It’s been a while since I reviewed an actual ultrabook, so I was excited to get some loaner units from Lenovo and try them out. In this review, I’ll be covering the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x – one of Lenovo’s current ultraportable solutions for business use.
This laptop is aimed at minimalists looking for a compact and lightweight laptop that still packs enough of a punch to handle daily use and everyday multasking. Like many other modern ultraportables, it offers a productivity-oriented 16:10 display, uncompromised inputs, premium craftsmanship, and an Intel Tiger Lake hardware platform paired with a fair-sized battery. It only offers miniaturized IO, though, and it’s rather expensive, at least for now, at launch.
I also have to mention how closely this series matches Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano lineup, but there are some differences in design, screens, and batteries between the two, the latter two in favor of this ThinkBook 13x series.
So let’s see what this model is capable of.
Specs as reviewed – Lenovo ThinkBook 13x
||Lenovo ThinkBook 13x G1
||13.3 inch, 2560 x 1600 px, 16:10, IPS, 60 Hz, touch, Dolby vision
||Intel 11th Gen i5-1130G7, 4C/ 8T, 1.8GHz clock speed with 4.0GHz boost
up to Cire i7-1160G7, 4C/8T
||Intel Iris Xe, 80 EUs
||16 GB LPDDR4x-4266 (soldered)
||512GB M.2 PCIe (Samsung PM9A1 PCIe 4.0) – M.2 2280 slot
||Intel AX201 WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2
||2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, Power Delivery 3.0, and DP 1.4, audio jack
||56 Wh, 65W charger
||298 mm or 11.73” (w) x 209 mm or 8.23” (d) x 12.9 mm or .51” (h)
||1.13 kg (2.49 lbs) .7 lbs (.32 kg) charger and cables, US version
||fingerprint reader, HD webcam, stereo speakers
Design and construction
The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x certainly feels like a premium laptop the moment you take it out of the box. The construction is solid with an all-metal and yet still a lightweight chassis. It’s very thin too, so handling it is about as easy as handling a hardcover book. I guess that’s what they were aiming for, right?
The lid itself is made of a solid piece of grey anodized aluminum. There’s a two-tone finish which is pretty cool looking and yet still looks professional. The standard Lenovo logo is on the upper corner and a ThinkBook logo is on the opposite corner. I personally would have rather not had such a big shiny logo, but it still looks ok.
Lifting the lid is unfortunately a two-handed operation. The hinge is pretty strong and the laptop is just too light to do it one-handed. But the good news is that hinge is sturdy enough to properly keep the touchscreen in place without it wobbling or moving when used.
Once opened, you get a good look at the screen, keyboard, and trackpad. More on those later. But the screen on this model is edge-to-edge glass – expected with a touch model. The bezels probably could be smaller, but they are nowhere near as large as older laptops used to be. At least they are consistent in size on all four sides.
The palmrest and underbelly of the laptop are constructed from a different alloy, which is magnesium and aluminum. It has a softer feel to it and definitely doesn’t feel as cold to the touch when handling it while it’s off. It’s a pleasant feel on the palms and I didn’t see any fingerprints from my use.
If you’re into a lot of IO, you might want to look elsewhere. This laptop is designed for the ultimate minimalist and is the same IO as if you were to get a Macbook Air or a ThinkPad X1 Nano. On the left-hand side, you have two USB-C ports and a headphone jack. That’s it.
The good news is both USB-Cs support Thunderbolt 4, PD 3.0 charging, and DP 1.4. So with the right dongle or dock, you can easily expand your IO and not have to give up your charging port.
On the right-hand side, there’s a single power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader. It’s flush with the edge, but there is a tactical feel to the LEDs next to it, so you can find it in the dark. When you push the button it immediately reads your fingerprint in order to log into the PC automatically. It worked flawlessly for me throughout my use.
The underside of the laptop is pretty clean. There are a lot of vent holes to take in fresh air to cool the CPU. The footpads are reasonably sized to keep the laptop steady on the desk and allow for airflow. The vents exhaust onto the screen, though.
Overall, I’d give this laptop a good grade on the construction and design. If I had to use it as my daily driver, I’d certainly appreciate how portable it is, while still feeling like a quality machine. I’d probably struggle with the IO, but that’s just me. I’m still in the dark ages and use USB-A a lot.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on this laptop is very good. The key travel is shallow, but the feedback is just right, making typing on it feel very natural to me. I didn’t have much trouble adjusting to it at all, and typing this review went very smoothly. The chassis is pretty strong too as I detected no keyboard flex.
The keys are a black matte plastic and contrast well with the palmrest. They are properly spaced apart and the layout is pretty standard for Lenovo mid-tier laptops, but it’s not the kind available on ThinkPads. The only details I don’t care for are the squished up and down arrow keys.
There is backlighting on this keyboard. It’s white and there are only two levels to choose from, as well as the ability to turn it off. You can also set it to automatically turn on in darker rooms. All this can be done with Fn-Space.
I have mixed feelings about the trackpad for this model. For the most part, it worked fine, but at times, I struggled with getting my touches to register properly. It was random somehow, though, and I couldn’t repeat the problem reliably enough to test it.
This is a plastic surface with a smooth texture, so at least so my fingers glided pretty well. Multi-touch gestures worked well too, for the most part, especially scrolling and switching apps.
Another minor hindrance I had with the trackpad is the size. It’s just not that big. But that’s to be expected considering the overall footprint of this laptop is so minimal and the keyboard takes up the bulk of the space. Still, I think they could have gone half an inch taller had they tried.
The screen is an eye-catcher when you first boot up the laptop. The glossy finishing and the 2560 x 1600 px resolution really make the images and colors pop. At first glance, I thought this was a 100% DCI-P3 panel.
It actually isn’t, though. In fact, it’s not much different than most other 100% sRGB panels, except for the fact that it’s glossy and the colors are probably set to be a little saturated by default.
The brightness and contrast ratio are both really good, though, and they show during normal use. I didn’t have any trouble at all using this laptop day or night.
To validate my initial thoughts I took some readings. Here are the measurements I got on my X-rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: LG LP133WQ1-SPH1 (Model LEN8294)
- Coverage: 99.2% sRGB, 69.2% AdobeRGB, 71.2% DCI-P3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 396 cd/m2 on power;
- Gamma: 2.2
- Contrast at max brightness: 1467:1
- Native white point: 6350 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.27 cd/m2.
This came well-calibrated and Lenovo also did a really good job with the lid construction, as my unit had absolutely no backlight bleed. On top of that my viewing angles were perfect.
The only minor point to bring up is the color accuracy. I was able to calibrate the monitor and I can tell that it corrected the saturation levels. But the accuracy of the greys and some of the colors is a little below average when you compare it to other panels out there. Worry not though, if you’re not doing any professional work that requires the colors to be super accurate, you won’t even notice this.
Also, it’s worth bringing up the touch functionality of this unit. It works well and makes up for the minor setbacks I experienced with the trackpad. I don’t particularly use touchscreens on laptops a lot, but I can certainly see the use for them – especially in smaller laptops such as this one.
Fo what is worth, there’s also a light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness on this laptop. You can turn this off in Windows settings, though.
All in all, this is close to the ideal screen I’d expect on a modern ultrabook. The image really looks sharp at the QHD resolution and the 16:10 aspect ratio really fit the bezels nicely. The touch functionality is nice as well, especially given how close this screen is to your fingertips with your palms on the rest. I was able to just reach the taskbar with my fingertips at all times.
I think the only thing I would have liked to see is a faster screen though. At 60Hz this certainly feels like a step backward from what I’m personally used to. Still, I could easily work on this panel all day if I needed to.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a mid-specced configuration of the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x, with an Intel i5-1130G7 processor, which has 4 cores and 8 threads, topping out at 4.0Ghz. It’s paired with 16GB of LPPDDR4x RAM, which is basically all you would need for a laptop of this caliber. You’ll want to opt for this sort of configuration, because the RAM is soldered.
The CPU is fine for day-to-day tasks. I used the laptop as my daily driver for a few days and I found that it was generally all I needed outside of the occasional CAD use that I do at home. Not to say that this laptop couldn’t handle CAD, but I would steer towards a laptop with a dedicated GPU if you were planning on using more graphics-reliant utilities.
You do get Intel Iris Xe graphics on this model, which is good enough for most things until you get to the work and gaming levels. In that respect, the integrated GPU becomes limited in what it can handle, especially at native resolution. More on that soon.
The SSD is a 512GB M.2 2280 made by Samsung, model number PM9A1. These are the new standard for Intel laptops with PCIe gen 4 support and they are no slouch. The SSD speeds I measured are overkill for what this hardware config would normally need to perform properly. The SSD takes a minor hit in performance when unplugged, but it’s negligible, if you ask me.
The SSD is pretty much the only thing you can upgrade on this laptop too. I was able to pop open the bottom cover by taking out the Torx screws and using a guitar pick to unclip the cover. It’s tricky, but if you start at the top and are patient, you’ll get them all. I’m going to assume almost nobody would need to do this since the only thing you can upgrade is an SSD that is already good.
As far as the software goes, everything can be controlled through the Lenovo Vantage app, which offers access to system updates, battery settings, etc. This is one of the better control apps in this segment, but I find it odd that for some reason, Lenovo decided to longer include power profiles in Vantage. Instead, you can switch between the standard profiles in Windows (Better Battery, Better performance, Max Performance) to juggle the power and fan settings. I’ve used Max Performance for benchmarks and gaming, and Better Battery for daily use.
Here’s what to expect in terms of performance and internal temperatures with browsing, word processing, or video streaming.
As far as more taxing chores go, this laptop runs at 12+W of sustained power in the Cinebench R15 loop test, on the Best Performance profile. This equates to clocks speeds of around 2.5 GHz and temperatures around 65 degrees Celsius, with quiet fan noise under 40 dB. Details on the log down below.
And here’s how this ThinkBook 13X compares to other ultraportable designs in this test. It’s close to the similarly configured X1 Nano, but not as powerful as higher-specced Tiger Lake models and no match for the AMD variants.
I took some synthetic benchmarks to get an idea of how well the CPU performs. Here’s what I got:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 3635 (Graphics – 4091, Physics – 9270);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1370 (Graphics – 1224, CPU – 4279);
- 3DMark 13 – CPU Profile: Max-3134, 16T-3161, 8T-3117, 4T-2383, 2T-1431, 1T-807;
- Superposition: Medium – 2334;
- GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1323, Multi-core: 4856;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 94.14 fps, CPU 840 cb, CPU Single Core 189 cb;
- CineBench R23: CPU 4360 pts, CPU Single Core 1283 pts;
These results are pretty decent, but it should be noted that if you have a heavier workload, you’ll probably want to invest in something with a more powerful CPU. The i7 version will perform slightly better, but it’s no match in demanding loads for the higher-power Tiger Lake implementations out there, not to mention the 6/8 Core AMD platforms of this generation.
Still though, for the average person, these performance numbers are OK. If you’re primarily just surfing the web or using office applications, this is enough horsepower to get things done.
If you plan on doing some gaming, you have to be cautious. For starters, there’s no dedicated GPU, so you’re relying on the CPU’s internal graphics to support both the gaming graphics. Also, the resolution of the screen is very high for gaming on this sort of internal graphics, so you’ll have to turn the settings down to at least FHD/Low in order to get decent framerates.
I did take some benchmarks with a few games, varying in age. See below for my results:
|Skyrim (Ultra, FHD+)
||33fps avg, 28fps low
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (FHD+, low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||28fps avg, 26fps low
You can clearly see that this laptop isn’t meant for gaming. If all you play is older titles, you might be able to get by. I don’t think I’d want to be playing the newer titles without a dedicated GPU, though. Of course, if you have a local desktop with a GPU, you could always consider Steam streaming which is becoming a more solid option lately.
The system only allows for around 12W of sustained power in these combined loads, as shown in the logs below. That results in good temperatures and quiet fan noise, but the performance is reduced in comparison to most other ultraportables of this generation.
To sum it up, the performance is on par with my expectations, considering the hardware that was installed. I think it’ll work well enough for the average user. This lower-power Intel CPU implementation lags somewhat behind other Intel options or the latest Ryzen ultrabook CPUs in terms of heavy-use performance, but you make a little bit up by having compatibility with the latest gen SSDs and having Thunderbolt support.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The cooling system on this laptop is adequate. It’s a single fan with a single heat pipe that attaches to the nearby CPU. The cool air is drawn from underneath and is exhausted through a small vent at the hinge, blowing up on the screen.
The advantage is that it does a pretty good job keeping the CPU cool, even under heavy loads. The Cinebench loop resulted in spikes as high as 95C, but the average temps were only 64C. Even with a demanding game, CPU temps spiked at 82C and averaged 59C. So for typical use, expect far lower internal temperatures.
This also keeps the fan noise low during normal use. I took a measurement at ear level and measured roughly 28dB with the fan operating at its lowest setting. This is practicably inaudible in most rooms. I retook those measurements during a game and got 38dB. For reference, the ambient noise in my space was 25 dB.
The only drawback to a highly localized cooling system is the heat buildup in a few hot spots. During normal use, the external temperatures aren’t all that bad. But when you plug in and run a demanding app for long periods, the underside gets a little hot, hitting over 45C in some spots. Since there’s no fan there, the air can’t circulate, so it just builds up in this metal chassis.
Not that this is abnormal. Most ultrabooks get hot when running on full power for long periods, just due to their thin nature. It’s just worth noting, because some might expect that because this is an i5 and there’s no GPU that it will always run cool.
What’s most important is how cool it operates on the lap, especially while on battery. I hardly noticed it. Typing this review and watching some movies was a pleasant experience with this model.
The Intel AX201 is what is used for a Wifi module on this unit. You’d normally think this is good, but I actually struggled to get good download speeds on this unit. I only reached 70 Mbps from a 30 ft distance from my router. Almost every laptop I’ve tested in the past 6 months has measured 400-600Mbps at this distance. Getting closer didn’t help much.
Even with the diminished speeds it still worked ok. I didn’t have any drops in connection at all during my entire usage. I’m guessing the antenna probably just has too much interference with all the metal. Note that this Wifi module is not replaceable and also has Bluetooth 5.2 built into it.
The speakers on this laptop are downward facing and are close to the table, so sound can get a little muffled, especially on the lap. The maximum volume I measured is 72dB, which is ok. On a flat surface, that amplitude goes as high as 80dB.
The sound coming from the speakers is decent, though. The bass only goes as low as 100Hz, but the mids sound pretty balanced. I listened to my typical songs and they all sounded pretty good. This could definitely be used for daily media.
The webcam is pretty decent. It’s only 720p, but the image quality is good, especially in well-lit rooms. Even in poorly lit rooms though, it’s above average. It’s not Windows Hello enabled, unfortunately, but there is a privacy shutter if that’s your thing.
There are biometrics on this laptop. The power button on the right actually doubles as a fingerprint reader. After setting it up, I was able to power on the machine and see the green light which indicates that my print was read. After that, it logs me right in. It’s the perfect size for a finger and in a good location, so it worked well for me.
The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x has a 56 Whr battery inside. It’s small, yes, but this is also a small laptop, so…
I took a series of battery life tests with the brightness at 60%, which is about 73 nits for this model. Here were my results:
- 3.4 W (~15 h 53 min of use)– idle, Best Battery Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off;
- 6.8 W (~7 h 56 min of use)– text editing in Word with light internet use, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.2 W (~5 h 52 min of use)– 1080p 60Hz Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.9 W (~9 h 9 min of use)– 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Chrome, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 17.3 W (~3 h 7 min of use)– heavy browsing in Chrome, Better Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 19.5 W (~2 h 46 min of use)– Gaming – Doom Eternal, Maximum Performance Mode, 60fps cap, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Very good results for such a small battery. It’s nice to know that you can do even some heavy internet use for a significant period on a single charge. This is very comparable to AMD ultrabook battery levels, so it’s good to see that the Intel Evo laptops perform similarly.
The power brick is 65W and is pretty portable. It works well and the cable is long. There was no cable strap though, which made me laugh. Nothing beats pulling out a tangled piece of spaghetti from your backpack every day.
Price and availability- Lenovo ThinkBook 13x
Other than on Lenovo’s website, the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x isn’t available at any retailers yet – at least not at the time of this review. Here’s an Amazon link though so you can check on it (and support the site while at it).
If you want to get it directly from Lenovo, the current price on this model is listed at $1879. I’ll be brutally honest, this seems a bit high to me. But knowing Lenovo, there will be sporadic sales on their website, so perhaps these prices will come down soon.
Something is definitely up though because there’s an identical model on their website for $1999 and I can’t figure out what is different. If you want an i7 model, that one starts at $2189. Ouch!
Final thoughts- Lenovo ThinkBook 13x
Overall, I think this is a fine laptop. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, I think it checks most of the boxes that a typical user would want in an ultrabook.
It’s thin, very light, and made of good materials, making it hard to beat in terms of overall construction and design. It also just feels like a very nice computer, with a good finish and the right color to minimize fingerprints.
The keyboard is very natural to type on and I think might be one of the highlights of this machine to me. The trackpad is a little disappointing, and while I am willing to accept it as it is, I’ve just seen much better.
The screen is very nice on the eyes. Besides being slightly color-limited, there’s almost nothing to complain about it. It’s bright and beautiful, with small bezels and touch. The only thing that would make it better would be if it was 90+ Hz.
Another positive to this model is the battery efficiency, which I think Lenovo did a good job tuning. I’ve been using this laptop constantly for a solid week, especially while typing this review. I was impressed at how much I was able to get done on a single charge.
Up until the end, I was thinking just how much of a good buy this laptop is. But then I got to the cost. Really, it’s just high for my taste. At $1879, I expect absolute perfection, especially for an i5 model. But this laptop is missing a couple of features to hit that price point.
First of all, the trackpad should be glass and should work flawlessly at that point. I would also expect more IO, a memory card reader, Windows Hello webcam, or Wifi that doesn’t have reception problems.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a good laptop – it’s just not a $1900 good laptop imo. If it were priced near $1400, I would feel much differently. But as it is, it’s hard to recommend this over say a Macbook Air or a ThinkPad X1 Nano that are both priced 500-700 USD less at similar specs. Even the Dell XPS 13 sells for hundreds less at this point, so I’d reckon Lenovo will have to quickly throw in some discounts if this ThinkBook 13x series is to get competitive.
Update (by Andrei): Speaking of the Thinkpad X1 Nano, that’s a close match to this model here, and selling for a fair bit less. It’s a ThinkPad design with arguably superior ThinkPad inputs, and is also slightly smaller and lighter than this ThinkBook 13x. At the same time, this ThinkBook gets a larger battery (56 Wh vs 48 Wh on X1 Nano) and a higher-resolution panel, although that makes very little difference at this level over the 2K panel in the X1 Nano. In fact, I’d argue the Nano has an advantage as it’s available in either a matte or touch option, so it will cater to more potential buyers. To me, this ThinkBook is hard to justify over a matching X1 Nano, especially at current prices.
That pretty much wraps up my time with the Lenovo ThinkBook 13x, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this one as well. Please leave me a comment in the section below. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.
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