Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

Over 15 hours of battery life may make you forgive its average performance

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life
(Image: © Future)

Laptop Mag Verdict

Outstanding battery life, with just enough small victories to overcome its addiction to being average in every other way.

Pros

  • +

    Outstanding battery life

  • +

    Elegant and durable design

  • +

    Good webcam performance

  • +

    Display quality is excellent

  • +

    Keyboard is top notch

Cons

  • -

    Windows on ARM software incompatibilities

  • -

    Lack of OpenGL support

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Lenovo ThinkPad X13s specs

Price: $994.95 starting price, $2,169 as tested

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8xc Gen 3 

GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 690 Graphics

RAM: 16GB

Storage: 512GB SSD

Display: 13.3-inch (1920 x 1200)

Battery: 15:02 (WiFi only) 13:39 (Wifi and Cellular) 

Size: 11.76 x 8.13 x 0.53 inches

Weight: 2.4 pounds

With people returning to the office and traveling for work again the lightweight Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is perfectly positioned to take center stage in this new hybrid-work landscape. Thanks to its 15 plus hours of battery life, excellent ergonomics and Qualcomm’s potent Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 CPU, the laptop can handle a bit of overtime and then some. The notebook earned its place on our best business laptops page. But the X13s does have a few caveats to consider.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 price and configurations

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 I tested ($2,169.00) has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 CPU, integrated Qualcomm Adreno 690 Graphics, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 13.3-inch and a 1920 x 1200-pixel touchscreen display. 

The base model X13s starts at $994.95 and features the same processor and graphics chip, but halves the RAM and storage and drops you down to .13.3-inch (1920 x 1200) non-touch display.

There is another variation that features 32GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage; the 13.3-inch (1920 x 1200) touch display and costs a whopping $2,399. and at the top of the ThinkPad X13s configuration tree sits the $2,619 edition with a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 design

The ThinkPad X13slooks and feels very similar to the Nano X1, of which I’m a fan. Made of mostly reused magnesium and recycled plastics, the lightweight X13s’ Thunderblack color and textured case have a premium tactile feel that is pleasant to hold and keeps it firmly in place on smooth surfaces. 

When you lift the lid there’s no doubt this is a ThinkPad, especially once you spot the TrackPoint nub in the center of the keyboard.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

There's a ThinkPad logo on the deck and another on the rear of the lid with a red led that lights up the dot above the "i". 

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

The 13.3-inch touch display has minimal bezels, with the webcam built into a small hump of a notch that adds a little je ne sais quoi to the overall business ultraportable aesthetic.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

The ThinkPad X13s measures 11.8 x 8.1 x 0.5 inches and weighs 2.4 pounds, although it feels like it weighs less than that. In comparison, the Dell XPS 13 Plus measures 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches and weighs 2.7 pounds. Turning to our other comparison laptops, the Apple MacBook Air M2, measures 12 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches and weighs 2.7 pounds, while the Lenovo Yoga 9i weighs 3 pounds and measures 12.6 x 8.5. x 0.6 inches.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 ports

The ThinkPad X13s is an ultraportable, so it’s a little light on ports, but it covers the basics. On the left, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

On the right, we have a 3.5mm combo audio jack, a sim card slot, and a nano lock port.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

For those in need of extra ports, check out our list of best docking stations that should do the trick.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 security

To cover your security needs, Lenovo has a push button security shutter for the webcam, which is IR capable and allows you to set up Windows Hello facial recognition software for easy, secure login. Microsoft Pluton ready, the ThinkPad X13s features a security processor that's embedded in the CPU, helps to eliminate exposure to threats and prevent physical attacks. 

The new chip-to-cloud security technology combo is thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and Qualcomm that melds data encryption and biometric safeguards to create an extra layer of security. When added to the built-in ThinkShield hardware and software protection with the integrated Trusted Platform Module (TPM), you’ve got several layers of protection to keep your personal and business files safe and secure. Oh, let's not forget the nano Kensington lock in case you need to physically secure your laptop. Lastly, the ThinkPad X13s may be light, but it can handle all your daily bumps, drops, and spills thanks to its MIL-STD 810H certification. The X13s is far tougher than it looks.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 display

The 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution touch display of the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is vivid and bright. It reproduces warm saturated colors and keeps text appearing crisper than grandmother’s deep-fried apple fritters. The crystal clear image helps when you’re editing documents for hours on end in Google Workspace or Microsoft Office.

I watched Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War on Disney Plus, and the fight between Cap and Iron Man popped off the display with Stark’s repulsor blasts glowing off of Cap’s shield.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

The X13s display does a great job of rendering color while also nicely capturing shading and darker hues. 

We measured the ThinkPad’s display with a colorimeter, and it covered 83% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is right on target with the ultraportable laptop average of 82.9%. It bested the MacBook Air M2 (75.9%), but both the XPS 13 Plus (84.2%) and the Yoga 9i Gen 7 (140.1%) proved superior.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s once again came in at category average during our brightness test, averaging 309 nits. The MacBook Air M2 owned this category with a brightness score of 489 nits, but both the XPS 13 Plus with 366 nits and the Yoga 9i at 334 nits outscored the ThinkPad as well.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 audio

The ThinkPad X13s comes with a pair of Dolby-tuned speakers and a three microphone set up to ensure excellent audio quality when you take part in Google Meet and Zoom calls. When you’re dealing with a laptop as thin as the X13s, you shouldn’t expect a lot of thump or an expansive audio profile. The X13s has a very clean sound, with solid depth and tone separation and it’s loud enough to be heard clearly across my tiny studio apartment. 

I fired up Spotify and listened to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Her.” The house music baseline hits pretty hard and the depth of the bass is discernible, but it’s weak in the lower range and that’s to be expected. The audio was clear, and loud, with highs and mid tones performing well. 

Next, I gave a listen to John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” album with its beautiful melodies, smooth piano and soft jazz drums. The ThinkPad X13s does a lot better with jazz than it does with hip-hop as the tones stay within a range best suited for its speakers. It performed very well, reproducing the jazz album to near perfection and it made for enjoyable listening when Coltrane’s saxophone took its turn and it was pure honey soothing magic

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard layout on the ThinkPad X13s pure Lenovo with perfect spacing between keys that even a mangled monster-handed person like myself can enjoy. The brightly backlit keyboard had me typing away with the fine balance of a ballerina as I tallied a solid 90 words per minute during the 10FastFingers.com test while averaging 94% accuracy. 

My normal averages are 88 wpm with 91% accuracy, so I was slightly above my normal range. Of course, you will find the red TrackPoint mouse centered on the keyboard just beneath the G and H keys.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

You don’t even notice it until you use it, which is what excellent design is all about. 

The X13s touchpad is centrally located right beneath the keyboard and features the three big, very clicky mouse buttons above it. The 4.5 x 2.8 touchpad feels appropriately sized for this laptop, clicky, and very responsive. It quickly and smoothly handled all my Windows 11 gestures, including two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 performance

Here is what we’ve all been wanting to read about, how does the new Qualcomm processor perform versus the competition. The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s comes with a Snapdragon 8xc Gen 3 CPU, Integrated Qualcomm Adreno 690 Graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. I was very curious as to how the Snapdragon CPU would do when I popped open Google Chrome to crank out some documents in Workspace, while doing research and watching a couple of videos. I tried to slow it down with 35 tabs in Google Chrome, four of which played YouTube videos simultaneously. I then launched a few Google Docs, one for images and the other for a PDF I wanted to edit. I waited and waited for it to bog down, to sputter, freeze, bottleneck, choke, but it never happened. The X13s just stared back at me silently because it’s fanless, it felt like I was playing chicken and lost.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

In our Geekbench 5.4 overall performance test, the X13s scored 5,912, which is right on the nose for the ultraportable laptop average. However, every single one of the competitor laptops blew it away. The Dell XPS 13 Plus, packed with an Intel Core i7-1280P CPU, topped the bunch with a score of 10,621. The MacBook Air M2 (Apple M2 8-core CPU) slotted in second with a score of 8,919 and the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 (Intel Core i7-1260P CPU) followed with 7,150. So it’s obvious the Snapdragon is still playing catch up, but at least it’s on average within its category, which is a marked improvement over where Windows on ARM laptops have landed in the past. 

On the Handbrake video transcoding test, which tests how fast a laptop can convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution, the ThinkPad X13s took 18 minutes and 21 seconds in its native ARM mode, but in x64 emulation mode (Windows) it took 39 minutes and 58 seconds. The first result is not great compared to the category average of 10 minutes and 29 seconds, but x64 mode is abysmally bad. 

The MacBook Air M2 led our group in this category, with its ability to convert the same footage in just 7 minutes and 52 seconds. The Dell XPS 13 Plus came in a close second at 8:17, followed by the Yoga 9i, which converted the video in 14 minutes and 24 seconds.

The 512GB SSD in the X13s once again met the ultraportable average for our file-transfer test. It duplicated a 25GB multimedia file in 49 seconds at a rate of 550.94 megabytes per second. However, this placed it far behind its competitors, with the Yoga 9i (1TB SSD, 1,506.89 Mbps) and the XPS (512GB SSD, 1,502.1 Mbps) nearly tripling its speed. The MacBook Air M2 was tested using an alternative Blackmagic read (2,800Mbps) and write (2,210.6Mbps) test, but it clearly blew the doors off the ThinkPad.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 2-in-1 graphics

The ThinkPad X13s comes with integrated Qualcomm Adreno 690 Graphics, and I learned quickly that it lacked OpenGL video drivers which is something I hope they fix in the near future because it limits software options for end users. I tried to download and use DaVinci Resolve to test edit a 3-minute video but couldn’t due to compatibility issues and a lack of OpenGL Drivers. Part of the issue is also that Windows 11 doesn’t run natively on ARM-based laptops and this also causes compatibility issues. 

That said, we tested the GPU using Sid Meier’s Civilization VI benchmark in 1080p. The X13s scored 68 frames per second, which once again meets the ultraportable laptop average right on the nose. It bested the scores of the MacBook Air 40 fps, the Yoga 9i 25 fps and the Dell XPS 13 Plus which registered 23 fps during the same test. 

We put the ThinkPad through the Time Spy benchmark and it tallied 910, which once again, landed spot on the category average. However, it was crushed by the Dell XPS 13 Plus, which led our group with a score of 1,839, followed by the Yoga 9i at 1,425. The MacBook was not tested using Time Spy so we do not have a score for it.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 battery life

Battery life is where the Lenovo X13s stands out and even dare I say, surpasses the MacBook Air. That’s right, on a single charge the X13s in Wi-Fi mode lasted 15 hours and 2 minutes, surpassing even the MacBook Air M2 (14:06). However, switching to cellular (something the Air can’t do) the X13s fell slightly behind the Air, scoring 13 hours and 39 minutes. This is where Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 should catch your attention.

The Laptop Mag battery test, involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi (or cellular) at 150 nits of brightness, the ThinkPad X13s destroyed the 10:14 ultraportable average. The Yoga 9i, lasted 8:06, with the Dell XPS 13 Plus closing us out, recording 7:35. The X13s can’t outpunch you, but it can outlast you and there is something to be said for that.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 heat

During our heat test, which involves playing a 15-minute, 1080p video, the ThinkPad X13s’ underside reached 96.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which I’m shocked because it never felt that warm when I used it. The keyboard hit 89 degrees, and the touchpad was a cool 79 degrees. 

The keys and touchpad temperatures are below our 95-degree comfort threshold, with the underside score just a touch above. Considering this is simply passive cooling due to the lack of a fan, it’s a solid performance.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 webcam

Lenovo’s 5-megapixel webcam on the X13s produces crisp, well-lit, and color-accurate selfies and FHD 1080p videos. The autofocus is fast, the camera adjusts quickly to lighting changes and I have to say, I am so happy to see tech makers leveling up their camera game.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 review: Flexing its ARM battery life

(Image credit: Future)

There is a bit of a notch, but if it takes a small notch to improve camera performance on a laptop, I will take it every time. It’s also worth noting that we are seeing Qualcomm take a page from its mobile platform here with AI enhancements and a dedicated image signal processor that are enhancing the output from the camera, just as we’ve seen in phones for the last several years.

However, if you need or desire higher resolution then check out our picks for the best webcams.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 software and warranty

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s comes with Windows 11 Pro and an acceptable amount of bloatware, including Netflix, Spotify, and Microsoft Solitaire collection. The X13s comes with a one-year limited warranty.

To see how Lenovo fared in our annual special reports, including Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands.

Bottom line

If you’re a business person that has returned to traveling, the Lenovo X13s powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cs Gen 3 will make for an excellent travel companion thanks to its exceptional battery life, 5G connectivity, and ability to meet your daily document-pushing needs. The built-in webcam and 3-mic setup are excellent as well, but from a performance perspective, it is merely average. 

It truly depends on what your personal and business needs are. If you are a typical business user that needs a laptop to handle a few dozen browser tabs, a handful of productivity apps, and video calling, then the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s has you covered and will outlast any other laptop its size. If you’re like me and occasionally need something a bit more powerful that can edit videos while on the go, you’re sticking with the MacBook Air M2 or a Windows laptop with a discrete GPU. However, if you don’t need that extra power or capabilities, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is an easy recommendation. 

If you find yourself in the market for a Lenovo ThinkPad, you should check out our best ThinkPads page. It will help guide you on which one is best for you. 

Mark has spent 20 years headlining comedy shows around the country and made appearances on ABC, MTV, Comedy Central, Howard Stern, Food Network, and Sirius XM Radio. He has written about every topic imaginable, from dating, family, politics, social issues, and tech. He wrote his first tech articles for the now-defunct Dads On Tech 10 years ago, and his passion for combining humor and tech has grown under the tutelage of the Laptop Mag team. His penchant for tearing things down and rebuilding them did not make Mark popular at home, however, when he got his hands on the legendary Commodore 64, his passion for all things tech deepened. These days, when he is not filming, editing footage, tinkering with cameras and laptops, or on stage, he can be found at his desk snacking, writing about everything tech, new jokes, or scripts he dreams of filming.