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Lenovo ThinkPad X13s: A Premium Laptop That Doesn't Make You Afraid of Running Out of Battery When Used

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
 Lenovo ThinkPad X13s: A Premium Laptop 

The ThinkPad X13s laptop from Lenovo, announced at MWC in February, is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon8cx Gen 3 system on-chip (SoC). This chip is also the basis of Microsoft's SQ3 (as seen in the Surface Pro 9 with 5G). The 13.3-inch fanless ThinkPad X13s runs Windows 11 on Arm (Home and Pro), and weighs just over a kilogram. It is intended for 'hybrid worker, global traveler, field technician and front-line workers'. It offers 5G connectivity (including mmWave), and claims a battery life of more than 24 hours.

Windows on Arm devices have not been popular due to the lack of compatibility issues and other advantages. Things are changing. Windows 11 now supports x64 emulation and Microsoft recently released Windows Dev Kit 2023, also known as. Project Volterra is a mini-PC powered by the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor. It's designed to allow developers to create native Windows 11 apps or transition existing x64 applications to the Arm platform.

Does this increase the appeal of Windows on Arm laptops such as the ThinkPad X13s enough? Let's see.

Design

The ThinkPad X13s is no exception to this tradition. The chassis is made from magnesium-aluminium and GFRP (top) and bottom (bottom). It is Thunder Black in colour. There is branding on the lid, wrist rest, TrackPoint embedded in keyboard and three buttons above it. The majority of the magnesium used in this chassis, 97% of the speaker enclosure plastic, and 90% of the packaging are either recycled or sustainable, according to Lenovo.

It is a 13.3-inch clamshell notebook (there is no 2-in-1 flexibility and the lid doesn’t even open 180 degrees for a flat desk position) that measures 298.7mm in width, 206.4mm in depth, and 13.4mm thick (11.76in. 8.13in. x 0.53in. They weigh in at 1.06kg (2.35lbs). The Dell XPS 13 is slightly smaller (295.4mm x 199.4mm x 13.99mm/11.63in). x 7.85in. x 0.55in. However, it is slightly heavier (1.17kg/2.59lbs).

The 16:10 IPS screen is contained within slim bezels. A slightly protruding communications bar lies above the display, which houses the 5MP webcam (IR equipped in our review unit) as well as the triple microphone array. The communications bar provides a convenient way to open the lid from your point of purchase. The screen-to-body ratio was measured at an acceptable 83.1%.

As you would expect from a ThinkPad keyboard, it is well-made and spill-resistant. The keyboard is flanked with speaker grilles, has some reduced-height and reduced-width keys. However, the feel and action were good for me. Others, especially those with larger hands may not agree. Half-height Fn key rows include keys to toggle the microphone and webcam on and off. This will be very useful during video calls. The touchpad is small and compact, so you'll get the Lenovo trademark red trackpoint with three buttons.

Some models have a fingerprint reader located on the power button right between the keyboard and screen, but it wasn't for our review unit. Instead, we used the IR webcam to authenticate ourselves and Windows Hello.

You can only connect to the laptop via two USB-C ports (3.2 Gen 2) on the left. One of these will be used for charging, while the other one will be used for audio input/out and a Nano-SIM slot on the right. Thunderbolt 4 support is not available and there's no HDMI connector. Some users may need a USB hub.

Six screws can be removed from the ThinkPad X13s to access its internals. The bottom cover can also be removed. However, there are very few upgrade options. Our first review unit arrived without Wi-Fi or access to the webcam. We tried to get inside it. The second unit was flawless. Despite its slim and lightweight design, the ThinkPad X13s has been MIL-STD-810H-tested. It should be able to withstand the demands of a professional mobile work environment.

Features

The latest Snapdragon 8cx Generation 3 SoC from Qualcomm powers the ThinkPad X13s. It has 8 Kyro CPU cores (4 efficiency, 4 performance) and an Adreno 690 graphics card. The RAM is soldered to the motherboard and cannot be upgraded. It comes in eight, sixteen, or 32GB capacities. The 16GB RAM in our review unit was accompanied by 256GB M.2 2442 PCIe SSD storage (512GB or 1TB capacities).

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 supports wireless connectivity. It supports Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax at 6GHz, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz), and Bluetooth 5.1. 5G via an X55 modem is also supported by the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3. You can choose to access a physical SIM card, or an eSIM. This model is available in sub-6GHz or mmWave frequency band support. The sub-6GHz version was the one we reviewed. The ThinkPad X13s can also be purchased without 5G support. Make sure to specify what you require -- or are likely -- at the time of purchase. This is not an upgrade option.

Three screen options are available for all IPS panels with WUXGA (1920 x1200) resolution. Non-touch is at 300 nits, 400 nits with lower energy consumption and EyeSafe certification. Multi-touch is at 300 nits and has a 1000 to1 contrast ratio instead of 1500:1. There's also 72% NTSC colour gamut support. The viewing angles are 170 degrees across the board. The 300 nits screen was used in our review unit. It is not suitable for outdoor use, but it works well indoors.

Apart from the biometric authentication methods mentioned earlier, the ThinkPad X13s also includes internal security features like a discrete, TPM 2.0 chip, Microsoft’s Pluton TPM Architecture running on the Snapdragon 8cx Generation 3's SPU (Secure Processing Unit), and a self healing BIOS.

Performance and battery life

It is expected that Qualcomm's flagship SoC on Windows on Arm will deliver an increase in performance over its predecessor. Either way, it's on par with Microsoft Surface Pro 9's SQ3 chip. Apple's M2 chip, which is found in the 13.6-inch MacBook Air, is far ahead of other Arm-based ultraportable platforms.

We normally use PCMark 10 to test the performance of mainstream applications at this stage, but despite improvements in app compatibility and Windows 11, this benchmark wouldn't run on the ThinkPad X13s. However, we were able to test that the performance of Microsoft Office apps when creating documents, browsing the internet with Edge browser, using video-conferencing applications, and running YouTube videos was acceptable as long as there weren't too many concurrent tasks.

The Lenovo ThinkPad 13s' Adreno 690 GPU is not capable of rendering high-quality graphics. It's far behind the integrated Iris Xe Graphics on the 14-inch Huawei MateBook X Pro (Core i7-powered).

This laptop is not suitable for running games or any other graphically demanding applications. The GPU performance is sufficient for most mobile productivity tasks.

Lenovo claims that the ThinkPad x13s' 49.5Wh battery can provide up to 28 hours of 1080p video playback. Our tests didn't show that the ThinkPad x13s could run for more than 7 hours with continuous heavy loads and 18.5 hours while idling.

The ThinkPad X13s's battery life is somewhere in the middle of these extremes. This beats the 8.5 hour recording for the MateBook X Pro 14-inch Core i7-powered Huawei MateBook X Pro but it doesn't compare to the 15.8 hours of video playback by the M2 MacBook Air.

The ThinkPad X13s is powered by a sufficiently low-power processor, which allows for a fanless design. This ensures quiet operation. Under heavy loads, passive cooling can lead to overheating and CPU throttling. We noticed that the laptop got warm after we ran 3DMark tests for about half an hour. There are also performance limitations.

Conclusions

The ThinkPad X13s from Lenovo is a lightweight Windows on Arm ultraportable that's compact and light. It is likely to be the best example of its type. It is well-built and supports 5G, with long battery life. This will appeal to mobile professionals of all types.

Potential buyers should be aware of some issues. First, despite better x86 emulation many existing Windows apps won't run on Arm -- including many popular Adobe apps.

If your goals are not beyond the (Arm-compatible), mainstream productivity apps, performance is sufficient. However, the ThinkPad X13s has many other options that may be worth looking at.

Prices for the ThinkPad X13s are starting at $969 for Windows 11 home, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD storage, a 300-nit non-touch screen, an IR webcam, and no 5G. You'll pay $1,711 for Windows 11 Pro with 32GB RAM, 1TB storage and an IR webcam.

The Dell XPS 13 is a well-respected model with Windows 11 Home. It has 8GB RAM, 512GB storage and an FHD+ touchscreen. This deal saves $250 on the list price. The price for Windows 11 Pro is $1,659. It comes with a Core i7 processor and 32GB RAM, 1TB storage, and a touch screen. You'll also notice that there is no 5G.

Apple's 13.6 inch M2 MacBook Air is another ultraportable option, and it delivers a superior combination performance and battery life, as we have seen. It starts at $1199 with an 8 core GPU, 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. This goes up to $2499 with a 10-core GPU and 24GB RAM, and 2TB storage. There is no touch-screen option here, nor 5G.

You can get 5G if you need it. The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 currently has Windows 11 Pro with a Core i5-1235U CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage and a 13.5-inch WUXGA+ (1920x1280 screen) and 5G for $1.516 ($3,032 discount).


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