Lenovo ThinkBook 13x Evaluation: Thinner, Lighter, Much less Succesful

Lenovo ThinkBook 13x

RRP $ 2,000.00

"The Lenovo ThinkPad 13x is a small business notebook that costs more than it's worth."

advantages

  • Thin, light and durable housing

  • Very good IPS display

  • Competent productivity performance

  • Good keyboard and touchpad

disadvantage

  • Inconsistent battery life

  • Insufficient connectivity

  • Way too expensive

Lenovo's ThinkPad series offers a wealth of company-specific features that make them great business laptops for businesses. But for many smaller businesses and remote office workers, a ThinkPad is overkill.

This is where the ThinkBook comes in – it contains a handful of features that appeal to small businesses and avoid costly extras. We tested the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 and found it a solid choice for its target market. With the ThinkBook 13x, Lenovo has now introduced a new version that promises the same features in a thinner and lighter case.

I tested the next entry-level version of the ThinkBook 13x with a Core i5-1130G7 and a 13.3-inch 16:10 WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) IPS touch display, which is currently 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 bit thinner and lighter, but at the cost of too many compromises and at a price that is far too high.

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Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The ThinkBook 13x looks very similar to the ThinkBook 13s. It has a silver chassis (Lenovo calls it Cloud Gray, but a darker Storm Gray is available) with tapered edges on the sides and a rounded rear edge. It's a very minimalist design – something I've been seeing a lot more lately – with an aesthetic flourish that is a two-tone finish on the lid that is attractive and helps the laptop not to get boring. It's not as streamlined and sleek as the Dell XPS 13, but the ThinkPad 13x has its own unobtrusive charm.

Thanks to a combination of an aluminum lid and an aluminum-magnesium alloy housing, the ThinkPad 13x is robust. The lid bends a little under sufficient pressure, but the keyboard deck and the lower chassis resist bending. It is almost on par with the ThinkPad 13s and just behind the XPS 13 and Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Nano.

Lenovo subjected the ThinkBook 13x – like all ThinkBooks and ThinkPads – to military tests for durability. This is one of those business features that you won't find in Lenovo's consumer products. Lenovo has also added its self-healing BIOS, a feature usually found on ThinkPads, to ensure easy recovery from a corrupted or hacked BIOS. That's also something the company's consumer laptops don't have.

As mentioned earlier, 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, which has the same dimensions as the Gen 2. Both laptops are almost identically wide and deep, thanks to the minimal bezels around their larger 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. This is a significant difference, but it is questionable whether it is enough to warrant serious compromises (more on that later). The XPS 13 is a little less wide and deep, measuring 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.

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. This is a shame for a business laptop.

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

The latest connectivity standards Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 take care of the wireless tasks.

power

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

My test device was the 11th with the Intel Core i5-1130G7. It also runs at slower clock speeds, which means it should achieve better battery life, but performance suffers. The ThinkBook 13x appeared to be pretty fast during my testing and as I wrote this review, but its benchmark results indicated that it was power efficient. You can also choose a Core i7-1160G7, which should be a bit faster, while the 16GB of RAM in my test unit is the maximum that is available.

In Geekbench 5, the ThinkBook 13x was the second slowest in our comparison group – only the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable with the same CPU was slower. The ThinkBook 13x does particularly poorly in our Handbrake test, which encodes a 420 MB video as H.265. However, when I used Lenovo's utility to switch from Smart Cooling mode 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 switching to performance mode made any significant difference.

Looking at the rest of our benchmarks, the same trend persisted. The only outliers were the PCMark 10 Complete Score, in which the Dell XPS 13 performed worse, and the 3DMark Time Spy test, in which 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, which means you are trading performance for minimal size and weight reductions when choosing between these otherwise similar devices.

Despite these benchmark results, the ThinkBook 13x offers reasonable productivity performance. I didn't notice any slowdowns during my fairly typical productivity workflow. Discerning productivity users and creative professionals won't be happy, but the ThinkPad 13x will be fast enough for most users.

Geekbench (single / multiple) Handbrake
(Seconds)
Cinebench R23 (single / multiple) 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 (Ryzen7 5700U) 1184/6281 116 1287/8013 5411 1247

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

This is a few fps slower than the comparison group, but doesn't make a huge difference. Neither of these are gaming laptops, and the ThinkBook 13x is no different. Stick to older titles or prepare to reduce the resolution and graphics quality significantly.

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Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Lenovo has recently switched to larger displays, and the ThinkBook 13x benefits from a 16:10 13.3-inch panel. It runs at a high resolution, namely WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600), which makes it extremely sharp. I found it to be quite bright, with attractive and natural colors and a deep contrast for an IPS display. Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range (HDR) support made for pleasant Netflix and Amazon Prime Video bingeing.

When I put on my colorimeter, my subjective impressions were verified. The display of the ThinkBook 13x is very bright at 417 cd / m², well above our 300 nit threshold, and offers an excellent contrast of 1,430: 1, significantly better than our preferred 1,000: 1. With 76% AdobeRGB and 100% sRGB, its colors were only slightly above the average of the premium notebook, with an accuracy of DeltaE 0.97 (anything below 1.0 is considered excellent).

The display of the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 couldn't keep up and achieved a brightness of 274 nits, a contrast ratio of 920: 1, 77% AdobeRGB and 100% sRGB and an accuracy of 1.65. However, the Dell XPS 13 4K display was almost as good with 420 nits of brightness, a contrast ratio of 1,360: 1, 79% AdobeRGB and 100% sRGB, and an accuracy of 1.3.

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

Two downward facing speakers take care of audio tasks, and they barely produce adequate volume when turned all the way up. There was no distortion, however, and the mids and highs were clear. Bass was lacking, so headphones are a must-have for streaming video and audio.

Keyboard and touchpad

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The ThinkBook 13x has the same keyboard found on all Lenovo laptops without a ThinkPad. It enjoys molded keycaps with a lot of clearance and a familiar layout, but there isn't much wiggle room. The switches are snappy, with a noticeable floor movement, but not as precise as the HP Specter range of keyboards or Dell's XPS. I also found the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro keyboard even snappier thanks to newer switches that apparently weren't used here.

The keyboard is of course backlit, has three brightness settings (one of which is barely visible) and it's also splash-proof – another of those business features that Lenovo has removed from the ThinkPad range to differentiate the ThinkBook from its consumer laptops . Another nod to business users are call buttons on the keyboard for managing video conferencing.

The touchpad is medium in size and takes up most of the space on the palm rest. It has a slightly grippy surface that provides tactile feedback when swiping, and the Microsoft Precision touchpad support means that all multi-touch gestures are well supported by Windows 10. The keys were light, clicky, and quiet. The touch display responded too, and I was glad to see it.

Windows 10 Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader built into the power button on the right side of the case. It was quick and responsive, and I found it convenient to turn on the laptop and log in. There's a physical ThinkShutter switch that blocks the webcam, which is common on Lenovo laptops.

Battery life

Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The battery capacity decreased slightly from 56 watt hours for the ThinkBook 13s to 53 watt hours for the ThinkBook 13x. Both have high-resolution displays and the ThinkBook 13x has a less powerful processor. I had expected the same or maybe a little better battery life from the thinner and lighter model.

I didn't get it, at least not consistently. Instead, I saw battery results that were somewhat exceptional. In our web browsing test of the cycles through some complex websites, the ThinkBook 13x managed almost 8.5 hours, compared to the ThinkBook 13s with 9.3 hours. These are average values, but we like to see 10 hours or more on this test.

In our video test replaying a local 1080p movie trailer, the ThinkPad 13x lasted a solid 15.75 hours, much better than the ThinkBook 13s, which got around 13.4 hours. These are both strong stats, but we don't usually see that big a discrepancy between the web and video tests. I noticed that the video was choppy at times during the ThinkBook 13x test, which meant the laptop wasn't running fast enough to play the video smoothly, which certainly added to its endurance. For a further comparison, the Dell XPS 13 4K only managed 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 battery life, the ThinkBook achieved 13x 8.5 hours, less than the average of more than 10 hours we saw in this test. The ThinkBook 13s reached 11.5 hours and the XPS 13 4K reached 8.7 hours. In the PCMark 10 gaming battery test, the ThinkBook 13x lasted 2.75 hours, which is slightly more than two hours longer than the ThinkBook 13s and 3.5 hours less than the XPS 13 4K. This test seems to show how hard a laptop works on battery power, and the ThinkBook 13x seems to be quite throttling. That would help explain the choppy video.

Overall, the ThinkBook 13x should get you through a full day if your productivity load isn't too high. But you might want to have your charger handy just in case. And if you want your video bingeing to go smoothly, you should turn on Performance Mode which is likely to cut your viewing time significantly.

Our opinion

The ThinkBook 13x is a difficult notebook to evaluate. In and of itself, it's a nice little machine that's thin and light enough to toss in a backpack and barely even notice it's there. However, it's only 0.07 inches thinner and only 0.29 pounds lighter than the ThinkBook 13s, which shares the same design, basic features, better performance and battery life, and more ports. Are these tiny differences in thickness and weight enough to justify the tradeoffs?

I do not think so. The ThinkBook 13x doesn't offer enough to recommend it over its bigger brother, especially at the current price of $ 2,000. If it were as light as the ThinkPad X1 Nano and cheaper, it might make more sense, but it looks like the ThinkBook 13s is a better choice.

Are there alternatives?

I've already said it: the ThinkBook 13s is a superior alternative. It provides far better value for small business users with greater expandability, faster performance, and better battery life. For a little more money, you can either work with AMD or Intel in the Gen 2 version or just with AMD in the slightly updated Gen 3 model.

The Dell XPS 13 is another solid choice. Yes, you forego the military tests on durability, but the XPS 13 is undoubtedly quite durable, and you also lose the spill-resistant keyboard and self-healing BIOS. But you get a better built, faster, more stylish, and all around better laptop.

Finally, the HP Specter x360 14 is an excellent option if you are considering a convertible 2-in-1. It looks better, is faster, and has superior construction, and its OLED display is spectacular, with ink black and wide, accurate colors.

How long it will take?

The ThinkBook 13x is built well enough to promise years of service and its components are state-of-the-art. As usual, the one-year warranty is disappointing, especially for a notebook aimed at small business users who may need extended support expect.

Should you buy it?

No. The ThinkBook 13x is a nice laptop, but it's incredibly overpriced right now and just doesn't justify buying it against its (very marginally) bigger brother, the ThinkBook 13s, even at a more reasonable price.

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