Lenovo ThinkBook 13x evaluation: Thinner, lighter, and means too costly

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Lenovo ThinkBook 13x

MSRP $2,000.00

“The Lenovo ThinkPad 13x is a small business laptop that costs more than its worth.”

Pros

  • Thin, light, and durable chassis
  • Very good IPS display
  • Competent productivity performance
  • Good keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • Inconsistent battery life
  • Inadequate connectivity
  • Way too expensive

Lenovo’s ThinkPad line packs in a plethora of business-specific features that make them excellent enterprise business laptops. But for many smaller businesses and remote office workers, a ThinkPad is overkill.

That’s where the ThinkBook comes in — it incorporates a handful of features appealing to small business users while avoiding costly extras. We reviewed the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 and found it a solid choice for its target market. Now, Lenovo has introduced a new version, the ThinkBook 13x, that promises the same features in a thinner and lighter chassis.

I reviewed the next-to-entry-level version of the ThinkBook 13x with a Core i5-1130G7 and 13.3-inch 16:10 WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) IPS touch display that’s currently priced at $2,000. That’s significantly more money than the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 ($780) and the AMD-based ThinkBook 13s Gen 3 ($1,340) that Lenovo also recently released. Yes, the ThinkBook 13x is a little thinner and lighter, but at the cost of too many compromises and with way too high a price.

Design

The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x angled backwards.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkBook 13x looks a lot like the ThinkBook 13s. It has a silver chassis (Lenovo calls it Cloud Gray, but a darker Storm Gray is available) with tapered edges along the sides and a rounded rear edge. It’s a very minimalist design — something I’m seeing a lot more of lately — with its one aesthetic flourish being a two-tone finish on the lid that’s attractive and helps the laptop avoid being boring. It’s not as streamlined and elegant as the Dell XPS 13, but the ThinkPad 13x has its own understated charm.

Thanks to a combination of an aluminum lid and a chassis constructed of an aluminum-magnesium alloy, the ThinkPad 13x is robust. The lid will bend the tiniest bit if you exert enough pressure, but the keyboard deck and bottom chassis resist flexing. It’s almost the equal of the ThinkPad 13s and just a bit behind the XPS 13 and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano.

Lenovo subjected the ThinkBook 13x — as it does all ThinkBooks and ThinkPads — to military testing for durability, which is one of the business features that you won’t find in Lenovo’s consumer lines. Lenovo also added its self-healing BIOS, a feature normally found on ThinkPads, to ensure easy recovery from a corrupted or hacked BIOS. That’s also something that the company’s consumer laptops don’t have.

As mentioned, the ThinkBook 13x is primarily intended to be a thinner and lighter version of the ThinkBook 13s — including the newer AMD-based Gen 3 version that’s the same dimensions as the Gen 2. And it is, by a smidgeon. Both laptops are almost identically wide and deep, thanks to both enjoying minimal bezels around their taller 16:10 displays.

But the ThinkBook 13x is 0.51 inches thick and weighs 2.49 pounds compared to the ThinkBook 13s at 0.59 inches and 2.78 pounds. That’s a meaningful difference, but it’s questionable whether it’s enough to justify any serious compromises (more on that later). The XPS 13 is slightly less wide and deep and comes in at 0.58 inches and 2.8 pounds, and the ThinkPad X1 Nano is thicker at 0.68 inches but even lighter at 2.14 pounds.

Two USB-C ports and a headphone jack can be found on the left side of the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x.

Power button on the right-hand side of the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x.

Connectivity is severely limited, with just two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 (one of which is used to charge the laptop) and a 3.5mm audio jack. That’s it — no HDMI, no USB-A, no SD card reader. For a business laptop, that’s a shame.

The ThinkBook 13s, on the other hand, has two out of the three, with a full-size HDMI and two USB-A ports. Such limited connectivity isn’t worth a savings of just 0.08 inches of thickness.

The latest Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity standards perform the wireless duties.

Performance

Close up on the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x's bezels and webcam.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

My review unit was equipped with the 11th-gen Intel Core i5-1130G7, a low-power version of the Core i5 that runs at a maximum of 15 watts compared to the 28-watt Core i5-1135G7. It also runs at slower clock speeds, meaning it should get better battery life, but performance will suffer. The ThinkBook 13x seemed plenty quick during my testing and while writing this review, but its benchmark results gave away its low-power nature. You can also choose a Core i7-1160G7 that should be a bit quicker, while the 16GB of RAM in my review unit is the maximum available.

In Geekbench 5, the ThinkBook 13x was the second-slowest among our comparison group — only the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable with the same CPU was slower. The ThinkBook 13x scored particularly poorly in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, although when I used Lenovo’s utility to switch from “Intelligent cooling” to “Extreme performance” mode, the laptop completed the test in a more competitive 196 seconds. Oddly enough, our Handbrake test was the only one where the switch to performance mode made a meaningful difference.

Looking at the rest of our benchmarks, the same trend held. The only outliers were the PCMark 10 Complete score where the Dell XPS 13 scored lower, and the 3DMark Time Spy test where the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 with Radeon graphics was slower. Perhaps most notably, the ThinkBook 13x was slower than the thicker and heavier ThinkBook 13s Gen 2, meaning you’re trading performance for minimal size and weight reductions in choosing between these otherwise similar machines.

Despite these benchmark scores, the ThinkBook 13x provides adequate productivity performance. I didn’t notice any slowdowns during my fairly typical productivity workflow. Demanding productivity users and creative pros won’t be happy, but the ThinkPad 13x will be speedy enough for most users.

Geekbench (single/multi) Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23 (single/multi) PCMark 10 3DMark Time Spy
Lenovo ThinkBook 13x (Core i5-1130G7) 1337 / 4863 271 1282 / 4037 4590 1363
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 (Core i5-1135G7) 1406 / 5379 178 1357 / 5502 4668 1511
Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable (Core i5-1130G7) 1352 / 4796 185 1125 / 3663 4443 926
Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1185G7) 1549 / 5431 204 1,449 / 4,267 3,859 1,589
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (Core i7-1165G7) 1327 / 5201 170 1469 / 4945 5147 1776
Samsung Galaxy Book (Core i5-1135G7) 1401 / 5221 175 1361 / 5391 4735 1584
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 (Ryzen 7 5700U) 1184 / 6281 116 1287 / 8013 5411 1247

The ThinkBook 13x has Intel Iris Xe graphics, but it’s a bit slower than the full-speed U-series machines. Its 3DMark Time Spy score was the second slowest among Intel machines, and it managed just 16 frames per second (fps) in Fortnite at 1200p and epic graphics.

That’s a few fps slower than the comparison group, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. None of these are gaming laptops, and the ThinkBook 13x is no different. Stick to older titles or be prepared to turn the resolution and graphics quality way down.

Display

Closeup on the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x's display.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Lenovo has gone all-in lately on converting to taller displays, and the ThinkBook 13x benefits with a 16:10 13.3-inch panel. It runs at a high resolution, namely WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600), making it extremely sharp. I found it quite bright, with attractive and natural colors and deep contrast for an IPS display. The Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) support made for enjoyable Netflix and Amazon Prime Video bingeing.

When I applied my colorimeter, my subjective impressions were verified. The ThinkBook 13x’s display is very bright at 417 nits, well above our 300-nit threshold, and it enjoys excellent contrast at 1,430:1, significantly better than our preferred 1000:1. Its colors were just a bit above the premium laptop average at 76% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, with an accuracy of DeltaE 0.97 (anything less than 1.0 is considered excellent).

The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 display didn’t match up, coming in at 274 nits of brightness, a 920:1 contrast ratio, 77% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and accuracy of 1.65. The Dell XPS 13 4K display, though, was almost as good at 420 nits of brightness, a contrast ratio of 1,360:1, 79% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, and an accuracy of 1.3.

The ThinkBook 13x benefits from a high-quality IPS panel that provides an excellent display for productivity work. Creative pros will want wider colors, but given the ThinkBook 13x display’s high contrast and exceptional color accuracy, it can work in a pinch even for creators. The display is one area where the ThinkBook 13x is better than the 13s.

Two downward-firing speakers provide audio duties, and they barely put out adequate volume when turned all the way up. There was zero distortion, though, and mids and highs were clear. Bass was lacking, and so headphones are a must for streaming video and audio.

Keyboard and touchpad

Image of the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x's keyboard & trackpad.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkBook 13x has the same keyboard that’s on all non-ThinkPad Lenovo laptops. It enjoys sculpted keycaps with plenty of spacing and a familiar layout, but there’s not a ton of travel. The switches are snappy, with a distinct bottoming action, but it’s not as precise as the keyboards on the HP Spectre line or Dell’s XPS. I also found the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro keyboard to be even snappier, thanks to newer switches that don’t seem to have been used here.

The keyboard is backlit, of course, with three brightness settings (one of which is barely visible), and it’s also spill-resistant — another of those business features that Lenovo pulled down from the ThinkPad line to differentiate the ThinkBook from its consumer laptops. In another nod to business users, there are call buttons on the keyboard for managing videoconferencing.

The touchpad is moderately sized, taking up most of the available space on the palm rest. It has a slightly grippy surface that provided some tactile feedback while swiping, and its Microsoft Precision Touchpad support meant that all of Windows 10’s multitouch gestures were well-supported. The buttons were light, clicky, and quiet. The touch display was also responsive, and I was glad to see it.

Windows 10 Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader embedded in the power button on the right side of the chassis. It was quick and responsive, and I found turning the laptop on and logging in convenient. There’s a physical ThinkShutter switch that blocks the webcam, which is common on Lenovo laptops.

Battery life

The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x sitting straight forward on a desk/Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Battery capacity dropped a bit from 56 watt-hours in the ThinkBook 13s to 53 watt-hours in the ThinkBook 13x. Both have high-resolution displays, and the ThinkBook 13x enjoys a lower-powered processor. I was expecting equal or perhaps slightly better battery life from the thinner and lighter model.

I didn’t get it, a least not consistently. Instead, I saw battery results that were a bit out of the ordinary. For example, the ThinkBook 13x managed just under 8.5 hours in our web-browsing test the cycles through some complex websites, compared to the ThinkBook 13s at 9.3 hours. Those are average scores, but we like to see 10 hours or more on this test.

In our video test that loops a local 1080p movie trailer, the ThinkPad 13x lasted for a solid 15.75 hours, much better than the ThinkBook 13s that made it to about 13.4 hours. Those are both strong scores, but we usually don’t see quite so huge a discrepancy between the web and video tests. I noticed that the video was choppy at times during the ThinkBook 13x test, meaning the laptop wasn’t running fast enough to play the video smoothly, and that certainly contributed to its endurance. For another comparison, the Dell XPS 13 4K managed just 6.3 hours in the web test and 10.5 hours in the video test.

In the PCMark 10 Applications battery test, which is the best indicator of productivity battery life, the ThinkBook 13x hit 8.5 hours, less than the 10 hour-plus average we’ve been seeing on this test. The ThinkBook 13s hit 11.5 hours and the XPS 13 4K reached 8.7 hours. Finally, in the PCMark 10 Gaming battery test, the ThinkBook 13x lasted 2.75 hours, which is longer than the ThinkBook 13s at just over two hours and less than the XPS 13 4K at 3.5 hours. This test seems to show how hard a laptop works while on battery life, and the ThinkBook 13x apparently throttles down quite a bit. That would help explain the choppy video.

Overall, the ThinkBook 13x should get you through a full day if your productivity workload isn’t too heavy. But you might want to keep your charger handy, just in case. And if you want your video bingeing to be smooth, you’ll want to turn on performance mode, which will likely cut down your viewing time considerably.

Our take

The ThinkBook 13x is a difficult laptop to rate. On its own merits, it’s a nice little machine, being thin and light enough to toss into a backpack and barely notice it’s there. However, it’s only 0.07 inches thinner and just 0.29 pounds lighter than the ThinkBook 13s, which has the same design, the same basic features, better performance and battery life, and more ports. Are those tiny differences in thickness and weight enough to warrant the compromises?

I don’t think so. The ThinkBook 13x doesn’t offer enough to recommend it over its larger sibling, especially at the current price of $2,000. Maybe if it were as light as the ThinkPad X1 Nano and priced more reasonably, it would make more sense, but as it stands, the ThinkBook 13s is the better choice.

Are there any alternatives?

I’ve already said it: The ThinkBook 13s is a superior alternative. It offers far better value to small business users with greater expandability, faster performance, and better battery life. You can go with either AMD or Intel on the Gen 2 version or AMD only on the slightly updated Gen 3 model for quite a bit more money.

The Dell XPS 13 is another solid choice. Yes, you give up the military testing for durability, but the XPS 13 is undoubtedly quite durable, and you also lose the spillproof keyboard and self-healing BIOS. But you get a better-built, faster, more elegant, and all-around better laptop.

Finally, the HP Spectre x360 14 is an excellent option if you’d like to consider a convertible 2-in-1. It’s better-looking, faster, and has a superior build, and its OLED display is spectacular, with inky blacks and wide, accurate colors.

How long will it last?

The ThinkBook 13x is built well enough to promise years of service, and its components are up to date. The one-year warranty is disappointing as usual, particularly for a laptop aimed at small business users who might expect longer support.

Should you buy it?

No. The ThinkBook 13x is a nice laptop, but it’s currently incredibly overpriced and, even at a more reasonable cost, simply doesn’t warrant buying it over its (very slightly) larger sibling, the ThinkBook 13s.

Editors’ Recommendations



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