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Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (2017) review:

All the laptop you need -- and nothing more

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Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (black)

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The Good The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 has a durable design with an excellent keyboard. It has a fingerprint reader, many ports and solid battery life. There's a decent variety of upgrade options.

The Bad It has a girthy design, and the keyboard isn't backlit.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 isn’t going to turn any heads, but it’s a fine budget laptop for simple needs and features a solid keyboard.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Battery 7.0

Last year's Lenovo ThinkPad 13 was a budget-friendly standout, and its predecessor is no different. The next-generation model features a modest spec upgrade and, more importantly, an attractive price cut.

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 starts at  $550 (£470, AU$1,330) (though it's on sale right now on Lenovo's website for as low as $494), which is a great price for a simple, durably built notebook for basic activities. (It's also available in a Chromebook version that can be found online starting at about $400.)

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The ThinkPad 13 keeps it sweet and simple.

Josh Miller/CNET

The specific model we tested had a Intel Core i3-7100U processor, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, Intel HD Graphics 610 and 128GB SSD, for a total of $656.

Not just for business

Made for business, the ThinkPad 13 also works well for casual personal use, daily office tasks and school work. It's small dimensions are portable enough for a daily commute, or taking from the home office to the coffee shop, although it's not exactly lightweight at 3.17 pounds (1.44kg).

I wouldn't call it fashionable by any means, but instead of style it has durability. Its all-plastic body, available in silver and black is (according to Lenovo) built to pass 12 military specification tests, including extreme temperatures, vibration and shock. That's impressive for any laptop, let alone an affordably priced one.

The ThinkPad 13's keyboard remains one of its biggest selling points, because Lenovo invests so much in keyboard testing and design. Keys give a firm response with each press, and it has physical left, center and right mouse buttons below the spacebar. The center button can be programmed for scrolling or as a middle click. 

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The red button is called the TrackPoint.

Josh Miller/CNET

The keyboard is not backlit, however. In addition to a small touchpad, there's a little red nub in the middle of the keyboard (called the TrackPoint) that easily guides the cursor around the screen. TrackPoints were once popular as a touchpad alternative, but now are only found in a handful of retro-leaning machines like this.

The review unit we tested performed well when streaming video, browsing the web, checking email and working on documents. It started to slow down after having about 10-11 tabs open in Microsoft Edge, including a streaming video. It's underpowered for anything graphically intensive, so no hardcore Photoshopping or video editing. It's made for getting essential work tasks done, and for that it works just fine.

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