Review: Lenovo’s ThinkPad Z13 is a bit weird, but Ryzen 6000 is fantastic

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Enlarge / Lenovo’s ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1.

Andrew Cunningham

Specs at a glance: Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1
Display 13.3-inch 1920×1200 touchscreen (170 PPI)
OS Windows 11 Home
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6850U (eight cores)
RAM 16GB LPDDR5 6400 (soldered)
GPU AMD Radeon 680M
Storage 512GB NVMe SSD
Networking Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2
Battery 51.5 Wh
Ports Two USB 4.0 Type-C
Size 7.86 x 11.59 x 0.55 inches (200 x 295 x 13.99 mm)
Weight 2.78 lbs (1.26 kg)
Warranty 1-year
Price as reviewed $1,852

From the basic, boring E-series to the premium X-series, Lenovo’s ThinkPads rarely surprise you with their designs. By and large, they are intentionally unremarkable, with straightforward (and sometimes boxy) frames and unassuming black finishes.

So when Lenovo departs from this basic template, as it has for the new ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1, it’s worth talking about. The Z13 is recognizable as a ThinkPad, but it has eccentric flourishes like brushed gold accents and a vegan leather lid. There’s also a less-flashy gray aluminum version, if a business laptop with gold accents and vegan leather feels less “stylish” and more “dad’s midlife crisis” to you.

Hands-down the most impressive thing about the Z13 is its Ryzen 6000 CPU and integrated Radeon GPU. I began testing the Z13 at around the same time as I was being underwhelmed by the 12th-generation Intel processors in the Framework Laptop and Lenovo’s own X1 Carbon Gen 10, and the Ryzen CPU is just better than Intel’s by just about any conceivable metric. But my reaction to the laptop that has been built around this chip is more reserved.

Look and feel

The Z13 is less dogmatically ThinkPad-y than something like the X1 Carbon, and that starts with the materials. The recycled aluminum palm rest and bottom of our review model are familiar enough, but they lack the soft-touch coating that the Carbon has—on balance, I don’t mind this because the Z13 isn’t nearly as much of a fingerprint magnet as the Carbon is. The bronze-y highlights and faux-leather lid feel more like something you’d find in an HP laptop. But neither looks or feels bad, and the soft leather material didn’t scratch or scuff as easily as I was worried it would (at least in the short term).

But once you get past the sturdy construction, some of the handy additions we like about other ThinkPads are either missing or diluted here. The webcam shutter in most ThinkPads is absent, and you only get a pair of USB 4 ports, one on each side (along with a headphone jack). That’s not a lot of ports, but it’s in line with what you get from a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, and it’s actually better than what the newest Dell XPS 13 models (the 9315 and 9320) offer; they both drop their headphone jack for reasons defying explanation.

But by far the biggest disappointment is the keyboard. It certainly looks a lot like the standard ThinkPad keyboard, but compared to the one in the X1 Carbon (and most others I’ve used in the last few years), its key travel is much shallower, and its keys are much firmer. That combination of “firm but shallow” isn’t quite as bad as Apple’s failed butterfly keyboard experiment, but that’s the keyboard it reminds me the most of. And as with that keyboard, I got used to typing on the Z13, but I never loved it.

The other thing that the Z13's keyboard does differently from the X1 Carbon is that it puts the left Ctrl and Fn buttons in their proper place rather than swapping them.
Enlarge / The other thing that the Z13’s keyboard does differently from the X1 Carbon is that it puts the left Ctrl and Fn buttons in their proper place rather than swapping them.

Andrew Cunningham

The Z13 is a physically smaller laptop than the X1 Carbon, so I could forgive it for having a worse keyboard in the interest of saving space, but the teeny-tiny ThinkPad X1 Nano also manages to fit a good, more traditional-feeling keyboard in a small laptop. It’s too bad, because better input devices would take the Z13 from the realm of “mostly good” to “really excellent.”

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