The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 is the first generation of the venerated laptops featuring AMD Ryzen processors. This change means that Lenovo is investing in chips outside of Intel's hallowed halls for the long haul, and it's hoping that you'll come along for the ride.
The AMD chip inside the X13 can do everything an Intel Core i7 equivalent can, like render video, edit photos, and fire through various applications at once. And though its integrated graphics card means it can't compete with the best gaming laptops when it comes to playing games, you can load your favorite MMO and play in between answering emails.
As you'll see in our Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review, this laptop is a semi-customizable, somewhat rugged business-focused machine. You can choose from three tiers of AMD Ryzen chips and several different memory and storage options, starting under $1200. If you're looking for a work laptop that can handle the load, you might find yourself a deal here.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review review: Price and configurations
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 with AMD Ryzen architecture is available in several configurations. You can choose between either of the three major third-generation processors, starting with the entry-level Ryzen 3 PRO 4450U starting at $683 (currently at a big discount from its $1,140 MSRP).
There's also the higher-end $1,433 Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U (which has an MSRP of $2,600). The machine I reviewed features the mid-tier AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U, 8GB of RAM and has 256GB of SSD storage and while it's typically $1,999, Lenovo's sale pricing knocks it down to $1,119 — so look out for offers. The graphics card on all models is an integrated AMD Radeon. Lenovo also offers up to 1TB of SSD storage.
All the ThinkPad X13 models come with an anti-glare 13.3-inch display, though there are options here. You can choose between HD or Full HD, but only the latter is available with a touchscreen. You can also pay extra for a display that's brighter at 500 nits and includes an anti-glare Privacy Guard.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD) came out in late summer/early fall 2020.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Design
The ThinkPad X13's signature black exterior makes for a basic, business-first design. Lenovo says its aluminum chassis passes a variety of military-grade durability tests, making it resistant to life's everyday laptop follies. Unfortunately, it's not resistant to fingerprints, with the 13.3-inch matte touchscreen display taking the brunt of the smudge. You'll want to keep a wipe handy.
Lenovo packs a bit into the ThinkPad X13's compact package, including two options for mouse input, a nearly full-featured keyboard, and Dolby Audio stereo speakers. It's light for a business laptop, weighing a mere 2.8 pounds, similar to the Dell XPS 13 (2.6 to 2.8 pounds, getting heavier when you add a touchscreen). It's a tad lighter than the 3-pound 13-inch MacBook Pro.
As per the ThinkPad's signature look, there's a protective bezel around the rim of the laptop's display. It takes away screen space, but it's to help reinforce a bit of stability into the overall build.
I found the ThinkPad X13 comfortable to use while lying on the couch but preferred it propped up on the table and docked for maximum productivity because of its small size. The X13's dimensions are 12.3 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches; it's not too wide to slide into a tote bag, and if you're not too stuck on the slim-factor, it's only a tad thicker than the XPS 13 and the MacBook Pro (both 0.6 inches thick).
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Ports
The ThinkPad X13 has a myriad of ports for a laptop of this size. It has two USB 3.1 Type-C ports for charging the computer and connecting adapters, and two standard USB 3.1 Type-A ports for peripherals and flash drives. There's also an HDMI 2.0 port for hooking up to a monitor, a headphone jack, and a Kensington-style lock port for tethering it to a desk. A majority of the ports are on one side of the laptop for easy docking.
The MacBook Pro and XPS 13 only offer USB-C ports, though Dell throws in a USB-C to A adapter.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Display and touch screen
The ThinkPad X13's 13.3-inch 1080p IPS display is a solid laptop screen for working and zoning out. The matte finish might seem a little antiquated in this day and age of crystal clear, high-resolution displays. But the trade-off is a screen you can more easily see in direct sunlight or with bright backlighting.
In our testing, the X13's display reproduced about 102.1 percent of the sRGB color gamut. Its color spectrum isn't as vibrant or as saturated as the latest MacBook Pro (114%), ending up closer to the XPS 13 (107.5%). You’ll still watch Netflix specials and peruse colored spreadsheets in exactly the palette they're meant to be seen. But I noticed even while watching merch hauls on YouTube that there was a slight lack of vibrancy in color compared to my external monitor. The most noticeable color disparity is with deep blacks, which don't appear as deep, exacerbated by the matte display. It's sufficient for streaming content, but noticeable when playing games.
The ThinkPad X13's panel's biggest flaw is its not-that-bright dim display, which peaks at just 278 nits. The XPS 13 (417 nits) is much brighter, as is the 13-inch MacBook Pro's (485 nits).
The ThinkPad X13 has a lower resolution display, offering a mere 1920 x 1080 screen resolution compared to the MacBook Pro's 2650 x 1600 screen resolution and Dell XPS 13's 1920 x 1200 screen resolution. The disparity isn't immediately noticeable when connected to an external display, but on the XPS 13's screen, desktop space gets quickly cluttered in its native resolution.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Audio and cameras
I wouldn't usually suggest that you blast out a laptop's speakers, but I welcome you to do it on the ThinkPad X13. The laptop's Dolby speakers were impressively bassy and able to pick up on the variables in tone on some intricate Anjunabeats trance mixes. Of course, this is still a laptop, and the strain becomes noticeable the further up you go on the volume dial. I also found that because sound protrudes somewhat from the bottom of the device, it tends to get a bit muffled if the X13 is sitting on your lap. Invest in a pair of headphones if you want something more immersive.
I appreciate any laptop that puts the webcam where it belongs: square in the middle, right above the display. The X13's 720p camera is sufficient for logging on to let your Zoom call know you're at your desk. It's low resolution enough that I wouldn't use it to conduct the call or any other virtual briefing. The camera isn't even fun for taking the occasional selfie, and in some cases where a headshot is required for a badge or virtual meeting profile, it might leave you looking a little pixelated.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Keyboard, touchpad
If you've never typed on a ThinkPad, there's an adjustment period to using the X13's keyboard setup. Despite the X13's comfortable keyboard, you'll have to learn to live with the Function key stacked next to the Control button. My pinky frequently confused the two. Everything else with the keyboard layout works, including the narrow strip of function keys across the top that act as quick toggles for things like volume and brightness control. Lenovo even managed to sneak in navigational keys like Page Up and Down, though they're split throughout the keyboard's right side. It's nice to see them available, as they're incredibly helpful for coding and configuring virtual machines, and they're not keys you typically find on a laptop.
You'll also have to decide how you want to use the combination TrackPoint and trackpad offering. The TrackPoint is a holdover from the early days of business laptops, and there are plenty who prefer it. But for those who don't—and I certainly did not, as I didn't even like the TrackPoint back in the 90's—the TrackPoint is a permanent fixture sitting flush in the middle of the keyboard. It can be distracting, but I was able to ignore it after a while.
As for the trackpad, it's responsive enough to follow a slight finger drag but not too sensitive that a mere brush of your palm produces a false positive while typing. I did have trouble tapping between the right and left mouse buttons while dragging and selecting something. I eventually forged a usage pattern wherein I'd interchangeably use the TrackPoints corresponding mouse buttons while dragging with the trackpad. In the end, I appreciated the flexibility the two mouse options offered, but I would have preferred a large, flat trackpad over this whole rigamarole.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Performance
The ThinkPad X13 I tested is runs on a six-core 2.1GHz Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U CPU with 8GB of RAM and proved fast and capable. The X13 can handle running multiple browsers at once along with apps like Adobe Creative Suite and Discord, and even indie apps, like Joplin and VLC. In particular, Lightroom handled simultaneous importing and scrolling of over 300 RAW files, plus editing with ease. Google Chrome was responsive, whether I was playing the Spotify web app or using one of the dozen extensions I have plugged in.
In benchmark tests, the ThinkPad X13 performed well above the Core-i5 version of Apple MacBook Pro 2020 in GeekBench 5, which measures overall performance. The X13 scored 4,935 in the multi-core tests, slightly above the 4,847 from the XPS 13 (Intel Core i7-1065G7 with 16GB of RAM) while the MacBook Pro (Core i5-1030NG7 with 16GB of RAM) scored 4,399.
For storage performance, the ThinkPad X13 managed to transfer over 5GB of files in 6.83 seconds, with a rate of 746.5 MBps. That's faster than the 627 MBps rate from the XPS 13's 512GB SSD.
Even with the X13's integrated AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics card, I liked how the Elder Scrolls Online looked and performed. I played the game with graphics set to high and though the frame rate hovered around 42 FPS, I experienced no stuttering traversing through the laidback MMO. Any casual gamer can get their fix through this system configuration.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Battery life
Lenovo promises up to 12 hours with the ThinkPad X13, but on the Tom's Guide battery test it only lasted 7 hours and 53 minutes before petering out. That's over two hours less than the MacBook Pro 2020 (10:21), and nearly 5 hours less than the XPS 13's posted time of 12:39.
Anecdotally, the ThinkPad X13’s overall battery performance is just okay. Even when I left it on standby for a day or two to focus on something else, I’d return to the ThinkPad X13 with little juice. When we can safely fly again, the ThinkPad X13 will only make it through an east-to-west coast hop. At the very least, the X13 charges via USB-C, so you can easily plug it into a power brick if you have one handy.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Heat
I worked on this laptop review during one of California's worst heat waves, right in the middle of fire season. I never felt uncomfortable using the laptop on my lap, though I always used it in this manner while unplugged. I wasn’t able to test it outside in the heat, but it stayed regulated indoors. While idling, the ThinkPad X13 was about 84 degrees Fahrenheit around the trackpad and the hottest underneath at 99 degrees. I also tested it while I was charging and playing Elder Scrolls Online at the same time. The hottest point on the laptop was 110 degrees right around the L key.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 review: Verdict
I would have liked a laptop like the ThinkPad X13 to carry me through college and my first few years on the job force. It's rugged, packs extra keys in the keyboard, and has enough ports to have adapters coming in and out of it. I appreciate the flexibility of the touchscreen and multiple mouse offerings, even if the combination trackpad and TrackPoint took me a while to get used to. I also like that the X13 doesn't take up a ton of room; this is the kind of laptop to get if you want it docked in a tight space. And you will want it docked because although the 13.3-inch touchscreen is viable, you must have a monitor to make full use of the X13's capabilities.
AMD's third-generation Ryzen processors don't offer any noticeable performance difference over Intel's brood to the naked eye. It isn't necessarily more affordable either, as this particular configuration will cost you as much as the Dell XPS 13 with a Core i5 and similar specifications. As this ThinkPad X13 review has shown, the trade-off is that you get the badge of robustness for lugging around a ThinkPad, plus a few other productivity-inclined features you won't find on other overly-polished models.