Lenovo's ThinkBook line splits the difference between its stylish consumer IdeaPads and strictly-business ThinkPads, offering small-business entrepreneurs a splash of both worlds in an affordable package. The ThinkBook 13x ($1,221 as tested, and in its base model) is the sleekest example, a 13.3-inch ultraportable that weighs a mere 2.5 pounds and is just half an inch thick. It's well built and designed, with comfortable input devices, punchy speakers, and a productive 2,560-by-1,600-pixel touch screen. But it falters in port selection, and its processing power, though peppy enough, is slightly below the class standard. That's why we prefer Lenovo's almost identical ThinkBook 13s Gen 2, which has neither of those issues and better battery life (though it's marginally heavier and thicker). Nevertheless, the ThinkBook 13x is still a respectable (and much less expensive) alternative to our current handful of Editors' Choice-award-winning ultraportables, including the Dell XPS 13 and the Razer Book 13.Our Experts Have Tested 131 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
The good (and bad) news if you're in the market for a 13-inch laptop (a conventional clamshell, not a 2-in-1 convertible) is that there's a surplus of choices. In addition to the ThinkBook 13x reviewed here, options from Lenovo alone include the IdeaPad S540, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2, the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2, and the ThinkPad L13 Gen 2. Other choices are the Asus ZenBook 13; Dell's Inspiron 13 (5310) and the pricier XPS 13; the HP Pavilion Aero; and the 13.5-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 4.(Photo: Molly Flores)
The ThinkBook 13x sets itself apart by being one of the most portable in that group. At 0.5 by 11.7 by 8.2 inches (HWD) and just 2.5 pounds, it's thinner and lighter than the pricier XPS 13 model 9310 (0.58 by 11.6 by 7.8 inches, 2.8 pounds). The Pavilion Aero is lighter (2.2 pounds) but significantly thicker (0.67 by 11.7 by 8.2 inches).(Photo: Molly Flores)
The ThinkBook's silver outsides contrast nicely with its gray keyboard and black screen bezels. The ThinkBook logo on the aluminum lid gives it a sense of identity.
The rest of the laptop is plastic, though it looks like metal. It's a classy look, and the laptop feels stiff and sturdy.
Port selection on the ThinkBook 13x is limited to just two Thunderbolt 4 ports (one used by the AC adapter) and an audio jack on its left edge—that's all. Lenovo includes a USB Type-C-to-HDMI and C-to-VGA adapter, but no USB-C-to-USB-A adapter.(Photo: Molly Flores)
Only the power button, which doubles as a fingerprint reader, occupies the right edge. A small backlit arrow next to the backspace key helps you find the button without craning your neck. Strangely, there's no security cable locking slot. An Intel AX201 card provides Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 connectivity.(Photo: Molly Flores)
By comparison, the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 has a more practical selection of HDMI, Thunderbolt 4, and two USB Type-A ports without being much thicker (0.59 versus 0.5 inch) or heavier (2.78 versus 2.5 pounds). The ThinkBook 13x also has less processing power than the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2: Though both are based on the Intel Evo platform, the ThinkBook 13x uses 15-watt instead of 28-watt processors. The quad-core, 1.8GHz (4GHz turbo) Core i5-1130G7 in our test unit isn't as high-clocked as the 2.4GHz (4.2GHz turbo) Core i5-1135G7 standard in the ThinkBook 13s Gen 2. Despite that, I found it offered plenty of pep for most tasks (benchmark results in a minute).
Taller 16:10 aspect ratio displays, which show a bit more content with less scrolling than 16:9 panels, are making a comeback in ultraportables like the ThinkBook 13x. Its screen offers 2,560-by-1,600-pixel resolution for fine detail without the battery-life drain of a 4K screen.(Photo: Molly Flores)
I measured a high peak brightness of 421 nits and a respectable 77% coverage of the Adobe RGB color gamut. The display's glossy surface creates reflections but works great for touch input.
The average-quality 720p webcam above the display lacks IR capability for face recognition, though it does have a sliding privacy shutter. For entertainment, the ThinkBook's Harman/Kardon-tuned speakers project nicely from under the chassis, provided the laptop is sitting on a solid rather than soft surface. The included Dolby Atmos app has meaningful equalizer presets and lets you customize your own if you like.
The ThinkBook 13x gets its keyboard from Lenovo's IdeaPad line. It's not as satisfying as a ThinkPad keyboard, but it still feels snappy despite limited key travel.(Photo: Molly Flores)
White backlighting, toggled by pressing the Fn key and spacebar, contrasts well with the gray keys. Meanwhile, the buttonless touchpad is superb. Its large, smooth surface has minimal play and quiet physical clicks. And if touchpads aren't your cup of tea, the ThinkBook 13x thoughtfully and unexpectedly comes with a stylish Bluetooth wireless mouse.
The $1,221 ThinkBook 13x tested here is the base model from Lenovo.com, with a Core i5-1130G7 CPU, Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, Windows 10 Pro, and a one-year warranty. (It was on sale for $1,048 for a time while I was writing this, then it reverted; when buying a Lenovo, always look for sales.) The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13 costs less but skimps with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. I also like that the ThinkBook's SSD is of the latest PCI Express Gen 4 variety, not an older Gen 3 drive.(Photo: Molly Flores)
When it comes to cooling, the ThinkBook 13x’s single fan (located at back left, facing the display hinge) ramps up frequently, especially while web surfing. That said, it's subdued rather than noisy, and it keeps the chassis cool top and bottom.
For our performance benchmarks, I compared the ThinkBook 13x to the business-grade Dell Latitude 7320 2-in-1 and Lenovo's ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 in addition to the consumer-focused Samsung Galaxy Book Pro and HP Pavilion Aero. The ThinkBook 13x has the weakest CPU of the bunch, though it may not hold it back everywhere. All of these machines emphasize everyday productivity, not powerhouse gaming or workstation applications.
Our first test is UL’s PCMark 10, which simulates a variety of real-world productivity and office workflows to measure overall system performance and includes a storage subtest for the primary drive. The ThinkBook 13x scored mid-pack in the main test and did especially well in the storage test, thanks to its PCIe Gen 4 solid-state drive.
Three other benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).
Our final productivity test is Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The ThinkBook 13x trailed in these tests because of its lower-wattage CPU, though its numbers suggest it has ample pep for most applications. The Pavilion Aero predictably led the pack with its eight-core AMD Ryzen processor, though as I noted it's a significantly thicker laptop.
We test Windows PCs' graphics with two gaming simulations. UL's 3DMark includes two DirectX 12 benchmarks, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for systems with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). The cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5 gauges OpenGL performance with its 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase animations, rendered off-screen to accommodate different resolutions.
The ThinkBook 13x was slightly behind here as it was in the CPU tests, but there's no sense in being too harsh since none of these ultraportables are by any stretch of the imagination gaming laptops. (See our feature on gaming with integrated graphics.)
PCMag tests laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) with screen brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100% until the system quits. Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting are turned off during the test.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its brightness in nits (candelas per square meter) at the screen's 50% and peak settings.
You can safely leave the ThinkBook 13x's power adapter at home for a day's venture to work or school. That said, its screen is unusually dim at the 50% brightness we use for battery testing; you'll likely find yourself setting it closer to its excellent 422-nit maximum, which will reduce battery life.
The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x is a capable ultraportable thanks to its lightweight design, productive 16:10 screen, and quality keyboard, touchpad, and speakers. It's reasonably priced and even comes with a Bluetooth mouse. But Lenovo might have shaved off a tenth of an inch too much from the similar ThinkBook 13s Gen 2, which has a better port selection and higher performance. Nonetheless, both ThinkBooks are worthy and economical alternatives to the premium-priced Dell XPS 13 and Razer Book 13.
Lenovo's trim ThinkBook 13x is an enticing-enough ultraportable for home offices and small businesses, though ultimately it's less practical than the company’s quite similar ThinkBook 13s Gen 2.
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