Lenovo ThinkBook 13x review

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Design:

The ThinkBook 13x resembles the ThinkBook 13s in appearance. It has a silver chassis (Lenovo calls it Cloud Gray, but a darker Storm Gray is also available) with tapered sides and a rounded back edge. It’s a pretty simple design — something I’m seeing a lot more of lately — with a two-tone finish on the lid that’s appealing and keeps the laptop from being dull. The ThinkPad 13x isn’t as streamlined and attractive as the Dell XPS 13, but it has its own modest charm.

The ThinkPad 13x is durable due to a mix of an aluminum lid and an aluminum-magnesium alloy chassis. If you apply enough pressure, the lid will bend somewhat, but the keyboard deck and bottom chassis will not flex. It’s nearly as good as the ThinkPad 13s and falls just short of the XPS 13 and Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano. Lenovo put the ThinkBook 13x through military testing for durability, like it does with all ThinkBooks and ThinkPads, which is one of the business features that you won’t find in Lenovo’s consumer lines. Lenovo also included its self-healing BIOS, which is often found on ThinkPads, to facilitate recovery from a corrupted or hacked BIOS. That is also something lacking in the company’s consumer computers.

As previously stated, the ThinkBook 13x is primarily designed to be a slimmer and lighter version of the ThinkBook 13s, including the newer AMD-based Gen 3 model, which has the same dimensions as the Gen 2. And it is, by a hair’s breadth. Because of their smaller bezels around their bigger 16:10 displays, these laptops are nearly equal in width and depth.

However, the ThinkBook 13x is 0.51 inches thick and weighs 2.49 pounds, while the ThinkBook 13s is 0.59 inches thick and weighs 2.78 pounds. That is a significant difference, but it is debatable whether it is sufficient to warrant any severe compromises (more on that later).

Display:

Lenovo has recently gone all-in on taller displays, and the ThinkBook 13x benefits with a 16:10 13.3-inch panel. It has a high resolution, WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600), which makes it incredibly sharp. For an IPS panel, I found it to be rather bright, with appealing and natural colors and a high contrast ratio. The Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) compatibility made Netflix and Amazon Prime Video viewing more enjoyable.

My subjective impressions were confirmed when I used my colorimeter. The display on the ThinkBook 13x is quite bright at 417 nits, which is considerably above our 300-nit criterion, and it has outstanding contrast at 1,430:1, which is significantly more than our desired 1000:1. A high-quality IPS panel on the ThinkBook 13x gives a fantastic display for productivity work. Although creative professionals will prefer wider colors, the ThinkBook 13x display’s excellent contrast and exceptional color accuracy allow it to operate in a pinch even for artists. One area where the ThinkBook 13x outperforms the 13s is the display.

Two downward-firing speakers offer audio, and even when turned all the way up, they barely produce acceptable volume. However, there was no distortion, and the mids and highs were crystal clear. Because the bass was insufficient, headphones are required for streaming video and music.

Performance:

During my testing and while writing this review, the ThinkBook 13x appeared to be quite fast, but its benchmark scores revealed its low power nature. You can also get a Core i7-1160G7, which should be faster, while the 16GB of RAM in my review device is the most available.  The ThinkBook 13x performed particularly poorly in our Handbrake test, which encodes a 420MB video as H.265, but when I used Lenovo’s application to switch from “Intelligent cooling” to “Extreme performance” mode, the laptop finished the test in a more competitive 196 seconds.

The ThinkBook 13x is equipped with Intel Iris Xe graphics, but it is slightly slower than the full-speed U-series laptops. It had the second-lowest 3DMark Time Spy score among Intel devices, and it only managed 16 frames per second (fps) in Fortnite at 1200p with epic graphics.

That’s a few frames per second slower than the comparison group, but not by much. None of these are gaming laptops, and neither is the ThinkBook 13x. Stick to older games or be prepared to reduce the resolution and visual quality significantly.

Battery:

The ThinkBook 13x’s battery capacity reduced somewhat from 56 watt-hours to 53 watt-hours. Both have high-resolution displays, while the ThinkBook 13x has a slower processor. I expected the slimmer and lighter model to have the same or somewhat better battery life.

I didn’t get it, at least not on a consistent basis. Instead, I observed battery results that were unusual. In our web-browsing test, for example, the ThinkBook 13x took slightly under 8.5 hours to cycle through several complicated websites, while the ThinkBook 13s took 9.3 hours. These are average results, however we prefer to see at least 10 hours on this test.

Conclusion:

The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x is a challenging notebook to evaluate. It’s a lovely little gadget on its own, tiny and light enough to throw into a backpack and scarcely notice it’s there. It is, however, 0.07 inches slimmer and 0.29 pounds lighter than the ThinkBook 13s, which has the same design, basic features, greater performance and battery life, and more ports. Are the little changes in thickness and weight significant enough to justify the sacrifices?

No, I don’t believe so. The ThinkBook 13x does not provide enough advantages over its larger sister, especially at its current price of $2,000. Perhaps it would make more sense if it were as light as the ThinkPad X1 Nano and more fairly priced, but as it stands, the ThinkBook 13s is the superior option.

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