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Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: A modern take on an iconic laptop

ThinkPad heritage. Designed for Gen Z.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 laptop
(Image: © Chuong Nguyen)

Our Verdict

Lenovo made a ThinkPad for Gen Z. The ThinkPad Z13 packs in plenty of performance in a modernize design, but by skimping on the keyboard experience, Lenovo's latest business-class laptop may not appeal to devoted fans of the brand.

For

  • Luxurious faux leather finish
  • Modernized design
  • Compact design with minimal screen bezels
  • Notchless, bright display
  • Great performance with Ryzen 6000 mobile processor

Against

  • High price
  • Keyboard not as good as traditional ThinkPads

Lenovo’s buttoned-up lineup of ThinkPad laptops has been the golden standard for business. Younger generations, however, have decried the iconic notebook’s unchanging boxy black aesthetics. To capture the interest of Gen Z, Lenovo introduced a wholly redesigned ThinkPad: The ThinkPad Z13.

Unlike ThinkPads before it, the Z13 embraces a new faux leatherette trim and copper-hued accents, making it modern and retro all at the same time. While the Z13 got a stylish makeover on the outside, the real appeal is on the inside. Unlike other versions of Lenovo’s business-centric laptops, the ThinkPad Z13 is designed entirely around AMD’s Ryzen processor architecture, which promises power, stamina, and performance in a lightweight package. But can Lenovo keep the ThinkPad line’s legacy appeal while modernizing its aesthetic with the Z13?

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: Price, availability, and specs

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

Clad in luxurious leather and with contrasting copper trim, Lenovo's latest ThinkPad Z13 is not your father's ThinkPad. Lenovo's modernized take on its iconic business-class laptop starts at $1,355. At the base configuration, you'll get an AMD Ryzren 5 Pro 6650U mobile processor, Windows 11 Home, 16GB of LPDDR5 soldered memory, 256GB solid-state PCIe Gen4 drive, and a 13.3-inch WUXGA non-touch display in an all-metal design. 

Our upgraded review unit comes in at $1,851 after Lenovo's promotion. Instead of the all-metal design, the upgraded configuration includes a vegan leather lid, Ryzen 7 6850U processor, Windows 11 Pro, 16GB of soldered LPDDR5 6400MHz RAM, 512GB of PCIe Gen4 solid-state storage, and a 13.3-inch WUXGA touchscreen display. All models ship with included 1080p webcam and IR camera for biometric security, a fingerprint reader, and Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 support. 

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Specifications (as reviewed)
ProcessorAMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6850U
GraphicsIntegrated AMD Radeon 680M
Storage512GB PCIe SSD Gen4
Memory16GB LPDDR6 6400MHz (soldered)
Display13.3-inch WUXGA IPS touchscreen
CameraIR & 1080p webcam

Maxed-out configurations of this laptop retails for $2,267 after discount, which boosts the memory to 32GB and ups the storage to 1TB. Lenovo also offers an upgraded OLED touchscreen display with a 2.8K 2880 x 1800 resolution. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

All ThinkPad Z13s are backed by a one-year on-site limited warranty. As this is a business laptop, Lenovo offers various options to expand your coverage or extend your warranty for added protection.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: Design and features

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

The ThinkPad Z13 is perhaps Lenovo’s starkest departure from the ThinkPad heritage. Though this modern laptop retains the boxy aesthetic and straight edges, it trades in the smooth black finishes and unassuming design in favor of a fashion-forward vegan leather trim with contrasting copper-hued tones. Those who want a more understated finish can opt instead for the Arctic Gray aluminum lid instead.

Our vegan leatherette lid feels more unique and stands out against Lenovo’s sea of black ThinkPads. Still, by embracing personality, the Z13 gives up the ThinkPad’s heritage of stoic minimalism. That’s not to say that the new design is flashy – it retains elements of a traditional ThinkPad with straight edges, subtly curved corners, mostly black finish, and the iconic red light on the light that’s built into the dot on the “i” of the ThinkPad logo. 

Unless you’re a fan of tradition, Lenovo’s modern take on the classic ThinkPad is very refined and polished – it feels like a laptop that’s made for the 2020s rather than the 1980s. Equally stylish as it is functional, the new design still embraces Lenovo’s design philosophy of very minimal flourishes. Everything seems thought through, from the vegan leather to the camera bar at the top. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

Lenovo isn’t the first company to use leather or vegan leather in its design, nor is it the first to focus on sustainability, but its efforts seem more authentic than many of its rivals. HP’s 2018 Spectre Folio, for example, was one of the first laptops to debut with a leather folio, but the use of real leather raised some eyebrows among vegans and those who are concerned with the environmental impact of the beef industry. The use of vegan leather here solves that problem, and the pebbled leather grain looks premium and feels nice – it’s definitely a lot more inviting to look at and feel than the cold aluminum that clads Apple’s MacBook laptops. 

Similarly, the sustainable approach has been very well executed. From the recycled aluminum bottom plate to the recycled plastics in the leather lid to the compostable packaging made from bamboo and sugarcane fibers, you really can’t accuse Lenovo of greenwashing. 

The ThinkPad Z13 is available in two trims – an all-metal variant and the leather-clad version with copper accents. Our review unit is the latter, and it is the more interesting laptop to look at. The use of vegan leather here gives the Z13 a luxurious feel – similar to the interior of a luxury car – and the hallmark Lenovo and ThinkPad logos have been “branded” into the vegan leather, giving it all the branding elements of a traditional ThinkPad.

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

Compared to the classic ThinkPad X1 lineup, I prefer the leather, as it’s less of a fingerprint magnet than the glass fiber-laced lid, and it just looks better. And the accented copper-toned rails that go around the Z13’s side add a nice bit of contrast. And inlaid into the metal copper-colored rails are strips of plastic that help the laptop connect to Wi-Fi 6E networks and Bluetooth devices. The design isn’t unlike what Apple is doing for the sides of its latest iPhone models. 

In spite of the mobile-inspired design with antennas placed around the edge of the laptop, mobile broadband, sadly, doesn’t come integrated inside the body.

Even though the Z13 stuck to a boxier, squared-off aesthetic – gone is the slightly slant wedge-shaped profile from Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon line – this laptop feels incredibly compact and portable. At 294 x 199mm, the footprint of the Z13 is more compact than the MacBook Air M2, the XPS 13 Plus, and the ThinkPad X1 Nano, making it a great companion for business travelers. 

The Z13's slim profile of 0.55 inches makes it thicker than the 0.44-inch MacBook Air, but still slimmer than the 0.66-inch X1 Nano and the 0.6-inch X1 Carbon. And at just 2.76 pounds, it's light enough for road warriors to travel with. The slim silhouette of this Ryzen-powered laptop gives Intel’s Ultrabooks a run for their money. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

There’s a small copper band at the top, which houses the laptop’s FHD and IR cameras, that serves as a lip to make opening and closing the lid easier. In reality, the expanded portion allows Lenovo to cram camera tech into the Z13’s compact body without having to increase the size of the minimal display bezels or resort to having a top notch like on Apple’s latest laptop models. The narrow bezels give the Z13 a 92% screen-to-body ratio. 

The downside with the Z13 is that in some areas, Lenovo appears more focused on form than function. With the webcam, for example, the company moved from a physical webcam shutter for privacy to an electronic one. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

And unlike bulkier business notebooks, Lenovo is taking a cloud-first approach with the Z13. Targeting the Gen Z demographics, the ThinkPad Z13 sheds a lot of its bulk and the ports that go with it, in favor of a slimmer profile. Here, you’ll get two USB-C 4 ports – one on either side of the laptop – along with a power button on the right side and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Likely, most users will likely connect the laptop to cloud services, use Bluetooth peripherals, or rely on the notebook’s spacious 512GB of Gen4 NVMe solid-state drive for storage, mitigating the need for additional ports. 

An included 65W USB-C charger is included in the box, and using the charger will occupy one of the two ports on this laptop. If you do need more ports, be prepared to live the dongle life if you choose this model. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

Another departure from standard Lenovo ThinkPad models is that the bottom of the Z13 is made from recycled aluminum, rather than glass fiber. The bottom panel serves as a passive cooler for the laptop – the internal fans provide active cooling – and vents along the bottom complete the notebook’s thermal system. 

Given that the aluminum bottom plate is used as part of the thermal system, heat can be an issue. The Z13 runs hot, especially when the CPU is taxed, making this a less-than-ideal notebook for use on your lap. When used on a desk or solid surface, heat isn't as big of a concern. 

Like most business laptops, the bottom panel can be removed, giving you access to the internals to replace or upgrade components over time. Unscrewing the five screws – which are kept secured to the lid – will give you access to the M.2 SSD. The Wi-Fi card and RAM are both soldered to the main board and cannot be upgraded. Serviceable components include the fans and battery.

And given that this is a ThinkPad, the Z13 passes Lenovo's MIL-STD 810H testing, ensuring that it has the durability to be used in tougher environments.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: Keyboard and trackpad

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With its signature red nub that’s an iconic mainstay on all ThinkPad models, the keyboard perhaps is the one area that Lenovo stumbled on with the Z13. If you’re new to the ThinkPad brand, you likely won’t notice, but the slightly degraded performance of the keyboard compared to other members of the ThinkPad family dilutes the brand. 

Like most ThinkPads before it, the Z13’s keyboard delivers a great typing experience with a full-size keyboard and an edge-to-edge design to fit the compact space. The keys maintain a smile-shaped design with a subtle curve along the bottom edge to help with typing speed and accuracy, according to lenovo’s research, and you also get a full row of function keys at the top. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

The most immediate change you’ll spot is that Lenovo inverted the Ctrl and Fn keys on this keyboard. Rather than placing the Fn key on the left-most edge like on other ThinkPad laptops, the Z13 maintains a more traditional layout with the Ctrl key on the left. It took me a few hours to adjust to the new arrangement having come from the ThinkPad X1 carbon, and long-time ThinkPad fans who upgrade to the Z13 can swap the key mapping in software. 

And given how slim the Z13 is, Lenovo also changed key travel on this laptop, opting for a more shallow distance to save space. Rather than the more traditional ThinkPad 1.5mm of key travel, the Z13 reduces this to about 1.35mm. To balance thing, the Z13 has stiffer keys that require greater actuation force, giving the illusion of deeper key travel. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

In my use, the Z13’s keys feel good to type on – they have deeper travel than the keys on my MacBook Pro, but it’s still nowhere near as comfortable as the keyboard on my X1 Carbon. New users to the ThinkPad line will find the keyboard excellent if they haven’t experienced some of Lenovo’s best laptops. The keys re backlit, and the function keys can be remapped using Lenovo’s software. I appreciated having dedicated function keys to mute and umute the microphone for my video calls, a feature that’s often missing from consumer laptops. The arrow keys have also been altered on the Z13, and you’ll find a fingerprint scanner as a secondary biometric authentication method on this laptop in addition to the IR camera. 

When typing, I found the keys to be a bit louder than that on the X1 Carbon, but still a lot more quiet than the keys on my MacBook Pro. The Z13’s keyboard is excellent, and the more familiar arrangement with the control key to the left of the function key is a welcomed change for new users to the ThinkPad family. 

A fairly wide – but not quite as tall – trackpad sits below the keyboard deck. To increase the overall surface area for the trackpad this year, Lenovo employs a haptic area on the top area of the trackpad, which can double as click buttons for the trackpoint. Instead of physical left and right click buttons, you can press down and feel a haptic click on the left or right top edge of the trackpad when you’re using the red trackpoint, and this works not unlike Apple’s 3D Touch or Force Touch on the MacBook. The virtual buttons can be configured, and users can change how much force is needed to activate these buttons as well as the audibility of the clicking noise. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

If you rely on the trackpoint, the downside with this arrangement is that you can’t blindly feel where the buttons are, and you can inadvertently press on the wrong thing. This could be a dealbreaker for long-time ThinkPad owners, but given that the Z13 is made for Gen Z audiences, I doubt this change will impede the notebook’s usability. 

And by changing to this new design, Lenovo has expoanded the touchpad area. The glass-covered touchpad is a joy to use, providing an accurate way to control the cursor and perform gestures.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: Display

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One of the best display features of the ThinkPad X1 series was removed to get the Z13 down to a more affordable price point that will appeal to Gen Z. On most ThinkPad models, the screen can recline a full 180 degrees, laying flat on the table alongside the keyboard deck. While this yoga gesture may not seem significant, it makes collaborating with nearby colleagues easier – a team can huddle around the display and view content at the same time. The Z13’s more discrete and concealed hinge means that the screen can’t recline quite as far, going from closed to about 145 degrees. In use, it reclines about as far as the display on my Intel-powered MacBook Pro. 

The Z13’s 13.3-inch display comes in a number of resolutions and configurations, all supporting a slightly taller 16:10 aspect ratio. I find the taller 16:10 better for multitasking and productivity than the standard 16:9 on most consumer notebooks, though it’s still not quite as tall as Microsoft’s 3:2 display on the Surface Pro 8. Our model comes with a 1920 X 1200 resolution IPS panel that supports touch and comes with a coating to reduce glare and smudging. There are also options for a matte screen without touch support as well as an upgraded 2.8K resolution OLED touchscreen panel with 2880 x 1800 pixels.

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

The narrow borders on the display makes working on content feel very immersive. For travel, the more compact frame makes the Z13 feel a lot more compact than it actually is, but when you’re working on this laptop, the immersive quality of the display makes it seem like you’re working on a larger 14-inch screen. 

The standard IPS touch display that was configured on our review unit is gorgeous, rendering rich, bright colors with even backlighting. The screen is also very bright. Lenovo rates the display at 400 nits, which is 100 more than the average laptop in this class. In use, I was able to get up to 435 nits with the Z13. 

In general, I found that I didn’t need to go above 75% brightness in most situations, and outdoors under the blazing sun, the display is still very readable when cranked up to 100% brightness. Reflectivity is still a problem, despite the anti-reflection coating, when working under bright ambient lighting. The screen also benefited from wide viewing angles. 

The screen also is great for creative work, with 100% coverage of the wide sRGB color space.

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: Performance

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Even though the Z13’s design may make it less familiar as a ThinkPad, the performance of this laptop is nothing short of the brand’s standard. AMD’s Ryzen 6000 Pro processor is the star of the show and the brains behind the Z13’s beauty. 

The Ryzen 7 6850U mobile processor on our review unit packs in eight processing cores, and the CPu also integrate AMD’s Radeon 680M graphics with 12 GPU cores. Performance of the Ryzen 6000 Pro processor is very competitive. With the Ryzn 6000, AMD largely delivers on its promise of being able to deliver efficient performance to a compact laptop that can be used for productivity, creativity, and gaming. 

In general productivity tasks where the CPU is mainly used, performance of the AMD Ryzen 7 6850U was largely similar to Intel’s 12th Gen Core i7 mobile processors. The performance similarities between these two competing chipsets were confirmed in our PCMark 10, Geekbench 5, and Cinebench tests. 

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Performance Benchmarks
BenchmarkSingle-coreMulti-core
Geekbench 51,5658,911
Cinebench R231,54312,350
PCMark 105,962

While the single- and multi-core scores on the Geekbench 5 standard were similar to competing Intel models, the Ryzen’s multi-core performance blows past the rival 12th Gen Intel by 2,000 points. Performance of the Ryzen 6000 Pro processor across various energy modes was very similar on the Z13, whereas Intel’s processor becomes throttled in more energy-efficient modes. 

Compared to Apple's M2 processor on the recent MacBook Air, the Ryzen 6000 on the Z13 performed slightly worse on single-core processor benchmarks but blew away the Mac's custom Arm-based silicon in multi-core performance on the Cinebench benchmark. 

In use, the ThinkPad Z13 never felt sluggish when launching apps, multitasking with multiple windows opened, or web browsing with multiple tabs opened. For most productivity tasks, the laptop's performance is buttery smooth. 

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

Efficiency is an area where the Ryzen shines compared to the Intel rival, and this shows in battery life. In my mixed use of the ThinkPad Z13, I was able to average between 12 and 15 hours with mixed usage and display set to around 50% brightness, which means that the Z13 should be able to go for up to two work days without requiring a recharge. Battery saver mode did kick in towards the end of the second day to stretch battery life further. This places the Ryzen-powered Z13 in Arm territory when it comes to efficiency, but the benefit here is you're still getting an x86 processor that's tuned for business computing. 

More CPU and GPU intensive tasks, like editing videos or light gaming, would draw more power, but in general, the Ryzen’s power efficiency is very competent. Similar usage would result in battery life between six and eight hours on a comparable Intel 12th Gen CPU, meaning that the Z13's AMD chipset delivered twice the battery longevity on a single charge. 

With the integrated AMD Radeon processor, the ThinkPad Z13 score 2,567 points on the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, which is to be expected on a laptop without discrete graphics. I didn't notice any slow downs when performing light photo edits. Video encoding is a bit slower than a laptop with discrete graphics, so if you're a creative, the Z13 may not be an ideal fit.