Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: A capable all-rounder

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  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $629.40

Pros

  • Solid build and attractive design
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • ThinkShutter for webcam
  • Good speakers
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Screen could be brighter
  • Only one USB-C port
  • No touch-screen option
  • No mobile broadband option

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. 

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Lenovo's new ThinkBook range is aimed at SMEs, and the intersection between business and consumer use cases. The entry-level 13s model costs £709.99 (inc. VAT).

Images: Lenovo

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.

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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. 

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You get two USB 3.1 ports and a full-size HDMI connector, but only one USB-C port.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

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.

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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.

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The keyboard is good, but doesn't quite reach ThinkPad standard.

Image: Lenovo

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i5 (8th Gen) 8265U / 1.6 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 3.9 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Cache 6 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Features integrated memory controller
Cache Memory
Installed Size 6 MB
Memory
Max Supported Size 16 GB
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Speed 2400 MHz
Form Factor SO-DIMM 260-pin
Slots Qty 1
Empty Slots 0
RAM
Memory Speed 2400 MHz
Configuration Features 1 x 4 GB
Technology DDR4 SDRAM
Installed Size 4 GB
Rated Memory Speed 2400 MHz
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Widescreen Display Yes
Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
Monitor Features anti-glare
Type LED
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 33.8 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation Full HD
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel UHD Graphics 620
Sound Stereo speakers, dual array microphone
Audio Codec Realtek ALC3287
Hard Drive
Type SSD
SSD Form Factor M.2 2242
Capacity 128 GB
Hard Drive Features NVM Express (NVMe)
Input
Type keyboard, touchpad
Features buttonless touchpad, multi-touch touchpad
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Wireless Controller M.2 Card
Processor
CPU Type Core i5
Generation 8
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.6 GHz
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Battery
Capacity 45 Wh
Technology lithium ion
Run Time (Up To) 11 hour(s)
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 65 Watt
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces USB 3.1 Gen 1
USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Always On)
USB-C 3.1 Gen 2/DisplayPort
HDMI
Headphone/microphone combo jack
Header
Brand Lenovo
Localization English
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 5.0, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Interface (Bus) Type M.2 Card
Miscellaneous
Color mineral gray
Case Material aluminum
Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip, fingerprint reader
Features RapidCharge, administrator password, hard drive password, power-on password
Compliant Standards FIDO Certified, RoHS
Included Accessories power adapter
System
Notebook Type thin and light
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 128 GB
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Monitor
Diagonal Size 13.3 in
Image Brightness 300 cd/m2
Dimensions & Weight
Width 12.1 in
Depth 8.5 in
Height 0.6 in
Audio Output
Compliant Standards High Definition Audio
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Physical Characteristics
Weight 2.91 lbs
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Windows 10 Home 64-bit Edition
Type Microsoft Office (Trial)
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel UHD Graphics 620
Graphics Processor Series Intel UHD Graphics
Input Device
Backlight Yes
Interfaces
USB-C Ports Qty 1
Comment Always On
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Location pick-up and return
Full Contract Period 1 year

Where To Buy

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Where To Buy

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s

Part Number: 20R9005KUS