Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2
"The Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 offers solid performance at a solid price."
Fast productivity performance
Good battery life
Solid build quality
A few welcome security extras
The touchpad could be bigger
Bad graphics performance
Lenovo's first attempt at building a laptop specifically for small businesses – the ThinkBook 13s – stalled a bit. It was a serviceable 13-inch machine, but it didn't offer many tangible benefits for the target market. Now it's the second round that the company is releasing the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2, which aims to bring the laptop up to date.
I have a mid-range configuration of the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 priced at $ 819 with an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 13.3-inch model tested 16:10 IPS display with WQXGA resolution (2560 x 1600).
Lenovo managed to iron out some of the obvious shortcomings of the original, making the ThinkBook 13s a solid option for buyers buying a laptop under $ 1,000.
The original ThinkBook 13s was a very conservatively designed laptop that lacked outstanding aesthetic features – and it looks more like Lenovo's consumer line than the business-minded ThinkPads. The Gen 2 model looks similar, but Lenovo has made some important changes. First, the bezels are much thinner and look more modern when the lid is open. Second, the lid now has an anodized aluminum area that creates a slight two-tone effect on top. It looks great and spices up what is otherwise an ordinary looking silver laptop. It's not as sharp as non-business laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Specter x360 14, but it has its own laid back charm.
These thinner bezels make for a laptop that, despite its larger display that tends to make a laptop deeper, is smaller in all dimensions than its predecessor. It's not as small as the XPS 13, which has even smaller bezels, but it's a good size for a 13-inch laptop. This time it's also thinner at 0.59 inches compared to 0.63 inches and lighter at 2.78 pounds compared to 2.9 pounds. That's almost the same as the 0.58-inch, 2.8-pound XPS 13. While the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 feels bigger than the XPS 13, it's still a fairly small and lightweight laptop for the class.
Another improvement over the previous model is the longevity feel of the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2. Both passed the Mil-spec 810G test, but the newer model has fewer bends in the lid and bends in the keyboard deck. This time everything is aluminum, too, while the original uses aluminum in the lid and an aluminum-magnesium alloy in the bottom. I find the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 to feel just as sturdy as the XPS 13, which is kudos as the latter is a standard for well-built laptops.
After all, connectivity is a strength with a caveat. There is only one USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4 support. While this is a good thing, it is also used to power the laptop and therefore cannot be used to connect a peripheral without a dock. You can, however, connect an external display thanks to the full-size HDMI 2.0b port, also on the left. There is also a 3.5 mm audio jack next to it. On the right side there is a Kensington lock port and two USB-A 3.2 ports.
Overall, this is an improvement over the two USB-C ports on the XPS 13 that support Thunderbolt 4. It is noticeable that there is no SD card reader, which is a surprise in view of such an excess of connectivity. Wireless connectivity is cutting edge with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.
The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 equips an Intel Core i5-1135G7 quad-core CPU of the 11th generation with eight threads. It was a solid performer when we tested it a few times, and the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 continues that tradition.
As of GeekBench 5, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 is exactly where you'd expect it to be, slightly below the laptops with the faster Core i7-1165G7 and significantly below the Ryzen 7 5800U and the Apple M1. Note that all of the results here are obtained with performance optimization utilities set to "normal" mode. None of the laptops in the comparison group benefited much from their "performance modes" in which such a utility was available (with the exception of the XPS 13 in a test). This is a common feature that in many cases makes me wonder why such utilities all exist.
In our handbrake test, which encodes a 420 MB video in H.265, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 for a Core i5 did very well and beat the Dell XPS 13 equipped with a Core i7 (which matched the ThinkBook result in performance mode) . The Asus ZenBook 13 UM325UA took the lead in this test thanks to its Ryzen 7 5800U, which is incredibly fast in multi-core processes. In Cinebench R23, a test that drives the CPU for a longer distance, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 again outperformed its class, outperforming the XPS 13 and the Porsche Design Acer Base RS, which was another fast Core i5 machine.
Next, I ran the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark, where the ThinkPad 13s Gen got a good overall score. The XPS 13 wouldn't complete this test, and the ThinkBook fell behind the Acer Swift 3X with its Core i7-1156G7. However, the Acer Swift 3X also came with Intel's Iris Xe Max graphics, which it could improve on on machines with the standard Intel Iris Xe graphics (including the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2). As with many Tiger Lake laptops, the ThinkBook did much better in the essentials and productivity areas of the PCMark 10 suite than in the content creation area. The ZenBook 13 UM325UA with its Ryzen chip was the champion here.
(single / multiple)
(single / multiple)
|PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2
|Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1165G7)||1540/5432||201||1449/4267||N / A||1589|
|Lenovo Yoga 7i (Core i5-1135G7)||1357/4246||207||N / A||4565||913|
|Asus ZenBook 13 UM325UA
(Ryzen 7 5800U)
|Porsche Design Acer Base RS
|Acer Swift 3X (Core i7-1165G7)||1551/5847||158||1485/5944||5117||1889|
|Apple MacBook Air M1 (Apple M1)||1727/7585||N / A||1479/6880||N / A||N / A|
Overall, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 is a quick productivity workhorse that should keep up with all but demanding creative workflows. Lenovo meets the performance needs of small business owners and a few others.
In terms of games, the ThinkBook did well in the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark. However, this didn't result in my real-world test with Fortnite. The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 ran at 1920 x 1200 (I couldn't get 1920 x 1080 as an option) and only managed 18 frames per second (fps) in high graphics and 14 fps in epic graphics. Most Tiger Lake laptops achieve at least 30 fps or 23 fps. I ran the test a few times to confirm my results and I have no idea why the ThinkBook does so badly in this game.
The original ThinkPad 13s used a 13.3-inch 16: 9 Full HD IPS display (1920 x 1080) that was below average in terms of brightness, colors and contrast. For the second generation, Lenovo improved its game with a larger 13.3-inch 16:10 IPS display with a WQXGA (2560 x 1600) resolution that is more productive for productivity and significantly sharper than the original in a few others improves main areas.
The brightness was not particularly high at 274 nits. We prefer 300 nits or more for good indoor visibility. For example, the Dell XPS 13 4K display has 420 nits. The ThinkPad 13s Gen 2 had wider colors than the original at 77% AdobeRGB (about five percentage points above average) and 100% sRGB. The original was 70% of AdobeRGB and 93% of sRGB, while the XPS 13 4K was slightly better with 79% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB. The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2's color accuracy was good with a DeltaE of 1.65 (less than 1.0 is excellent) compared to the original at 1.4 and the XPS 13 4K at 1.21.
The new model also had a higher contrast ratio of 920: 1, close to our preferred 1000: 1. That beats the 710: 1 of the original, which was disappointing and well below average, but the Gen 2 models still couldn't match the 1360: 1 of the XPS 13 4K. Gamma came into play at 2.1, just a bit brighter than the perfect 2.2.
All in all, this was a pleasant representation. It's bigger and better for long web pages and Word documents, and its colors were pleasant without being oversaturated. The contrast was high enough that black text appeared on a white background, and with excellent support for Dolby Vision HDR, Netflix's high dynamic range (HDR) content was vastly improved. This isn't a display for creative professionals who need wide and accurate colors, but it's great for everyone else.
The sound was surprisingly loud, and the two down-facing speakers pumped out a serious volume. Unfortunately, at 100% there was some bias that detracted from the experience. If you turn the settings down a bit, you'll still get enough volume to watch Netflix without distortion, and you'll enjoy solid mids and highs, but no bass. A pair of headphones or bluetooth speakers is recommended.
Keyboard and touchpad
Another area where the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 cannot be confused with a ThinkPad is the keyboard. You can find a version here that is much closer to Lenovo's consumer-grade machines like the Yoga line, as it offers much less travel and a bottoming action that is quite irritating. The key switches are very light. So if you don't want to use as much pressure to press a key you will like it, but it's almost too easy for me. I didn't find it nearly as precise as the much better keyboards found on the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Specter 2-in-1 series. The keyboard has a few special keys, including keys to start and stop video calls and a special key to access support options. You can also press a button to turn off the microphone, a plus for privacy.
Despite the larger display and relatively small bezels, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 doesn't have as much space on the keyboard deck as the XPS 13. This is because Lenovo needs more space above the keyboard for the hinge and power button. That said, the touchpad is a decent size, roughly the same as the XPS 13, and it's a Microsoft Precision touchpad that has reliable and precise support for Windows 10 multi-touch gestures. It's a good touchpad that matches the best you'll find in premium laptops – a plus as the ThinkPad 13s Gen 2 is significantly cheaper. In addition, my test device had an attractive touch display, which was welcome.
Windows 10 Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader built into the power button and worked well. This is a much better solution than a standalone fingerprint reader. With the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2, you can simply press the power button to activate the device and login. For extra privacy, you can also find Lenovo's ThinkShutter privacy panel for the webcam.
The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 has a 56-watt-hour battery, which is significantly larger than the 45-watt-hour battery of the previous model, which only has an average battery life. Our benchmarks have changed since we checked the original, but we can make some comparisons.
First, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 ran a little over nine hours compared to the original's eight hours in our web benchmark, which runs through a number of popular websites. The newer model's score is above average, beating the 6.3 hours on the Dell XPS 13 4K. The Asus ZenBook 13 with the Ryzen 7 5800U lasted almost 16 hours with an OLED display. In our video test of repeating a Full HD Avengers trailer until the battery runs out, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 achieved almost 13.5 hours, which is slightly above average and 2.5 hours longer than the original. The XPS 13 4K lasted 10.5 hours, while the Asus ZenBook 13 lasted 15.5 hours.
I would rate the battery life of the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 as very good.
I also tested using the PCMark 10 battery test which puts a strain on the CPU and GPU (we didn't use PCMark 10 with the original model). The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 barely got it over two hours, which is below several other Tiger Lake laptops, including the XPS 13 4K, which got it almost three hours. We did not test the Asus ZenBook 13 in this test. Finally, I ran the PCMark 10 application test, which is the best indicator of productivity longevity, and the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 held up for 11.5 hours, the fourth highest score we've ever seen. The XPS 13 4K lasted around 8.5 hours, and we again didn't test the Asus ZenBook 13.
I would rate the battery life of the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 as very good. It takes a full day of productivity work when you are not using the CPU and GPU, and you may still have some time to do some evening work. This is a significant improvement over the original ThinkBook 13s, and makes the newer model much better suited for small business owners who may need to work remotely.
The ThinkBook 13s offers largely the same security and support as the original model, which is a definite plus for the target small business market. On top of that, however, it's also faster, has better battery life, and feels better built, which makes it a more compelling business option.
It's not thin or light enough to beat rivals like the Dell XPS 13, but it's also significantly cheaper – another boon for small business owners with cash shortages. In fact, at this price point, it's a compelling option for any laptop buyer, including consumers, who could benefit from a machine that is made to last, be fast, and have a long life.
Are there alternatives?
The Dell XPS 13 is the obvious alternative, offering the same 16:10 display in a smaller package. Performance is similar for both, and the ThinkBook offers better battery life thanks to the lower resolution display. However, Dell does offer a Full HD option which is more competitive here. The XPS 13 is hundreds of dollars more expensive, too.
If you're looking to consider a 2-in-1, the HP Specter x360 14 is a great choice. It's faster, looks better, is just as well built, and features a spectacular OLED display with incredibly deep blacks, high contrast, and wide and precise colors. It's also significantly more expensive than the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2.
How long it will take?
The ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 is tough enough to provide years of productive service. It helps that the components are all up to date. You immediately receive a 1 year guarantee. However, Lenovo offers enhanced services for small business owners who need longer coverage and more durability.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The ThinBook 13s Gen 2 doesn't necessarily have more business-centric features than the original model, but it does offer improvements in key areas that small business owners will appreciate.