Budget laptops get no glory and ones made for business, even less so. But, they're the ones a lot of us buy for day-to-day tasks at the office, at home or at school, so when a good one comes around, you know it because it stands out from the crowd. The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is just that: a budget-friendly standout.
Starting at around $600 (AU$900, £360), the ThinkPad 13 might not go above and beyond for performance with its entry-level components. It's really the overall design -- including an excellent ThinkPad keyboard -- and features are better than you might expect, giving you something more than "good enough."
The ThinkPad 13 is also available as a Chromebook starting at less than $400, but around $550 configured with the same Core i3 processor and full HD display as the Windows system reviewed here.
Available in black or silver, the ThinkPad 13 isn't super thin or light, but at 0.8-inch thick (19.8 mm) and 3.2 pounds (1.4 kg), it's hardly a burden to travel with to and from the office or around campus. The top is covered with metal, but the rest is a durable plastic, and Lenovo says it's built to pass 12 military specification tests including humidity, high and low temperatures, vibration and shock. This is ruggedness you don't typically find in laptop at its price.
The full HD-resolution display (1,920x1,080 pixels) is also nice to have on a laptop at this size and price. However, if you opt for the black version, you get an HD 1,366x768-pixel resolution screen, the bonus being that it comes with a fingerprint reader absent from the silver version.
A big selling point for the ThinkPad 13 is it's keyboard which is one of the best keyboards you'll find on a budget business laptop. Or probably any budget laptop, really. If you spend much of your day typing, you want a keyboard that's comfortable and responsive and this is it. Laptops this thin usually don't offer much key travel and can feel mushy. But that's not the case here, with every key giving you a firm response with each press. The only drawback is that it's not backlit, but at least the keys are marked well.
The little red nub that is the ThinkPad TrackPoint works well for guiding your cursor around the screen, but is nearly flush with the keys. That makes it hard to find by touch alone, which had me looking down at my keyboard a bit more than I'd like. The TrackPoint does have its own left, center and right mouse buttons below the spacebar. The center button can be programmed for scrolling or as a middle click.