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Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: Think ThinkPad, but cheaper

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £680

It doesn’t have all the ThinkPad trimmings, but Lenovo is offering small businesses a bargain


  • Low price
  • Rugged design
  • Spill-proof keyboard
  • Excellent performance


  • Speakers could be better

If you’ve always longed for a ThinkPad but been put off by the high asking price, Lenovo is dangling this tempting carrot: a 13in business-focused laptop with much of the ruggedness found on ThinkPads, yet at a remarkably low price. The switch from black to industrial grey is no coincidence, as Lenovo is hoping to woo a younger audience of buyers who consider the traditional ThinkPad as too unfashionable to go with their topknot and almond-milk latte.

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Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: Features

What’s most impressive about the ThinkBook, though, is that Lenovo retains so much of the ThinkPad heritage while keeping the price down. For instance, it still feels rugged, with an aluminium chassis that’s reassuringly cool to the touch. There’s no military-standard testing to back up this feeling, though, so you would be well advised to extend the warranty from the initial one year.

Lenovo has trimmed a millimetre or two of travel from its usual keyboard, so it doesn’t have the luxurious feel of a ThinkPad. But it’s still significantly better than most keyboards on a sub-£1,000 laptop, so don’t be put off. It should survive if you spill some of that latte onto it, too, as the keyboard is designed to be spill-proof. Including a precision touchpad is another nice touch.

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: Performance

The matte Full HD screen isn’t one of the platinum-grade, super-bright panels you can specify in the best ThinkPads, but it reached a peak brightness of 324cd/m2 in our tests and covered 90.1% of the sRGB gamut. With an average Delta E of 1.06, you can trust the colours it produces, while a contrast ratio of 1,827:1 means you won’t miss out on details when watching films. Where it shows its budget leanings are moderate viewing angles and a slight grain effect.

Looking for more compromises? One is management. You still get Lenovo’s full suite of Vantage tools to help keep your PC protected and in peak condition, and note the inclusion of Windows 10 Pro, but there’s no vPro certification for the Intel Core i5-8265U. In truth, that won’t matter to most small businesses, who will care more about speed – and the ThinkBook 13s has a fine turn of pace. An overall score of 86 is excellent for a Core i5 with 8GB of RAM in support, and that’s made possible because Lenovo backs it up with active cooling: you’ll often hear the low pitch of its fans kicking in.

READ NEXT: HP Envy 13 (2019) review

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: Design

This isn’t the slimmest of laptops as a consequence, but 15.9mm isn’t fat. Compared to the Acer Travelmate X5 it’s heavy at 1.3kg – the Acer weighed 960g – but Lenovo can rightfully point out that the ThinkBook 13s lasts longer on the road. A battery life of 8hrs 30mins is more than respectable, beating the Acer by 90 minutes, and you can always use the single USB-C port to supply power. Lenovo’s power supply plugs into a proprietary port, next to which you will find a full-size HDMI output. old-style USB isn’t forgotten either, with two ports on the right side, meaning that the only obvious omission is a microSD/SD card slot.

There’s no Infrared webcam, so Windows Hello support is limited to the fingerprint reader integrated into the power button, but to save potential blushes there’s a privacy filter for the webcam. This takes the usual desultory 1,280 x 720 photos and videos. Audio playback is typical of a modern laptop too, making music bearable at a push, so don’t get too excited by Lenovo’s “audio by Harman” claims.

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: Price

The 13s is the first ThinkBook to go on sale, and it’s notable that there’s only one specification available in the UK. Considering the aggressive price, I can live with the 256GB SSD, and note that it’s meant to be a “quick ship” model – as long as Lenovo has stock, it will ship in one to two days.

If it proves popular, higher-specified models will no doubt be released, along with a 14in version. And if there’s any justice in the world, it should be popular: at £680, this machine is a real bargain. Sure, it trims back on a few luxuries, but when you’re paying Ford prices you can’t expect a Porsche.

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