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Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: The suitcase superhero

A powerful machine for any business use, with a dated but sturdy design

Price
£1,332 exc VAT
  • Eminently portable
  • Powerhorse for business tasks
  • Incredibly quiet
  • Slightly awkward keyboard
  • Bad microphone
  • Poor colour accuracy

The word 'ThinkPad' is indelibly linked to work laptops. Having recently celebrated its thirtieth birthday, the brand has maintained its pedigree – and instantly-recognisable design – to an impressive degree throughout the years. 

Available in a number of price brackets, from lower-end laptops like the L14 to the high-performance watermarks of the X1 Carbon Gen 10 and Z16 Gen 1, Lenovo offers the full breadth of business laptop experiences across the ThinkPad range. 

The ThinkPad X13s sits somewhere in the middle of the price scale, comfortably outpacing its cheaper siblings on factors such as portability and power, whilst losing out on premiums available in more expensive models such as a truly colour-accurate display. At £1,332 it's a little on the pricey side for these omitted features, but as a business laptop, you'd be hard-pressed to find a portable machine that can go toe to toe on the X13s' performance.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Design

Imagine a ThinkPad, any ThinkPad. The simple, black and red design is one of only a few constants in computing and has seen off the rise and fall of several competitors, and Lenovo has reproduced this more or less without change here.

It's more of a mixed bag than one might expect. True, the laptop is made entirely of plastic and therefore lacks the premium feel achievable through the brushed metal of Macbooks, or even the combination plastic-metal of other workhorse laptops on the market. Despite this, however, the build generally ends up feeling more like a feature than a flaw – the brick of laptops is back, and confident enough in its power to not require the bells and whistles of its more showy competitors.

In terms of portability, you would be hard-pressed to find a better power-to-weight ratio. The ThinkPad X13s is shockingly light at 1.06kg – so much so that when we received our review unit, there was a moment's panic that the box only contained packaging and a wayward charger. It would certainly be no issue to transport the ThinkPad X13s to and from the office, and given its small profile, it's a perfect companion for working from a train or plane table.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Display

Adding to this portability is the ThinkPad X13s' rather dinky 13.3in display, which keeps the overall size profile of the laptop low while remaining larger than your standard tablet. Its 1920 x 1200 resolution 16:9 aspect ratio does feel a tad outdated but is nevertheless fine for displaying docs, PowerPoint and sheets. No one could call it the brightest screen in the world, coming in at a peak of 316 cd/m², but it's decent and more than enough to get the job done in a reasonably bright room. The ThinkPad X13s' anti-glare finish pays dividends here, as it helps the screen stay distraction-free.

Where the ThinkPad X13s registers a little disappointingly is its colour accuracy. Although it's 99.0% accurate for sRGB coverage, it's only able to replicate Adobe RGB colours with a relatively poor 71.7% accuracy. This discounts the X13s from any colour-sensitive work such as video editing, graphic design, or colour grading, a disappointing weakness that holds the device back from being a truly remarkable laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Keyboard and touchpad

One would hope that a business laptop would be, first and foremost, comfortable to type on and the ThinkPad X13s mostly delivers on this front. The keys themselves provide a satisfying feel while remaining easy to press. Given that the entire width of the laptop is the width of a Macbook Pro keyboard, one might expect typing on the ThinkPad X13s to be a trying experience, but one adapts to it quickly.

A point of irritation, however, is Lenovo's trademark TrackPoint centre button. Though a beloved feature for many, and no doubt handy for those well-versed in the somewhat archaic practice of using the short red nub as a tool for scrolling through webpages and documents, it will be an unwelcome addition to the keyboard for a great many more users. Another grievance to register is the bizarre placement of the function key in the lower left corner, which is the case on Apple keyboards but not a Windows mainstay, and sure to confuse the muscle memory of Windows-centric users.

In a best-case scenario, users would be given a choice between equally-responsive TrackPoint and trackpad. Although the smooth plastic of the ThinkPad X13s' trackpad is pleasant to the touch, it does not provide the precision one might expect on a laptop at this price point. Nimble enough for flicking across the screen, at slower speeds (as one might find necessary if doing precise graphical work) it is quite inaccurate and slow.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Specs and performance

The ThinkPad X13s is a capable machine that provides enough power for any business tasks you throw at it. 16GB RAM is more than enough memory for most medium-intensity use cases, and the octa-core 3.0Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx on board is a nifty processor that manages good speed and multi-tasking capabilities.

Under IT Pro's in-house performance benchmarks, the ThinkPad X13s scored 135 for overall computing, a decent score that proves it can handle a range of tasks. Those seeking to perform intermediate business tasks on this device should run into no issues, as it can handle a large number of browser tabs with no issues, and could render or compress video at reasonable speeds. This is particularly noteworthy given the aforementioned portability of the ThinkPad X13s, which combined with its power makes it something of a suitcase superhero.

With a 256GB SSD, the ThinkPad X13s also proves speedy in its file transfer, though its smaller capacity could encourage those working with larger files to purchase an external hard drive.

A point of particular note for the X13s is the sound it makes when it's running intensive tasks – or rather, the lack of it. This machine remained whisper quiet during all the benchmarks we threw at it, a far cry from the jet engine scream elicited from some high performance laptops when they're under strain. This could come in particularly handy for quiet shared workspaces, or for completing sound-sensitive tasks on the laptop such as audio recording.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Battery life

In our tests, the battery lasted for 9hrs 40min, a pretty good result that nevertheless raises questions around Lenovo's claims that it can provide a whopping 28hrs of 1080p playback. 

True, most people won't use a laptop for too long without finding a plug and topping up the battery, but there are situations (such as doing work on a transatlantic flight) in which a better battery life can make or break a workers' productivity, and falling short in this category is a shame for a laptop that is otherwise such a travel companion.

That having been said, this is more than enough for a full day in the office and implies that even under heavier workloads it could carry a user through their commute home without conking out. One does wonder what exactly is drawing on the battery to this extent, given that it has neither a 4k panel nor a wild thermal draw.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Ports and features 

On one side of the ThinkPad X13s, you'll find two USB-C ports. On the other, an aux cord, an (optional) SIM card slot, and a Kensington security lock slot. That's it. The lack of a USB-A port is far from a dealbreaker in this age increasingly dominated by cloud storage and USB-C devices, but it does rule out the use of older peripherals unless you have an adaptor to hand. The really disappointing omission is that of a thunderbolt port, which could have elevated this device's lifecycle with regard to peripherals.

The ThinkPad X13s proudly carries Dolby Audio on its body, but you wouldn't know it from its speakers, which are pretty good without standing out in their class. The inclusion of a fingerprint sensor and Windows Hello facial recognition is welcome and provides an extra layer of security to protect whatever files a business user may keep on their laptop.

Happily, the webcam reproduces quite a good image, which might be expected from a work laptop in a world more than ever led by video calls. The same cannot be said for the microphone on the ThinkPad X13s, which is relatively poor in comparison to other laptops in its class. In our video call testing, the input volume repeatedly peaked at speaking volume and favoured bass unpleasantly. Indeed, an external microphone would be a welcome addition to this laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Verdict

Overall, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is a capable piece of kit and quite a solid addition to the ThinkPad family. As an all-around work laptop, there's a lot to be said about its extremely low weight, small size profile and incredibly quiet fans, which make it a clear contender for any roving tech worker. Impressively, it manages this without sacrificing power, having come in swinging in the benchmarks with a very respectable power score to indicate that it could handily tackle most tasks thrown at it in day-to-day use.

Nevertheless, there are a few standout disappointments, such as the low colour accuracy and microphone quality, which hold it back from being a true all-rounder. Work that requires good Adobe colour accuracy is not rare, and microphone quality seems an easy win that was somehow skipped here.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s  specifications

Screen resolution

1,920 x 1,200

Screen type

IPS anti-glare

Touchscreen

No

Memory card slot

Yes

3.5mm audio jack

Yes

Graphics outputs

1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2

Other ports

1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 power in

Web Cam

5MP webcam with privacy e-shutter

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6E

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5.1 and above

NFC

No

Dimensions, mm (WDH)

206.4 x 298.7 x 13.4mm

Weight (kg) - with keyboard where applicable

1.06kg

Battery size (Wh)

49.5Wh battery

Operating system

Windows 11 Pro

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