'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Lenovo has added a new sub-brand to its laptop stable: the ThinkBook, which aims to serve small and medium-sized businesses. ThinkBooks combine the slim design and connectivity that consumers want with business-focused elements like extended service and warranty, and good security features. Lenovo has characterised the ThinkBook line as "Built for Business, Designed for Generation Next".
Both 13-inch and 14-inch ThinkBooks have been announced, with the smaller version available in two models in the UK. I was sent the entry-level £709.99 (inc. VAT) unit to look at.
Outwardly the ThinkBook 13s looks like a solid and tough workhorse. The aluminium chassis both top and bottom provides a good deal of protection, although there is some give in the lid – certainly more than with many ThinkPads I have reviewed. The outer chassis might also be susceptible to scratches, so a protective sleeve could be in order. There's no mention in the specs of any MIL-STD 810G testing, but the ThinkBook certainly feels tougher than any plastic-encased laptop.
SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)
Size and weight are no problem: measuring 307.6mm wide by 216.4mm deep by 15.9mm thick and weighing 1.4kkg it's easy to tote in even a small backpack. The chassis is thick enough to accommodate two USB 3.1 ports on its right side, one of which is always on, plus a full size HDMI port on the left. The left side also houses a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headset jack and a proprietary square Lenovo charging connector.
It's not a bad array for a business user, though consumers might have liked more USB-C connectivity on-board. There's no option for mobile broadband, which is slightly disappointing.
Open up and switch on, and it's clear that Lenovo considers the ThinkBook 13s as a worker's laptop, as the IPS FHD-resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) panel has a matte finish. Costs have been kept down by avoiding a touch screen, and limiting maximum brightness to 300 nits. This was fine for me, but brightness might be a problem if you do a lot of outdoor working. GPU power is supplied by the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 chipset.
The screen hinges down to lay flat on a desk but no further – this is no Yoga laptop. Lenovo says the screen bezel is less than 5.5mm, which is the case on the short edges, but the upper and lower edges are different. I measured the large bottom bezel at around 33mm to the bottom edge of the lid section, while the upper bezel is around 12.5mm. The camera sits above the screen, and benefits from Lenovo's ThinkShutter, a sliding privacy cover for the lens. There's also a Fn key that disables the camera.
More security is provided by the fingerprint scanner that sits neatly in the circular power switch – it's marked out by a removable sticker that you can ditch once you've taken the scanner location onboard. There's no support for facial recognition, but you can use the fingerprint reader with Windows Hello. The power switch itself is framed by a white LED when the laptop is switched on.
The keyboard is typically Lenovo in styling, with the pot-bellied keys that provide just a little more target to aim at than squarer ones. The Enter key is single height, double width, and easy enough to find accurately. There are also dedicated Skype buttons and a two-level backlight.
The keys are nicely sprung, and deliver more 'thunk' than click, so they are conducive to working in quieter places where clicky keyboards can irritate. The keyboard doesn't feel quite as good as those in the ThinkPad range, but I could still touch-typed happily at my normal speed.
The touchpad is efficient, and a tiny silver frame around its bezel lends it a certain style. There's no distinctive red TrackPoint, as seen on Lenovo's ThinkPad line of full-on business laptops.
SEE MORE: PC market share gain lifts Lenovo's total revenue to $12.5 billion
My review sample ran on an Intel Core i5-8265U processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The £949 (inc. VAT) variant runs on a Core i7-8565U with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Rounding off the list of business-grade security features is support for TMP 2.0. The operating system is Windows 10 Pro.
Harman speakers and Dolby Audio make for a very nice audio experience. Sound is relatively rich in quality, with no significant distortion at top volume.
A laptop that's designed to cover both business and consumer use cases needs strong battery life. This is an area that can suffer when manufacturers start cutting costs, so I was pleased to be able to work for four hours and drain just 40% of the ThinkBook's battery life. During testing I left the screen on its recommended brightness setting of about 75%, worked into web apps, and streamed music now and again. On that basis, a full 8-hour day's productivity is within reach.
There is something to be said for trying to combine good security features, solid productivity capability, neat design styling, decent audio and a strong display. That might appeal to business users who want great consumer features – and vice versa – so long as there aren't too many compromises along the way.
So Lenovo could be onto something with its new ThinkBook range. However, improvements could be made to display brightness and keyboard quality, while facial recognition, a touch screen, full screen rotation and mobile broadband support would all be welcome. It's a tall order to provide the best of both worlds.
RECENT AND RELATED CONTENT
Dell releases latest Linux developer laptop with Comet Lake CPU
The Galaxy Book S stole the show. Can it steal market share?
Best business laptops on Amazon Business
PC market share gain lifts Lenovo's total revenue to $12.5 billion
Beyond the PC: Lenovo's ambitious plan for the future of computing (TechRepublic)
Read more reviews