The affordable and durable Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is fine laptop for a budget price.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
It's HD touch screen is satisfactory for casually watching YouTube clips of Desus and Mero and typing on word documents late into the night, but I wouldn't recommend it for enjoying your favorite movies.
The matte finish helped reduce smudges when using the touchscreen. Color saturation and brightness aren't as vibrant for movie-viewing as more multimedia-friendly laptops. Viewing angles are decent, but it's 180-degree hinge saves the day. It ensures the screen can be adjusted to see clearly, no matter how you're sitting (or standing).
While customizable on Lenovo's website, any upgrade to the notebook inflates the cost. Upgrading to the fastest CPU, the 7th-gen Intel Core i5-7300U, costs an extra $300. For that kind of money, a better laptop, or even a second one, isn't far out of reach.
Another useful feature is the laptop's multitude of ports. Want to connect an external monitor, mouse and charge your phone? You can do all of that and more on the ThinkPad 13 without purchasing any separate dongles. It also has a Lenovo OneLink+ which works with the Lenovo OneLink+ dock.
Lenovo rates the battery life at up to 11 hours. In our CNET Labs battery streaming video test, it ran short of that at 8.5 hours. That's an improvement over last year's model, but still short compared to the LG Gram and the HP EliteBook x360, which both last around 11.5 hours.
The second-generation Lenovo ThinkPad 13 brings back the durable build, kick-ass keyboard and useful port assortment of the original model, with the addition of better battery life, faster CPUs and a fingerprint reader. It's a good deal for anyone interested in a simple and tough laptop for office or school work.
|Price as reviewed||$656|
|Display size/resolution||13-inch 1,920x1,080 touch display|
|PC CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U|
|PC Memory||4GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620|
|Networking||802.11ac Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)|
|Lenovo ThinkPad 13||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U; 4GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 128GB SSD|
|Asus Pro B9440U||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|HP EliteBook x360||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-6600U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch)||Apple MacOS Sierra 10.12.1; 2.9GHz Intel Core i5-6267U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel Iris Graphics 550; 256GB SSD|
|LG gram (13-inch, 2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD|