Premium laptops are nothing new, and pricey systems built for portability are among the best products manufacturers are making today. But the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 (starts at $1,355.40; $1,851.85 as tested) challenges the best ultraportable laptops you can buy with a luxurious design that is sure to draw attention. The stylish leather-covered design is notable on its own, for its fashionable looks and eco-conscious materials. This isn’t your grandfather’s ThinkPad, but this svelte system isn’t just a runway model, either. It’s got both beauty and brawn, with excellent performance that will take you through a full day of work or more.
Designer Looks, Premium Materials
Breaking from staid ThinkPad tradition, the Z13 just oozes style. It’s obvious that Lenovo was looking to one-up the rest of the premium, thin-and-light ultraportable laptop crowd. At 0.55 by 11.59 by 7.86 inches (HWD), it’s similar in dimensions to the Dell XPS 13 Plus (0.6 by 11.63 by 7.84 inches) and the Apple MacBook Air (2022, M2) (0.44 by 11.97 by 8.46 inches), but the materials are a step above, accenting the all-metal aluminum construction with vegan leather. It’s also available in a more standard-looking bare-metal version with an Arctic Gray finish.
(Credit: Kyle Cobian)
It’s not the first laptop to mix things up with leather—the HP Spectre did it in 2018, and the Lenovo Yoga used imitation leather back in 2012—but Lenovo has other tricks up its sleeve for the Z13. The all-metal construction uses recycled aluminum, and the leather on the lid is actually vegan, made from recycled PET. Even the packaging is eco-conscious, made of sugar cane and bamboo for better biodegradability.
A Re-Imagined TrackPoint
But the materials aren’t the only impressive part of the laptop design. The keyboard is remarkably comfortable to type on. The key travel isn’t particularly deep, but the individual key presses are distinct, and the full-size keyboard layout is comfortable to type on. There’s even a fingerprint reader key for easy biometric security.
(Credit: Kyle Cobian)
Joining the keyboard is a glass-surfaced touchpad with haptic tap response and pressure sensitive control. The sleek surface has almost imperceptible travel when you tap or click, using pressure sensitivity to register increased force for clicks and gestures. Lenovo has also re-imagined the iconic red TrackPoint, adding a new double-tap feature that calls up a quick menu of communication tools with tools for adjusting camera settings, muting the mic and adjusting noise suppression modes, and even a tool to transcribe speech right into a document.
The laptop’s display is also quite nice, with a 13.3-inch IPS panel that uses a 16:10 aspect ratio and 1,920-by-1,200-pixel touchscreen. The slimness of the surrounding bezels is impressive, giving the laptop a 91.6% screen-to-body ratio, and that prominent display looks very good.
(Credit: Kyle Cobian)
Colors are vivid and bright, the contrast provides a crispness to details, and the viewing angles are so wide that I couldn’t find a bad angle—the colors stayed clear and bright regardless of where I viewed the panel from.
It’s also, interestingly enough, not the best display Lenovo offers on the machine, with a different 2,880-by-1,800-pixel OLED touch screen available on the most expensive models.
Above the display is a protrusion that Lenovo calls the Communications Bar, a distinctive housing for a full HD webcam with electronic shutter and IR functionality for facial recognition. Alongside are dual microphones with Dolby Voice noise cancellation to eliminate unwanted ambient noise. While it serves a clear purpose when the Z13 is open, the Bar also provides a convenient lip that makes it easy to open and close the slim laptop.
Minimalist Port Selection
The only part of the Z13 that feels lacking rather than luxe is the port selection, which is decidedly minimalist. On the right you’ll find a single USB-C port and a headphone/mic jack.
(Credit: Kyle Cobian)
(Credit: Kyle Cobian)
On the left you’ll find a second USB-C port, which doubles as the power connector for the system. And that’s it. No HDMI, no Ethernet, no card slots, or even Thunderbolt 4. You can still get several of those ports with a laptop docking station, but even with so many laptops opting for USB-C, the port selection feels lacking.
Wireless connectivity is thankfully top-notch, with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 for speedy networking and convenient connections for audio and peripherals.
Testing the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: Premium Ryzen Performance
Lenovo built the ThinkPad Z13 around AMD processors and graphics, which is a bit of a departure compared with the majority of Intel-based ultraportables. Our review unit is equipped with the AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6850U processor and integrated Radeon 680M graphics, paired with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive for storage.
The current base model sells for $1,355, with our review unit selling for $1,851.85. Other configurations are offered, with options for different AMD processors (ranging from the six-core Ryzen 5 Pro up to the eight-core Ryzen 7 Pro) and boasting several display options, from our review unit’s 1,920-by-1,200-pixel touch screen to an OLED panel with 2,880-by-1,800-pixel resolution, or a more basic non-touch IPS panel. Options let you bump up the memory to 32GB, and storage goes as high as 1TB. With all the extras, the top configuration of the Z13 sells for $2,267.85.
For our benchmark comparisons, we compared the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 with other premium ultraportables and 13- and 14-inch models. Among these are top models like the Apple MacBook Air (2022, M2) and Dell XPS 13 Plus, two of the best high-end thin-and-lights on the market.
We also looked at the business-oriented Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 (2022), and 2-in-1 systems like the HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2022) and the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio. They may not be exactly the same, offering some functionality and capability that the consumer-focused Lenovo doesn’t, but with similar price points, performance, and build quality, they’ll often be on the same shelves at your local retailer.
The main benchmark of UL’s PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop’s storage.
Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging 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 resolution (lower times are better).
Our final productivity test is Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s famous image editor to rate a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The ThinkPad Z13 pits its AMD Ryzen 7 Pro processor against the Core i7 CPUs used in most competing systems and Apple’s M2 processor, making it an interesting alternative to most laptops in this price range. But as Intel and Apple move toward architectures that try to balance performance and efficiency with a mix of different processing cores, AMD sticks to the more traditional approach, with every processing core equally yoked for different tasks. The result is a mix of leading scores in tests like PCMark and Cinebench, but the ThinkPad Z13 lands in the middle of the pack in tests like Handbrake and Geekbench. The overall performance is still extremely competitive, mostly matching other premium ultraportables, but it’s not the one-to-one comparison that Intel hardware would offer.
We test Windows PCs’ graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).
We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
With AMD’s excellent integrated graphics powering the Z13, graphics performance was quite good in the Lenovo, besting Intel-based competitors from Dell and HP. Interestingly, the Apple MacBook Air edged ahead in a couple of tests with the M2 chip’s integrated GPU, but the dominant system here was the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, which brings a discrete Nvidia GPU to the fight. That said, the AMD-powered Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 still managed to outclass most of the competition in most of our graphics tests. But bear in mind that these tests are more about general productivity, and not gaming.
Battery and Display Tests
We test laptops’ battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel(Opens in a new window)) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen’s color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
Where the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 stood out most was our battery test, where the slim laptop lasted nearly 18 hours on a single charge. That outlasts even the most battery-efficient competitors, like the Apple MacBook Air (16:49) and the HP Spectre x360 13.5 (15:10). As an added bonus, the battery has quick-charging support, so you can refill it quickly when you do finally need to plug in.
Surprisingly, the display also has great brightness, topping several of our comparison models for overall brightness. That’s pretty impressive, given that the unit we tested isn’t even Lenovo’s top display option.
(Credit: Kyle Cobian)
Verdict: Leather-Clad Luxury, With Premium Performance
In the premium ultraportable space, the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 competes with the best of the best, and still manages to shine. The design is an impressive departure from the bland bare-metal laptop that’s become so popular in recent years, and the AMD-powered system has performance that’s just as impressive. It’s a stark alternative to the Intel-based majority, and it stands up well enough to the impressive Apple M2 processor.
At well under 3 pounds, with nearly 18 hours of battery life, the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 is every inch an ultraportable laptop, with great performance to go with it. Lenovo then wraps it all in black leather and bronze brushed aluminum, offering as much style as substance, without skimping on either. Is it as good as the five-star, all-business ThinkPad X1 Carbon? That’s a tough call, and largely depends on whether you’re looking for a tried-and-true business notebook or something fancier. The Z13 is certainly good enough to recommend as the most stylish ultraportable laptop right now, and an easy Editors’ Choice pick.
The Bottom Line
The Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 is as stunning as it is portable, offering substance and style with AMD-powered performance that matches the best thin-and-light laptops on the market.
Like What You’re Reading?
Sign up for Lab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.
Leave a Reply