Lenovo ThinkPad 13 2017 Review: Reliably Reliable

By all estimates, Windows 10 has done a lot to restore the public’s confidence in the PC. At the very least, it’s provided a stable platform for Microsoft’s hardware partners to build great machines. Lenovo has certainly taken advantage of this opportunity. It’s making some of the best laptops it ever has. The ThinkPad 13 2017, available from Lenovo for as little as $699, isn’t good-looking or flashy.

It’s not a laptop for those that need something ultra-slim or ultra-powerful. The ThinkPad 13 2017 is a workhorse, an everyday PC that’s perfect for handling the tasks that office workers need to get accomplished without worrying about battery life or ports.

This laptop is a classic ThinkPad in every way. That is, Lenovo hopes that decent battery life, a glare-free display and durable shell are enough to overcome its less exciting attributes and an important port that’s missing. It’s a gamble, but one that has paid off for the ThinkPad line in the past.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Review: Summary

That gamble certainly pays off here, too. Most of the essentials you need to stay productive throughout your day are present in the Lenovo ThinkPad 13. Decent build quality and a slate of options allow you to create the productivity laptop that you want with only the features you care about.

ThinkPad 13 2017 2017 Review: Design & Internals

The ThinkPad 13 2017 is the textbook definition of a device with an understated design. There’s very little here that indicates it’s cutting edge. Its bezels aren’t so thin that they almost disappear. Its keyboard deck doesn’t nearly disappear when you look on at it from the left or right side.

Matte black plastic dominates the outer shell of the ThinkPad 13 2017. Even still, it is as rugged as the other ThinkPad notebooks, even if it doesn’t feel cool to the touch or high-end. When closed, the lid has just the ThinkPad logo and a status indicator that lets you know when it is sleeping.

The plastic is used for every surface of the notebook, including the keyboard deck and bezels. Buyers can opt for cold MacBook-like aluminum silver skin during the ordering process, Lenovo says. The outer shell has a texture that the keyboard deck lacks. Not extending it to the keyboard deck was a smart move on Lenovo’s part. It’d have grated on your palm as you typed had they used it for the entire machine.

Even with all the plastic, the standard version of the notebook has passed the military durability tests that Lenovo puts all ThinkPad laptops through. This is a laptop that can handle being jostled in a bag or dropped from a medium height. It’ll have a scuff, but it’ll continue working. It only weighs 3.17 pounds.

Internals

On the left edge there’s an air vent that cools the notebook. This is great news for people who are right-handed and frequently find themselves using a mouse next to their notebook. The traditional ThinkPad power plug, an always-on USB 3.0 port and OneLink+ port are on this side. This positioning is smart because you can get your laptop going when you arrive at the office without much work.

The right edge of the notebook holds 2 more USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, HDMI port, media card reader and headsets jack. The USB Type-C port is Lenovo future proofing the ThinkPad 13 2017. More and more phones and laptops are using it to connect to monitors, televisions, hard drives and docking accessories.

Like other machines in Lenovo’s lineup, the ThinkPad 13 2017’s internals can be customized to suit your needs and wants. Every version comes with a 13.3-inch display, but whether your machine has a 1080p display with touch technology is up to you. You can add 16GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state drive for faster loading times. These types of drives also make moving large files on your PC from place to place easier on you. Lenovo offers up to an Intel Core i5 processor with this model, which is perfect for what most people will use this machine for.

ThinkPad 13 2017 Review: Experience

Gotta Be Mobile’s ThinkPad 13 2017 came with a less powerful Intel Core i3 processor that was still adequate. These laptops use the current 7th Generation Intel Core technology, meaning they produce less heat and handle heavy loads better and are great for 4K video. Of course, watching 4K video on this machine won’t be a high priority for most, they’ll have to pair it with a 4K display using the USB Type-C port. This USB Port is wired up to prevent surges that can come from faulty USB Type-C devices.

The always great ThinkPad keyboard is solid. Because it’s thicker than some of the Lenovo’s other machines, there’s more travel for each key. It’s still comfortable but can sometimes feel a tad mushy if you’re not used to it. It’s a fine keyboard, but you’ll have to adjust to where Lenovo sticks its CTRL key, as you need to with all ThinkPad notebooks.

The touchpad and TrackPoint are as solid as they usually are in other ThinkPads. I did find myself adjusting the sensitivity of the trackpad. Its default setting didn’t feel that responsive to me.

Read: Windows 10 Anniversary Update Review

I’m big on productivity apps. That is, I spend my days inside of web browsers, word processors and photo editing software. In the afternoons, I throw in a web radio streaming app and a Sublime Text program that makes it easy to edit the files that power my personal website. With 80% brightness, the ThinkPad 13 2017’s internal battery lasted around 9 hours for me. Dialing back the brightness to 25% got me a lot closer to the 14 hours of battery life that Lenovo promises. Turning on Windows 10’s Battery Saver was the only way I could hit the promised 15 hours of battery life and stay productive.

Speaking of Windows 10, I was taken aback by just how many extras and programs Lenovo decided not to put into this notebook. A Lenovo Settings app handles any features the company has added. Sometimes it throws you to the Windows 10 Settings app instead of making things more confusing for you. I liked that. I liked that a lot. This is a side effect of Lenovo adopting Microsoft’s Signature Program. Signature gets you a laptop or desktop that’s free of extra software. That is unless Microsoft includes that extra software in Windows itself. I’ll never forgive the company for sticking Candy Crush into every mainstream edition of Windows 10.

Also, during daily activities this notebook is silent. There’s no gentle hum of a fan when checking email or browsing the web. More laptops need to be this quiet.

The only thing I didn’t like about the ThinkPad 13 2017 was the fingerprint reader. The ThinkPad 13 2017 features a swipe-style reader that is a little more irksome to use than the version that Lenovo makes available with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The Carbon’s version seems to unlock the PC in less time than this version does. It still worked well with Windows Hello to secure the PC, which is what it’s meant to do.

Read: How to Login with Windows Hello in Windows 10

Processor & Graphics7th Generation Intel Core i4-7100U

Intel HD 620 Graphics

Memory & Storage4GB of RAM

128GB Solid State Drive

Display13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080p Display
Ports & Extras·       Intel Wireless AC

·       Bluetooth 4.1

·       720P Web Camera

·       Card Reader Slot

·       Fingerprint Reader

·       HDMI

·       1 USB Type-C Port

·       3 USB 3.0 ports

·       Headset Jack

·       OneLink+ Docking Port

·       dTPM 2.0 Security Chip

·       Spill Resistant Keyboard with TrackPoint

(Optional Aluminum Silver Chassis

(Optional Touch Screen Display Coming)

Battery LifeAround 12 hours of Battery Life

(14 according to Lenovo)

Dimensions & Weight12.69-inches x 8.77-inches x 0.75-inches, 3.17 lbs.

ThinkPad 13 2017 Review: Should You Buy?

Routines are nice. We do things over again until they become second nature because they’re comfortable for us. Squeaky wheels get the grease, wheels that stay silent get some subconscious appreciation. Lots of people say that the ThinkPad line is stale. They complain that its looks haven’t changed. They gawk at its TrackPoint.

The ThinkPad 13 2017 is the only evidence needed to show that keeping things the same is sometimes prudent. It offers great battery and solid options. It’s not the thinnest notebook ever, but it’ll act as a companion for any office worker just fine. It’s future-proofed enough to enable new ways to work when you’re ready for the latest docks and ports.

Sometimes you don’t need something exciting. Sometimes reliability is enough. The ThinkPad 13 2017 proves it.

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