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Lenovo ThinkBook 13s review: A business notebook that you can use for play

By Kenny Yeo - 26 Oct 2019
Launch SRP: S$1599

Introduction

Note: This article was first published on 2 October 2019.

Work hard, play hard

The Lenovo ThinkBook 13s is a notebook for work and play.

The ThinkBook is Lenovo’s new line of notebooks that melds the features of traditional business notebooks with regular consumer notebooks. In doing so, it addresses two concerns. It offers businesses the ability to get an enterprise-class notebook without the high price tags commonly associated with Lenovo’s revered ThinkPad notebooks. It also shakes off notions that business notebooks are good for work use alone and are not capable of entertainment.

Lenovo is offering the ThinkBook in two display sizes: 13.3 and 14 inches. The unit that I have is the smaller one with a 13.3-inch display. But before we proceed with the review, here are the key specifications and price of the test system:

  • Intel Core i5-8265U processor
  • 8GB DDR4 memory
  • 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD
  • 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display (non-touch)
  • AMD Radeon 540X 2GB GDDR5
  • 307.6 x 216.4 x 15.9mm
  • 1.4kg
  • S$1,599

Two things that stand out immediately is the presence of a discrete graphics chip and the price relative to the specs on offer. It’s not often that you see a business notebook with discrete graphics, even if it’s a slightly dated Radeon RX 540X GPU that’s based on AMD’s older fourth-generation GCN architecture. Elsewhere, it has a fairly modern quad-core processor, a decent amount of memory, and a good amount of fast SSD storage. It’s also quite thin and not too heavy. On paper at least, this looks like a notebook that offers quite a lot for not very much money.

The keyboard and trackpad are both immensely usable, although the latter is a little narrow.

And it’s not like they skimped too much on parts either. The body is all aluminium and feels solidly put together. The design is nondescript but unoffensive, the keyboard has a sensible conventional layout and it's also spill-resistant and pleasant to use. The trackpad, though on the small side (10.5 x 6.3cm), is accurate and responsive. There’s even a fingerprint reader for quick and secure logins.

The display is easily the notebook's weakest aspect. Note that the webcam above has a physical privacy shutter.

My only complaints are with the display. Despite supporting Dolby Vision HDR technology, it isn’t quite as sharp, bright, or punchy as I would have liked. Also, it doesn't support touch inputs and the bottom bezel is especially thick.

From left to right, we have the Slim Tip connector for power, a HDMI 1.4 port, a USB-C port (USB 3.1 Gen 2), and a 3.5mm audio jack.

On the opposite side, we have two USB-A ports (USB 3.1 Gen 1).

As for ports, you get two USB-A ports that support USB 3.1 Gen 1 and a single USB-C port that supports USB 3.1 Gen 2. There’s also an HDMI 1.4 port. Sadly, there’s no Thunderbolt 3 support, memory card reader, or SmartCard reader. But what really gets me is that the USB-C port cannot be used to charge the notebook. The ThinkBook S13 relies solely on a “slim-tip” connector for charging.

The ThinkBook 13s relies on a slim tip connector charging. Fortunately, the power adapter is compact.

Finally, there are some business-centric security features such as Fast Identity Online (FIDO) authentication support, TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module), and a physical privacy shutter for the webcam.

7.5
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8.5
  • Mobility 7.5
The Good
Strong all-round performance
Discrete graphics
Features TPM 2.0
Built-in webcam privacy shutter
All-aluminium construction
Relatively affordable
The Bad
Uninspired display
No Thunderbolt 3 support
Cannot charge via USB-C
No memory card reader
Rather small battery
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