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Lenovo ThinkPad X390 review: A sharp business laptop with caveats

The Lenovo ThinkPad X390 gets some things right. It’s thin and light—especially for a business laptop—and plenty powerful, while maintaining the hefty keyboard for which ThinkPads are known.

Before long, though, the ThinkPad X390’s trade-offs become clear. The matte display’s washed-out tones are tiresome on the eyes, and the keyboard and touchpad—both signature features on most ThinkPads—feel too stiff. While the ThinkPad X390 performs well in benchmarks, fiddling with the power settings causes speed to suffer. Given the price, we expected fewer drawbacks. 

ThinkPad X390: Specs and features

The ThinkPad X390’s price can vary greatly by configuration. It’s possible to spend as little as $899 on this laptop, for which you’ll get a good dollop of RAM (8GB) and a competent Intel Core i5-8265U processor; however, the low-resolution 1366×768 display and meager 128GB SSD are compromises. 

Our review unit was closer to the opposite end of the spectrum, with an Intel Core i7-8565U processor and 16GB of DDR4 RAM; a 13.3-inch, 1920x1080p touchscreen, and a roomy 512GB SSD. It also includes a fingerprint reader and an IR camera for Windows Hello. All that brings the price up to $1,689.

Regardless of the model, you get plenty of ports, including two USB-A, two USB-C (one Thunderbolt 3), an ethernet extension, HDMI 1.4, and a Kensington Lock slot. There’s even a removable tray around back for both MicroSD card and nano-SIM cards.

lenovo thinkpad x390 black right screen open Lenovo presskit

The Lenovo ThinkPad X390 gives you plenty of ports.

Design and display

Unlike its ThinkPad L390 Yoga cousin, the ThinkPad X390 doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge. Instead it folds 180 degrees, so the screen can lay flat on a table.

In exchange for less flexibility, the X390 is a much slicker machine, with bezels measuring just 0.38 inches. It weighs in at a respectable 2.9 pounds, a little heavier than Dell’s XPS 13 (2.7 pounds), about the same as HP’s Spectre x360, and much lighter than the aforementioned L390 Yoga (3.36 pounds). That’s all without sacrificing durability, as Lenovo puts the X390 through a battery of military-grade shock, sand, humidity, altitude, and temperature tests.

Whether you like the display will come down to personal preference. The X390 uses an IPS panel, which is supposed to provide great viewing angles. Tilting this unit’s display changes brightness dramatically, however. No matter which angle you choose, colors look washed-out and overly cool, and the display starts to feel a bit harsh on the eyes in moderate lighting. Such are the inherent downsides of a matte display, compared to the glossy screens becoming more common on modern laptops.

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