There’s a strong possibility that the design of the original, early aughts era ThinkPad is etched in stone in your brain. With its iconic black shell and the red-dot mouse built into the center of the keyboard, the original ThinkPad was the go-to laptop for working professionals once upon a time. Now, Lenovo has refreshed the iconic ThinkPad with its Z-series to tailor to the modern-day professional.
Are these changes for the best?
Lenovo sent over a unit for review, and here’s what we found.
Setting Up the ThinkPad Z13
Upon booting up the Z13 (this configuration includes the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO processor) for the first time, I walked through the initial Windows 11 setup process, which took less than 20 minutes to accomplish. The traditional elements of any Windows device are present, as I selected my language, connected to Wi-Fi, inputted my Windows profile information, and so forth. Upon completion, I had a few more updates to install and fully charged the laptop, all of which took about an extra hour to complete. Depending upon individual needs, a full charge may not be needed, but I wanted to jump right into testing the battery, so I was willing to take the extra time accordingly.
ThinkPad Z13 Design
Slightly thicker than an iPhone 13 and weighing slightly under 2.5 pounds, the Z13 is a radical departure from the chunky chassis of previous ThinkPads. Made from 95% recycled aluminum, the overall look and feel is sleek, slightly industrial, and attractive. The lid is a bit of a trap for fingerprints and features ThinkPad/Lenovo branding at the top right and bottom left corners. The cylinder-like notch at the top serves as the top of the 1080p webcam and also as a handy way to open the screen itself. Once inside, the interior is a sleek black with an otherwise standard ten-key-less keyboard and a generous glass, haptic feedback touchpad. And, of course, the beloved Lenovo nub is still included.
As an ultraportable, the Z13 is pretty light on ports. Both sides contain a USB-C 4 port, so you don’t have extra devices stacked on top of one another, but the unit is built with Bluetooth in mind. Additionally, the power button is on the right-hand side, freeing up some space on the keyboard for added features like a fingerprint sensor.
ThinkPad Z13 Performance and Features
The benefit of having an ultrabook like the Z13 is going to lie in its intersection of battery life and performance. Let’s start with the former before moving into the latter. The 13 in Z13 might as well stand for its battery life, as the unit clocked a staggering 13 hours of battery life off a single charge while I had multiple video sources playing and used the laptop to work. That’s going to be super handy for those who may end up using the Z13 for travel, work, or school, as the power unit is slightly on the larger side of things. Thanks to the specs, including an AMD Radeon 680M and a 512GB SSD, you can even do some light gaming on the unit. A test I did of Fortnite did decent enough that I’d likely bring this along over trying to play the game on my Nintendo Switch, where the smash hit often underperforms in a significant way. The Z13 is by no means intended to be a full gaming laptop, but it certainly works if you’re dying to get in some gaming while away from a console or beefy gaming tower.
The 13.3-inch display is compact but still visually arresting, capable of producing some vivid images. Streaming an episode of House of the Dragon didn’t yield as much depth in color as watching it on a 4K television might, but it does the trick in a pinch. Audio-wise, the Z13 is good; as with all laptops, you’re better off using a set of headphones through Bluetooth or the included headphone jack, but the included speakers are certainly a step above most other laptops, thanks to the Dolby Atmos inclusion.
Where the Z13 suffers a bit is in the previously mentioned lack of ports and with its webcam. The picture is slightly disappointing in terms of providing a wide range of colors and also suffers from some sharpness issues. Those are minor quibbles, though, especially for a work-focused laptop.
Additionally, the price for this particular unit may cause some to push back (retail is around $2,000, depending where you shop) but there are less powerful versions that start under $1,400.
The Verdict: The ThinkPad Z13 is a Super Smart and Sharp Upgrade
Sometimes in order to move forward, you have to totally reimagine what something can be. That’s the ethos for the ThinkPad Z13; at a starting price of $1,355, this is a fantastic ultrabook that will give you plenty of the things you need to get work done—including fantastic battery life and a great trackpad. While we wish it had a few more ports to it, there’s a lot to love.