Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 review: A mainstream ThinkPad with a 16:10 display
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 is meant to sit at the higher end of the ThinkPad lineup. While it’s typically meant to be light, like a more compact ThinkPad T14s or something like that, this one weighs over three pounds. That’s because it’s made out of aluminum, as opposed to carbon fiber or magnesium.
There are two key things new to this generation, and they’re both important. One is this product has a 16:10 display now, so it’s taller than before. The other thing is more obvious, as it comes with Intel’s 11th-gen ‘Tiger Lake’ processors. That means you also get Iris Xe graphics, Thunderbolt 4, and more.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Specs
|Processor||Intel Core i5-1335G7 (4C/8T, 2.4/4.2 GHz, 8MB)|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR4x-4266 dual-channel|
|Display||13.3” WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS, 300 nits|
|Body||305.8×217.89×18.06mm (12.04×8.58×0.71”), 1.38kg (3.04lbs)|
|Storage||256GB M.2 2280 SSD|
|Connectivity||Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX210 + Bluetooth 5.2|
|Ports||(1) USB 3.2 Gen 1|
(1) USB 3.2 Gen 1(always on)
(2) Thunderbolt 4
(1) HDMI 2.0
(1) headphone/microphone combo jack
(1) side docking connector
|Audio||Dolby Audio Speaker System certification 2W x 2 Stereo Speakers|
Dual array microphones, far-field
|Input||6-row, multimedia Fn keys, LED backlight, spill-resistant|
Mylar surface multi-touch touchpad, TrackPoint
|Security||Match-on-Chip Fingerprint Reader, 720p Camera with Privacy Shutter, Power-on password, Discrete TPM 2.0, TCG Certified, Kensington Nano Security Lock Slot|
|Battery||54.7 Wh battery, Rapid Charge|
|Color and material||Storm Grey: Aluminum (top and bottom)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro|
Obviously, you can spec it out with higher end options, like more RAM, more storage, 5G, and so on. This is just the model that Lenovo sent me.
Design and display: The ThinkPad X13 feels a lot like the X1 Yoga
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 looks and feels a lot like a ThinkPad X1 Yoga, mostly in that it’s made out of aluminum and comes in a Storm Grey color. That’s not entirely common for ThinkPads, which are more well-known for coming in black and being made out of materials like carbon fiber. Unlike the X1 Yoga though, you can get the ThinkPad X13 in black, and you’ll shave about a quarter-pound off of the weight. After all, aluminum is one of the heaviest materials used for laptop chasses.
Obviously, an easy way to tell the difference between this and the X1 Yoga, externally, is this uses the silver ThinkPad logo, which is reserved for mainstream PCs. Indeed, a mainstream PC is exactly what this is. It’s got some nice things like Thunderbolt, but it’s missing some bells and whistles like an IR camera for Windows Hello.
There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports located on the left side of the laptop, one of which can be used with Lenovo’s mechanical docks. If you’re not using a dock however, you can use either port on its own for whatever you’d use Thunderbolt 4 for, whether it’s connecting multiple 4K displays or just charging. Also on the left side, there’s an HDMI 2.0 port and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, which means it gets 5Gbps.
On the right side, there’s another USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, which is fine. You’ll also find an optional Smart Card reader on that side.
The big thing that’s new with this year’s Lenovo ThinkPad X13 is that it has a 16:10 display. Lenovo told me it thinks 16:10 is the perfect aspect ratio, and we’ve seen it on the premium X1 series already, but this is the first mainstream ThinkPad to get it. Expect when the lineup gets refreshed next February, the rest of them will also get 16:10 screens.
The new aspect ratio makes for a taller display, and since it’s still 13.3 inches diagonally, it actually offers more surface area. The resolution is 1,920 x 1,200, which is equivalent to Full HD. The resolution is fine, and the colors are fine. At 100% sRGB, it’s good, but at 77% Adobe RGB and 77% P3, it’s not really exceeding expectations. Again, “fine” is the word I’d use to describe it.
My biggest issue with the display is the brightness, which maxes out at 300 nits. For indoor use, I kept it at around 75%, which is more than I need on other laptops, which have brighter displays. For outdoor use, it was nearly impossible. Indeed, you can configure this thing with 5G connectivity if you want, but if you’re taking it on the go, make sure you’ll be using it indoors.
It’s also got relatively big bezels, which actually kind of feels weird. I think of the X-series as one step below the premium X1 series, and even the side bezels are larger than expected. The top bezel includes the 720p webcam, and it’s a shame FHD isn’t standard. It is offered with a 1080p webcam, which is nice, and that’s a key addition for this year. If you get the FHD webcam, you’ll also get an IR camera for Windows Hello. As I mentioned earlier, these things aren’t standard because this isn’t a product in the flagship tier.
If you get the 1080p webcam and the IR camera, there’s yet another option, which is Human Presence Detection. This is a neat feature that detects when you’re in front of the laptop. It wakes it up when you sit down, and then the IR camera can be used to identify that it’s you to log you in, so you can log into your PC without ever touching it. It can also know to lock your PC when you walk away.
Keyboard and touchpad: It’s what you’d expect from a ThinkPad
The keyboard is pretty standard, although it’s a bit smaller than full-size. This is a compact laptop, and remember, since the screen is taller, it’s also narrower. The depth of the keys feels comfortable too, although Lenovo didn’t say precisely what it is. It’s not over 1.5mm, that’s for sure, and I do like it when ThinkPads come with keyboards that are a bit shallower like this. The firm does a great job of making sure the force to press a key is the same, but at the same time, it feels more modern with a shorter keypress.
One thing that made me think of the X1 Yoga is the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 drops the red accents. It’s all Storm Grey for a more subtle look.
Obviously, it’s still got the TrackPoint, the relic from the age when Windows touchpads were terrible. You can use it to control the pointer, if you want. Personally, I just ignore it. It’s a ThinkPad staple though, and it’s not going anywhere.
There’s also a Microsoft Precision touchpad, which has physical buttons above it. Those are meant to be used with the TrackPoint, but they come in handy even with the touchpad. Personally though, I think it’s time for Lenovo to let go of some of these legacy input devices. At the very least, it could stop using them on every single ThinkPad.
The power button sits to the top-left of the keyboard, and it doubles as a fingerprint sensor. In fact, there’s a little LED in the speaker grille that indicates power or the status of the fingerprint sensor.
There’s a soundbar across the top of the keyboard, which includes two 2W speakers that use Dolby Audio. The sound isn’t particularly powerful, but it’s clear. It’s great for calls, or some light listening to music at your desk.
Performance and battery life: The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 has Intel Tiger Lake processors
The model Lenovo sent me includes an Intel Core i5-1135G7, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD, so it’s a pretty mainstream configuration. Of course, you can get it specced out with a Core i7-1185G7, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, the 1080p webcam, and 5G connectivity. This laptop is even available with AMD Ryzen 5000 processors if that’s more what you’re into. The unit Lenovo sent over to me is an Intel-powered base model.
As you’d expect, the performance is decent, but I’ll give you the recommendation I always make. Opt for 16GB RAM. You won’t regret it.
Intel’s Tiger Lake processors are a big improvement over 10th-gen CPUs, thanks to the Iris Xe graphics. For business PCs however, it’s an even bigger upgrade than it was for consumer PCs, thanks to 10th-gen ‘Comet Lake’ still being built on a 14nm process and using UHD Graphics.
Indeed, the Core i5-1135G7 is way better than the Core i5-10210U that you’d find in the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 1. This configuration is still the entry-level configuration though. That means when I minimize my dozen browser tabs with Slack, Skype, and OneNote open, it chokes up a little bit when I’m editing images in Photoshop. It gets the job done though.
Battery life is pretty decent, as I was able to get over six hours of regular usage (with the power slider on one notch above battery saver and the screen on 75% brightness). However, there’s a weird bug I’ve actually experienced in ThinkPads before. Occasionally, when the battery gets low — down to maybe a third — it just dies fast. I’d notice the battery saver icon is on — that means it’s down to 20%. I race for the charger when it’s at 10%, and it’s dead before I can plug it in. It’s rare, but it’s annoying when it happens.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8 and PCMark 10.
|ThinkPad X13 Gen 1|
Ryzen PRO 4650U
|Lenovo Yoga C740|
|PCMark 8: Home||4,406||3,987||3,578|
|PCMark 8: Creative||4,614||4,281||3,705|
|PCMark 8: Work||4,012||3,641||3,714|
For last year’s ThinkPad X13, I reviewed the AMD Ryzen PRO model, and in the PCMark 10 test, the two are pretty much the same. In the PCMark 8 tests, this year’s Intel model did much better. Compared to the Comet Lake processor in the Yoga C740, 11th-gen smokes it.
Conclusion: Should you buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 2?
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 is a fantastic mainstream business laptop. With the base model Lenovo sent me, it’s a bit no-frills, but that doesn’t make it a bad PC. It’s still got a solid aluminum build and one of the best keyboards around.
I do wish the keyboard was a bit bigger. There’s space to the left and right of it, so there’s definitely room for it. I also wish the screen was brighter, at least by default.
Here’s what’s cool though. In a mainstream laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 is offering premium features like 5G and a 1080p webcam. First of all, a 1080p webcam is a staple of the ‘work from anywhere’ lifestyle. Two years ago, webcam quality didn’t matter nearly as much as it does today. Still, it’s a bit disappointing the FHD webcam doesn’t come as standard. I’d criticize 5G not coming as standard, but sadly no laptops these days include cellular connectivity in the base model, even Qualcomm-powered ones after the San Diego firm promised that as a value proposition.
It’s not as thin or as light as a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 laptop, and like I said earlier, it just doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles, at least not standard, but with the options available, the ThinkPad X13 sure has a lot to offer.