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This ultraportable Lenovo laptop has a secret Trackpoint function, among other hidden features

The Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 packs a 2.8K OLED display, AMD processor, and 1080p webcam into a lightweight, eco-friendly frame. Will its shortcomings matter to you?
Written by Cesar Cadenas, Contributing Writer
Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • With prices starting at $1,241, Lenovo's ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 has the potential to become your new main laptop for work and leisure.
  • The ThinkPad Z13 comes equipped with a powerful AMD Ryzen processor and a great-looking, 2.8K resolution screen everyone can enjoy.
  • Professionals, however, may find its small amount of ports, short battery life, and limited features lacking.

It's impossible to be good at everything but that doesn't mean you shouldn't at least try. That's the feeling I got when trying out the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2, a laptop that aims to be a great entertainment laptop and work laptop all in one package. In my opinion, the Z13 exceeds doing both due to its lightweight form factor and several key features.

Upon opening the laptop for the first time, you'll be greeted with a 13-inch, 2.8K resolution (2,880 x 1,800 pixels) OLED touchscreen  – at least that's what greeted me. The review unit I received from Lenovo was one of the higher-end builds – and it certainly shows. Content shown on this display – especially animation – looks stunning.

View at Lenovo

For testing, I watched a couple of episodes of Pokemon Concierge. If you're not familiar, it's a stop-motion show consisting of characters made out of felt, paper, and other types of materials. I loved how good it looked on the OLED screen. I could see the fuzz on Psyduck in all its glory. Watching Pokemon Concierge this way gave me a newfound appreciation for the show. Characters look way more cuddly than when I watched it on my smartphone. 

Of course, live-action movies look amazing too. I watched Joker on this laptop and the OLED display made Gotham City look way more disgusting and dingy compared to when the film first came out in theaters. 

As much as I've harped on how much I like the OLED display, my favorite aspect of the screen was the thin bezels surrounding it. You're free to enjoy the screen's visual goodness without having thick black lines encroaching in. The top bezel is a bit thicker than the rest as it houses the laptop's 1080p webcam (perfect for work video calls). What's more, the camera has a metal bar jutting out from the top. When closed, this serves as a handle for opening the laptop. It's a small touch, but one that I greatly appreciated.

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Design-wise, Lenovo made several interesting choices. One of the hallmarks of the ThinkPad Z-series is its focus on sustainability in various forms. Much of the laptop is made out of recycled materials. There's even a version of the Z13 sporting an eco-friendly flax fiber cover. However, at the time of this review, it doesn't appear to be on sale. Still, it's good to see Lenovo opt for greener materials when developing laptops.

I wish this focus on sustainability was present in its battery. Unfortunately, it doesn't last for very long. Under the hood is an AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 7840U paired up with a Radeon 740M graphics card that together is supposed to enable great energy efficiency. However, according to my testing, the battery lasted only about six hours before it died. I performed my usual strategy of playing a looping YouTube video at 720p and 50 percent brightness. I was shocked to see such a low amount.

It's not all bad, of course. I like what Lenovo did with the keyboard. Each key has a slight indentation and is covered in a matte coating. All this, combined with a keyboard that stretches from side to side, culminates in a comfortable typing experience. If you read my reviews, you'll know this is something I specifically look for on laptops. Machines with mediocre keyboards lose points.

The keyboard does have a couple of "hidden" features (I'm adding the quotation marks because although these aren't technically hidden, they're not super obvious).

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First, it has backlighting. On the lower left corner of the spacebar, you will find a blinking light icon. Pressing the corner with the Function key lets you turn on the lights. I wish Lenovo did a better job letting people know that this was a thing. I initially thought the keyboard lacked backlighting when I was typing at night. I figured the company, for some strange reason, removed this feature. This aspect of the keyboard should've been made clearer to avoid confusion.

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

The red TrackPoint on the keyboard has a new function to it. You can still use it to control the cursor, but now double tapping it opens a Quick Menu for adjusting certain features like the microphone's directionality. 

Also: This Lenovo ThinkPad is so close to being the perfect ultraportable laptop

Lastly, there are only three ports available: two USB-C inputs and a headphone jack. That may sound rather disappointing, but keep in mind that the ThinkPad Z13 is an ultraportable laptop. You have to expect such sacrifices on a computer this thin.

ZDNET's buying advice

I do recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 if you're looking for a lightweight laptop for work, school, or as an entertainment machine while traveling. It's currently on sale on Lenovo's website in Artic Grey, with prices starting at $1,241.

It is configurable so you can add more to the laptop -- such as larger storage space -- or you can opt for a lower resolution screen to drop the price tag. If you want something bigger, the company does have the second-generation ThinkPad Z16 as an option as well.

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