ThinkPad X13 Gen 1 (AMD) Review: Ryzen to the rescue
This year’s ThinkPad X13 models (both the Intel and AMD versions) aren’t that different from last when it comes to the overall looks. But, when the AMD version is compared to laptops with Intel chips, the highlight and real value of the ThinkPad X13 becomes the AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U powering it.
From ThinkPad X1 Extreme to the ThinkPad Yoga, Some of the best ThinkPad laptops have always gone hand in hand with the Intel processors that power them on the inside. As of recent, though Lenovo is seeking to give ThinkPad buyers a bit more powerful and different choice when it comes to CPU power. We’ve seen AMD options like the ThinkPad T14, the IdeaPad 5, and even the ThinkPad T495S. But what about for business users looking for a thin and light AMD laptop?
That’s where the ThinkPad X13 AMD Gen 1 with AMD’s 3rd Generation Ryzen 5 4000 Pro series processors under the hood enter the picture. Can this laptop’s new Ryzen processor pack enough punch for businesses and the traveling or workers who are now working from home? Let’s dig a bit deeper to find out.
Specs and a quick summary
This year’s ThinkPad X13 Gen 1 is the successor to last year’s ThinkPad X395 (or X390 for the Intel version.) It’s part of a new naming scheme set forth by Lenovo, where new laptops go by generation names, rather than numerical updates.
Despite that, this means this year’s models (both the Intel and AMD versions) aren’t that different from the last on the outside. Instead, it brings some major under the hood changes and, in our case, a big upgrade from the Ryzen 7 PRO 3300U inside last year’s AMD model. These include options for Intel’s 10th Generation Core i3, i5, or i7 or AMD 3rd Generation Ryzen 3,5, or 7 Pro processors. There’s also new dedicated unified communications keys, and support for Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
Indeed, this means the real highlight of this year’s ThinkPad X13 Gen 1 is its processing power. It’s much faster than a comparable laptop with 10th generation Intel Processors. We’ll be highlighting this throughout our review. You can have a look below for the specs on our unit.
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon Graphics|
|Display||13.3 inch, 16:9 Aspect Ratio. Configured to either HD IPS (250 nit), FHD IPS (300 nit) or FHD IPS touch (300 nits)|
|Storage||250GB PCIe NVMe SSD|
|Connections||Intel Wi-Fi AX + Bluetooth 5.0, LTE|
|Ports||(2) USB 3.2 Type-C Gen 2
(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1, Type-A
(1) Ethernet Extension
(1) HDMI 2.0
(1) Micro-SD Card
(1) Microphone / Headphone Combo Jack
|Webcam||HD720p with ThinkShutter|
|Audio||Dolby Audio speaker system, 1W x 2|
|Security||dTPM 2.0, Touch Fingerprint Reader (Match-on-Sensor)
Windows Hello IR Camera (Optional)
|Battery||48 watt-hour Li-ion, supports Rapid Charge
|Dimensions & Weight||Starting at 12.28" x 8.55" x 0.66" (312 x 217.2 x 16.9mm)
Starting at 2.84 lb (1.29 kg)
|Materials||Carbon Fiber Top, Magnesium Alloy bottom|
The ThinkPad X13 starts at $1,139 on Lenovo’s website. It’s currently on sale for $797. Our specific configuration comes in at $1,624.00. The processor, operating system, SSD, display, and the fingerprint reader on our unit are all additional add-ons. Keep in mind, there is an Intel version of the X13, too, and it retails starting at $1,429, and is on sale for $857. AMD’s chips are $190 cheaper, and in this case, will be worth it.
Build and design
There is an old saying that goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s what applies to the Thinkpad X13. Overall, the basic design of this laptop is the same as it has been in the past. You get the same design seen on the T-Series and X-series laptops. That’s the business-black colored carbon fiber finish and the magnesium alloy bottom. You’ll also find that sloped design, where the laptop goes from thick to thin from front to back. It even has a drop-down hinge, too.
Put all together, the X13 is slim, and light, and is very easy to hold in your hand. Sadly, though, the hinges are tight, so opening the laptop with one hand is not easy. But, the rest of the laptop is plenty sturdy. Just be aware that the finish on the top and the sides are quick to pick up oils and fingerprints. It will need to be cleaned, constantly.
Weight comes in at around 2.5 pounds, and it is overall profile comes in at 16.55mm thin. This weight and thickness are well off consumer laptops like the XPS 13 or the Surface Laptop 3, but you must keep in mind that this is a laptop that is meant for businesses. It’s not exactly a mainstream device, but it’s still very thin and light.
The X13 is meant to compete with more business devices like the Dell Latitude 7310 ($1,719), or HP Elitebook series ($1,724). If looking at just those laptops, the X13 is above its class. It’s slimmer (2.69 pounds on the Dell vs 3.3 pounds on the Elitebook.) So, if you’re looking for a slim and light business device, this one is for you.
Power and Performance
The best part of the ThinkPad X13 is its overall performance. When put up against a competing laptop configured with Intel’s 10th Gen Ice Lake Processors, the X13 comes out on top. The X13’s overall CPU performance comes closer to a 10th gen Intel Core i7 processor than it does to an Intel Core i5, which is the intended AMD target of this CPU. Of course, it should be noted this is an AMD Pro processor. It’s meant to compete with Intel’s vPro lineup, but Lenovo doesn’t yet sell laptops with a 10th gen Intel vPro configuration for us to compare it to.
Still, there’s no doubt that the AMD Ryzen processors inside the laptop are great, especially for tasks businesses like web browsing, word processing, and more. The Vega graphics also pack a punch and are great for light gaming, too. And, since this year’s Ryzen Pro processors are packing 6 Cores, 12 Threads, and an 8MB Cache, it is a big upgrade from the 4 core, 8 thread Ryzen 7 PRO 3300U in last year’s X395. Not to mention, this year’s option is built on the 7nm process, vs last year’s 12nm, allowing for all that power.
But, enough of the numbers. To test this overall performance, I put the X13 through the usual tasks of a freelance writer. That’s browsing the web in Microsoft Edge, some light gaming, and watching YouTube and Netflix. In most cases, I combined those workflows to try and see how the CPU would catch up. I also ran some Geekbench benchmarks to back my claims, which are a bit more synthetic. You can see the results below the photo.
The base system I am comparing this too will be the Surface Laptop 3, configured with an Intel Core i5-1035G7 CPU, with 8GB RAM. In the Multi-Core score, which is more indicative of typical day-to-day tasks, the X13 comes up on top of the Surface Laptop 3 by a couple of hundred points, and even closer to an XPS 13 with a 10th Gen Core i7 processor. In Open CL scoring (a graphical test,) meanwhile, the X13 blows everything else away, showing the power of being built on the 7nm process and having a total of 6 cores, ahead of the Core i5 and i7’s 4 cores.
|Product Name||Geekbench 5 Single-Core Score||Geekbench 5 Multi-Core Score||Geekbench 5 Open CL Score|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel Core i5-1035G7/ 8GB RAM)||1159||4298||4362|
|ThinkPad X13 (AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U/8GB RAM)||1104||4771||10286|
|Dell XPS 13 9300 (Intel Core i7-1065G7/8GB RAM)||1284||4848||4679|
Overall, when I opened Edge with a total of 20 tabs, including a mix of YouTube and Netflix, and media-heavy websites like MLB.com, the X13 didn’t struggle at all, and I moved my way through them all without worry. I even had a media-heavy PDF open in the background, as well as a Word document, and the laptop was able to keep steady. It’s no surprise because the 6 cores are able to push out a lot of power.
The browser benchmarks will attest to this, as the AMD processor inside the X13 pushes it well ahead of the Surface Laptop 3. In both the Speedometer and Basemark 3.0 tests, which is a look at web app performance, the X13 comes on top of the Surface Laptop 3.
|Product Name||Speedometer 2.0 Test||Basemark 3.0 Test|
|Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (Intel Core i5-1035G7/ 8GB RAM)||97.1||717.04|
|ThinkPad X13 (AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U/8GB RAM)||106||933.46|
While not meant as a gaming laptop, when it comes to basic gaming, the X13 doesn’t disappoint. Thanks to its 6 cores, it’s able to punch out some very good scores in a light game like Fornite. When I tested it out, the results were quite surprising, even with Intel still going on about its graphical advancements with the latest Ice Lake chips.
AMD Radeon graphics does not disappoint. Got to about 50 frames on medium settings in Fortnite. Not bad. pic.twitter.com/znwVJtRbH8
— Arif Bacchus (@abacjourn) August 14, 2020
In Fortnite, I was able to get to a frame of around 50 per second when playing on the X13 on medium settings. The game was plenty playable, and there were no noticeable lag or frame drops. My Surface Laptop 3, on the other hand, really struggled to keep up at 30 frames, and everything was dropping out.
Combined with the disk read and write speeds coming in at 3,619 MB/S read and 2,348 MB/S write, I’d say the X13 is definitely one powerful machine. It’d tackle any task a businessman would have to throw at it.
Display and speakers
The set up for the display onboard our Thinkpad X13 Gen 1 is available as part of a custom configuration. It sports a 13-inch 1920 x 1080 touch IPS display. As with most Lenovo ThinkPad laptops, there’s not much to say in this aspect. While the bezels are thin, compared to an XPS, it definitely isn’t the greatest. The X13 has an ugly bottom chin. However, for business users who just need to get work done, the display will be just fine for a few reasons.
For one, the display gets to around 300 nits brightness. It’s also an IPS panel, with a smooth matte finish. This means that the X13 is able to reflect away light from you as you use it. I used the X13 outdoors, and combined with its contrast levels, images on the screen were crisp and bright, especially when looking at white Word documents and webpages. The same could be said for indoors, too, under LED lighting. The panel has some great levels of contrast.
The touchscreen is also a nice plus. It’s great to free up your hands from the keyboard. I was able to use my finger to scribble notes on some PDFs, ink up on webpages, and more. I wish it were standard, but this is available as a choice when checking out if needed.
Keyboard, Trackpad, and Security
Now, for the keyboard, trackpad, and security. Lenovo has always been at the top of the ladder in these areas, and the ThinkPad X13 is no different.
The X13 keyboard sports classic u-shaped keycaps in an island-style design. Thanks to a scissor lift key mechanism, there’s a lot of key travel and a nice satisfying response between each key. Keycaps also have a smooth feeling to them, so there’s no harsh push-back on your fingers. I was able to get to around an average of 67 words per minute when typing on the keyboard. This is about 7 words per minute more than I’d get on my Surface Laptop 3.
New this year on the X13, though, are special dedicated keys atop the function row. Lenovo is calling this “Unified Communications keys.” With it, you’re able to use F9 through F11 as ways to quickly access notification, answer web calls, or hang up or decline calls. I tried it out in Teams, and it’s pretty useful, helping me avoid having to click my mouse to answer.
You’ll find Lenovo’s Track Point in the middle of the keyboard if you prefer to use it to get some more precision clicks out of the mouse. There’s also a Trackpad too, which supports Windows 10’s gestures, and has two buttons on the top. The Trackpad isn’t smooth like on a MacBook or a Surface Laptop. Rather, it has a brushed finish on top, giving it nice contact with your hands.
As for security, the X13 doesn’t disappoint. There’s a Touch Fingerprint Reader (match on sensor) right under the keyboard, which Lenovo says is faster than before. It works with Windows Hello for seamless logins and there’s Synaptic PurePrint anti-spoofing technology built in to ensure security. You’ll also find the ThinkShutter webcam, too, which has a slider to slide over the webcam when it’s not in use.
Ports and Speakers
Finally, we’ll get into ports and battery life. As usual, Lenovo doesn’t disappoint in this area. ThinkPads have always been about legacy ports, and the X13 does, too. Just be aware, since this is an AMD laptop, there is no Thunderbolt 3 support.
The port mix on the left side of the X13 includes two USB 3.2 Type C Gen 2, ports, an Ethernet Extension, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI 2.0, and an Audio Jack. On the right side, meanwhile, you’ll find an optional SmartCard reader, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (which is compatible with Always-on) port, and a Kensington lock. There’s also a Micro-SD Card Reader on the rear of the device, too. Again, nice, modern mix.
You’ll also find some improved speakers on the X13, too. These appear on the bottom of the laptop, in the two corners. In continued partnership with Dolby, the X13 has been engineered with a Dolby Audio speaker system. These are great, and I didn’t need to tune the volume up past 30 percent to enjoy listening to Piano Guys soothing cover of Coldplay’s Paradise. You can custom tune sound profiles, too through the included Dolby Audio app.
Looking at battery life now, The X13 doesn’t disappoint. In my day-to-day tests, I tested it in two ways. After a gaming session in Fortnite of roughly two hours, with the system tuned to recommended and brightness at medium, the system reported back to me that I had 2 hours and 24 minutes left. I’d assume that means a battery life of up to 5 hours.
Maybe 4 hour battery life? Been playing for maybe an hour and a half and this is what it reports back to me. pic.twitter.com/THiI4ODgB6
— Arif Bacchus (@abacjourn) August 15, 2020
For my day-to-day productivity work, meanwhile, the X13 was even better. After 4 hours and 54 minutes of use, it reported back to me a total of 2 hours and 29 minutes left. That’s about 7 hours. Again, that’s very good.
Even if battery life is a worry, you should be aware that the X13 retains the same Rapid Charge capabilities from the previous generations. A short 60-minute charge via USB-C will get the device back up to 80% capacity. Anti fry technology will also monitor and prevent third-party USB-C chargers from sending incorrect voltages, too.
Buy it now if you want an AMD laptop
If you’re considering the X13, you should pick it up now. If you’re looking for an AMD laptop for a business that can overpower an Intel one, then this is the one for you. The build and design might be the same, but the AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U inside the laptop makes a huge difference and come closer in performance to a Core i7 10th Gen Intel CPU. The integrated graphics, meanwhile, are great for light gaming, and in combination, make the X13 a great multitasking machine.