I’m going to share with you my thoughts on the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s in this review.
I never really got into the ARM processors for Windows before. Sure, they were usually cheaper in cost, but they always seemed to lack compatibility with typical Windows programs and many of the earliest iterations needed a special version of Windows.
This goes all the way back to Windows RT and its implementation on the Microsoft Surface, which was practically useless in my opinion. But since then, Qualcomm and Microsoft have made some good strides to increase the compatibility of programs, through Windows 10 and now Windows 11.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve completely ignored ARM processors on PC since Windows RT. I never bothered to give them a chance since I didn’t really see a reason why. But now that Lenovo provided me with a review unit for their new Snapdragon-powered Thinkpad X13s, I get to see for myself how much has improved.
I still think the biggest thing I’m likely going to run into is compatibility, but we’ll see just how bad it is. As long as it can do the main stuff that people use, it’ll be fine. I am excited to try it out and also interested to see how an integrated LTE modem works with the system. This could be a valuable daily driver if you’re constantly on the go.
Here’s my opinion on this Lenovo ThinkPad X13s after a month of use.
Specs as reviewed – Lenovo ThinkPad X13s gen 1
Lenovo Thinkpad X13s, gen 1, 2022 model
Screen 13.3 inch, 16:10 1920 x 1200 px, IPS, 60 Hz, matte, touch
Processor Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 (up to 3.0Ghz)
Video Qualcomm Adreno 690
Memory 16 GB LPDDR4X-4266Mhz soldered
Storage 512GB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSSTC CL4-4D512-Q79 (single M.2 2242 slot)
Connectivity Qualcomm WCN685x WiFi 6E + Bluetooth 5.2, Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Sub-6 Ghz
Ports 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2(PD 3.0 and DP 1.4a
Battery 50 Wh, 45W charger
Size 298.7 mm or 11.76” (w) x 206.4 mm or 8.13” (d) x 13.4 mm or .53” (h)
Weight 1.06 kg (2.35 lbs)
Extras HD webcam with Windows Hello, fingerprint reader, stereo speakers
Design and construction
The Lenovo Thinkpad X13s is exactly what I was expecting when it comes to the Thinkpad design, and that’s a very good thing. The build quality feels premium and the
device is very light and easy to carry around. The overall handling experience is about as good as it gets, mainly because of the grippiness of the materials they chose.
The lid is made of a magnesium-aluminum alloy which is anodized black and is given a smooth matte finish. The rest of the laptop is a glass fiber reinforced plastic, which matches the lid perfectly and has a soft touch to it and yet still feels very durable.
Let’s dig more into the visual and physical features of this ThinkPad X13s. Starting on the top, the lid has a smooth finish. In the upper corner, there’s a Thinkpad logo which looks ok, except that the dot in the i glows red when the laptop is in use. This is probably my least favorite particularity of the laptop, which says a lot about the rest of it.
In the bottom corner is the staple aluminum Lenovo tag, which I’ve seen on most Lenovo models. At the top of the lid is a small bulge that houses the camera module, microphone array, and potentially the 5G antenna. It also doubles as a lip to lift the lid with. The bulge is fine, but the specs written on it are a little cheesy if you ask me. There’s a microphone hole for noise cancellation on this bulge as well.
Lifting the lid is a one-finger operation but the laptop is so light that the bottom lifts up a little bit with it. This occasionally requires a second hand to keep it on the table. Underneath is a large matte screen with pretty small bezels. A modest camera array is centered at the top, which supports Windows Hello. Although it’s a touchscreen, it’s matte, so there’s no use for the edge-to-edge glass that you typically see. Instead, the frame is surrounded by a thin plastic bezel.
The hinge is sturdy enough for touch use and folds back to a reasonable angle. Usually in laptops this small, the hinge doubles as a ventilation for the exhaust fan. But not in this case, because the model is fanless.
We’ll discuss the keyboard and trackpad in more detail shortly, but the keyboard deck is plenty robust enough to make this design feel premium. I didn’t detect any flex in the keyboard and there were no signs of creaking or abnormal flex when lifting the laptop by the corners.
Flanking both sides of the keyboard are a pair of upward-facing speakers. They look larger than they are, though, because only the lower ¼ of the holes are actually real – the rest are cosmetic. The last noteworthy thing in this section is the power button in the upper right corner that also doubles as a fingerprint reader.
The bottom cover is pretty plain, as it has no vents at all. There are a couple of small footpads which do a decent job holding the laptop in place. There is a bunch of regulatory and model info that is silk-screened (or something equivalent) onto the cover. There are also a few stickers, which are normally fine to peel off. But one of them has the serial number so perhaps that one should be left alone.
As for IO, there’s not a whole lot going on here. On the left-hand side, there are two USB-C ports, which double as charging ports. They both support DisplayPort 1.4a and Power Delivery 3.0, but neither support, Thunderbolt as this is a Snapdragon platform.
The right-hand side is even more scarce as there is only a headphone jack to plug into. Behind that, you have a standard Kensington lock, which 99% of people probably don’t use. On my model, there is also a Sim card tray for LTE support. There’s also eSIM compatibility, which is what I’m using here.
To sum it up, it’s an impressive iteration of the Thinkpad, to say the least. It’s small and light enough for just about anyone and yet it still feels like a quality notebook, living up to the Thinkpad name.
Keyboard, trackpad, and touchscreen
The Thinkpad X13s’ keyboard is exactly what I was expecting, as it’s pretty much a clone of the Thinkpad keyboards that I’ve been reviewing for the past couple years.
Both the key travel and feedback are spot on for a device this thin. The spacing is also good and there is a slight concavity to the keycaps, making them easy to strike. Needless to say, I had no trouble at all adapting to typing on this machine.
The keyboard layout is pretty much standard as far as Thinkpads go, but it might seem peculiar because the Fn key is placed to the left of the Ctrl key. If this bothers you, they can be switched in the bios, but you can’t physically switch them since they are different-sized keys.
The keyboard is also backlit with white lighting. You only get three brightness level options with the Fn-Space hotkey: off, low and high. Realistically, low is fine for night use, and I barely even notice it during the day, so I just left it at that.
The trackpad on this model is also good, but it is a bit smaller than I’d like. This is an unfortunate consequence of the Thinkpad line though, because of the Trackpoint, which requires the three buttons to be located between the trackpad and the keyboard.
By itself, the trackpad works fine without the buttons. You can use taps and double-finger taps for left and right clicks, or you can use the integrated buttons on the corners of the pad. Multitouch gestures work great, just like any other modern Windows laptop.
I don’t personally use the TrackPoint, but there must be a lot of people that swear by them, otherwise, why would Lenovo keep doing it? I tested it and it works just the same as the others I’ve reviewed lately. I know that’s not saying much, but I just don’t have the experience to understand if this is any good or not.
The touchscreen is the more interesting aspect of this model, mainly because it’s matte and not glossy like almost any other touch laptop. I’m really digging these matte touchscreens because you get the look of a normal laptop but the added benefit of touch when you need it. And most importantly, no glare!
The touchscreen works fine. I did force myself to use it while typing this review and it certainly has its benefits when it comes to zooming in on pictures and scrolling through documents. The only thing I worry about is oily fingerprints on a matte screen, as this finish is not as easy to clean as glass is.
Besides being matte and touch, the screen has some pretty average features. Not bad at all, but certainly not spectacular either. I simply will call it “good enough” for most.
The panel is 16:10 with a modest 1920 x 1200 px resolution. It has excellent viewing angles and barely any backlight bleed. Unlike most of the faster screens available these days, this panel is only 60Hz.
I used my X-rite i1 Display Pro sensor to verify all the specs. Here’s what I got:
Panel HardwareID: Lenovo R133NW4K
Coverage: 104.4% sRGB, 72% AdobeRGB, 74% DCI-P3;
Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 329 cd/m2 on power;
Contrast at max brightness: 1495:1
Native white point: 6380 K;
Black on max brightness: .22 cd/m2.
So there you have it – perfectly average. What’s nice is there’s nothing wrong with it at all. Considering this is supposed to be good on battery life, it helps that it’s not too bright and not 4k, so there’s that at least. The matte coating and touch capability are added bonuses too.
Hardware and performance
This laptop comes with an ARM-based Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor. As stated before, I have very limited experience with Qualcomm processors with the exceptions of phones and tablets, so I’m a little out of touch on what this is equivalent to an Intel or AMD platform.
Bundled with my model is 16GB of LPDDR4x 4266Mhz RAM, which is soldered onto the mainboard. There are models that carry 32GB if needed, so choose wisely. Honestly though, unless you insist on having dozens of Chrome tabs open all the time along with other running programs in the background, I don’t think you’ll need more than 16GB. I don’t think the CPU can handle that many tabs efficiently anyways.
My model has 512GB of NVMe SSD space. Lenovo states that they will offer up to 1TB of disk space, if you want more. If you want even more than that, you’ll have to opt to upgrade it yourself, but keep in mind the SSD is the M.2 2242 variant. See my CrystalDiskMark results for the SSD speed.
Upgrade options are limited on this device. Popping open the back cover is easy, but once inside, you barely find anything to do. Most of the space is taken up by the battery. The main board is very small and has a heat pipe dedicated to cooling the CPU.
There’s also a second heatpipe that is removable, which covers the half-sized M.2 2242 SSD and the LTE cards. Everything else is soldered, so unless you want to update that SSD, you probably won’t open this thing at all.
For general use, I grade the performance as just ok. It’s not snappy by any means, as some programs are a little sluggish to open, if they even open at all. What I mean here is there are still some programs that are just not compatible with ARM processors. It’s a lot better than a few years ago and 100x better than 10 years ago, but it’s still a problem – especially with older legacy programs that haven’t been updated by developers on their end.
And it’s not like it tells you it’s not compatible. Sometimes it just doesn’t open at all. Cinebench R23 for example (one of my benchmarks) took a little while to open but it eventually worked. But the R15 of the same program did nothing after I clicked it. So you end up spending a lot of time clicking the icons over and over in hopes something will open, but never will.
So circling back to the actual real-use performance, I don’t want anyone to get any false expectations that this will have similar performance to CPUs from Intel or AMD. It’s basically only comparable to other
“fanless” laptop designs. Without a dedicated fan to remove heat, you’re really limited on how much wattage the CPU sustains. And that directly affects the performance.
But if all you’re doing is surfing the web and streaming, this thing is fine. In fact, I think of this laptop as the ultimate travel laptop, as it’s pretty much worry-free in terms of cooling, has a decent “standby mode”, and does all the things I’d normally do on a business or personal trip very well. But then again, so do most other laptops, so why not just get one of those instead? Good question to ask yourself.
One thing I wanted to point out as a weakness is if you shut the laptop down and boot it cold. In my testing, I found it takes a long time for this thing to boot and it’s super erratic too. One time I think it must have taken 3 minutes. This is not ok to me, but others may feel differently. The workaround was to simply just not shut it down. But then you’re just wasting battery life being on standby for no good reason. It’s a tradeoff for sure, but something that I think would be a little irritating to deal with long term.
Let’s get into the specifics of the performance now. Disclaimer – many of my usual benchmarks did not work, so there’s going to be limited data on comparing this laptop to perhaps say one with an Intel CPU.
The first round of tests were taken in Best Performance mode in Windows 11:
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2792 (Graphics – 2863, Physics – 9894);
3DMark 13 – Wild Life Extreme: 3012;
3DMark 13 – CPU Profile: Max-1963, 16T-1951, 8T-1950, 4T-1243, 2T-635, 1T-318
GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1118, Multi-core: 5890;
CineBench R23: CPU 3489 pts, CPU Single Core 576 pts;
I rechecked some of these readings in “Best Power Efficiency” mode. There are no fans so there’s little point in changing to a lower power mode unless the temperature of the laptop is bothering you somehow:
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2206 (Graphics – 2271, Physics – 6421);
3DMark 13 – Wild Life Extreme: 3089;
3DMark 13 – CPU Profile: Max-1971, 16T-1943, 8T-1630, 4T-997, 2T-512, 1T-318
GeekBench 5: Single-Core: 1118, Multi-core: 5807;
CineBench R23: CPU 2344 pts, CPU Single Core 558 pts;
I also took some benchmarks with a few games. See below for my results:
Skyrim (Ultra, FHD+) 45 fps avg, 28 fps low
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (HD+, low Preset, Hairworks Off) 25 fps avg, 17 fps low
Portal Reloaded (4k+) 60fps
This laptop is not meant for gaming. The GPU capability is low, and the CPU scores are low by today’s standard as well, about half the performance of the
i5-1230U in the XPS 13, which is a portable power=-limited design as well.
Overall, these findings pretty much validate my earlier comments: this is a laptop that should only be considered for light tasks and media consumption. I wouldn’t recommend it for anything more serious, mainly because there are just better options out here. The only reason to choose this over any Intel or Ryzen models is if you’re bent on having a fanless design.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
As stated before, there’s no fan on this unit at all.
Under the hood is a very large heatpipe that is probably designed to spread the heat load from the CPU onto the bottom of the laptop, similar to how it’s done with phones and tablets. The other smaller heatpipe is to keep the SSD and wireless modules under control.
I took some readings on the laptop both under typical use and under load. Typical use is pretty reasonable, even without a fan to keep it cool. But if you plan on doing heavy tasks on power for long-term use, you may want to consider not using it on your lap.
It is refreshing to know there are still some fanless options out there. The lack of fan noise is definitely worthwhile. The tradeoff of diminished performance might not be worth it for everyone, though.
The connectivity is very good on this model. Onboard there’s a Qualcomm Wifi 6e module that does a very good job with speeds and stable connections. I had no drops throughout my use and reached download speeds as high as 630Mbps from 25ft away from my router.
The Bluetooth 5.2 also worked well. I used wireless headphones a bit and also used a Bluetooth mouse to help with this review. Zero problems with either.
In addition to the Wifi, this unit also has a 4G LTE module, which in my test unit was hooked up to Verizon. The signal at my house sucks in general, so I didn’t get to use it much, even during the recent hurricane. But I did make a point to use it while at work, and I can say that it gets a decent signal even inside the building.
I don’t really have much of a comparison since I don’t have another 4G laptop to test it against. I do like this feature though, and I prefer it over wireless tethering, which always seems more sluggish. I consider the dedicated connection to be much more reliable than that, at least.
The speakers on the X13S are ok, but nothing to brag about. The main thing they got going for them is they are upward-facing. The sound quality is clear, but kind of tinny. The speakers clearly lack bass and it shows in my bass test where the sound practically disappears at 120Hz.
The speakers have an average loudness, topping out at 71dB(A) during my usual test song. It’s good enough in most environments, and it certainly helps not to have a fan to compete against.
The camera, on the other hand, is something to brag about. It’s an FHD shooter, so the image is pretty clear, especially in normal lighting. But even in extremely low light, I was surprisingly visible, as the light from my screen was enough to provide a decent picture. Impressive.
The camera is also Windows Hello enabled. It worked flawlessly for me and was my primary use for unlocking the computer. The only caveat to this is it was sometimes a little sluggish to register depending if the laptop was waking from sleep or booting cold. Not the camera’s fault though, that’s the CPU…
There’s also a fingerprint scanner that is integrated into the power button. I set this up, but never used it past my initial testing. It works just as it should though and is a good alternative to face unlock, if you don’t trust that.
This model only contains a 50 Whr battery. Makes sense considering the size of this thing. I took a series of battery life tests with the brightness at 60%, which is about 100 nits. Here were my results:
3.7 W (~13 h 31 min of use)– idle, Quiet mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi ON, backlighting off;
6.6 W (7 h 35 min of use)– text editing in Word with light internet use, better battery mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
7.4 W (~6 h 45 min of use)–1080p 60Hz Youtube fullscreen in Chrome, Quiet mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
7.1 W (~7 h 3 min of use)– 1080p Hulu fullscreen video in Chrome, Quiet mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
11.4 W (~4 h 23 min of use)– heavy browsing in Chrome, Optimized mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
22.3 W (~2 h 28 min of use)– Gaming – Witcher 3, Optimized mode, 60fps cap, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
These are actually pretty decent results. Of course battery life is going to be limited due to the size of the battery, but the efficiency is actually good for most of the tasks I was using it for.
Price and availability- ThinkPad X13s
The model I have on hand is currently priced at $1385 on Lenovo’s website. The crazy part is, that’s the sale price. MSRP is $2309 which is insane… Hopefully this “sale price” is the norm.
But you can get the same laptop without the 4G LTE module on Amazon for $1279.
Follow this link for updated prices and configurations at the time you’re reading the article. Unless you absolutely need cellular for constant connectivity, that’s probably fine for most.
There is a also $994 model on Lenovo that has 8GB of RAM and there are more expensive models that have more SSD space or more RAM. Just keep in mind that the RAM is soldered and the SSD is half-sized.
Final thoughts- Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
I’ve had quite some time with this Thinkpad X13s, but I still have mixed feelings about it.
On the positive side, it has great build quality a good keyboard, and a decent trackpad and touchscreen. I also like the fact that there is no fan noise – it’s a welcome absence.
But that alone comes at a cost, because while that Snapdragon CPU is completely silent, it isn’t as fast as I would like. And not only is it not as capable in processing power as Intel and AMD’s mainstream options, but is also not compatible with some Windows programs.
The slightly below-average speakers and the average screen just add to the reasons to avoid this laptop, because at this price point I would have expected at least the screen to be brighter or higher gamut. But still, neither of these options are bad.
So it really comes down to if you really want a fanless laptop. That’s the only draw to this device really, because otherwise, I would just recommend the
ThinkPad X1 Nano or the Dell XPS 13 or an equivalent ultrabook design. Some of those models can be more expensive, though.
All in all, I think the target audience for this laptop is the average content consumer. Perhaps someone who consumes a lot of media streaming and wants to do some light work on the road, but also have a quality laptop like the Thinkpad line. And all this without breaking the bank. If even a hint of you wants more speed though, or if you worry that you might need to use certain Windows programs, especially older ones, you’d be better off spending more on an Intel Thinkpad or searching through some of the other mainstream models to suit your needs.
That’s about all I can say about this one though. I’m a little overdue in returning this Lenovo ThinkPad X13s gen1 because of the hurricane, so I have to send it back tomorrow. But if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments section below.
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