Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 Review
Available in both Intel and AMD flavors, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 is for organizations who want the classic ThinkPad experience without a premium price tag. This compact business laptop, which currently starts at $1,391.40 for the Intel version tested here, is a fine choice to populate large fleets where reliability and security are more important than ultralight carbon-fiber chassis or other C-suite bells and whistles. It's very good, but not quite as stunning as the multiple Editors' Choice award-winning ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
Plenty of ThinkPad, Not Much Weight
The ThinkPad X13 comes in either traditional clamshell or 2-in-1 convertible (X13 Yoga) varieties. We liked both versions of the first-generation X13, but we noted that it was essentially a rebadged version of 2019's ThinkPad X390, so it wasn't as fresh as its moniker might suggest. The X13 Gen 2, equipped with Intel's latest 11th Generation "Tiger Lake" processor and the newly fashionable 16:10 instead of 16:9 screen aspect ratio, is more modern.The X13 Gen 2 clamshell seen here has a 13.3-inch, 1,920-by-1,200-pixel display and a quad-core Core i5-1135G7 CPU, as well as 8GB of memory and a 256GB solid-state drive. If you think those are rather anemic specs for a $1,400 laptop, you're right. Our AMD-based but otherwise similarly equipped ThinkPad X13 Gen 1 had a starting price under $1,000 when it went on sale last year. In a sign of the post-pandemic silicon shortage, the entry-level model of the Gen 2 reviewed here is currently not listed for sale online, and there's no indication of when it might be back in stock. But when it does become available, we expect the price to be lower.Our Experts Have Tested 147 Products in the Laptops Category This YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)(Photo: Molly Flores)
The least expensive model currently for sale increases the storage and memory amounts to 16GB and 512GB, respectively, while keeping the same Core i5 processor. That represents a much better value for the asking price, though it's currently back-ordered for more than four months. Pricing varies depending on how many laptops you order and your relationship with Lenovo. Significant (and confidential) further discounts could be possible, along with earlier delivery dates.
Regardless of how much RAM and storage you select, you get more than just a run-of-the-mill Core i5 notebook. The X13 Gen 2 has nearly everything that businesses have come to expect from modern ThinkPads, especially the reliability and manageability features. For starters, the chassis has been significantly redesigned, resulting in a slimmer size that still feels eminently sturdy if not particularly thin.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021)$1,813.34See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Review4.0Excellent
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano$1,439.99See It at AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Review 4.0Excellent
Dell Latitude 7320 2-in-1$1,559.00 See Itat DellRead Our Dell Latitude 7320 2-in-1 Review 4.0Excellent
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2$909.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 Review 4.0Excellent
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga$1,845.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga Review (Photo: Molly Flores)
Thinner top and bottom bezels accentuate the new 16:10 screen aspect ratio, which is a bit taller to let you see slightly more of a web page or document with less scrolling. ThinkPads that occupy the tiers below the svelte X1 Carbon have often seemed chunky; the newly slimmed X13 Gen 2 bucks that trend. The smaller chassis also trims system weight to just 2.78 pounds, comfortably below the 3-pound mark that we consider to be the ceiling for ultraportable laptops. The slimming feat is less impressive when you consider that the X1 Carbon has a 14-inch screen and weighs even less (but costs much more). The ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 is also a bit thick, measuring 0.7 by 12 by 8.6 inches (HWD). Even the more affordable ThinkBook 13s, like the Carbon, is only 0.59 inch thick.
Plenty of Ports
In return for accepting a slightly thicker chassis, Lenovo gives you more input and output options. These include two rectangular USB Type-A ports and two USB-C ports, each of the latter supporting Thunderbolt 4 speeds. There's also a full-sized HDMI video output and a 3.5mm audio jack, something that some more expensive ultraportables lack.(Photo: Molly Flores)
One of the USB-C ports is recessed into a receptacle on the X13 Gen 2's left edge that also holds Lenovo's proprietary ThinkPad Ethernet port. You can't plug a full-sized Cat 5 cable into it, but it does connect to side-mount ThinkPad docks for easy transformation into a desktop workstation. Some other premium ThinkPads, such as the X1 Nano, lack docking-compatible ports.(Photo: Molly Flores)
As for wireless connectivity, you get the cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6E standard as well as Bluetooth 5.2. There are also optional 4G and 5G LTE modems, compatible with either a nano SIM or an eSIM. And IT departments with strict user access control protocols can outfit the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 with an optional SmartCard reader or a fingerprint reader built into the keyboard.
Refined, Matte-Finish Display
While Windows 10 offers robust touch support, many businesses use specialized apps that aren't optimized for touch screens, so our review unit's non-touch panel might suit them better. What it lacks for in touch capabilities, the display makes up for in color accuracy and the ability to reduce glare. Despite having a backlight rated for an unremarkable 300 nits (it actually registered 346 nits in our testing), the matte finish does a superb job at overpowering any reflections caused by ambient light. As for color accuracy, we found that the screen can display the entire sRGB gamut and more than 75% of the more comprehensive Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 palettes, which is impressive though not unusual for a premium business laptop.
If you'd prefer a touch screen or an integrated privacy filter, Lenovo offers those options for the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 as well. All are 16:10 displays with 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolution; there's no option for a higher-resolution QHD or 4K display as there is on the X1 Carbon. Thankfully, the lower-resolution, washed-out 1,366-by-768 base display of the X13 Gen 1 is history.(Photo: Molly Flores)
You also have a choice of webcams for the thin bezel above the screen. The base model we tested has a run-of-the-mill 720p camera, which makes for slightly grainy video even when the subject is brightly lit. The upgraded option is a 1080p webcam that offers both higher image quality and IR sensors that let you log into your Windows account via face recognition without typing a password, assuming your IT security policy allows it.
The 1080p webcam can also be fitted with a proximity sensor that automatically wakes the laptop from sleep when it detects your presence. This feature is available on several other business laptops from Lenovo, HP, and Dell, but unless you're able to log in with face recognition, it's of limited use. All three camera options feature sliding privacy shutters, which is a nice touch.
Reassuring ThinkPad Typing Comfort
Typing comfort was once paramount on any ThinkPad, although Lenovo has experimented in recent years with shallower, less comfortable keyboards on thin models like the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga. Typing purists will be glad to find none of those experiments on the X13 Gen 2, which offers a version of the classic, finger-pleasing keyboard that has graced ThinkPads for decades.(Photo: Molly Flores)
The supremely comfortable key switches don't wobble and provide generous travel distance. The keyboard layout is also familiar, with set-apart, inverted-T arrow keys and a Fn key at lower left. The keyboard is backlit and includes Lenovo's iconic red TrackPoint pointing stick for users who prefer that cursor control option.
The clickable touchpad is also comfortable. Over the course of several days' testing, I found it to be more accurate than other ThinkPad touchpads I've used in the past.
Audio quality from the front-facing speakers is adequate for videoconferencing, but not for enjoyable music listening or video watching. The speakers support Dolby Audio, but I found bass to be rather lacking while listening to music.
Configuration Options: Slim Pickings
In contrast to archrival Dell, which offers extensive configuration options for the Latitude 7320, Lenovo currently has just two ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 configurations available. Both have quad-core Core i5 processors, but our Core i5-1135G7 lacks Intel's vPro remote management support, which only enterprise IT departments typically care about. It's more than sufficient for everyday business tasks, as I found our review unit suffered from no lags or sluggishness during testing. Somewhat less favorably, I also found the X13's cooling fan to be frequently audible. It was sometimes annoyingly loud, even when the laptop was idle.(Photo: Molly Flores)
While you can't currently upgrade to a Core i7 CPU, you can step up to the Core i5-1145G7 with vPro support. That configuration also comes with the upgraded 1080p face recognition webcam. All versions come with a one-year warranty with mail-in hardware support, but many other warranty periods and support options are available, though coverage upgrades added after your initial purchase can cost as much as 30% more. Lenovo offered more extensive configuration options for the first-generation ThinkPad X13, and we expect it will do so for this model later this year.
Testing the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2: Core i5 Gets the Job Done
Despite having a Core i5 instead of i7 processor, the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 benchmarks reasonably well against competitors like the Latitude 7320 and 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro. It also does well against the ThinkBook 13s and ThinkPad X1 Carbon, useful alternatives that are one rung below and above it in Lenovo's business laptop lineup respectively. Here are the basic specs of the systems compared here.
In comprehensive benchmarks like PCMark 10 and Geekbench, the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 posted excellent results grouped closely with its competitors. The main PCMark 10 test simulates a wide range of activities from office productivity tasks to demanding work with digital media; scores above 4,000 points are excellent. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Our PCMark 10 storage and Geekbench tests perform similar measurements, but isolate how the SSD and CPU respectively contribute to performance.
In more demanding content creation workflows such as transcoding video with the HandBrake app, editing images in Adobe Photoshop, and rendering a 3D image with Maxon's Cinebench, the ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 performed respectably compared with its Windows competitors, though the MacBook Pro sped ahead in Cinebench and HandBrake thanks to its potent M1 processor. That isn't a major mark against the X13, since everyday business tasks typically don't involve those types of workflows.
Neither do they involve gaming, which is a good thing judging by the relatively lackluster results the X13 posted in our 3DMark and GFXBench gaming simulations. The Core i5-1135G7's Iris Xe silicon handles basic video output capably, but this integrated GPU is no match for one of the discrete graphics chips that gaming laptops typically offer.
Battery Life: All Day and Then Some
The ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 lasted for more than 19 hours in our video rundown test, which involves playing a locally stored 720p video file at 50% screen brightness (with Wi-Fi and the keyboard backlight off) until the battery is exhausted. This is a bit less demanding than a full workday of web browsing and document editing would be, but still suggests that you won't need to plug in very often.
The ThinkPad X13's battery rundown time essentially matched that of the X1 Carbon and was significantly longer than what the ThinkBook 13s and Latitude 7320 had to offer.
A Serious ThinkPad for Serious Work
The ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 is what every business should expect from a ThinkPad. What it lacks in cutting-edge features like 4K resolution or an impossibly thin and light chassis, it makes up for in typing comfort, competent performance, and long battery life. This isn't a business laptop to impress C-suite executives, but it's a great laptop to run the rest of the business on.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a better choice for businesses with deeper pockets, while it's hard to beat the performance of the Apple M1 processor in the MacBook Pro. For every other organization whose IT department is looking for a compact workhorse, the X13 Gen 2 is a fine choice.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 24.0 See It$1,359.74 at AmazonBase Configuration Price $1,391.40Pros View MoreConsThe Bottom Line
A first-rate, slightly cheaper alternative to flagship ThinkPads, Lenovo's ThinkPad X13 Gen 2 is a slim, good-looking business ultraportable that meets the IT requirements of large enterprises.Like What You're Reading?
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