Lenovo ThinkPad 13 review: A small, powerful, affordable ultrabook laptop

Hardware Reviews / Reviews / Top Picks

There’s no question that laptops are getting smaller, thinner, lighter, and more powerful. Our Lenovo ThinkPad 13 review takes a look at a thin and light ultrabook with Mil-Spec durability standards. Read on to find out what we thought about the ThinkPad 13, and why it earned a spot as one of our Top Picks for 2016.


Our ThinkPad 13 review unit had the follow specifications:

  • Intel 6th Generation Intel Core i3-6100U (dual core, 2.3GHz, 3MB, 2133MHz)
  • Intel HD Graphics 520 processor; supports external monitor via HDMI (1920×[email protected]) or USB Type-C ([email protected])
  • 4GB 2133MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 13.3″ FHD (1920×1080) anti-glare IPS LED backlit display
  • 128GB SSD
  • Intel Dual Band wireless-AC 8260
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Ports: 4-in-1 reader, 3x USB 3.0 (one always on), 1x USB-C, HDMI, Lenovo OneLink+ connector
  • 720p low light sensitive, fixed focus camera
  • ThinkPad Windows keyboard with multimedia Function keys
  • TrackPoint pointing device, buttonless Mylar surface multi-touch touchpad
  • Realtek AL3245 stereo HD Audio
  • Dual array microphone
  • Combo audio/microphone jack
  • Integrated Lithium Polymer 3-cell (42Wh) battery
  • Power on password, hard disk password, supervisor password, security keyhole
  • Trusted Platform Module, TCG 1.2 compliant
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • MIL-STD-810G military certification
  • 12.69 x 8.77 x 0.75″ (322.4 x 222.8 x 191.mm)
  • 3.17lbs (1.44kg)
  • Available in silver or black

What’s In The Box

  • 1x Lenovo ThinkPad 13 ultrabook
  • 1x power cord


Our Lenovo ThinkPad 13 came in silver, and is constructed with an aluminum top and an ABS plastic bottom. The dual material construction gives it a solid feel while also retaining a lightweight composition. The top of the laptop is pretty simple, with the ThinkPad logo on the upper left of the lid. The ThinkPad logo has a red dot over the i which lights up when the laptop is powered on.

The left side of the ultrabook houses the 45-watt AC power port, Lenovo OneLink+ connector, and the always-on USB 3.0 port as well as ventilation vents. The right side contains the 4-in-1 Smart Card reader (MMC, SD, SDHC, and SDXC support), the combination audio/microphone jack, two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, USB Type-C (yay!) port, and finally the security keyhole. The bottom of the laptop has more ventilation vents, four soft feet with the back two a bit higher than the front which gives the ThinkPad 13 a nice slope towards the user, as well as the stereo speakers on each side near the front of the laptop.


Left (top) and right side ports on the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 ultrabook.

Opening the laptop reveals the 13″ 1920×1080 screen with black bezels, the Lenovo logo in the lower left hand corner, and 13 in the lower right. The 720p webcam is in the usual spot, centered above the top of the screen. The 6-row keyboard features multimedia function keys with the ability to lock them and use as traditional function keys. The keys were responsive and comfortable to use. Unfortunately the keyboard is not backlit and there is no option to get one either.


The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 ultrabook.

The TrackPoint pointing device is also present between the G, H, and B keys. The buttonless Mylar surface multi-touch touchpad sits below the keyboard and has 3 buttons above it if you wish to use those instead. The buttonless touchpad is a nice touch and was responsive both in touch and pressing down for right and left clicks. Finally, in the lower right hand corner is the ThinkPad logo, once again with the red dot above the i that is lit when the laptop is on.


The ThinkPad 13 has both a buttonless trackpad and a TrackPoint for mouse control.

The ThinkPad 13 undergoes rigorous testing and passes eight different MIL-STD 810G military certification tests. These tests include:

  • Humidity: subjecting to 91-98% humidity at 20C to 60C (68F to 140F)
  • Low temperature: freezing at -20C (-4F) for over 72 hours
  • High temperature: 30C to 60C (86F to 140F) over 7 x 24 hours cycles
  • Sand test: subject to 140 mesh slicia dust for 6 hour cycles
  • High vibration: undergoes multiple vibration tests while turned on and off
  • Mechanical shock: undergoes high acceleration and repeated shock pulses over 18 times
  • High altitude: operation tested at 15,000 feet with system running
  • Temperature shock: performs in temperatures oscillating between -20C and 60C (-4F to 140F) over 3 cycles of 2 hour durations

Given these tests you can be assured the ThinkPad 13 stands up to different usage scenarios and environments. You can read more about Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13 military certification tests on the Lenovo website.

Overall the ThinkPad 13 is a well designed, solidly built lightweight ultrabook computer.


The screen is very clear, with decent color representations and very little, if any, glare from nearby light sources. Text is very crisp and the 1080p resolution provided ample work space on the screen. Given the move towards touch screen devices, it would be nice to have a touch screen option available on the ThinkPad 13.


The screen is very crisp and clear, with very little glare.


The ThinkPad 13 we tested shipped with Windows 10 Pro, as well as a few pre-installed Lenovo apps which can be uninstalled if you choose not to want them. In the case of this ultrabook, the Lenovo Solution Center, Lenovo Companion, and Lenovo Settings apps were the only ones pre-installed which is relatively light considering some of the other Lenovo systems.


Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13 performed well with the Intel Core i3-6100U processor, 4GB of RAM, and the 128GB SSD drive. Programs loaded quickly and were very responsive, including Microsoft Office apps and even photo editing in Adobe Photoshop was fairly decent. If you are doing a lot of photo and video editing, you’ll definitely want to go with a faster processor and more RAM which is an option in the ThinkPad 13 line. Of course you’re not buying a gaming system here, and the Intel HD Graphics 520 video card is the only option, but lower specification games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm ran well enough on lower settings.


The sound on the ThinkPad 13 is decent enough. It does sound a bit tinny but can also be adjusted with the Dolby Audio application. The application allows you to toggle between Dynamic, Movie, Music, Game, Voice, and Personalize modes and the difference is noticeable based on what multimedia content you are consuming. You’re not going to get a ton of bass out of this system but I was impressed with how loud the volume could go on it.


The 720p web camera worked pretty much as expected and provided a decent enough image for video calling, and worked quite well even in lower light situations.

Battery Life

During testing, we were able to get between 8 and 9 hours of battery life on a single charge. This included basic word processing, photo editing, music streaming, and web browsing as well as a few short gaming sessions during these tests. Depending on your usage of course, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 should easily last you through most of your business or school day without requiring you to scramble to find a place to plug it in.


Our review unit retails for around $760 before savings (Lenovo currently has it on sale for $687) which is a reasonable price for what you get. If you downgrade to Windows 10 Home and a 1366×768 resolution screen, you can get it for around $611 on the current promotion. Of course, you can max it out with faster processors, more RAM, and more hard drive space to a price of about $1364 ($1227.60 on promotion) so there are plenty of options. Even our near base review unit was more than able to handle business case applications.


The ThinkPad 13 is light, thin, well constructed, has a sharp screen, quick performance, and long battery life.


Lenovo has another winner with the ThinkPad 13 ultrabook. Not only is it light, thin, and well constructed, the sharp screen, quick performance, long battery life, and customization options should meet the needs for business users and students alike.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13
4.8 Out of 5
Nailed it
Sharp, clear screen with little glare, long battery life, solid build. Affordable price point, especially with the current promotional pricing.
Needs Work
It would be nice to have backlit keyboard and touchscreen options.
Bottom Line
Lenovo has another winner with the ThinkPad 13 ultrabook. Not only is it light, thin, and well constructed, the sharp screen, quick performance, long battery life, and customization options should meet the needs for business users and students alike.
Battery Life5.00
*We were sent a demo unit of the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 for the purposes of this review.
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