Lenovo ThinkPad X390 review: 13.3-inch business notebook for those who travel light

Lenovo's 2019 wave of laptop refreshes includes the 13.3-inch ThinkPad X390, a business-focused device that's thin and light, with hardware options suited for just about any non-specialized work you throw at it. I used the X390 for about a week to see whether or not it's worth the money and whether or not it has the right set of features to be your next laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad X390 tech specs

Lenovo supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the ThinkPad X390. This is the standard notebook version, and there is a convertible option available under the name X390 Yoga. This exact model costs about $1,369 and includes an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor (CPU), 16GB of DDR4-2400MHz RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 13.3-inch FHD touch display.

We reviewed the 2018 X380 Yoga and noted the colorful display, great keyboard, generous port selection, and speedy hardware. We also dinged it for having soldered RAM and no removable battery. Remarkable changes to the X390, other than the non-convertible hinges, include a CPU upgrade to Whiskey Lake, a different port selection, a webcam shutter, and a thinner and lighter chassis.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the exact specs in our review model.

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Processor8th GenIntel Core i7-8565UFour coresUp to 4.60GHz
RAM16GB DDR4-2400MHzDual channelSoldered
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
Storage512GB PCIe NVMe M.2Intel Pro 7600p
Display13.3 inches1920x1080 (FHD)IPS, touch, anti-glare
PortsUSB-C 3.1 (Gen 1 charging)Thunderbolt 3 (2x lanes PCIe)Two USB-A 3.1HDMI 1.4Ethernet Extension3.5mm audioMicro-SIM (optional)Smart Card Reader (optional)
AudioDolby Audio PremiumDual 1W speakers
WirelessIntel Wireless-AC 9560802.11acBluetooth 5.0
CameraFront-facing 720pCamera shutterIR camera (optional)
BiometricsFingerprint readerIR cameradTPM 2.0
TouchpadPrecisionTrackPoint system
Dimensions12.28 inches x 8.55 inches x 0.67 inches(312mm x 217.2mm x 16.9mm)
WeightFrom 2.84 pounds (1.28kg)

Lenovo ThinkPad X390 design and features

There's nothing out of the ordinary for the X390, at least when it comes to ThinkPads. It has a black soft-touch finish that picks up fingerprints and smudges quite easily — you'll want to keep a cleaning cloth handy if you're particular about having a clean laptop — and it has the usual ThinkPad logos on the right palm rest and corner of the lid. It uses dual silver hinges that allow for 180 degrees of motion, but, unlike the X390 Yoga, it's not a convertible. The hinges are firm enough that the display shouldn't shake around on you when in a moving vehicle, but they're smooth enough that you can almost open the laptop with one hand … just need a bit more weight in the chassis.

The ThinkPad X390 is a durable, powerful 13.3-inch business laptop with an overall build cut out for those who like to stay mobile.

Coming in at about 2.84 pounds (1.28kg), this 13.3-inch laptop is small enough to easily tuck under an arm or slide into a backpack without taking up much space. It's also 0.67 inches (16.9mm) thick, giving it a sleek look that's attractive when open or closed. Thinness is often a reason for lack of ports, but as a business laptop, Lenovo has kept a generous mix and has even ditched its proprietary rectangular charging port for USB-C 3.1. Along with the smaller and more versatile charging port, on the left side is a single Thunderbolt 3 (unfortunately with 2x lanes PCIe, which cuts something like external GPU performance), HDMI, USB-A, and an Ethernet Extension port that hooks up to Lenovo's RJ45 adapter. It's a bit of a nuisance having to carry around an extra piece of hardware, though nothing you won't be able to live with.

The right side has another USB-A port and an optional Smart Card reader, and along the back is a microSD card reader that doubles as a Micro-SIM slot if you opt for a configuration that includes a Fibocom LTE adapter. A single-watt speaker is positioned on either side of the bottom of the laptop, and audio is about what's expected from a ThinkPad. It's loud, it's clear, but it's not going to knock you back in your seat. In your lap sound can be muffled, but on a flat surface, you're in the clear.

The ThinkPad X390 is not exempt from the usual MIL-STD 810G durability testing, ensuring it's ready to handle just about anything you subject it to. The aluminum-magnesium alloy chassis feels firm when handled, there's no flex in the body, and the lid, which is made from a PPS plastic, doesn't have much flex and seems as sturdy as the main body. Lenovo also likes to keep its ThinkPads secure, and other than a dTPM 2.0 chip inside, there's a fingerprint reader set into the right palm rest and an optional IR camera above the display, both compatible with Windows Hello for fast and secure logins. One thing I love seeing on laptops is a webcam shutter, which is included here.

Lenovo ThinkPad X390 display

To keep costs down for Enterprise bulk purchases and anyone who doesn't mind a low-res display, Lenovo offers a 1366x768 (HD) option that hits about 250 nits brightness. There's also a non-touch 1920x1080 (FHD) version, as well as the model I have here, which is multi-touch FHD. Brightness reaches up to about 300 nits, and though it's not completely matte, it does have an anti-glare coating to help see what's on the screen in well-lit spaces.

I'm not entirely sold on the idea of a clamshell notebook with a touch display since I can't rotate it around for tablet mode, but I'm sure some of you out there will find it worth the extra cost. Color reproduction in the sRGB gamut is excellent, hitting 98 per cent in my testing. I can't speak for the HD display, but the FHD touch version has deep color without any washed out look.

Lenovo isn't trying to impress anyone with a slim bezel, so if that's the look you're going for, you'll probably want to check out something else, like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. At least good use is made of the chunky top bezel, as it contains the IR camera for facial recognition, front-facing 720p camera, and webcam shutter.

Lenovo's website also mentions another X390 display expected to be available Summer 2019, this one with PrivacyGuard that cuts down viewing angles so that those over your shoulder can't see what's on the screen. It will also include PrivacyAlert software that lets you know when someone is checking out your screen from afar. If these features are important to you, you'll probably want to wait a couple of months for the new display to be released.

Lenovo ThinkPad X390 keyboard and touchpad

The X390's keyboard is immediately recognizable, with cupped keys, smooth travel, perfect spacing, and three-tier backlight. Compared to the ThinkPad P52 and ThinkPad P72 mobile workstations with silky keyboards I tested, the X390 just doesn't feel like it has the same amount of travel and some keys seem to require a bit more actuation force. That's no doubt due to the slimness of the laptop, and though I say it's still a superb keyboard — I typed thousands of words without issue — it might take a day to get used to.

The touchpad is sized well to match the rest of the laptop, and the Precision drivers allow for a full range of Windows 10 gestures and smooth tracking. There are no physical buttons below the touchpad, but above are three included with the TrackPoint system. Yes, the red pointer is still in the middle of the keyboard, and it works as well as ever.

Lenovo ThinkPad X390 performance and battery

The X390 has inside Intel's 8th Gen Whiskey Lake Core i7-8565U CPU, which gives a nice boost to performance over the older i7-8550U Kaby Lake R option. I used this laptop as a daily driver for about a week, and it handled everything I threw at it — video streaming, heavy web browsing with many tabs and windows, word processing, and file sharing — without even bothering to turn on the fan.

Unfortunately, RAM cannot be upgraded down the line because it's soldered to the board, though the M.2 SSD can be swapped out by removing the back cover. Fans of modular batteries are also out of luck, and you'll have to bring a charger when leaving for a full day of work. With a balanced battery plan and brightness at about 50 per cent, I saw about six hours of regular use before needing a charge. The 65W adapter with USB-C plug does get you back up to around 75 per cent in about an hour, and because the X390 no longer depends on the proprietary Lenovo charger, you'll no doubt be able to easier snag an adapter from someone else if you're running on a low charge.

I ran some benchmarks on the system to see how well it stacks up against a bunch of other laptops we've reviewed.


Geekbench 4.0 Benchmarks (Higher is better)

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DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Lenovo ThinkPad X390i7-8565U5,47218,059
Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yogai5-8250U4,24211,996
MSI PS63 Moderni7-8565U4,90914,466
Huawei MateBook X Proi7-8565U5,19216,757
HP Spectre x360 13ti7-8565U5,05614,767
Surface Laptop 2i5-8250U4,20313,233
LG gram 14 2-in-1i7-8565U4,82913,889


Geekbench 4.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

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Lenovo ThinkPad X390Intel UHD 62037,440
Lenovo ThinkPad X380 YogaIntel UHD 62021,384
Huawei MateBook X ProNVIDIA MX25045,365
HP Spectre x360 13tIntel UHD 62037,487
Surface Laptop 2Intel UHD 62035,473


PCMark Home Conventional 3.0

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Lenovo ThinkPad X3903,934
Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga2,861
LG gram 14 2-in-13,452
Lenovo Yoga C9303,506


CrystalDiskMark (Higher is better)

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Lenovo ThinkPad X3903,024 MB/s1,563.2 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga3,337.5 MB/s1,946.2 MB/s
Huawei MateBook X Pro3,0416 MB/s2,779 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 13t3,085 MB/s1,182 MB/s
LG gram 14 2-in-1558.1 MB/s523.1 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C9302,596.2 MB/s806 MB/s

The Intel M.2 SSD isn't as fast as some of the higher-end options we've seen, but it is available up to 1TB in size from the factory. If you'd like to save some money at checkout, it can be upgraded in the future with something larger and faster.

Should you buy Lenovo's ThinkPad X390?

If you're already using a modern TouchPad released in the last couple of years, including the X380 Yoga, an upgrade to the X390 probably isn't necessary unless you're interested in waiting for the new privacy options for the display, a slightly slimmer chassis, or the move from the proprietary charging port. You are going to get great performance out of the X390, though battery life sits somewhere around the six-hour mark, which doesn't make it through a workday.

If you are interested but don't know if the laptop is for you, the ThinkPad X390 is a great choice for anyone who wants to travel light and who doesn't need anything larger than 13.3 inches or who doesn't need a higher resolution than FHD. It's slim and sleek, yet it's durable enough to take a beating, and it's priced competitively. The model I reviewed has higher-end hardware, yet it sits at about $1,369. If you're interested in seeing what other devices are out there with similar features, be sure to check out our roundup of the best business laptops.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.