Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Not quite a MacBook Air

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s

MSRP $1,301.00

“The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s lives as much as the Windows on ARM promise for battery life, but still lacks performance.”


  • Solid battery life
  • Quality display
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • 5G WWAN option
  • Attractive aesthetic


  • Performance lags Intel and Apple
  • Some flexing within the keyboard deck

Apple’s M1 remains to be sending shock waves through the industry. On one hand, the ThinkPad X13s is the Windows equivalent.

Its ARM-based chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, offers a number of the same advantages because the M1 or M2. It’s thin and light-weight, and the battery life is improbable. For some, that alone makes the ThinkPad X13s a sexy selection. But attributable to mediocre performance, it’s yet one more example of Windows on ARM laptops remaining a distinct segment option for most individuals.

Price and configurations

As usual, there’s a big discrepancy on Lenovo’s website between the retail price and the “sale” price. Right away, the entry-level ThinkPad X13s is $1,301 (retail $2,169) for a tool with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 CPU, 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM, a 512GB PCIe 4 SSD, and touch display. That’s a reasonably killer deal, especially for that configuration.

On the high end is a $1,571 (retail $2,619) configuration with the Snapdragon processor, 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM, a 1TB PCIe 4 SSD, the non-touch display, and 5G WWAN support. My review configuration was the entry-level model aside from adding 5G WWAN capabilities, which boosts the worth to $1,385.

I’m unaware of another business-class Windows on ARM laptops to match to the ThinkPad X13s. Within the more conventional Intel space, the Dell Latitude 7330 is a 13-inch laptop with the identical business features, and it’s dearer than the ThinkPad at its sale prices.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is one other larger laptop at 14-inches that gives the identical ThinkPad experience at barely higher prices. Finally, the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 offers an equally small and light-weight form factor with 5G connectivity, nevertheless it’s quite a bit dearer.


Lenovo ThinkPad X13s front angled view showing display and keyboard deck.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Have a look at the ThinkPad X13s from a distance and also you’ll immediately recognize it as a member of the road. It’s all black (Thunder Black, the truth is), has the red dot on the “i” within the ThinkPad logo on the lid (albeit without an LED) and on the palm rest, and the red TrackPoint nubbin stands out in the course of the keyboard.

Up close, though, its edges are more rounded than the everyday ThinkPad’s, and there’s a outstanding reverse notch at the highest of the display for the webcam and IR camera. These small changes make the ThinkPad X13s stand out by itself. It’s definitely more striking than the Dell Latitude 7330, which is boring by comparison.

The ThinkPad X13s is constructed of two materials, a magnesium-aluminum alloy within the lid and a glass fiber reinforced plastic within the chassis. I discovered the lid quite sturdy, together with the underside of the chassis, but there was some slight flexing within the keyboard deck. It wasn’t egregious, nevertheless it was enough to maintain the ThinkPad a step behind laptops just like the Dell XPS 13 Plus, HP Spectre x360 13.5, and MacBook Air M1 in overall rigidity. The hinge is sort of stiff, requiring two hands to open the lid, nevertheless it holds the display firmly in place.

Because of its lightweight materials, the ThinkPad X13s is one among the lighter laptops we’ve tested at 2.35 kilos. It’s also thin at 0.53 inches. The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 is lighter at 2.2 kilos, but thicker at 0.64 inches. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano can be lighter at 1.99 kilos, but not as thin at 0.55 to 0.66 inches. So, the ThinkPad X13s is among the many lightest laptops you may buy and its chassis is thin and compact overall.

Ports and connectivity

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s left side view showing ports.

lenovo thinkpad x13s review right side

Unsurprisingly, the laptop’s connectivity is sort of limited. There are two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports (no Thunderbolt 4 support attributable to the Qualcomm chipset), a 3.5mm audio jack, and an optional NanoSIM slot for WWAN versions. Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1, with 5G WWAN optional.


Lenovo ThinkPad X13s rear view showing lid and logo.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkPad X13s is built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 ARM processor, an eight-core CPU with 4 Cortex-A78 cores running at 2.4GHz and 4 Cortex-X1 Prime cores running at 2.95GHz. It’s the fastest processor Qualcomm has yet made for the PC and guarantees increased performance over previous generations. Its primary direct competition is Apple’s silicon, specifically the M1 and M2 CPUs which have provided class-leading performance in two iterations of the MacBook Air. Note that like Apple’s MacBook, the ThinkPad X13s is fanless and so completely quiet.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is undoubtedly faster than its previous generation, by 86% within the Geekbench 5 multi-core test and 55% within the single-core test. At the identical time, the Apple M1 is 59% faster than the ThinkPad X13s in single-core and 34% faster in multi-core, and the M2 is 77% faster in single-core and 59% in multi-core. The bottom-end Intel Twelfth-core CPU we’ve tested, the 15-watt 10-core/12-thread Core i5-1235U, is 44% faster in single-core and 30% faster in multi-core. AMD’s Ryzen chips for the reason that 5000 series have also been significantly faster.

In fact, that’s only one synthetic benchmark and doesn’t tell the entire story. Unlike in previous Windows on ARM generations, I used to be in a position to run our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265. In fact, that doesn’t mean that Handbrake is optimized for ARM. And indeed, the ThinkPad X13s took 505 seconds to finish the method, in comparison with the MacBook Air M2 at 151 seconds and the Core i5-1235U at 134 seconds. I also managed to run the Cinebench R23 video-rendering benchmark, and the ThinkPad X13s scored 593 in single-core and a pair of,221 in multi-core. That compares to the MacBook Air M2 at 1,600 and seven,938 and the Core i5-1235U at 1,668 and seven,671.

Clearly, Qualcomm has a technique to go before it catches up with Apple, Intel, and AMD. Even so, the ThinkPad X13s was fast enough during my testing for the same old productivity tasks. I could keep quite a couple of browser tabs open and run background apps like Outlook, Teams, and others with none noticeable hesitation. But I wouldn’t depend on the laptop for probably the most demanding workflows or creative tasks.

(single / multi)
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3)
1,087 / 5,643
HP Elite Folio
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2)
770 / 3,028
Lenovo Flex 5G
(Snapdragon 8cx)
700 / 2,802
Apple MacBook Air M1
(Apple M1)
1,727 / 7,585
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
1,925 / 8,973
Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 Chromebook
(Snapdragon 7c Gen 2)
599 / 1,718
Acer Aspire 5 2022
(Core i5-1235U)
1,565 / 7,352

The ThinkPad X13s wouldn’t run the 3DMark Time Spy test, our primary gaming synthetic benchmark. And I didn’t see a reason to try running Fortnite, our go-to game for integrated graphics. It’s doubtful that the Snapdragon GPU can play anything greater than the oldest titles (should they install and truly run) at low resolutions and graphics. And that’s OK because in no way is the ThinkPad X13s meant to be a gaming laptop.


Lenovo ThinkPad X13s front view showing display.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

In line with Lenovo, three displays can be found for the ThinkPad X13s, and so they are all 13.3-inch 16:10 WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS panels. There’s an antiglare 300-nit touch display, an antiglare 400-nit low power non-touch display, and a 300-nit non-touch display. My review unit used the latter panel, which appeared like a high quality display during my testing. Colours were dynamic and natural, the display was vivid enough for my usual working conditions, and blacks seemed true and never grayish.

Unlike with previous Windows on ARM laptops I’ve reviewed, the ThinkPad X13s supported my colorimeter. That’s significant since it shows the platform has expanded its peripheral driver support and the applications it would run. And in response to my colorimeter, the ThinkPad’s display is a solid productivity panel. It was vivid enough at 341 nits, above our 300-nit standard but lower than the opposite displays in our comparison group. Its contrast was high at 1,380:1, well above our 1,000:1 threshold for premium displays. Colours were on the premium laptop average at 100% of sRGB and 77% of AdobeRGB, with a color accuracy of DeltaE 1.12 (1.0 or less is taken into account excellent).

The ThinkPad X13s display is great for productivity employees and media consumers, nevertheless it doesn’t have quite the colour width for demanding creators.

Contrast sRGB gamut AdobeRGB gamut Accuracy DeltaE
(lower is best)
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
341 1,380:1 100% 77% 1.12
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
411 1,660:1 98% 76% 1.96
MacBook Air M1
389 1,130:1 100% 79% 1.39
MacBook Air M2
486 1,310:1 100% 90% 1.08
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
406 28,380:1 100% 95% 0.87

Two upward-firing speakers provide audio, one on all sides of the keyboard. They offered adequate volume during my testing, with clear mids and highs and the same old lack of bass. They’re adequate for YouTube and videoconferencing, but Netflix bingers and music listeners will wish to utilize some headphones.

Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam

Lenoov ThinkPad X13s top down view showing keyboard and touchpad.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Open the lid, and also you’ll find the familiar ThinkPad keyboard with large, sculpted keycaps and lots of key spacing. The switches were lighter than some ThinkPads I’ve tested, with a quick bottoming motion and a fast response that made for fast, comfortable typing. I’m not at all times an enormous fan of ThinkPad keyboards, sometimes finding them too stiff, but this one ranked up there with HP’s Spectre and Dell’s XPS keyboards. The layout is different from the everyday Windows 11 keyboard, following the ThinkPad pattern, including the left Fn and Ctrl buttons being swapped. There are several special function keys, including a pair for videoconferencing and one for opening Lenovo’s Business Vantage utility.

The touchpad is wider than on some ThinkPads, nevertheless it still loses some space to the buttons that service the TrackPoint nubbin. The touchpad glass surface is smooth and comfy and provides reliable support for Windows 11 multitouch gestures, and the button clicks are confident and quiet. The TrackPoint nubbin works in addition to at all times for anyone who prefers that control. The display on my review unit wasn’t touch-enabled, but there’s an option for a touchscreen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s front view showing webcam.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The webcam utilizes a 5MP sensor and is sort of high resolution, and Lenovo uses some AI features to calibrate the colour and brightness of the image no matter lighting conditions. There are alternatives for applying high dynamic range (HDR) to video and enabling automatic framing to maintain the user’s face in the middle of the image.

Finally, an infrared camera provides Windows Hello support via facial recognition, and there’s a fingerprint reader built into the recessed power button. Each passwordless login methods worked quickly and reliably.

Privacy and security

The keyboard features a dedicated key for shuttering the webcam, and there’s one other key for switching off the microphones.

The ThinkPad X13s is Microsoft Pluton ready, which suggests there’s a security processor embedded within the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 to guard against various threats and physical attacks. The laptop also includes Lenovo’s self-healing BIOS to get better the machine within the case of corruption or attack.

Battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s side view showing lid and ports.Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkPad X13s has 49.5 watt-hours of battery capability, which is an honest amount for a laptop with the ultra-efficient Qualcomm ARM CPU and a Full HD+ display. It’s lower than the Lenovo Flex 5G that is available in at 60 watt-hours but greater than the HP Elite Folio‘s 46 watt-hours.

Take the Flex 5G out of the equation, and I’d say the ThinkPad X13s did thoroughly in battery tests. It hit 11.75 hours in our web-browsing test that cycles through a series of demanding web sites and 19.5 hours in our video test that loops an area Full HD Avengers trailer. Those are strong results in comparison with most Intel laptops and promise all-day battery life after which some. The Elite Folio was close enough to the identical results. Nonetheless, the Flex 5G did significantly higher in each tests, greater than the rise in battery size would predict, making it the champ among the many Snapdragon 8cx machines we’ve tested. And the Apple MacBook Air laptops also did higher than the ThinkPad, each the M1 and M2 versions, although neither beat out the Flex 5G.

Even so, the ThinkPad X13s provided adequate battery life that it’s definitely worth the performance trade-off for those who don’t have demanding workflows. At the very least, that’s true in comparison with the Intel field. As with performance, the ThinkPad X13s doesn’t compete as strongly with Apple’s ARM CPUs.

that’s Web browsing Video
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3)
11 hours, 48 minutes 19 hours, 39 minutes
Lenovo Flex 5G
(Snapdragon 8cx)
17 hours, 17 minutes 27 hours, 57 minutes
HP Elite Folio
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2)
10 hours, 52 minutes 19 hours, 27 minutes
Apple MacBook Air M1
(Apple M1)
15 hours, 31 minutes 18 hours, 28 minutes
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
17 hours, 59 minutes 21 hours, 9 minutes
Acer Aspire 5 2022
(Core i5-1235U)
6 hours, 25 minutes 10 hours, 41 minutes

Our take

All-day battery life? Check. At all times-connected web? Check. Excellent performance? Not a lot. That just about sums up the ThinkPad X13s and Windows on ARM generally. Qualcomm and Microsoft have made some strides, needless to say. The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is the fastest yet, and Windows on ARM supports more apps and drivers than before. Nevertheless it’s still nowhere near Intel, AMD, or Apple relating to an overall experience.

For the appropriate person, though, the ThinkPad x13s is a nicely portable laptop with great battery life. Everyone else should wait to see what’s coming next.

Are there any alternatives?

There are more 5G laptops available today than simply a yr or so ago, however the population of Windows on ARM machines remains to be somewhat small. The Lenovo Flex 5G is unavailable, however the HP Elite Folio can still be purchased. It’s not as fast, nevertheless it offers similar battery life and 5G connectivity. It’s also a captivating convertible 2-in-1 with a stunning look and a snug feel.

For those who’re primarily on the lookout for a skinny and light-weight laptop and are enamored of the ThinkPad brand, then the ThinkPad X1 Nano is a solid option. It’s one among the smallest and lightest laptops at just 1.99 kilos, offering solid productivity performance and battery life that rivals the ThinkPad X13s. It doesn’t provide 5G WWAN support, nonetheless.

Finally, the Apple MacBook Air M2 is a highly competitive alternative for anyone who doesn’t live for Windows 11 and doesn’t need 5G. It’s fast, incredibly well-built, has a few of one of the best battery life, and it’s one among the thinnest laptops at 0.44 inches.

How long will it last?

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is built well enough that it is best to expect years of service. It’s questionable whether the CPU will sustain with Windows on ARM’s development, but that continues to be to be seen. The industry-standard one-year warranty is disappointing on a ThinkPad.

Do you have to buy it?

Yes, for those who don’t need the fastest performance but want long battery life and 5G connectivity. The ThinkPad X13s is an important laptop for all but probably the most demanding users.

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