Review of the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1: A Business-Ready Vegan Leather Laptop

Windows-based laptops and desktop computers, particularly those intended for business use, are frequently criticized for being dull. With a high-definition display, potent performance, and a vegan leather shell, the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 Touchscreen Notebook hopes to alter that impression.

The Black & Bronze with Black Vegan Leather (as reviewed) is the real eye-catcher in terms of appearance, despite the fact that it is also offered in the more conventional Arctic Grey & Black. This small laptop’s physical design shows that Lenovo put a lot of thought into it, but did it neglect to provide the performance elements that business users demand?

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1

The answer is generally yes, with a few outliers, notably its lack of ports. This laptop provides you plenty to think about over other consumer-oriented models, even if you’re not a businessperson.

First Impressions

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U Processor (2.70GHz, up to 4.70GHz Max Boost, 8 Cores, 16 Threads, 16MB Cache)
  • RAM: 16GB LPDDR5 6400MHz (Soldered)
  • Graphics: Integrated AMD Radeon 680M
  • Operating System: Windows 11 Pro 64
  • Hard Drive: 512GB PCIe SSD Gen 4

I was immediately drawn to the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1’s distinctive appearance and feel with its black and bronze accents as soon as I took it out of the package. The ThinkPad Z13 stands out because it blends in better with traditional business accouterments than other functional technology thanks to its design, which is less like a traditional laptop and more like a high-end leather portfolio case.

Nobody will mistake the display’s black vegan leather exterior, which is made of polyurethane, for genuine leather. It lacks the unique leather smell, for starters. It’s not particularly soft, for another. The synthetic leather exterior does, however, succeed in offering an adequately grippable surface because of its slightly rough surface and other material characteristics.

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Lenovo has designed a laptop that begs to be carried around the workplace or coffee shop with no concern for accidental spills thanks to its unusual appearance and largely recycled aluminum shell. Of course, even if you drop the laptop, it has been MIL-STD-810G certified, so it can withstand a variety of hostile situations and should be able to withstand most mishaps without suffering too much harm.

The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 is remarkably small even though it has a generous 13.3-inch display. The monitor’s bezels are only 4mm wide. Similar to this, the trackpad extends almost to the bottom of the laptop body, while the keyboard extends fully to the left and right corners. There is no unused space in this, which adds to the sturdy build quality.

With only three connector ports in total, this compactness does, of course, come at a price. There are two USB-C ports, each of which complies fully with USB4 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 specifications, including power delivery and the usage of external displays. If you don’t want to use the laptop’s great built-in speakers or microphone or its wireless Bluetooth 5.2 capabilities, you may use the third and final connector, a traditional 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack.

There are simply a few pieces of paper and Lenovo’s typical 65W USB-C AC adapter in the box in addition to the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 itself. On the Lenovo website, there is a comprehensive manual that covers both this model and the Z16 Gen 1.

Generally Excellent Design

  • Dimensions: 11.59 x 7.86 x .55in (295 x 200 x 13.99mm)
  • Weight: 2.76lbs (1.25kg)
  • Ports: 2x USB-C 4, 1x Headphone/microphone combo (3.5mm)

The keyboards on the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 are of the same high caliber as those on other models in the Lenovo ThinkPad line-up. With a precise 1.35mm travel distance, the keys are balanced and enjoyable to operate. Contrary to some other laptop keyboards, you don’t need to press the keys exactly in the middle to prevent wobble. In low-light situations, edge-to-edge illumination aids in essential visibility.

On the function keys on the first row, keyboard shortcuts are turned on by default. You can control external displays, turn on or off the built-in webcam, enable or disable airplane mode, mute or unmute the speakers, lower or raise the volume, turn on or off the built-in microphones, darken or brighten the screen, and enable or disable the built-in microphones. Through the bundled Lenovo Commercial Vantage software, you can simply alter almost all Power, Audio, Display & Camera, and Input & Accessories settings. You may even customize the actions of extra shortcuts.

A fingerprint reader is located next to the left arrow key and interacts with Windows Hello, just like the infrared camera incorporated into the device, to speed up logins and security checks. Having a fingerprint-based alternative is wonderful, even if I really prefer facial recognition for security because certain lighting situations can fool the camera.

The renowned red rubber TrackPoint pointing stick, which is a distinctive substitute for the trackpad, is located directly in the center of the keyboard. The mouse cursor moves more quickly the more pressure you apply to the TrackPoint. Pushing the left and right mouse buttons while using the TrackPoint requires using the upper area of the trackpad.

A helpful display overlay that allows you to adjust the camera’s brightness and contrast as well as its mute detection, microphone effects, and Microsoft Dictation option can be conveniently accessed by double-tapping the TrackPoint. With the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1’s microphone array, Microsoft Dictation is a fantastic rapid launch function that allows you to instantly dictate your speech into a Notepad document.

Below the left center of the keyboard, there is a sizable 4.7in (120mm) broad touchpad. It is known as a “ForcePad” because it has haptic feedback, similar to that of a smartphone or tablet, which causes a little vibration when certain activities are carried out. It’s undoubtedly an improvement above what’s found in the majority of other laptops.

The improved functionality, though, is somewhat of a wash because I found the ForcePad’s surface to be less smooth than other trackpads I’ve tried on current MacBooks or Lenovo’s own Yoga 7i 14-Inch laptop.

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Whatever your opinion of the TrackPoint or ForcePad may be, Lenovo deserves praise for offering a second mouse control option without compromising the quality of the keyboard. There are plenty of control options available along with the built-in touchscreen, which also performs well, in what is once again a remarkably small design.

Lenovo provides the Mod Pen and Precision Pen 2 for users who want even more customization, however, neither was made available for testing to determine compatibility and performance. In any event, a pen’s functionality is constrained by the fact that the display can only be tilted back around 45 degrees, thus this is not the ideal choice for artists.

High Marks on the Performance Review

  • W-iFi 6E 802.11AX (2 x 2)
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery Type: 4-cell Lithium-ion polymer (integrated), 50WHr
  • AC Adapter: 65W, USB-C

According to tests with MobileMark 2018, battery life is up to 15 hours, and is certified for up to 9 hours of light usage. Naturally, the battery life decreases as you engage in more demanding tasks, but you can still expect to use the device for a full workday without needing to locate a power source. Even if you do need to charge, you won’t have to wait very long to be completely mobile once more because of its rapid charging capabilities, which allow you to charge the battery to 80% in as little as 1 hour. A more adaptable multi-port 65W or 100W USB-C charger can easily be substituted for the provided 65W USB-C-based AC adapter.

Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and a wide range of other demanding productivity software were a pleasure to use because of their combination of a high-performance processor, quick SSD storage, and ample quantities of RAM. Of course, perspective and reality sometimes differ, so I also performed benchmarks using AC power, which allowed the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 to more accurately demonstrate its full performance capability.

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The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 outperformed 61% of all devices with a score of 5,659 on PCMark 10. This is much superior to the typical 2020 office laptop, which is scored at 4,611, but it is inferior to the average 2020 gaming PC, which is rated at 6,739 (see table).

The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 scored 2,436 on the DirectX 12 test Time Spy V1.2 from 3DMark, which is typical for a non-gaming laptop. Even modestly demanding games like Apex Legends, Battlefield V, Fortnite, or GTA V won’t run smoothly at the laptop’s native resolution with playable framerates, but you may still have a fun time at 30FPS with the more modest 1920 x 1080 resolution.

5,597 max threads were the result of 3DMark’s CPU Profile V1.0, which offers CPU benchmarks for contemporary processors. This figure shows the CPU’s full performance potential while employing all available threads. More demanding multi-threaded tasks, like software development, music, video production, and 3D rendering, can be carried out with a higher number.

The AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6860Z CPU in the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 boasts an amazing 5,597 thread count, surpassing the 4,257 maximum threads from the Intel Core i7-1255U engine in Lenovo’s highly regarded Yoga 7i 14-Inch laptop.

The Wi-Fi network performed similarly well. On my Xfinity Gigabit connection, I conducted three consecutive Wi-Fi speed tests to the same server using the Speedtest Windows Store app close to an eero Pro 6 extender. I had a 5GHz network connection with a theoretical maximum receive and transit link speed of 1201Mbps, and I regularly experienced download speeds of 219.51Mbps and upload speeds of 22.23Mbps.

This was about half as fast as a desktop computer hardwired via Ethernet into the eero Pro 6 extender and performed admirably in comparison to the wireless performance of other devices like a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ and an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max under the same general settings.

Display and Audio

  • Display: 13.3in WUXGA (1920×1200) IPS, anti-reflective, anti-smudge, touchscreen, low power, 400 nits
  • Camera: IR and 1080p FHD Hybrid
  • Audio: 2x speakers

A screen-to-body ratio of more than 91% on the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 wouldn’t mean much if the display wasn’t vivid and clear. Although the 13.3-inch screen size and 19201200 WUXGA resolution are not the greatest, they both complement the screen size nicely and enable you to comfortably position two portrait-oriented windows next to one another.

Even for someone who typically enjoys 100% brightness on previous computers, the default screen brightness of 80% is more than bright enough. I was able to lower the brightness to 60% before I found the screen to be a little too dim for my tastes, however, of course, 100% brightness with 400nit capabilities looks fantastic on this panel. Going as low as 50% or so is definitely realistic if you’re aiming to maximize power life, depending on the outdoor lighting conditions and your personal tastes.

The display’s viewing angles are good, even from an extreme side, with no obvious loss of clarity or brightness. Surprisingly, I even discovered that the display was completely functional outside, even in moderate sunshine. Despite the screen’s moderate glossiness and reflection, all conditions—outside of direct sunlight—are well-suited for its anti-reflective qualities.

Last but not least, the display is Eyesafe certified, which means it lessens blue light while keeping the screen’s color. It would be unfortunate to lose out on the display’s full 100% sRGB color range, so this is good.

The built-in webcam offers a 19201080 native resolution and performs well in a variety of lighting settings. It generates a tiny hump at the top of the display and also serves as a lip to make opening the laptop easier. However, the camera does lose some color and detail in the photographs it captures without adjustments. There isn’t a physical privacy shutter either, but you can quickly turn off the webcam’s capabilities by pressing the F9 key.

The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1’s display stands out among rivals, and the sound is likewise impressively good, surpassing many consumer-oriented laptops thanks to a Dolby Atmos Speaker System. Playback of music during testing was enjoyable, with a full soundstage and strong bass that you can almost feel within the laptop.

Considering that the two speakers are located underneath the laptop, this acoustic depth is rather astonishing. As always, I like the Enhance audio checkbox turned on for the greatest performance with the Dolby Atmos default sound profile for built-in speakers, especially while listening to music.

Dolby Voice certified, the two built-in microphones, one on either end of the webcam’s top, are intended to enhance audio and video conferencing. The built-in microphones offer excellent clarity and background noise reduction while wearing a decent headset is always advised.

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The Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1: Should You Purchase It?

It’s great to see Lenovo making efforts to innovate on the traditional black and boxy design, especially considering the business-oriented ThinkPad brand has been around for 30 years and has sold more than 100 million devices. Maintaining the status quo or experimenting with a different product line would have been simple.

With the ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1, the firm opted to take a completely different approach, preserving the traditional business-focused performance but producing a new style of a small casing with rounded corners and an eye-catching vegan leather backing.

The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a strong and small general-purpose business laptop. The premium price point is further justified by the standard 1-year on-site guarantee, which elevates this machine to an excellent choice even for serious home use.

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  • Processor Manufacturer: AMD
  • Processor Type: Ryzen 7 PRO
  • Processor Model: 6850U
  • Processor Core: Octa-core (8 Core)
  • Processor Speed: 2.70 GHz
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