks really nice. My favorite part is the lid, which has a subtle dual-tone look with the ThinkBook branding plastered over the bottom half. It may not seem like much, but it really does help this laptop stand out. I also think the Lenovo branding looks classy and subtle enough to adorn the laptop just enough without feeling obnoxious, and I can say the same for the subtle shiny edges around the lid and the touchpad.
The laptop feels fairly light in the hand, though the 1.23kg (2.71lbs) isn’t particularly light compared to other modern laptops, particularly those that use magnesium or carbon fiber. It’s definitely easy to carry, but aluminum laptops are always going to be a bit heavier. What you get in return, though, is a laptop that feels exquisitely built. It really feels solid and premium all around, like there’s no area of it where Lenovo cut corners. The exception to that is the bezel around the display, which is made of black plastic and tarnishes an otherwise premium look. Though this plastic also feels a bit more polished than other plastic bezels, so it’s actually not as bad as it might sound.
The lid is also remarkably easy to open with one hand, but it doesn’t feel lose at all. It’s something you might not appreciate entirely until it’s gone, but I love just how easily I can open this laptop, particularly if I’m holding something in one of my hands. And that doesn’t mean the hinge feels loose at all, it’s actually pretty tight, and again, it feels solidly built.
Looking around the laptop, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 4 ports over on the left, along with one HDMI port that supports up to 4K 60Hz displays. Of course, Thunderbolt 4 support also means you can connect even more displays, provided the monitors are also based on Thunderbolt or that you have a Thunderbolt dock.
Over on the right side, there’s one USB Type-A port and a headphone jack, along with a security slot in case you want to lock this laptop at a desk in an office. That makes for a decent range of ports overall, especially considering it’s a 13-inch laptop. It would have been hard to fit a lot more here, and this covers all the basics.
Display: It’s very sharp, but the webcam isn’t
- With WQXGA (or Quad HD+) resolution, the screen is extremely sharp for its size
- The 720p webcam leaves a lot to be desired
As the branding suggests, the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 has a 13.3-inch display, and it comes with a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is very welcome. The review unit Lenovo sent me comes in WQXGA resolution (2560 x 1600). For a display of this size, that’s a very high resolution, and I would argue it’s unnecessary for most people. You’re probably better off saving some money and battery life (more on that later) by going with the Full HD+ option.
Still, the display looks pretty great. Lenovo claims it covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, and I haven’t had any situations where colors looked off, though I admittedly don’t have the tools to run exact tests. I’ve always had a good experience with this screen, at least once I turned off display power savings in the Intel Graphics Command Center app. This allows the laptop to save battery by adjusting the brightness to the content on the screen, but I personally find it jarring and always disable it.
Lenovo also touts up to 300 nits of brightness, which isn’t particularly bright, especially if you want to use it outdoors. The laptop does support automatic brightness, and as soon as I tried to use it outside, it the brightness jumped to 100%. However, I found it to be easy enough to read at that brightness level (in fact, as I’m writing this, that’s how I’m using the laptop), so it’s not too dim. The matte coating on the screen also does a decent job at fending off sunlight, so it doesn’t get in the way too much. The speakers on the ThinkBook 13s are bottom-firing, but they get fairly loud and they make for a solid media experience without needing a headset.
My first major complaint with this laptop has to do with the webcam, however. Higher-tier configurations give you the option for a 1080p camera, but by default, you’re stuck with a 720p sensor, and it’s not a great one. It gets the job done, but just barely – it really doesn’t look great. You’ll want an external webcam if you plan to use this for meeting regularly.
That’s one area where most of Lenovo’s ThinkPads have an edge over this laptop, and it shows that’s really where the focus is for Lenovo. Windows Hello facial recognition is also not supported on this laptop, even if you go with the 1080p camera. The large sensor next to the webcam is there to detect ambient light, so the display brightness is adjusted, along with the keyboard backlight.
Keyboard and touchpad: Lenovo has nailed productivity
- Typing on this keyboard feels fantastic, and so does using the touchpad
- The power button has a fingerprint reader, but it doesn’t scan your finger when you turn the laptop on
I’ve always heard great things about the keyboards in Lenovo’s ThinkPads, as they tend to be some of the best on the market. And if the ThinkBook 13s is any indication, that holds up. Using this laptop side by side with the Acer Swift 3 I’ve also been reviewing, it’s instantly noticeable how much better it feels to type on this laptop. The keys have a nice amount of travel and actuate easily without bottoming out harshly. It’s a very comfortable typing experience.
The keyboard is backlit, and the lighting feels even and consistent, so every key is always easy to read. Lenovo also uses the ambient light sensor to determine if the backlight should be on or not, so you never have to think about it if you want to save battery. If it’s not needed, it’ll turn off by itself. At the top of the keyboard, the function row includes a number of media-related features, as you might expect, but some are a bit more uncommon, like buttons to answer or end Microsoft Teams calls, or the Smart Key, which you can use to access some built-in Lenovo apps, or set as a shortcut for an app of your choice.
Above the keyboard, there’s the power button, which has an embedded fingerprint reader. I find it somewhat disappointing, though, because it doesn’t read my fingerprint when I first turn on the laptop. Instead, I have to touch the button again to scan my fingerprint when I get to the Windows lock screen. It’s not a huge deal, but so many other laptops do this, and it’s a bit disappointing Lenovo couldn’t do the same for this one.
Just like the keyboard, the touchpad on the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 is sublime. It’s not the largest I’ve seen, but the size is just fine, and most importantly, it’s incredibly smooth to the touch. It’s completely effortless to swipe and move things around with this touchpad. I’ve said in the past that the less I say about a touchpad, the better, but this is a really great one, and I have to praise Lenovo for it.
Performance: It’s fast, but it doesn’t last long
- Intel P-series processors are fast, and the ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 keeps them running cool
- The 28W processor and sharp display have a big impact on battery life
Like many ultrabooks in this generation, the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 is powered by Intel’s P-series processors, which have a 28W TDP. This higher power consumption means more performance, but it comes at the cost of battery life, which we’ll get to in a bit. The model Lenovo sent me is powered by the Intel Core i5-1240P processor, and it also includes 8GB of RAM, which is probably the biggest limiting factor in terms of performance here. Because of the 8GB of RAM, there were times when some of my browser tabs had to reload after being inactive for a while, and if you multitask a lot, you’re going to want at least 16GB of RAM.
The CPU, however, is capable of handling just about anything. Indeed, the Intel Core i5-1240P doesn’t really struggle to keep up with any of the tasks I usually do. Whether it’s writing and multitasking with multiple browser tabs open, or some light image editing, I never really had problems that can be attributed to the processor. Looking at the benchmarks below, you can see that the Core i5 here actually performs closely to a Core i7-1260P in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and in some cases, it even pulls ahead. You’re not missing out on performance, and it looks like the laptop does a solid job at maintaining cool.
|Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4
Intel Core i5-1240P
Intel Core i5-1240P
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Intel Core i7-1260P
|3DMark: Time Spy||1,536||1,175||1,761|
|Cinebench R23 (single/multi-core)||1,652 / 8,477||1,421 / 4,617||1,309 / 7,115|
|Geekbench 5 (single/multi-core)||1,633 / 8,250||1,552 / 6,164||1,622 / 8,207|
|CrossMark (Overall/Productivity/Creativity/Responsiveness)||1,442 / 1,340 / 1,632 / 1,238||1,547 / 1,436 / 1,771 / 1,292|
As with every laptop I’ve tried that’s powered by Intel P-series processors, the big problems come with battery life. For years, Windows ultrabooks have had 15W processors, and now that Intel introduced 28W models, there’s a big push to upgrade to those, likely in a bid to compete with the performance of the Apple Silicon-powered MacBooks. The thing is, Apple Silicon processors are extremely efficient, and the performance they deliver still comes in a relatively low-power design. These Intel processors use a lot of power.
What that means is that battery life on this laptop has ranged between about 3 hours and 8 minutes and 4 hours and 20 minutes. There’s been a lot of variances, though most of the time, I’ve managed at least 3 hours and a half, and on a few occasions, I’ve been closer to the upper limit. That usually involves work – writing in WordPress (using Vivaldi) with multiple tabs open, some light image editing every now and then, and occasionally watching videos or taking calls. Brightness usually hovers around 40%, though automatic brightness was enabled.
Regardless of any of that, those aren’t fantastic numbers. The Intel P-series processor is a big contributor to that less-than-stellar battery life, and so is the WQXGA display, which is why I’d recommend going with the Full HD+ option if you can. On a laptop of this size, the lower resolution really won’t degrade the image quality that much, In fact, I’d probably also recommend getting the AMD variant of this laptop, since that uses 15W processors. Performance may not reach the same highs, but I frankly think P-series processors don’t make sense for ultrabooks like this.
- Lenovo bundles a few AI-powered apps with the ThinkBook 13s Gen 4
- These include video and audio effects to enhance online meetings
I typically don’t spend much time delving into the apps built into the laptops I review, mostly because they’re not really interesting to talk about and don’t have much bearing on whether you should buy a laptop or not. After all, you can unusually uninstall any apps you don’t want, and bloatware is nothing new or exclusive to any Windows laptop manufacturer. However, there are a couple of interesting apps Lenovo bundles with the ThinkBook 13s Gen 4.
One is Lenovo Smart Appearance, which provides a number of settings for the webcam to help you look better during a call. This includes an auto framing option, which zooms in on you if you move further away from the camera so you stay clearly visible, and another is eye contact correction, which makes it so that it looks like you’re staring at the camera when you’re looking at the screen. There’s also a video enhancer feature that tries to correct the lighting so things look a bit clearer, and face filters that you can use to smoothen your skin or change the shape of your face. It also let you remove your background and replace it with something else. Many of these features are also available in platforms like Microsoft Teams, but this makes it so that you can use them anywhere, and you only need to set them up once for every service.
Similarly, Lenovo Smart Noise Cancellation lets you tweak what you want others to hear. You can make it so that only your voice is picked up by the microphone (you can even record your own voice so the system learns to recognize it better), allow multiple to be heard, or let all surrounding noise in. There’s also the AI Meeting Manager, which lets you use features like a real-time translator, subtitles, or voice-to-text. Real-time translation is a paid feature, though.
Another app is Glance by Mirametrix, which has a number of privacy settings that rely on the webcam to detect if you’re looking at the screen, which screen you’re looking at (in multi-monitor setups), and so on. This can blur screens you’re not actively using to prevent snooping, warn you if someone is standing behind you, or move your mouse cursor between displays, for example. The rest is a fairly standard affair – apps like Lenovo Vantage and Lenovo Welcome are there to help you set up your PC if you need it, but they’re not all that interesting.
Should you buy the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4?
I really, really like using the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4. Personally, I wish I had a variant with more RAM, but the processor is fast, the display looks great, and the laptop itself feels solid and as premium as can be. If it weren’t for the lackluster webcam, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was Lenovo’s premier business laptop series. I would sooner buy this than most ThinkPad models. However, it’s really hard for me to overlook the disappointing battery life. To be fair, you’re going to see that in a lot of laptops with P-series processors, but I just don’t think it makes sense to put such powerful CPUs in work-focused laptops like this.
You should buy the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 if:
- You want a laptop that looks and feels premium and more modern than Lenovo’s ThinkPads
- Typing is a big part of your workflow
- You need the performance Intel P-series processors can offer
You shouldn’t buy the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 4 if:
- You want something you can use all day away from an outlet
- Meetings and video calls are frequent part of your routine
I’d definitely recommend trying to get a model with a WUXGA (Full HD+) display if you can since that will probably extend the battery life quite a bit. The AMD model may also be better for that same reason with its low-power processors. As I mentioned above, performance may not be as great, but for most people, it will be just fine and battery life is probably more important.