“Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Yoga”
“The ThinkPad X13 isn’t small, fast or durable enough to keep up with its toughest competitors.”
Solid build quality
Great keyboard and touchpad
Good corporate support
Short battery life
Not as small as many rivals
The traditional ThinkPad uses a 14-inch screen. However, with the trend towards thinner bezels and smaller laptops, Lenovo has started to downsize the old ThinkPad design a bit.
That was exactly the goal of the ThinkPad X390 Yoga, and now Lenovo has introduced its replacement, the ThinkPad X13 Yoga. The basic form factor of this laptop is kept while the internals are updated.
I got a configuration for $ 1,275 (on sale from $ 2,126) with a Core i5-10310U vPro CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 256 GB solid-state drive (SSD) and a Full HD IPS Display viewed. Is the X13 keeping up with the rapidly evolving competition, or has this design fallen behind?
The ThinkPad X13 looks identical to its predecessor, the ThinkPad X390 Yoga, but there is one big difference: The materials used in the case. The X390 uses a carbon fiber hybrid material for the lid and magnesium for the lower part. The ThinkPad X13, on the other hand, is made entirely of a mixture of carbon fiber, nylon fiber and glass fiber, which is said to be both light and durable.
However, this change of material has a disadvantage in terms of processing quality. I found the lid to flex a little too much. There is a certain amount of keyboard flex and even the bottom of the case is under pressure. It’s not the toughest ThinkPad I’ve ever used. It has always been a hallmark of the brand.
If you’re a fan of the ThinkPad look, you’re a lucky camper.
Lenovo says it put the X13 through its usual extreme ritual of military certifications and torture tests, and assures us that it is “one of the toughest in its class.” With 13-inch laptops, both the HP Specter x360 13 and Dell XPS 13 feel more solid. When considering other business-class laptops like the Dell Lattitude 7400 2-in-1, I’m not sure the X13 will live up to Lenovo’s expectations. However, the keyboard is splash-proof, which is a plus and isn’t very common.
Otherwise, X390 and X13 are roughly identical. They are the same size, 0.63 inches thick and 2.76 pounds in weight. That’s better than the Specter x360 13, which is 0.67 inches thick and weighs 2.88 pounds, but it’s slightly thicker and heavier than the 0.58-inch XPS 13, which weighs 2.65 pounds. In terms of width and depth, however, the X13 is quite large compared to some of the other current 13-inch clamshells and 2-in-1 models.
Take another look at the Specter x360 13 and the XPS 13 – both are tiny compared to the X13 as the bezels are much smaller and are almost an inch smaller in each dimension. The X13 may be the smallest ThinkPad, but it has relatively large bezels at the top and bottom that give it a certain extra size compared to the new normal.
Aesthetically, the X13 is a ThinkPad through and through. It is completely black, has the usual ThinkPad logo in the corner of the lid with the red LED battery indicator above the “i”, the obligatory red TrackPoint nubbin in the middle of the keyboard and red accents on the TrackPoint keys. That’s it for Bling, and it remains a good look that is both attractive on its own and holds almost the entire ThinkPad line together. If you’re a fan of the look, you’re a lucky camper.
Connectivity is excellent for such a thin and light laptop. You get two USB-C 3.1 ports (one with Thunderbolt 3 support), two USB-A 3.1 ports, a full-size HDMI 1.4 port, an Ethernet expansion port (which of course requires a dongle), and a microSD Card reader. Wireless connectivity is cutting edge with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
In reference to its business customers, Lenovo equips the ThinkPad X13 with Intel vPro processors, which enable connection to company systems to improve security, manageability and stability. My test device was equipped with the 10th generation quad-core Core i5-10310U vPro, which turned out to be a competent but unspectacular performer.
In Geekbench 5, for example, the X13 achieved 1,041 points in the single-core test and 2,781 points in the multi-core test. This is a bit behind other laptops with Core i5 CPUs like the Acer Aspire 5 with its Core i5-1035G1 (1,129 and 2,899) and the Dell Inspiron 14 5000 with the same processor (1,169 and 3,197). When I searched our rating database, I didn’t find a single 10th generation Core i5 that the X13 beat in this benchmark.
In our handbrake test, which converts a 420MB video to H.265, the X13 took almost five and a half minutes to complete. The Aspire 5 was 15 seconds faster and the X13 40 seconds slower than the Inspiron 14 5000. The Acer Spin 3 with the same Core i5 was over a minute faster. Once again, the X13 was at the bottom of the pile of similarly equipped laptops.
That doesn’t mean the X13 is a slow laptop. It’s not – it’s more than fast enough for productivity tasks and media consumption. It’s not as fast as the non-vPro competition, however, which means you’ll pay more for extended enterprise support than you would for extra performance.
The X13 also has the basic Intel UHD graphics, which means it is not a slot machine. You’ll want to stick to older titles with lower resolutions and graphical detail if you want to gamble at all or play the occasional Windows 10 games.
My test device was equipped with a 300 nit Full HD IPS display (1,920 x. 080). According to my colorimeter, it’s almost the average for premium displays today. As I mentioned earlier, this is a good thing as today’s average display is exceptional for productivity work and multimedia consumption. Only creatives who need extremely wide and precise colors will be disappointed with most premium displays.
The brightness was a bit low at 274 nits (we want to see premium displays with 300 nits or more) and the contrast was 860: 1 (1,000: 1 or more marks a higher quality display). There aren’t any terrible results either, but they’re a little below average. You have a little trouble in bright environments and black text on a white background doesn’t show up as often, which is important to me as a writer.
Note that we did not test the Full HD displays on the HP Specter x360 13. Instead, we tested the HP with an AMOLED display, which was very bright and with incredible contrast. However, our Dell test unit was Full HD, albeit in a 16:10 aspect ratio, and it was also very bright and had much higher contrast.
The colors of the X13 display were average at 96% sRGB and 72% AdobeRGB. Again, both HP and Dell exceeded those numbers, with the Specter x360 13 reaching 100% and 98% and the Dell 97% and 77%. Most premium laptops fall in the same range as the X13, however. The X13’s color accuracy was 1.45, close to 1.0, which is considered excellent. This is better than the Dell 1.53, but not as good as the HP 1.29. You’ll find plenty of premium laptops that are over 2.0, which makes the X13 a reasonably accurate display.
I didn’t have any issues using the laptop screen during my review. This usually involves writing most of the copy on the verification device. I also watched Netflix and found the experience pleasant enough. This is a good display, but not a great one, although Lenovo does offer some other, brighter displays as upgrades that may offer better overall performance. The high-end display offers the privacy guard function from Lenovo, with which the display can be made illegible from the sides.
The display features Lenovo’s ThinkShutter that moves to physically block the webcam. However, this is no longer a unique feature. For example, the Specter x360 13 has an electronic version that removes the webcam from the system.
The sound was surprisingly good, with enough volume and no distortion at full force. There’s little bass, which is normal on all Apple MacBooks, but the mids and highs were crisp and bright. The two downward-facing, Dolby-tuned speakers are good enough for watching Netflix alone. However, for the best audio quality, you will need good headphones or a solid bluetooth speaker.
Keyboard and touchpad
The ThinkPad keyboard is another icon of the line and has long been one of the best on the market. The X13 has the standard version and offers the usual large buttons, generous spacing and a consistent and controlled mechanism that is very precise. It does have a bit of strength, however, and requires a little more pressure to activate a keystroke than some other keyboards.
I like a lighter feel, so I prefer the latest MacBook Magic Keyboard, as well as HP’s Specter keyboard (and recently Envy) on the Windows 10 side. However, if you like a bit of pressure, or are just a fan of the ThinkPad keyboard in general, you will love the X13.
The touchpad is a bit smaller than it could be due to the buttons on top that operate the TrackPoint nubbin. Microsoft’s Precision touchpad drivers are available, making the touchpad responsive and providing excellent support for Windows 10 multi-touch gestures. The TrackPoint is there for those who prefer it too, and it works as smoothly as ever.
The display is touch sensitive and precise. No complaints there. And it supports the Lenovo ThinkPad Pen Pro with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity (other laptops like Microsoft’s Surface line and the Specter x360 support 4,096 levels). The Pen Pro slides into a port on the side of the X13, which not only provides convenient storage, but also doubles as a charger. The main disadvantage of the Pen Pro is its size – it’s smaller than a “real” pen and doesn’t feel as natural when you write and draw. Without the spring mechanism, the pin cannot be removed from the slot even on a flat surface.
Windows 10 Hello login support without a password is provided on my test device by a fast and responsive fingerprint reader which offers the additional security of storing all fingerprint information on a chip. The other display options add an infrared camera for facial recognition.
The X13 has 50 watt hours of battery life, which is not as much as some others (the Specter x360 13, for example, has 60 watt hours) but isn’t terrible for a 13-inch laptop with a Full HD display. I would expect decent, if not very good, battery life.
I didn’t get that. In fact, the battery life was downright disappointing.
Starting with our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, which put a strain on the CPU and GPU, the X13 lasted a little over three hours. That is way below average, but not a terrible score. The Dell XPS 13 lasted almost five hours, while the Specter x360 13 with its power-hungry AMOLED display lasted almost four hours.
The battery life was downright disappointing.
In our web browser test, which best mimics the longevity of productivity, the X13 failed in just under six hours. That’s a bad score. The XPS 13 ran for almost 12 hours, while the Specter x360 13 was almost the same as the X13 despite its display. In our video test, in which a local Full HD Avengers trailer is looped, the X13 didn’t quite make it to eight hours. The XPS 13 lasted 14.5 hours and the Specter x360 lasted about 10 hours.
In short, the X13’s battery life is hard to figure out. It should take longer, but it doesn’t. You might spend an entire day doing very light productivity tasks, but you will likely need to carry your charger with you.
The ThinkPad X13 is the smallest ThinkPad you can buy, and that’s all it has to offer. If you’re looking for a ThinkPad that won’t weigh you down or take up a lot of space in your backpack, this is the best option. But its performance, build quality, battery life, and display lag behind the competition. It’s also relatively expensive at $ 1,275, and starts at a retail price of $ 2,126.
Is there a better alternative?
The HP Specter x360 13 is a great choice if you are sold with a 2-in-1 device. It looks better, is just as solidly built, if not more, and offers a spectacular display option. When you choose a low-power display, you get incredible battery life that puts the X13 to shame. It’s also $ 1,200 with a Core i7 CPU and 512GB SSD, which also makes it a cheaper choice.
If you’re not sold with a 2-in-1, the Dell XPS 13 is a great alternative. It looks better too, is solidly built, has better performance, and has much better battery life. With the same configuration as the X13, you save about $ 175.
When you need the added security and manageability features of vPro, the HP Elite Dragonfly is a more modern and feature-rich commercial laptop.
How long it will take?
The ThinkPad X13 is built well enough to last for as long as you might need the laptop. The components – especially Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 – are up to date and will keep you connected for years. The one-year warranty is disappointing, especially for a business-class machine.
Should you buy it?
No. The ThinkPad X13 doesn’t have much going for it unless you’re a die-hard ThinkPad fanatic.