Hands on: The Lenovo ThinkPad Z series is what a ThinkPad should be

Hands on: The Lenovo ThinkPad Z series is what a ThinkPad should be

At CES, Lenovo announced its all-new ThinkPad Z series, including the ThinkPad Z13 and Z16. There’s a lot that’s new here. For one thing, Lenovo worked exclusively with AMD on this; there’s no Intel model.

But more importantly, these were designed with people who don’t normally buy ThinkPads in mind, and I got to check them out. Lenovo did exactly what you’d expect. It conducted focus groups and talked to customers. It went around to people that aren’t buying ThinkPads and it asked why.

Given what we’ve seen from the brand in the past, the Z series is something of a radical change. In fact, if you hear about any ThinkPad, you’re probably already imagining a black rectangular laptop, and that’s about it. They’re iconic, but that doesn’t mean that that look is for everyone.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 comes in three colors, although I only got to see two of them. The one missing was actually the black one, so I saw the silver one and my personal favorite, black leather with bronze accents. These are serving different people. Remember, Think is a business brand, so a regular silver laptop does appeal to that crowd, and a black option appeals to ThinkPad users.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 only comes in silver, which isn’t really surprising. 13-inch laptops sell more, and are often offered in more colors.

As I mentioned above, Lenovo did work with AMD on this, so they come with Ryzen 6000 processors, U-series in the Z13 and Z16 with dedicated Radeon graphics in the Z16. That’s the biggest difference between the ThinkPad Z13 and Z16.

You can see that there’s a tab at the top, which I think adds to the style of the device. On the inside, it’s a reverse notch that houses an FHD camera. I did sneak a picture while I was there.

I do think that the webcam leaves a bit to be desired for photo quality, but I’ll look forward to testing it on video calls.

As you can see, they have metallic edges all around the sides, something that just makes for a more stylish laptop. It’s also something that’s lacking from ThinkPads in general. It’s nice to see.

There are two USB Type-C ports, and one thing that’s kind of a big deal is that they’re USB4, meaning that they’re comparable to Thunderbolt 3 ports. The lack of Thunderbolt is something that was a big downside to buying an AMD laptop, so this is going to make a big difference. One other thing to note is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 also adds an SD card reader.

Now, it’s time to talk about the keyboard. Yes, there’s still a red TrackPoint in the middle, which is a bit surprising given how much about this product is more modern. The TrackPoint is a relic from an age when Windows touchpads were terrible. You’ll find one of those on every ThinkPad keyboard.

However, you’ll notice that the physical buttons that normally sit above the touchpad are gone. Those buttons are meant for use with the TrackPoint, but you can still use the top of the touchpad for that. Basically, Lenovo is giving you the choice of using that top portion as buttons or as a larger touchpad. It’s a haptic touchpad, which allows the company to make those kinds of customizations.

The keyboard itself has 1.35mm keys, the same as can be found on the ThinkPad X1 Nano and ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga. It’s another thing about this device that feels modern, compared to the 1.5mm keys on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon or even the 1.8mm keys on some other ThinkPads. The shorter key throw feels good, but it also feels natural because Lenovo put a lot of work into making sure that it took the same amount of force to press a key.

It’s one of my favorite keyboards. I do hope that the team brings it to the entire lineup at some point.

Both the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and the ThinkPad Z16 are set to arrive in May, starting at $1,549 and $2,099, respectively.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.