Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s (starts at $2,169; $2,309 as tested) is an ultraportable 13.3-inch work laptop with excellent battery life, 5G wireless, and a high-definition webcam. It is a mystery? The Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM processor is rarely seen in the Windows world. As we’ve seen in the past with ARM-based laptops, they had some app compatibility issues in our testing, so ARM-friendly apps are a must. Ultimately, though, the lack of physical connectivity, a heated (albeit quiet) chassis, and such a keyboard limit its practicality too much, and its non-sale price too high. (We’ve routinely seen this model for up to 40% off on Lenovo’s website.) Lenovo’s own ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 is more sophisticated, while the Dell XPS 13 is more stylish if you can live without 5G.


Windows 11 on an ARM processor

Apple has made great strides since adopting ARM processors, improving overall performance and battery life. (See the MacBook Air 2022, our favorite of the line.) On the Windows side, however, the rarity of ARM devices continues; The 2021 HP Elite Folio 2-in-1 was the last one we tested, following the Lenovo Flex 5G in 2020 and the Microsoft Surface Pro X tablet in 2019.

To summarize our conclusions for these devices, all of which are high-end models with four-digit price tags, they offered impressive or even unheard-of battery life and cellular connectivity, but were expensive, had few ports, and ended up being niche devices. It won’t spoil much to say that at least some of this applies to the ThinkPad X13s. But we cannot deny that the Windows-on-ARM situation has has improved somewhat from some earlier efforts. For example, the ThinkPad X13s uses a 64-bit version of Windows 11 Pro, although the application must still be ARM-compatible. Business IT looking to deploy ThinkPad X13s should know in advance whether the desired applications work.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chip in the ThinkPad X13s also promises performance improvements over earlier ARM devices we’ve tested. It’s basically two chips in one, a Kryo processor and an integrated Adreno GPU. The Kryo CPU has eight processing cores, a mix of high-performance and high-efficiency cores in the same vein as Intel’s 12th generation “Alder Lake” Core chips. In the performance section, we compare it to x86 notebooks.


X13s: Don’t confuse me with the ThinkPad X13!

Despite their almost identical names, the ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 and ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 are different laptops. They share a 13.3-inch 16:10 screen, the ThinkPad X Series’ signature magnesium shell, and a large touchpad with a rubber-headed UltraNav pointing stick, but that’s about it. (Yes, even the keyboard is different; more on that soon.)

But let’s consider the ThinkPad X13s independently. It’s one of the friendliest 13.3-inch models around, measuring 0.53 by 11.8 by 8.13 inches (HWD) and weighing just 2.35 pounds, lighter than even our all-time favorite Dell XPS 13 (0 .58 x 11.6 x 7.8 inches, 2). It’s also noticeably sleeker than the ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 (0.71 x 12 x 8.6 inches, 2.6 pounds).

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 cover

Unfortunately, chassis strength is a bit lacking; The ThinkPad X13s bends more than it should. The construction is still magnesium instead of plastic, but the work laptop should be stiffer. The thicker ThinkPad X13 is stiffer.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1

Oddly enough, the ThinkPad X13s keyboard doesn’t stick out either, with key travel too limited to provide the authoritative feedback that ThinkPad keyboards are well known for. The ThinkPad X13 has more key travel and does not suffer from this problem. (Disclaimer: I use a ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 as my daily driver, and I immediately noticed a difference in the keyboard.)

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 Keyboard

At least the ThinkPad X13s retains a productive, no-nonsense layout and highly visible two-level white backlighting. You also get the branded ThinkPad UltraNav pointing stick and three buttons. The buttonless touchpad glides well, though its clicks are on the stiff side. The speakers on both sides of the keyboard offer a surprisingly spacious sound.


Display: More practical with a 16:10 ratio

The ThinkPad’s 16:10 aspect ratio screen is taller than the 16:9 aspect ratio screens of the past, with a standard FHD+ resolution (1920 x 1200 pixels) providing plenty of screen space. Using our Datacolor SpyderX Elite, I measured 359 nits at maximum brightness and 79% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, both solid numbers. Anti-reflective surface minimizes reflections.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 display

Our unit’s screen doesn’t support touch input, but it’s an option. The 5-megapixel high-definition webcam above the display offers crystal-clear images much better than regular 720p webcams.

Unfortunately, the selection of ports along the edges is really minimal, only two USB Type-C ports and an audio jack. This might work, but be aware that one of the USB ports will be taken over by the included power adapter when you need it. The USB ports are also 3.2 Gen 2, not Thunderbolt 4 as expected at this price point, which rules out the use of a Thunderbolt dock.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 Left EdgeLenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 Right Edge

Wireless connectivity, on the other hand, is strong, with standard Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1. Our test unit also has the optional Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Sub 6 cellular connectivity. Note: Lenovo’s base model X13s lacks it.


Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Testing: Powerful ARM-ing It

The $2,309 ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 tested here has an octa-core 3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor, integrated Qualcomm Adreno 690 graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD with Windows 11 Pro 64bit, and a one-year warranty. . There are several configuration options; higher-end models come with 32GB of RAM (which cannot be upgraded after purchase, as it is LPDDR4X-4266).

By contrast, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 offers a 12-core Intel Core i5-1240P processor for similar money (again, often discounted list price), though at that price it doesn’t include cellular connectivity (and only offers 4G) and a 1080p webcam instead of the 5MP model on the ThinkPad X13s.

Cellular is really the main selling point of this laptop; it’s unusual even for business laptops. One example is the HP EliteBook 830 G9, which starts at an expensive $2,039.

Let’s get to testing. The ThinkPad X13s is the first Windows ARM device to pass our new benchmark mode (launching in late 2021), which limits the benchmark competition to x86 computers. It starts with the business Acer TravelMate P6, followed by the elite Dell XPS 13 Plus, the even more powerful HP Pavilion 14 Plus and finally the affordable Gateway 14.1-inch Ultra Slim. Without the Dell, the larger 14-inch ones are. All use 11th or 12th generation Intel Core processors.

Productivity and content creation tests

Benchmark results for the ThinkPad X13s are sparser than usual, as its ARM processor prevented it from completing some tests; victims included UL’s PCMark 10 suite and Adobe Photoshop. Our next three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads to assess the PC’s suitability for CPU-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular applications from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p. (In this case, lower times are better.) The first two are native ARM applications; There is no handbrake.

Geekbench suggests that the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is competitive with the latest U-class Intel Core i5 chip in the Gateway, though it can’t touch the higher-powered P- and H-class chips in Dell and HP. However, the disappointing Handbrake and Cinebench results suggest that the ThinkPad X13s degrades its performance under longer loads; this is what it looked like under our Flir One Pro thermal camera for about five minutes in Cinebench…

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Heat - TopLenovo ThinkPad X13s Heat - bottom

The heat concentrated on the back exceeded an almost untouchable 116 degrees F and undoubtedly caused heat throttling, so this is not a laptop for demanding applications. It has no cooling fan and its cooling capacity is quickly exhausted when you load the CPU for a long time. Again, it only took a few minutes to reach these temperatures in the 76 degree F room where I tested. (I should note that I waited for the chassis to return to normal idle temps between tests.)

Graphics and game tests

We perform both synthetic and real game tests on Windows computers. The first of them includes two DirectX 12 game simulations from 3DMark UL: Night Raid (more modest, suitable for systems with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming devices with discrete GPUs). We also routinely lock the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5 into this group, but the ThinkPad X13s refused to run it. So, like PCMark and Photoshop, you won’t find our usual test in these graphs.

The ThinkPad X13s performed decently in 3DMark Night Raid, one of the few natively compatible ARM benchmarks in our set, where it tied for the older Intel UHD Graphics solution on the Gateway chip. However, as the CPU tests indicated, this laptop is far from ideal for intensive use such as gaming, where performance is likely to drop after a few minutes.

However, no ultraportable laptop is realistically intended for intensive and long-lasting tasks. The ThinkPad X13s was at least as responsive as my Core i5-based ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 for day-to-day use of productivity apps, including web surfing and Microsoft Office, and didn’t get too hot in those scenarios. Its standard 16GB of RAM helps with multitasking, and it even has a PCI Express Gen 4 storage drive; my ThinkPad X13 came with an older Gen 3 drive.

Battery and display tests

PCMag tests laptop battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (an open source Blender movie Steel tears) with screen brightness at 50% and sound volume at 100% until the system shuts down. Wi-Fi and keyboard backlight are off during the test.

We also use the Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its software to measure the color saturation of the laptop screen – what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can display – and its brightness in nits (candelas per square meter) at 50% and maximum screen settings.

Battery life is the ace of the ThinkPad X13s. We’ve seen longer runtimes (the Lenovo Flex 5G lasted over 30 hours, for example), but its 18+ hours is excellent for an ultraportable. Its display also earned good marks, taking first place in this test group for maximum brightness, although its 50% brightness is rather dim. (We use 50% brightness for our battery test, so it’s likely that battery life will decrease to some extent if you run the screen well above the halfway mark all the time.)


Verdict: Fast connection but limited appeal

The ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 shows great potential for certain niches. Its eminently portable design, excellent battery life, 5G wireless connectivity and high-definition webcam make it an ace for field workers. And unlike previous ARM Windows devices we’ve tested, this one has fewer software limitations because it runs a 64-bit version of Windows 11, though your apps still need to be ARM-compatible.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1

We could live with all of this if the ARM fund suited what we do every day. But interestingly, it really is design decisions that limit the recall of this particular ThinkPad. Physical connectivity is at the top of the list, with only two USB Type-C ports, neither of which are Thunderbolt 4. The X13s chassis also tends to heat up as it lacks a cooling fan. Most surprising of all, however, is its bland keyboard, completely uncharacteristic for a ThinkPad.

All in all, the ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 isn’t well-rounded enough to earn beyond a marginal recommendation: that is, for those people who need 5G connectivity primarily and who will keep their day-to-day work on a typical, non-CPU. crisp office tasks covered by ARM-native applications. And without a sale (as mentioned, we’ve occasionally seen Lenovo offer a 40% discount on this model), it’s just too expensive. The Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Gen 3 is a bit thicker and won’t match the battery life, but it doesn’t suffer from any of the usability issues we’ve seen with this laptop, and for something more stylish, the Dell XPS 13 is always a solid bet. screen size.

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