Lenovo has always been successful with their top-end ThinkPad lineup and opposed to the usual standard, the ThinkPad 13 Gen2 is actually kind of affordable compared to the rest of the ultrabooks from the family. But does the relatively low price come at a price and is Lenovo cutting corners here? Well, in some cases, yes but in general, the notebook carries some of the distinctive characteristics all ThinkPads have – design and feel, spotless input devices and portability.
The laptop offers a better price point even compared to some of its 13-inch competitors like the Dell’s XPS 13, for example, while delivering the same hardware – Intel Core i7-7500U CPU with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU, 8GB of memory, M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage and 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display. But in order to fit the price point, the ThinkPad 13 misses on the high-quality premium materials like aluminum, magnesium alloy and carbon fiber, which are usually found in almost all high-end 13-inchers. Still, somehow the laptop stays on track with essential business-oriented features.
You can find the available configurations here: http://amzn.to/2udJB2D
The laptop comes in a standard box containing all the usual user manuals, AC adapter and power cord.
Design and construction
As we said earlier, the ThinkPad 13 doesn’t fall too far from the rest of the ThinkPad laptops with clean, simplistic and classic appearance, from which you can tell it means business. The notebook also appears to be relatively light weighing at around 1.4 kg and a tad thinner than 20 mm. Unfortunately, the low weight comes from the missing metal frame, which can be found in most ThinkPads nowadays but we address this issue further on.
The fairly thick lid gives an impression of a solid backplate with matte black finish but in reality, it’s nothing special at all. Bending the middle of the lid is relatively easy and causes small ripples to appear on the LCD screen, although flexing isn’t very easy due to the good hinge support in this regard. Again, only the middle of the lid is susceptible to bending. The hinges look metal-like but they are actually made of plastic painted in light gray imitating anodized aluminum. They provide general stability but are a bit too tight because opening the machine with one hand is impossible. The bottom of the base, however, isn’t made of matte or soft-touch finish but instead uses a slightly roughened basic black plastic with a number of vent openings for better airflow.
The sides are pretty thin and offer the bare minimum of connectors we would like to see from such device. The left side holds the DC charging port, one USB 3.0 and one connector for an external docking station if you need the extra connectivity options. There’s also the main heat dispersing grill placed on the left. The right side, on the other hand, incorporates most of the I/O making it a bit overcrowded with ports. You can see the SD card reader, 3.5 mm audio jack, two USB 3.0 connectors, an HDMI port and another USB 3.1 port, which, unfortunately, is just Gen 1 (the bandwidth is limited to 5 Gbps).
The interior is probably the most controversial part of the ThinkPad 13. The AccuType style of keyboard with long key travel, slightly dented keycaps, and clicky tactile feedback make up for an excellent typing experience. Along with the keyboard, we see well-implemented TrackPoint with all three mouse buttons under the spacebar and what took us by surprise is the spotless touchpad. We found it better than the ThinkPad T470 and T570, which had stiff and mushy trackpads while this one, seemingly identical to the one used in the T-series, is clicky and light to press. What we didn’t like, however, is the rigidity of the base in general. When light pressure is applied in the center of the keyboard, or the area between the hinges, the base is visibly deformed. We even noticed sinking while clicking on the trackpad, which in our opinion is just unacceptable for a ThinkPad notebook. Probably the missing magnesium frame in the interior is the key feature that’s been left out from this fairly affordable 13-inch ThinkPad.
If you are a fan of the classic ThinkPad design and input devices, you should really consider buying one. However, be aware of some of the issues that the ThinkPad 13 suffers from like weak base, small set of I/O and overall average feel, excluding the keyboard and touchpad, of course. Compared to some of its more expensive rivals, we can clearly see why the Lenovo is able to sell one of these at such competitive price but at the same time, we can think of some more reliable similarly-priced solutions like the Acer TravelMate X349. the ASUS UX303UB or the Acer Swift 5.
Disassembly, maintenance and upgrade options
We were surprised to see that the bottom doesn’t offer any kind of service covers and the battery isn’t user-accessible because usually, ThinkPads are convenient for upgrade and maintenance. In any case, the ThinkPad 13 Gen 2 is still easy to tear down – you just need to remove all the screws around the bottom and gently pry up the plate.
Storage upgrades – 2.5-inch HDD/SSD, M.2 SSD
As expected, the laptop features only one M.2 slot and has no extra 2.5-inch bay for an HDD or SSD. And even though the motherboard supports PCIe NVMe-enabled SSDs, our unit came with a SanDisk X400 2280 running on the SATA III controller and has a capacity of just 256GB. For the asking price, we were kind of expecting at least a generic PCIe NVMe drive.
|M.2 slot||256GB SanDisk X400 M.2 SATA SSD (2280)||Upgrade options|
The motherboard offers two memory slots but in our case, only one of them was taken by a Ramaxel 8GB DDR4-2133 chip.
|Slot 1||8GB Ramaxel DDR4-2133||Upgrade options|
|Slot 2||Free||Upgrade options|
The Wi-Fi card is located right next to the RAM slots and it’s Intel 8265NGW.
The notebook’s battery isn’t as big as we thought it would be – it’s rated at 42Wh.
The cooling design is simple and should do the trick considering the hardware. It consists of a single heat pipe connecting the heat sink and the cooling fan.
The notebook’s display uses an LG LP133WF2-SPL8 IPS panel with Full HD (1920×1080) resolution in a 13.3-inch diagonal. The pixel density is 166 ppi while the pixel pitch is 0.153 x 0.153 mm. The screen can be considered as “Retina” when viewed from a distance equal or greater than 50 cm.
Viewing angles are good.
We’ve recorded a maximum brightness of 291 cd/m2 in the middle and 289 cd/m2 as average across the surface with just 8% maximum deviation. The color temperature at maximum brightness is exactly 6500K.
The maximum dE2000 color deviation is just 1.9 which is an excellent result especially if you color-sensitive work is involved. Values above 4.0 are usually unwanted. The contrast ratio is 800:1 or in other words – decent.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction of the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
Unfortunately, the notebook’s display covers only half of the sRGB gamut – 51%. This means that the display will still be suitable for office work and web browsing but will lack plenty of colors for good multimedia experience.
Below you will see practically the same image but with the color circles representing the reference colors and the white circles being the result. You can see main and additional colors with 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% saturation inside the sRGB gamut pre and post calibration.
The “Design and Gaming” profile is created at 140 cd/m2 brightness, D65 (6500K) white point and optimal gamma in sRGB mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle and the surrounding light conditions.
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and reverse.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 24 ms.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
We have some good news and bad news about the PWM. The bad news is that the display flickers from 0 to 99% brightness but the good news is that the frequency of the emitted light is really high (29.8 kHz) and thus reduces the negative impact on one’s eyesight. Only users with extra sensitive eyes will notice the issue.
Blue light emissions
Installing of our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
You can see the levels of emitted blue light on the spectral power distribution (SDP) graph.
To be honest, we were expecting a slightly better IPS panel with wider sRGB coverage, higher contrast and generally brighter. To be fair, this is a 13-inch business notebook so sRGB coverage and contrast may not be the key selling factor but since the maximum brightness is relatively low, you will find the display a bit hard to use outdoors, especially if there’s a direct sunlight. Also, the presence of PWM, although the frequency is higher than usual, makes the display mediocre.
Buy our display profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package is meant for Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Gen 2 configurations with 13.3″ LG LP133WF2-SPL8 (FHD, 1920 × 1080) IPS screen and the laptop can be found at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2udJB2D
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.
Design and Gaming
This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.
THealth-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.
The sound clarity in the low, mid and high frequency but at maximum volume, you can hear the some distortions.
The current specs sheet refers to this particular model – configurations may differ depending on your region.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-7500U (2-core, 2.70 – 3.50 GHz, 4MB cache)|
|RAM||8GB (1x 8192MB) – DDR4, 2133MHz|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 620|
|HDD/SSD||256GB M.2 SATA SSD|
|Display||13.3-inch – 1920×1080 (Full HD) IPS, matte|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2, Bluetooth 4.1|
|Thickness||19.8 mm (0.78″)|
|Weight||1.4 kg (3.16 lbs)|
We used the pre-installed Windows 10 (64-bit) for the writing of this review but if you wish to perform a clean install of the OS without the bloatware, we suggest downloading all of the latest drivers from Lenovo’s official support page.
Although Lenovo’s ThinkPads are often associated with good battery life, this model, in particular, isn’t very impressive in this regard. To be honest, we were expecting much better battery runtimes considering the 42Wh unit on board but it falls short of most of its competitors at this price range. The Acer Aspire S 13, for example, is similarly-priced ultrabook with impressive endurance while the ThinkPad 13 Gen 2 doesn’t even come close.
As usual, all tests were performed using the same settings as always – Wi-Fi constantly running, Windows battery saving feature turned on and screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
Pretty subpar battery performance – 358 minutes (5 hours and 58 minutes).
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
Even lower result here – 248 minutes (4 hours and 8 minutes).
We recently started using F1 2015’s built-in benchmark on loop in order to simulate real-life gaming.
Of course, the laptop isn’t made for gaming away from the plug – or gaming at all – but it’s good to know that it can last a little over an hour and a half under heavy workload – 102 minutes (1 hour and 32 minutes).
CPU – Intel Core i7-7500U
The Core i7-7500U is part of the latest Intel Kaby Lake generation of CPUs built upon 14nm manufacturing process – or 14nm+ as the company markets – and should offer marginal performance gains over the Skylake generation while improving overall power efficiency. It’s a direct successor to the Core i7-6500U (Skylake) and Core i7-5500 (Broadwell) but opposed to previous architecture refreshes, the Kaby Lake Core i7-7500U is bringing much higher clock rates. Now the chip is clocked at 2.7 – 3.5 GHz (compared to the 2.5 – 3.1 GHz on the Skylake Core i7-6500U) and still adopting the 2/4 core/thread count using the HyperThreading technology with a maximum 4MB cache.
However, the Core i7-7500U’s TDP is still rated at 15W including the iGPU and dual-channel memory controller that supports DDR4-2133, LPDDR3-1866 and DDR3L-1600. And as far as the iGPU is concerned, it integrates a slightly improved Intel HD Graphics 620 clocked at 300 – 1050 MHz, which is slightly higher than the iGPU on the Core i5-7200U (300 – 1000 MHz).
You can browse through our top CPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-cpu-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook we’ve tested with this processor: http://laptopmedia.com/processor/intel-core-i7-7500u/
Results are from the Cinebench 15 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Fritz is a chess benchmark that tests the computing capabilities of the CPU with various chess moves. The Intel Core i7-7500U scored 6.891 million moves per second. In comparison, one of the most powerful chess computers, Deep(er) Blue, was able to squeeze out 200 million moves per second. In 1997 Deep(er) Blue even beat the famous Garry Kasparov with 3.5 to 2.5.
GPU – Intel HD Graphics 620
Intel’s HD Graphics 620 is a direct successor to the integrated HD Graphics 520. The latter is found in ULV (ultra-low voltage) processors from the 6th Generation (Skylake) of chips while the former is in the 7th (Kaby Lake) generation of CPUs.
Intel’s HD Graphics 620 uses the GT2 version of the graphics chip with 24 EUs (Execution Units) reaching as high as 1050 MHz and it has a base frequency of 300 MHz. However, the maximum operating frequency depends on the CPU, whether it’s the Core i3-7100U or the Core i5-7200U or the Core i7-7500U. Since the iGPU doesn’t have a dedicated memory – or eDRAM for that matter – it uses the available RAM on the system which is 2x 64-bit DDR3 or DDR4.
The TDP depends on the CPU model but it’s usually equipped with a SoC rated at 15W including the memory controller. Its performance should be enough for multimedia activities, light applications and gaming on really low resolution and minimum graphics settings.
You can browse through our top GPUs ranking: http://laptopmedia.com/top-laptop-graphics-ranking/
Here you will find other useful information and every notebook with this GPU that we’ve tested: http://laptopmedia.com/video-card/intel-hd-graphics-620/
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
As we’ve said numerous times, the two-staged stress test that we perform doesn’t represent real-life use because 100% CPU and GPU usage is rarely achieved, especially for such long periods of time. However, this is still the best way to determine the overall stability and effectiveness of the cooling system in the long run.
We ran the usual 100% CPU stress test for about an hour and as you can see from the graph below, the CPU ran within its maximum operating frequency (3.3 GHz) for the duration of the test and at acceptable temperatures.
Then we ran the GPU stress test alongside the CPU torture test and we were surprised to see that the frequency of the chip didn’t go below 2.5 GHz, which is still under the base 2.7 GHz clock speeds but no major throttling occurred. Usually, when we are dealing with systems using only an iGPU, the CPU’s clock speeds go down in order to give the iGPU enough headroom to perform. This suggests of a good and effective cooling solution.
We also measured the temperatures on the surface but as expected, they were within normal limits. You can see that only the center of the keyboard gets a bit warm but only under heavy and extended workload.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad series has always been a go-to brand when looking for a high-end business laptop but in the recent years, the OEM started releasing more affordable solutions as well. The ThinkPad Edge series is a perfect example of a well-executed budget-oriented machine. Unfortunately, though, the ThinkPad 13 Gen 2 offers just about the same features as the ThinkPad E470 and E570 but at higher than expected price. The only noticeable difference is the screen size.
Although the notebook can be called a “budget business ultrabook”, some of the drawbacks are just unacceptable. Some of the key features that define a classic ThinkPad machine are not offered here – the build quality is not convincing enough, the battery life is just mediocre, and screen quality is comparable to much cheaper business solutions.
With all these drawbacks in mind, though, the ThinkPad 13 Gen 2 carries some of the characteristics defining a good business notebook – excellent keyboard, comfortable touchpad and portability. In any case, we strongly recommend considering the similarly priced 14-inch solutions – as 13 inchers in this price point and class are scarce – Acer TravelMate X349, Acer Swift 5, Lenovo ThinkPad E470 and ASUS’ ZenBook UX310UQ as a really good 13-inch alternative.
You can find the available configurations here: http://amzn.to/2udJB2D
- Fairly portable
- Excellent keyboard and touchpad
- Good set of I/O
- Relatively dim IPS screen with narrow sRGB coverage
- The screen uses PWM from 0 to 99% brightness (our Health-Guard profile fixes that)
- Not very sturdy
- Short battery life