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The Dell XPS 13 Plus beats the M2 MacBook Air this one way

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is one of our favorite laptops of 2022 for good reason. The design is fresh, it has an amazing screen and an improved webcam. Naturally, that makes it an M2 MacBook Air competitor, on almost all levels, but there’s the need to look back at one area in particular when considering these two laptops as workstations.

It’s all about the way they end up powering external displays. This is where the XPS 13 Plus truly has the MacBook Air beat.

A story of ports

To understand what we mean, you first need to look at the ports on the devices. Both the new MacBook Air M2 as well as the Dell XPS 13 Plus feature USB-C ports. You’ll find one on the right and one on the left side of the XPS. These Thunderbolt USB-C ports are used for charging, data, and connections to displays.

Then, there are two on the left side of the MacBook Air. Apple’s MacBook Air also has the benefit of MagSafe charging and a headphone jack. We debated about the loss of the headphone jack on the XPS in a separate piece if you’re curious, but we’re here to talk about what truly makes the ports different between these two devices: external display support.

The screen of the MacBook Air on a table.

So, the core part of the debate here is that the M2 MacBook Air only supports a single 4K display natively. This is a limit on most MacBooks powered by Apple silicon, with the only exceptions being the 2021 M1 MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip.

On those models, with the M1 Pro chip, you can power two external displays, rated at either 6K resolution or 60Hz. The M1 Max chip lets you enjoy up to four external monitors, with three at 6K and one at 4K. These, though, are expensive upgrades over the MacBook Air and aren’t what we are here to talk about.

On the M2 MacBook Air, you’re limited to one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz. If you want to connect to external displays, you need to invest in a dual HDMI adapter or a DisplayLink hub that supports DisplayPort, or even a HyperDrive USB-C hub. Again, these are expensive options just to get dual display support. A dual HDMI adapter can be near $100, and the other options we mentioned are also priced over $100. Depending on which route you go, the resolution and refresh rates of connected monitors will also vary.

So, for someone who ends up with a MacBook Air, and might be wanting to work from home and have a multiple monitor setup, this is a huge loss of productivity. Even those who are in the music production, video editing, or graphic design industry might use multiple monitors.

You’ll have to spend extra money just to plug into multiple monitors, and that’s a shame. Considering how powerful the M2 MacBook Air is, the idea of someone wanting to connect it to multiple external displays is a no-brainer, and it remains one of the primary drawbacks of these otherwise fantastic laptops.

The XPS 13 works with more than one display easily

The XPS 13 with MacBook Air side by side

So now, we head over to the XPS 13 Plus. Officially, things are much simple in concept. With two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports on the XPS 13 Plus, you can connect two external monitors up to 4K using both USB-C ports, with the internal display turned off and without a dongle or hub. This is the one thing that the MacBook Air can’t do natively, even with its screen turned off.

In a similar configuration, up to four displays can be also connected to the XPS 13 Plus via a USB-C docking station, with the additional display being able to connect to the right Thunderbolt 4 port with a USB-C or Thunderbolt cable. Officially, here are the limits and caveats:

  • The total number of external displays that are supported depends on the specifications of the USB-C docking station
  • 4K UHD (3840 x 2160), at a 60Hz refresh rate max for each of the three external displays that are connected to the
    USB-C docking station
  • Each external display must be connected to a DisplayPort connector on the USB-C docking station
  • Each external display must support Display Stream Compression (DSC).
  • For the external display that is connected to the right Thunderbolt port
    with a USB-C or Thunderbolt cable, QHD (2560 x 1440), at a 60Hz refresh rate is maximum supported.

With the internal display turned on the XPS 13 Plus, you can connect to two external displays using a USB-C docking station. You also can connect up to three external displays using a USB-C docking station. Under these conditions, for the three external displays to operate at resolutions of up to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160), at 60Hz refresh rates, each external display has to be connected to a DisplayPort connector on the USB-C docking station. Each external display must also support Display Stream Compression (DSC).

Note that with 8K displays, you can’t use these on the XPS 13 Plus with the display turned on. You’ll have to turn the internal display off.

The XPS 13 wins for displays

All that said, the XPS 13 wins out over the MacBook Air for its display support. For those looking for a laptop that can function as a workstation, it is the better option as you can power two displays without the need for a dongle. There are also even more options for display connections when you add a USB-C hub into the picture, too.

For now, Dell laptops have this one advantage over Apple’s MacBook Air. We certainly hope that will change one day, but for now, it’s a limitation you’ll need to buy extra hardware to get around.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Dell XPS 13 Plus vs. MacBook Air M2: the best of the best

Dell and Apple have put out two of the most cutting-edge laptops we’ve seen in a while. The Dell XPS 13 Plus and the M2 MacBook Air both push the boundaries of laptop design but in different ways. Which is more forward-thinking and most worthy of your money?

Having reviewed both devices myself, I’m ready to lay out the positives and negatives of both — and give you my best recommendation for which you should buy.

Design

Both of these laptops are cutting edge in terms of looks and aesthetics. The MacBook Air M2 looks more conventional in that it takes a lot of the design elements from the MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch and translates them into a smaller size. That includes the notch, the thinner bezels, the rounded corners, and the flat lid.

The XPS 13 Plus takes the XPS brand in an entirely new direction. Most of the hallmarks of the brand are gone, and it’s as adventurous as laptops get. The keyboard stretches from edge to edge, giving it a very modern look. The trackpad, meanwhile, is completely invisible. Like the MacBook Air, it uses a haptic feedback trackpad, meaning there’s no physical click mechanism.

But where the MacBook Air M2 remains a trailblazer is in size. At just 0.44 inches thick, it’s by far the thinnest laptop of this type. The only other laptops that come this close are a couple of premium Chromebooks and some nerfed Windows laptops. Built around the efficiency of the M2 chip, the MacBook Air is able to be incredibly thin without sacrificing performance. On that level alone, it’s a game-changer.

While the XPS 13 Plus is fairly compact in its own right, it’s closer to what you get with the M1 MacBook Air in that regard.

Keyboard and trackpad

The capacitive touch buttons on the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

These two devices feature some of the best keyboards and trackpads on a laptop you can buy. There’s a lot in common about these pairs of inputs too. They both feature 1mm of key travel in the keyboard and haptic feedback trackpads.

There are two things to consider about the layout of these keyboards, however. First, the MacBook Air includes a row of full-size function keys, as opposed to the half-sized ones on the M1 MacBook Air. They make quick access to brightness or volume control easier than ever. The Dell XPS 13 Plus takes the opposite approach, by replacing the function keys with capacitive touch buttons. Though they didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would, I vastly prefer the physical keys. The light-up buttons certainly look futuristic, though.

Lastly, I really like how large the keycaps are on the XPS 13 Plus. The “edge to edge” design means keys like the Shift and Ctrl keys are extra wide.

Ports

A side of the MacBook Air showing the ports.

Both laptops are fairly minimalist when it comes to ports. They both rely primarily on USB-C, though there are a couple of important distinctions. First off, both the MacBook Air M2 and the Dell XPS 13 Plus feature two USB-C ports. The MacBook Air keeps both on the left side, while the XPS 13 Plus has one of the left and one on the right. I prefer the XPS 13 Plus in this regard, obviously, just for convenience’s sake.

The XPS 13 Plus has another advantage over the MacBook Air though with the capabilities of these ports. The MacBook Air can still only support a single external monitor up to 4K, whereas the XPS 13 Plus can handle two. That’s fairly important for people looking to dock their laptops and use them as an at-home workstation.

Of course, the MacBook Air M2 also comes with its MagSafe 3 power connector, which can free up one of your USB-C ports for other connections. It also comes with a headphone jack, which the XPS 13 Plus leaves out completely. While Dell throws in a free USB-C adapter in the box, you could find yourself with very limited ports if you’re using one for audio and one for power.

Display and webcam

The Dell XPS 13 Plus on a table outside.

The MacBook Air has just a single display on offer: the 2560 x 1664, 13.6-inch “Liquid Retina” panel. It’s a beautiful screen that goes up to 486 nits of brightness. It doesn’t have the incredible HDR performance of the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but neither does the XPS 13 Plus.

There are many different screen options with the XPS 13 Plus. I tested the 3.5K OLED screen option, which is the best option in terms of image quality. You can also opt for either a lower resolution LED panel or a higher resolution 4K LED configuration. The 3.5K OLED screen isn’t quite as bright as the MacBook Air, but it has better color saturation and accuracy than the MacBook Air. Of course, because it’s OLED, it also has deeper black levels and better contrast.

It’s also a touch panel, which the MacBook Air still does not offer.

The webcam of the MacBook Air.

As for webcams, the MacBook Air is the far superior option. It’s 1080p as opposed to 720p, and offers far better low-light performance for video calls.

Performance and battery life

In almost all cases, the MacBook Air M2 is the more powerful laptop. That might come at a surprise, considering how much thinner the chassis is and how much longer the battery life is. And yet, whether it’s raw single-core muscle in benchmarks, GPU performance, or video editing in Premiere Pro, the MacBook Air M2 is the more powerful laptop. For example, the MacBook Air M2 is 54% faster at exporting timelines in Premiere Pro. Even in the XPS 13 Plus’ performance mode, the M2 is still 36% faster with exports.

The MacBook Air also manages to remain a cooler laptop on the outside. While internally it can get quite hot, the MacBook Air’s surface temperatures stay amazingly cool, especially in the palm rests. It doesn’t have a fan, either, which means it’s a far quieter laptop than the XPS 13 Plus.

The screen of the MacBook Air M2.

There are some caveats to these claims, though. First off, the configuration I tested was not the base model, which reportedly features nerfed performance in a couple of different areas. It only has an eight-core GPU, and the SSD has just a single NAND chip. This has resulted in significantly worse storage performance, which has an effect on tasks like file transfers — or anything that depends on having quick access to the SSD.

This doesn’t have an effect on battery life, though. Regardless of what configuration you buy, the MacBook Air M2 delivers incredible battery life — especially compared to the Dell XPS 13 Plus. It’ll last 18 hours compared to the eight hours of the Dell XPS 13 Plus. It’s not even in the same league.

Conclusion

The keyboard of the MacBook Air.

When deciding between these two laptops, most people will defer to whichever operating system they’re more comfortable with. And in both cases, you’re getting an excellent, high-end laptop.

As much as I like the boldness of the XPS 13 Plus’ design, if you really want to compare them side by side, the MacBook Air M2 is clearly the better laptop. It’s faster, lasts significantly longer on a charge, and even offers a far better video conferencing and media experience. Interestingly enough, the two laptops are also similarly priced, depending on the configuration.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Why people are saying to buy the M1 MacBook Air over the M2

The once highly anticipated M2 MacBook Air is finally out. But despite how great the design looks, many potential buyers are instead turning to the M1 MacBook Air, a laptop that’s nearly two years old.

Apple still sells it, of course, and as plenty of reviewers and commentators have pointed out, it may prove to be the better option for many people — and there are three main reasons why.

Price

Price is the most obvious reason people have been recommending the M1 over the M2. With the introduction of the M2 MacBook Air, Apple created a family of MacBook Air models running its proprietary chips. The M1 MacBook Air is the absolute base model of this family, starting at $1,000. In comparison, the M2 MacBook Air is the base model of the M2 line starting at $1,200.

While not that pricey, it is enough to make a savvy consumer pause if a cheaper model is available. Of course, there are lots of upgrades involved in the $200 premium of the M1 MacBook Air over the M2 MacBook Air. That includes a thinner chassis, a MagSafe 3 charging port, thinner bezels, faster CPU performance, brighter screen, better speakers, and a higher resolution webcam. That’s a lot.

But because of how good the M1 already was, that $200 difference is still probably enough to deter many potential buyers who are just looking for a basic, fast laptop — whether that’s for college or work. In the end, it’s the cheapest MacBook you can buy, and that makes it undeniably attractive.

An Apple Store product page with the prices of the M1 and M2 MacBook Air next to each other.

The M2 MacBook Air base model is essentially the mid-tier device in the new MacBook Air family, and the next M2 MacBook Air configuration is the high-end model at $1,500. Devices can get pricier still with unique configurations at any tier, but the M1 MacBook Air will still give consumers the most bang for their buck at any hardware style.

While Apple continues to struggle with chip shortages, your best bet access-wise is the M1 MacBook Air. The company faced shipping delays with the M2 MacBook Air immediately at pre-order. Purchasing suggestions for those looking to buy Apple products earlier in the year were to buy the M1 MacBook Air for the quickest shipments. Overall, being cost-effective and easy to buy for several years, both online and in stores has been a plus for this laptop.

SSD and performance

The motherboard of the M2 MacBook Air is revealed in a YouTube teardown.

The M1 and M2 MacBook Air models both feature the same SSD storage options in terms of capacity. Both laptops are available in 256GB base models, which can be configured to 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB of additional storage.

Apple set out to make the base model M2 MacBook Air look like a viable upgrade with its M2 chip and eight-core GPU; however, the truth about the device quickly unfolded as reviewers and early adopters harshly critiqued the new laptop.

Many quickly figured out that Apple used its top-tier M2 MacBook Air model when demonstrating the performance power of the laptop during its WWDC unveiling in June and when sending out official review models. When Apple said the M2 MacBook Air would have an 18% increase in graphics performance over the M1, the company was talking about the higher-end model, which features a 10-core GPU and 512GB SSD.

Meanwhile, teardowns uncovered the base model M2 MacBook Air was missing features that could impact performance. It included a single NAND chip, instead of two flash chips, like the M1 MacBook Air, which provides faster performance. YouTuber Max Tech discovered in benchmarks that the base model M2 MacBook Air actually had 50% slower read/write speeds than the M1. The lower storage performance is not something the M1 MacBook Air suffers from, meaning there are situations where the M1 model is a better performer, such as in file transfers.

This, coupled with a thinner design and a lot of thermal paste issues, made the M2 MacBook Air susceptible to overheating. These performance flubs have made the M1 MacBook Air look like the favorable base model laptop, especially for the price.

No notch

Apple MacBook Air M1 open, on a table.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The M2 MacBook Air has been released with a larger 13.6-inch display and thinner bezels than the 13.3-inch M1 MacBook Air. The M2 display is also slightly brighter at 500 nits versus 400 nits on the M1 display. However, the M2 MacBook Air has an additional feature: the controversial notch design, which houses the laptop’s 1080p webcam.

You might enjoy the new look of the screen, but when given the option of thinner bezels or a notch, it’s a bit less of an obvious choice. The inclusion of an important feature like Face ID may have made the notch easier to stomach, but that’s still a feature we’re waiting on. As it is, the notch will feel like an exciting new design element of the MacBook Air, and more like a feature you’ll just have to learn to live with. For a laptop that costs more, some may find it better to just stick with the M1.

Editors’ Choice




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Lenovo ThinkPad X13s review: Not quite a MacBook Air

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s

MSRP $1,301.00

“The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s lives up to the Windows on ARM promise for battery life, but still lacks performance.”

Pros

  • Solid battery life
  • Quality display
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • 5G WWAN option
  • Attractive aesthetic

Cons

  • Performance lags Intel and Apple
  • Some flexing in the keyboard deck

Apple’s M1 is still sending shock waves through the industry. On one hand, the ThinkPad X13s is the Windows equivalent.

Its ARM-based chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, offers some of the same benefits as the M1 or M2. It’s thin and light, and the battery life is fantastic. For some, that alone makes the ThinkPad X13s an attractive choice. But due to mediocre performance, it’s yet another example of Windows on ARM laptops remaining a niche option for most people.

Price and configurations

As usual, there’s a significant discrepancy on Lenovo’s website between the retail price and the “sale” price. Right now, the entry-level ThinkPad X13s is $1,301 (retail $2,169) for a device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 CPU, 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM, a 512GB PCIe 4 SSD, and touch display. That’s a pretty killer deal, especially for that configuration.

At the high end is a $1,571 (retail $2,619) configuration with the Snapdragon processor, 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM, a 1TB PCIe 4 SSD, the non-touch display, and 5G WWAN support. My review configuration was the entry-level model except for adding 5G WWAN capabilities, which boosts the price to $1,385.

I’m unaware of any other business-class Windows on ARM laptops to compare to the ThinkPad X13s. In the more conventional Intel space, the Dell Latitude 7330 is a 13-inch laptop with the same business features, and it’s more expensive than the ThinkPad at its sale prices.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is another larger laptop at 14-inches that offers the same ThinkPad experience at slightly higher prices. Finally, the HP Elite Dragonfly G3 offers an equally small and light form factor with 5G connectivity, but it’s quite a bit more expensive.

Design

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s front angled view showing display and keyboard deck.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Look at the ThinkPad X13s from a distance and you’ll immediately recognize it as a member of the line. It’s all black (Thunder Black, in fact), has the red dot on the “i” in the ThinkPad logo on the lid (albeit without an LED) and on the palm rest, and the red TrackPoint nubbin stands out in the middle of the keyboard.

Up close, though, its edges are more rounded than the typical ThinkPad’s, and there’s a prominent reverse notch at the top of the display for the webcam and IR camera. These small changes make the ThinkPad X13s stand out on its own. It’s certainly more striking than the Dell Latitude 7330, which is boring by comparison.

The ThinkPad X13s is constructed of two materials, a magnesium-aluminum alloy in the lid and a glass fiber reinforced plastic in the chassis. I found the lid quite sturdy, along with the bottom of the chassis, but there was some slight flexing in the keyboard deck. It wasn’t egregious, but it was enough to keep the ThinkPad a step behind laptops like the Dell XPS 13 Plus, HP Spectre x360 13.5, and MacBook Air M1 in overall rigidity. The hinge is quite stiff, requiring two hands to open the lid, but it holds the display firmly in place.

Thanks to its lightweight materials, the ThinkPad X13s is one of the lighter laptops we’ve tested at 2.35 pounds. It’s also thin at 0.53 inches. The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 is lighter at 2.2 pounds, but thicker at 0.64 inches. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is also lighter at 1.99 pounds, but not as thin at 0.55 to 0.66 inches. So, the ThinkPad X13s is among the lightest laptops you can buy and its chassis is thin and compact overall.

Ports and connectivity

Unsurprisingly, the laptop’s connectivity is quite limited. There are two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports (no Thunderbolt 4 support due to the Qualcomm chipset), a 3.5mm audio jack, and an optional NanoSIM slot for WWAN versions. Wireless connectivity includes Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1, with 5G WWAN optional.

Performance

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s rear view showing lid and logo.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkPad X13s is built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 ARM processor, an eight-core CPU with four Cortex-A78 cores running at 2.4GHz and four Cortex-X1 Prime cores running at 2.95GHz. It’s the fastest processor Qualcomm has yet made for the PC and promises increased performance over previous generations. Its primary direct competition is Apple’s silicon, specifically the M1 and M2 CPUs that have provided class-leading performance in two iterations of the MacBook Air. Note that like Apple’s MacBook, the ThinkPad X13s is fanless and so completely quiet.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is undoubtedly faster than its previous generation, by 86% in the Geekbench 5 multi-core test and 55% in the single-core test. At the same time, the Apple M1 is 59% faster than the ThinkPad X13s in single-core and 34% faster in multi-core, and the M2 is 77% faster in single-core and 59% in multi-core. The lowest-end Intel 12th-core CPU we’ve tested, the 15-watt 10-core/12-thread Core i5-1235U, is 44% faster in single-core and 30% faster in multi-core. AMD’s Ryzen chips since the 5000 series have also been significantly faster.

Of course, that’s just one synthetic benchmark and doesn’t tell the whole story. Unlike in previous Windows on ARM generations, I was able to run our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Handbrake is optimized for ARM. And indeed, the ThinkPad X13s took 505 seconds to complete the process, compared to the MacBook Air M2 at 151 seconds and the Core i5-1235U at 134 seconds. I also managed to run the Cinebench R23 video-rendering benchmark, and the ThinkPad X13s scored 593 in single-core and 2,221 in multi-core. That compares to the MacBook Air M2 at 1,600 and 7,938 and the Core i5-1235U at 1,668 and 7,671.

Clearly, Qualcomm has a way to go before it catches up with Apple, Intel, and AMD. Even so, the ThinkPad X13s was fast enough during my testing for the usual productivity tasks. I could keep quite a few browser tabs open and run background apps like Outlook, Teams, and others without any noticeable hesitation. But I wouldn’t rely on the laptop for the most demanding workflows or creative tasks.

Geekbench
(single / multi)
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3)
1,087 / 5,643
HP Elite Folio
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2)
770 / 3,028
Lenovo Flex 5G
(Snapdragon 8cx)
700 / 2,802
Apple MacBook Air M1
(Apple M1)
1,727 / 7,585
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
1,925 / 8,973
Lenovo Ideapad Duet 5 Chromebook
(Snapdragon 7c Gen 2)
599 / 1,718
Acer Aspire 5 2022
(Core i5-1235U)
1,565 / 7,352

The ThinkPad X13s wouldn’t run the 3DMark Time Spy test, our primary gaming synthetic benchmark. And I didn’t see a reason to try running Fortnite, our go-to game for integrated graphics. It’s doubtful that the Snapdragon GPU can play anything more than the oldest titles (should they install and actually run) at low resolutions and graphics. And that’s OK, because by no means is the ThinkPad X13s meant to be a gaming laptop.

Display

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s front view showing display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

According to Lenovo, three displays are available for the ThinkPad X13s, and they are all 13.3-inch 16:10 WUXGA (1,920 x 1,200) IPS panels. There’s an antiglare 300-nit touch display, an antiglare 400-nit low power non-touch display, and a 300-nit non-touch display. My review unit used the latter panel, which seemed like a quality display during my testing. Colors were dynamic and natural, the display was bright enough for my usual working conditions, and blacks seemed true and not grayish.

Unlike with previous Windows on ARM laptops I’ve reviewed, the ThinkPad X13s supported my colorimeter. That’s significant because it shows the platform has expanded its peripheral driver support and the applications it will run. And according to my colorimeter, the ThinkPad’s display is a solid productivity panel. It was bright enough at 341 nits, above our 300-nit standard but lower than the other displays in our comparison group. Its contrast was high at 1,380:1, well above our 1,000:1 threshold for premium displays. Colors were at the premium laptop average at 100% of sRGB and 77% of AdobeRGB, with a color accuracy of DeltaE 1.12 (1.0 or less is considered excellent).

The ThinkPad X13s display is excellent for productivity workers and media consumers, but it doesn’t have quite the color width for demanding creators.

Brightness
(nits)
Contrast sRGB gamut AdobeRGB gamut Accuracy DeltaE
(lower is better)
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
(IPS)
341 1,380:1 100% 77% 1.12
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
(IPS)
411 1,660:1 98% 76% 1.96
MacBook Air M1
(IPS)
389 1,130:1 100% 79% 1.39
MacBook Air M2
(IPS)
486 1,310:1 100% 90% 1.08
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(OLED)
406 28,380:1 100% 95% 0.87

Two upward-firing speakers provide audio, one on each side of the keyboard. They offered adequate volume during my testing, with clear mids and highs and the usual lack of bass. They’re good enough for YouTube and videoconferencing, but Netflix bingers and music listeners will want to utilize some headphones.

Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam

Lenoov ThinkPad X13s top down view showing keyboard and touchpad.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Open the lid, and you’ll find the familiar ThinkPad keyboard with large, sculpted keycaps and plenty of key spacing. The switches were lighter than some ThinkPads I’ve tested, with a snappy bottoming action and a quick response that made for fast, comfortable typing. I’m not always a huge fan of ThinkPad keyboards, sometimes finding them too stiff, but this one ranked up there with HP’s Spectre and Dell’s XPS keyboards. The layout is different from the typical Windows 11 keyboard, following the ThinkPad pattern, including the left Fn and Ctrl buttons being swapped. There are several special function keys, including a couple for videoconferencing and one for opening Lenovo’s Commercial Vantage utility.

The touchpad is wider than on some ThinkPads, but it still loses some space to the buttons that service the TrackPoint nubbin. The touchpad glass surface is smooth and comfortable and provides reliable support for Windows 11 multitouch gestures, and the button clicks are confident and quiet. The TrackPoint nubbin works as well as always for anyone who prefers that control. The display on my review unit wasn’t touch-enabled, but there’s an option for a touchscreen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s front view showing webcam.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The webcam utilizes a 5MP sensor and is quite high resolution, and Lenovo uses some AI features to calibrate the color and brightness of the image regardless of lighting conditions. There are options for applying high dynamic range (HDR) to video and enabling automatic framing to keep the user’s face in the center of the image.

Finally, an infrared camera provides Windows Hello support via facial recognition, and there’s a fingerprint reader built into the recessed power button. Both passwordless login methods worked quickly and reliably.

Privacy and security

The keyboard includes a dedicated key for shuttering the webcam, and there’s another key for switching off the microphones.

The ThinkPad X13s is Microsoft Pluton ready, which means there’s a security processor embedded in the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 to protect against various threats and physical attacks. The laptop also includes Lenovo’s self-healing BIOS to recover the machine in the case of corruption or attack.

Battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s side view showing lid and ports.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkPad X13s has 49.5 watt-hours of battery capacity, which is a decent amount for a laptop with the ultra-efficient Qualcomm ARM CPU and a Full HD+ display. It’s less than the Lenovo Flex 5G that comes in at 60 watt-hours but more than the HP Elite Folio‘s 46 watt-hours.

Take the Flex 5G out of the equation, and I’d say the ThinkPad X13s did very well in battery tests. It hit 11.75 hours in our web-browsing test that cycles through a series of demanding websites and 19.5 hours in our video test that loops a local Full HD Avengers trailer. Those are strong results compared to most Intel laptops and promise all-day battery life and then some. The Elite Folio was close enough to the same results. However, the Flex 5G did significantly better in both tests, more than the increase in battery size would predict, making it the champ among the Snapdragon 8cx machines we’ve tested. And the Apple MacBook Air laptops also did better than the ThinkPad, both the M1 and M2 versions, although neither beat out the Flex 5G.

Even so, the ThinkPad X13s provided good enough battery life that it’s worth the performance trade-off if you don’t have demanding workflows. At least, that’s true compared to the Intel field. As with performance, the ThinkPad X13s doesn’t compete as strongly with Apple’s ARM CPUs.

that’s Web browsing Video
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3)
11 hours, 48 minutes 19 hours, 39 minutes
Lenovo Flex 5G
(Snapdragon 8cx)
17 hours, 17 minutes 27 hours, 57 minutes
HP Elite Folio
(Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2)
10 hours, 52 minutes 19 hours, 27 minutes
Apple MacBook Air M1
(Apple M1)
15 hours, 31 minutes 18 hours, 28 minutes
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
17 hours, 59 minutes 21 hours, 9 minutes
Acer Aspire 5 2022
(Core i5-1235U)
6 hours, 25 minutes 10 hours, 41 minutes

Our take

All-day battery life? Check. Always-connected internet? Check. Excellent performance? Not so much. That pretty much sums up the ThinkPad X13s and Windows on ARM generally. Qualcomm and Microsoft have made some strides, for sure. The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is the fastest yet, and Windows on ARM supports more apps and drivers than before. But it’s still nowhere close to Intel, AMD, or Apple when it comes to an overall experience.

For the right person, though, the ThinkPad x13s is a nicely portable laptop with great battery life. Everyone else should wait to see what’s coming next.

Are there any alternatives?

There are more 5G laptops available today than just a year or so ago, but the population of Windows on ARM machines is still rather small. The Lenovo Flex 5G is unavailable, but the HP Elite Folio can still be purchased. It’s not as fast, but it offers similar battery life and 5G connectivity. It’s also a fascinating convertible 2-in-1 with a gorgeous look and a comfortable feel.

If you’re primarily looking for a thin and light laptop and are enamored of the ThinkPad brand, then the ThinkPad X1 Nano is a solid option. It’s one of the smallest and lightest laptops at just 1.99 pounds, offering solid productivity performance and battery life that rivals the ThinkPad X13s. It doesn’t provide 5G WWAN support, however.

Finally, the Apple MacBook Air M2 is a highly competitive alternative for anyone who doesn’t live for Windows 11 and doesn’t need 5G. It’s fast, incredibly well-built, has some of the best battery life, and it’s one of the thinnest laptops at 0.44 inches.

How long will it last?

The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is built well enough that you should expect years of service. It’s questionable whether the CPU will keep up with Windows on ARM’s development, but that remains to be seen. The industry-standard one-year warranty is disappointing on a ThinkPad.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you don’t need the fastest performance but want long battery life and 5G connectivity. The ThinkPad X13s is a great laptop for all but the most demanding users.

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Why people are saying to avoid the $1,199 M2 MacBook Air

Apple’s latest MacBook Air with the new M2 chip has been controversial, to say the least. The new MacBook Air features a refreshed design and is the successor to the M1, Apple’s new M2 system-on-a-chip.

But since the new M2 MacBook Air dropped, tech reviewers, experts, and regular people are saying you should avoid the base configuration of this new machine due to some pretty substantial performance issues. For a more affordable laptop, this is a frustrating bind that potential MacBook Air buyers are being put in.

For starters, the $1,199 base configuration has an eight-core GPU, while the upgraded version has a full 10-core GPU. This isn’t what Apple told us at WWDC when it showed off the new Air. Apple promised an 18% increase in graphical performance over the M1. What the company didn’t say, however, was the model it showed off was the more expensive upgraded M2 MacBook Air, which retails for $1,499. The model with an eight-core GPU will have a much smaller performance advantage compared to the seven-core M1 MacBook Air.

Then there’s the issue of the slow SSD. The base model comes with a measly 256GB of SSD storage, which itself is an insult to consumers for nearly $1,200. But the problem is bigger than storage space.

The SSD features a single NAND chip instead of two, as is the norm. This is reportedly producing far slower read/write speeds than the 512GB model. In fact, the base model M2 MacBook Air’s storage is a whopping 50% slower than 2020’s M1 MacBook Air, which featured two flash chips.

Just look at these benchmarks posted by YouTuber Max Tech:

  • 2020 M1 chip read/write speed: 2900/2215
  • 2022 M2 chip read/write speed: 1446/1463

But wait, it gets worse. The combination of the slow SSD and the 8GB of shared memory actually bottleneck performance so hard that according to Max Tech, there can even be tasks such as file transfers in which it’s even slower than the M1 MacBook Air, which doesn’t have this same deficiency. Yikes. The issue was first discovered in the M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch, but they apply just the same to the MacBook Air.

This wasn’t something we were able to verify ourselves at DT, as our review unit came with the 512GB SSD, which was plenty zippy.

The screen of the MacBook Air on a table.

Finally, there’s no fast charger. Apple includes a basic 30-watt charging brick with this model, while the upgraded version comes with a 35-watt dual charger. It’s not much faster, but at least it’s an improvement. A $300 dollar improvement, though? You can easily buy a 67-watt fast charger for under $30 from the Apple Store. But you shouldn’t have to.

Don’t take this the wrong way. We love the new design language Apple went with for the M2 MacBook Air. The boxy, industrial minimalism look brings it in line with the rest of Apple’s devices. The M2 chip also holds so much potential for computing in general. Apple Silicon is changing the face of the computer world — there’s no question about it.

But Apple seems to be holding it back with this nerfed base model M2 MacBook Air, and almost everybody agrees. You’ll probably want to upgrade to the better configurations or opt for the M1 MacBook Air.

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M2 MacBook Air struggles with heat, and we now know why

Apple’s new M2 MacBook Air is now available, and true to form, iFixit tore it down in order to peek inside and take a better look at the hardware.

The teardown revealed a few interesting design choices, but most of all, it showed that Apple must have a lot of faith in the new MacBook Air, seeing as it didn’t even equip it with a heat spreader. Another potential issue was also unearthed.

In a display of endless bravery, iFixit did something that many of us wouldn’t be able to work up the nerve to do — it completely disassembled the new M2 MacBook Air. As one of the two products to house Apple’s new silicon, the MacBook Air received widespread attention, but not all of it has been good. According to several reviewers, the notebook has a heat problem — and unfortunately, iFixit’s teardown does nothing to dispel that notion.

Even though the M2 MacBook Air houses the same M2 chip as the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, the former doesn’t come with any fans or heat pipes. That’s a lot of trust that Apple is putting into the stability of the device. The M2 MacBook Pro was also found to have heating issues, complete with throttling and hitting extreme temperatures of 108 degrees Celsius when dealing with heavy workloads. Even then, the MacBook Pro at least had one fan — the MacBook Air has none.

iFixit didn’t even find a heat spreader during the teardown, and it’s still quite unclear as to how exactly the passive cooling system works on the new M2 MacBook Air. Apple did, however, give it ample thermal paste and graphite tape. On the other hand, seeing as the M2 MacBook Air is even thinner than the previous generation, the components have even less room to breathe. The results of that are often mentioned by reviewers: The laptop tends to heat up when under pressure.

A different teardown performed by MaxTech revealed just why the SSD in the 256GB version of the M2 MacBook Air might experience an up to 50% drop-off in performance. This is because the 256GB version comes with a single NAND storage chip as opposed to two 128GB NAND chips, and although Apple claims this would be an improvement, the benchmark results say otherwise.

iFixit

iFixit also looked closely at the rest of the logic board, including the 64-bit, 8-core M2 chip, a Wi-Fi chip, a USI Bluetooth chip, and a custom Apple Thunderbolt 3 driver. There’s also an accelerometer with no explanation as to why a MacBook Air might need one. It could be used for spatial audio or for the purpose of running iPhone/iPad apps, but in any case, it’s a surprising choice.

Apple’s latest offering comes with a 52.6-watt-hour battery which is a step up from the 49.9-watt-hour battery found in the M1 version of the notebook. It’s secured by adhesive pull tabs that seem quick and easy to remove. The ports are not glued down, but both the M2 chip and the SSD are soldered and thus difficult to replace.

The M2 MacBook Air seems like a solid notebook in its price range, but the potential heating issues raise some concerns. Oh well, at least we have a mysterious accelerometer.

In all likelihood, for most users, this won’t be an issue. The MacBook Air was never meant to be the sort of laptop you’d use for the most resource-heavy tasks. For day-to-day computing, it will likely serve its purpose as the ultra-light notebook it was built to be.

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M2 MacBook Air teardown reveals bad news for performance

The newly released MacBook Air featuring Apple’s latest proprietary M2 chip has the gotten teardown treatment from the Max Tech YouTube channel, revealing a basic look at the internals of the notebook and some bad news about the system’s performance.

The featured model included 256GB SSD in a single NAND storage chip. MacRumors noted this specs setup has the potential to result in a notebook that performs 30% to 50% slower in SSD benchmark tests than MacBook Air models with higher specs or older MacBook Air models with the same specs. This was also a problem with the recently launched M2 MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air motherboard, as shown by Max Tech teardown.

The video also discussed some interesting details during the teardown, such as the more elongated design, which allows for a larger and more powerful battery cell in the M2 MacBook Air. This model features a 52.6-watt hour battery, a slight upgrade from the 49.9 watt-hour battery in the M1 MacBook Air. While subtle, Eremenko noted that the new notebook has more internal volume, which allows it to hold a larger battery, which is expected to power the device for up to 18 hours at a time.

The notebook features speakers located at the front of the paneling. They are also front-firing, which is intended to make for better audio.

Finally, the teardown mentions that the M2 MacBook Air includes an ultra-wideband chip within its motherboard. The component appears to currently not be functional; however, it has the potential to be unlocked in the future for uses, including Air Tags and lossless wireless audio.

M2 MacBook Air Teardown: Apple’s SECRET Revealed (& SSD)

The M2 MacBook Air has been available for pre-order since July 8 and is now on sale in stores. Prior reports detailed that the notebook was quickly back -ordered and experienced shipment delays as late as mid-August, as soon as pre-orders opened.

Many Apple products have experienced shipping delays throughout the year; however, it is not clear whether the M2 MacBook Air shipping delays have been caused by consumer demand or by supply chain issues.

The M2 MacBook Air model, which is featured in the video, starts at $1,199.

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M2 MacBook Air shipments may already be facing delays

The MacBook Air featuring Apple’s latest proprietary M2 processing chip is available for pre-order as of Friday. But as quickly as the new laptop has become available, it is already facing shipping delays.

Customers can pre-order the M2 MacBook Air through the Apple website or the Apple Store app. However, these order options are already showing shipping estimates beyond its July 15 global retail launch date, with many configurations delayed for shipment until July 18 or later in the U.S., according to MacRumors.

That might not sound too bad, but MacRumors points out that some custom configurations might have shipment dates delayed beyond July. This has been continuous problem with the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro, which has faced many months of delays in shipment.

The M2 MacBook Air was announced in early June in a number of colors and hardware specifications, with eight-core and 10-core GPU options, and Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, and Silver as color options. Apple is expected to have the M2 MacBook Air standard configurations available in-store when the laptop launches on July 15.

The shipment delay duration might also be dependent on where you’re ordering. Our location is giving shipping dates between late July and mid-August for all configurations of the M2 MacBook Air. Various metropolitan areas might experience longer waiting times for the new laptops.

Reports that surfaced in late May right before the M2 MacBook Air unveiling at WWDC 2022 revealed the M1 MacBook Air was among the easiest Apple computer to purchase during a time when several products were facing massive shipping delays due to supply chain issues. Products including the 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch models, the 2021 iMac, Apple Pro Display XDR, Mac Studio, and Studio Display were all also delayed until August, according to Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman.

It is uncertain whether the M2 MacBook Air shipping delays have been caused by consumer demand or supply chain issues.

The M2 MacBook Air starts at $1,199, while the M1 MacBook Air is still currently available and sells for $999.

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M2 MacBook Air will hit stores on July 15, report says

Apple’s new-look MacBook Air featuring the company’s latest M2 chip is set to go on sale on July 15, according to information obtained by MacRumors.

The report goes on to say that Apple’s updated laptop is expected to be available for pre-order on July 8, a week before it lands in stores.

The tech giant unveiled the M2 MacBook Air at its Worldwide Developers Conference at the start of June, though at the time it only said that the machine would be available some time in July.

To be clear, the July 15 date hasn’t been publicly announced by Apple. However, the Mac news site appears confident regarding the reliability of its source within the company’s retail division.

Apple

With a new ultra-slim design that ditches the Air’s distinctive wedge, an updated chip, a slightly larger 13.6-inch display, and a striking new Midnight color, Apple is expecting strong demand for the new laptop.

However, some may have been put off by the cost.

It’s fair to say that most potential buyers were hoping Apple would retain the attractive $999 price tag of the previous (and still available) M1 Air that launched in 2020, but frustratingly the company has decided to increase the cost of the most basic version of the new M2 model by $200, setting the price at $1,199.

For some, that’s a dealbreaker. The disappointing price bump even prompted one of DT’s writers to go for a more-than-capable refurbished M1 MacBook Air, saving himself around $430 in the process.

While the M2 Air does indeed look like a fabulous bit of kit, the all-new design means that interested customers may be wise to wait for the hands-on reviews to drop before making a final decision.

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ThinkPad X13s vs, MacBook Air M1: An ARM wrestle showdown

When it comes to laptops powered by ARM-based SoC, many see Apple as the king. The MacBook Air M1 has amazing battery life, performance, and app-emulation when compared to Windows devices with Qualcomm Snapdragon compute platform SoC.

The MacBook Air stands well ahead of a Microsoft device like the Surface Pro X, which is powered by custom ARM-based Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 silicon. Recently, though, a new challenger has come to try and take down Apple’s spot at the top of the ARM-chip heap. It’s the ThinkPad X13s, which is available from Lenovo for prices starting at $1,300.

That brings us to our side-by-side comparison, looking at specs, design, performance, display, and portability — helping you decide which flagship ARM-powered laptop is better for your needs.

Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

Specs and price

  Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Apple M1 MacBook Air
Dimensions 11.76 inches x 8.13 inches x 0.53 inches 11.97 inches x 8.36 inches x 0.63 inches
Weight 2.35 pounds 2.8 pounds
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 Apple M1
Graphics Qualcomm Adreno 690 Apple M1
RAM 16GB LPDDR4
32GB LPDDR4
8GB Apple Unified
16GB Apple Unified
Display 13.3-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS, antiglare, 300 nits, 100% sRGB

OR

13.3-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS, touchscreen, antiglare, 300 nits, 72% NTSC

13.3-inch 16:10 (2,560 x 1600) 400 nits

 

Storage 512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
256GB SSD
512GB  SSD
1TB  SSD
2TB SSD
Touch Yes No
Ports 2 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2

Headphone/ mic combo

2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 USB 3.1 Gen 2/ USB 4

Headphone/mic combo

Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1

Optional 5G sub6 eSIM or 5 mmWave eSIM

Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
Webcam 5mp Windows Hello with electronic privacy shutter 720p FaceTime HD
Operating system Windows 11 Pro macOS
Battery 49.5 watt-hour 49.9 watt-hour
Price $1,301 $999
Rating Not yet fully reviewed 4.5 out of 5 stars

Design

The ThinkPad X13s, open on a table.
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Both the MacBook Air and the ThinkPad X13s are designed as traditional clamshell laptops. Both are also passively cooled, meaning they’re completely fanless. That’s where the design similarities end, though, as these devices are made of very different materials.

The ThinkPad X13s is made of recycled magnesium. This material is a lot lighter than aluminum. It’s been used on other ThinkPad models before and is quite sturdy and durable.

We have a ThinkPad X13 in-house and think the magnesium stands up well, with no bending, creaking, or warping to deal with. Overall, though, it does feel a bit like plastic on the corners of the keyboard deck. The material feels much more like aluminum on the lid, where it’s cool to the touch. Note that this magnesium ThinkPad is also more prone to fingerprints and can get dirty quickly.

The MacBook Air, meanwhile, is made out of recycled aluminum. This is a rinse and repeat choice of material for Apple as this material is found on all the company’s laptops. Yet, it still ends up feeling rock-solid when we reviewed it. It feels very expensive and premium at all corners of the laptop, and we never had issues with it getting dirty.

The M1-powered MacBook Air, open on a table.
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If you’re curious about how that design choice shapes up for weight and dimensions, then wonder no more. In length, the ThinkPad is shorter than the MacBook Air. It is shorter in width and also slightly thinner at 0.53 inches, versus the 0.63 inches on the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad is also lighter at 2.35 pounds versus the 2.8 pounds MacBook Air.

In color options, the ThinkPad X13s only comes in one “Thunder Black” color. The MacBook Air, meanwhile, comes in either gold, silver, or space gray.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard and trackpad on the ThinkPad X13s.
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The keyboards on the ThinkPad X13s and MacBook Air M1 are quite different. On Apple’s laptop, you get a backlit Magic Keyboard, as well as a Force Touch haptic trackpad and a fingerprint sensor on the power button. The ThinkPad X13s has a traditional spill-resistant keyboard, a glass touchpad, and a TrackPoint nub. A similar fingerprint reader is also on the power button.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the M1 MacBook Air replaces the troublesome butterfly keyboard on older models. We thought the keys were nicely sized, with great precision and bottoming action. The Force Touch trackpad, meanwhile, was something that we found quite large and accurate at the time of review versus Windows laptops — though the Surface Laptop Studio and XPS 13 Plus now have this, too.

MacBook Air logo shown on the laptop.
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With the ThinkPad X13s that we’re testing, the keycaps on the keyboard have a nice soft feeling when pressed into the chassis. There’s not too much bottoming out, and typing action feels great. The keycaps are curved, though, similar to the Lenovo Yoga Line. We also do like the trackpad, as it is smooth to use and made of glass. It is not haptic like the one on Apple’s machine, however. Clicking produces loud noises and harsher feedback. It’s also a lot smaller, too. The addition of the TrackPoint helps with finer clicking, though, as does the additional left, right, and scroll buttons above the trackpad.

Oh, and just like Apple’s MacBook Air, there are speakers to the left and right of the keyboard deck on the ThinkPad. It’s a great design choice that helps make audio feel immersive on both laptops.

Performance

The CPU on the ThinkPad X13s
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Performance is the most important thing to consider in the ThinkPad X13s vs Apple M1 MacBook Air debate. We’ll be diving deep into the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 vs Apple M1 debate, but there’s a catch. Windows on ARM limits which types of testing software we can use for our performance comparison, but we do have some early calls to make with our unit, which is maxed out with 32GB RAM.

It is not really good for the ARM-powered ThinkPad, though there are some really big gains when compared to other laptops in the Windows on ARM space. Here’s why.

In Geekbench 5, the ThinkPad x13s scores behind the MacBook Air M1. The ThinkPad X13s netted 1,118 single-core and 5,776 multi-core results. That’s put up against the MacBook Air M1, which got 1,727 single-core and 7,585 multi-core results.

That Geekbench score might look bad against the MacBook, but there are huge differences between Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx generations. The Samsung Galaxy Book Go 5G with the 8cx Gen 2 got a 796 single-core score and a 3,105 multi-core score. It even kills the original Surface Pro X, which scores 618 single-core and 2,593 multi-core.

The back lid of the MacBook Air M1.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

For reference in the Windows space, Lenovo claims system-level performance on this device can be boosted by up to 57% and that multi-tasking can be up to 85% faster. This brings the ThinkPad closer to an Intel Core i5 in terms of performance in the Windows space. For example, the quad-core Intel Core i5-11320H on a Dell Inspiron 15 nets a 1,429 single-core score and a 4,275 multi-core score.

Just as you’d get on an M1 MacBook Air, we think things like web browsing in Chrome and Edge work great on the ThinkPad. Along with office work, these apps perform very well on this system in our real-world tests. That’s even with Chrome, which runs emulated on this machine due to the app not being optimized for Windows 11 on ARM. While it’s behind the 100 scores we get on most Windows laptops or the 200 scores on the MacBook Air M1, our Speedometer 2.0 test can account for that, as it nets around 87.2.

Even some very light gaming in a Steam title like Broforce works well on the ThinkPad, as the title performs at a solid 60 frames per second. We won’t go beyond that though on the ThinkPad, as when we tested a more demanding title like CS: Go, the system locked up and we ended up putting the game in a windowed mode with settings all the way down. Encoding a podcast in a video editor, Filmora also suffers badly on the ThinkPad, with a 30-minute project and 2GB of files taking 25 minutes to complete.

This ThinkPad is great for office work, web browsing, or using common Win32 apps not optimized for ARM. However, the more demanding tasks on the ThinkPad X13s are behind expectations from other Windows laptops of its class — and what you’ll get with the M1 MacBook Air. From our experience, the MacBook is able to encode movies in just 4.5 minutes in our tests and run games like Fortnite at higher resolutions than the ThinkPad ever can.

Task Manager open on the Thinkpad X13s.
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

The reason for that end result has a lot to do with the emulation Microsoft is using on the ARM flavor of Windows 11. It is behind what Apple has accomplished with Rosseeta 2 on the M1 MacBook Air. With the ThinkPad, if you’re using an app that’s been optimized for Windows on ARM (like Edge), it will be able to fully unlock the performance benefits of the 8cx Gen 3.

If your app isn’t optimized (many are not), it will run under emulation and won’t be able to use the Adreno GPU inside the ThinkPad X13s. Take our test with Cinebench, for example, which is under emulation. It just sees the CPU and netted some really poor results with 2,029 for multi-core, and 554 single-core. That is behind the 1,498 points in single-core mode on the M1 MacBook Air and the 8,359 points in multi-core of the MacBook.

Optimized apps like Visual Studio 2022, though, did unlock the GPU power and installed with speed, as did several Windows Store games like Asphalt 8, so it’s not all a loss. But all around, the M1 MacBook Air definitely has better performance, since all apps and games work well, even with emulation.

Display

The display on the ThinkPad X13s.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

The MacBook Air M1 and the ThinkPad X13s have indifferent displays. Both are tuned to the 16:10 aspect ratio for great multitasking, but that’s all they share in common.

Apple’s MacBook Air M1 has a better panel than the Thinkpad X13s. It’s an IPS, glossy panel tuned to 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. That panel can hit up to 389 nits and can max out at 400 nits. In our tests, color hits 100% of the sRGB spectrum and 79% of the AdobeRGB spectrum.

The ThinkPad X13s is behind that. It is lower resolution at 1,920 x 1,200. It also has an IPS panel like the MacBook, but it only can top 300 nits of brightness. Touch is an option, though, which you’ll never get on a MacBook panel. The non-touch option on the ThinkPad can hit 300 nits brightness, as well as 100% of sRGB, just like the MacBook. This means it might not be the best for outdoor work.

Otherwise, touch models hit 72% of the NTSC spectrum. The display is still visibly bright and vibrant when indoors, as we could make out the fine colors of blue waters against yellow sands in a sample video during our viewing of a YouTube video with the screen at 100% brightness. But we definitely still feel that the M1 MacBook Air gets better brightness when outdoors.

Portability and battery life

The ports on the ThinkPad x13s.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

Portability will cover ports and battery life on the ThinkPad X13s vs the MacBook Air M1. In these areas, the devices are equal with some exceptions.

Both laptops have USB-C ports and headphone jacks, but the MacBook is compatible with Thunderbolt accessories, and the ThinkPad is not. Note that M1 MacBook Airs also can’t connect to dual displays, but the ThinkPad can. It supports up to 3 independent displays (the native display and 2 external monitors) via USB-C.

Another thing that makes the ThinkPad portable: It has an optional 5G modem with an eSIM. The MacBook does not have this. Even webcams are better on the ThinkPad, since it comes in at 5 megapixels and is backed by AI features on the Qualcomm SoC for better image quality. Apple’s MacBook is stuck with a boring 720p webcam.

The webcam on the Thinkpad X13s
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Trends

As far as battery life goes, the ThinkPad and the M1 MacBook Air are neck-in-neck, but with some important caveats to point out. The Lenovo has a lower-resolution screen, so it can use that for better battery life. We got to around 28 hours of battery when looping a movie on the ThinkPad with Wi-FI off and the screen at under 100 nits.

That’s ahead of the MacBook Air, but the panel is the exception. As for web browsing, the MacBook Air wins out. We got to around 13.5 hours of life in our tests that involve using Microsoft Edge in our daily workflow with the screen at 32% brightness. It’s still behind the MacBook Air, though, which wins out at 15.5 hours and is at the top.

The Apple M1 still wins

In the battle between ARM-based laptops, we’re going to have to give the win to the Apple MacBook Air. While the ThinkPad X13s makes big gains for the Windows on ARM field, it’s still behind what Apple has done with the M1 MacBook Air in terms of performance.

This is mainly due to the emulation layer in Windows 11 not fully unlocking the power of GPU and many non-ARM optimized apps only depending only on the CPU layer for GPU-needed tasks. The ThinkPad though does get great battery life and has the huge plus of 5G connections, but until some of the kinks of Windows on ARM get worked out, Apple continues to keep the lead.

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