Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Yoga First Impressions

Posted on August 17, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 13 Comments

Lenovo has juggled its various ThinkPad sub-brands to the point where even diehard fans can’t always tell what’s what without a scorecard. And so it goes with the new ThinkPad X13 series, whose branding mirrors that of the ThinkPad T14 and T15 families and reminds me of how vehicle makers like Volvo and Mercedes brand their own models.

Put simply, the ThinkPad X-series still represents the firm’s smallest and most portable laptops—so-called ultra-portables—and shouldn’t be confused with the X1 series, which are “ultra-premium ultra-portables” that provide larger displays and more amenities and command higher prices. More specifically, the X13 series provides 13-inch displays (OK, 13.3-inch displays) in what would traditionally be a 12-inch form factor.

The PC we’re examining here, then, is the ThinkPad X13 Yoga, and that additional word at the end of the name is Lenovo’s brand for its convertible laptops with 360-degree hinges. So this particular machine is an X-class ultraportable convertible with a 13-inch display.

But two additional tidbits confuse matters further: As is the case with the X1 series, Lenovo also sells the X13 in a traditional laptop form factor. That computer is branded as the ThinkPad X13, minus the Yoga bit, so that makes sense. But as we’re seeing with other PC makers, Lenovo is actually selling two different versions of its (non-Yoga) X13s, one based on Intel Core chipsets and one based on the exciting new AMD Ryzen 4000-series chipsets. That’s interesting, but it’s also confusing, and it introduces another level of information that an educated buyer will need before making a purchase.

That said, the X13 Yoga I’m reviewing only comes in Intel variants, at least as of this writing.

Still confused? You’re not alone. But I’m hoping that as Lenovo cleans out its older models—there are still ThinkPad X280, X390, and X395 models in the X-series family, for example—over time that its entire product line will become more self-descriptive. That is, you don’t have to be a ThinkPad insider to understand what an X13 Yoga is. The name basically makes sense, where a name like ThinkPad X390 does not.

Anyway.

The ThinkPad X13 Yoga is clearly aimed at the Dell XPS 13 and other ultra-portable convertibles—like the HP Spectre x360 13—that target the market for mobile professionals who want this special blend of premium quality, versatility, and portability. It’s a ThinkPad, so you get all those things that are special about ThinkPads, from the professional-looking and durable carbon fiber and magnesium construction to the scalloped island-style keyboard with its TrackPoint and touchpad. The look and feel are instantly recognizable, welcome, and iconic.

As a modern PC, the X13 Yoga is outfitted with 10th-generation Intel Core U-series processors and Wi-Fi 6. The review unit provides a Core i5-10310U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Opal2 SSD storage. The display is a 13.3-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS panel with anti-reflective and anti-smudge coating. It’s rated at 300 nits of brightness, and I can’t say that the bezels are particularly small.

That said, the X13 Yoga doesn’t skimp on expansion and I was both surprised and happy to see this PC arrive with a full complement of modern and legacy ports that should meet almost any need. There’s one USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB-C port, two full-sized USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (which are always-on for device charging), one HDMI 1.4b port for video-out, an Ethernet extension connector for side docking, a combo microphone/headphone jack, and a micro-SD card reader.

From a portability perspective, the X13 is thin and light enough, but not notably so. It weighs about 2.75 pounds and is 15.95 mm—or .63 inches—at its thickest point. It’s tall enough to support those legacy USB-A and HDMI ports, in other words.

There are some other ThinkPad niceties. The 720p webcam can be covered by a physical shutter called the ThinkShutter, for example. The device’s Match-on-Sensor fingerprint reader is apparently faster than ever, and I’ve always found ThinkPad readers to be both fast, accurate, and secure. And the keyboard is spill-resistant and features a set of Unified Communications keys on the F9, F10, and F11, similar to what we see on other modern business-class laptops from companies like HP.

Fans of digital pens will be happy to know that the X13 ships with a ThinkPad Pen Pro, which has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and can be securely stored into its own garage in the laptop. (Which also helps explain the height.) The stereo speakers are enhanced with Dolby Audio sound.

Overall, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Yoga looks like a solid entry. Prices start at about $970 for an entry-level X13 with a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of SSD storage. I believe the review unit would cost about $1400 at Lenovo.com.

More soon.

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