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Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 vs. Dell XPS 13 Plus: the most advanced laptops

Many manufacturers are switching to 14-inch laptops, but that doesn’t mean the 13-inch laptop is going away anytime soon. Dell has its excellent XPS 13 Plus and Lenovo recently introduced the ThinkPad Z13, proving that 13-inch machines still have their place.

It’s a strong competition between these two excellent laptops, both of which represent upgraded and/or diverging designs. One has to win, though, so read on to find out which is the better diminutive laptop.

The side of the keyboard on the Dell XPS 13 Plus.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Specs and configurations

  Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 Dell XPS 13 Plus
Dimensions 11.6 inches x 7.9 inches x 0.55 inches 11.63 inches by 7.84 inches by 0.60 inches
Weight 2.76 pounds 2.71 pounds
Processor AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 6650U
AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U
AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6860U
Intel Core i5-1240P
Intel Core i7-1260P
Intel Core i7-1280P
Graphics AMD Radeon graphics Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM 16GB
32GB
8GB
16GB
32GB
Display 13.3-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200)
13.3-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) touch
13.3-inch 16:10 OLED 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800) toch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) non-touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS Full HD+ touch
13.4-inch 16:10 OLED 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) touch
13.4-inch 16:10 IPS UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) touch
Storage 256GB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2GB SSD
Touch Optional Optional
Ports 2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
3.5mm Audio Jack
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Optional 4G LTE
Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 1080p, Windows Hello IR webcam 720p, Windows Hello IR webcam
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11 Home or Pro
Battery 70 watt-hours 55 watt-hours
Price $1,175+ $1,299+
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Lenovo’s pricing changes constantly as it introduces online sales prices, but as of right now, the least expensive model is $1,175 for an AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 6650U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a Full HD+ non-touch IPS display. The most you’ll spend is $1,780 for an AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6868Z CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 2.8K OLED display.

Dell also varies its pricing, with both sales and changes to its list prices. As of right now, the least expensive XPS 13 Plus runs $1,299 for a Core i5-1240P, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a Full HD+ non-touch IPS display. At the high end, the laptop costs $2,399 for a Core i7-1280P, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and either a 3.5K OLED or a 4K+ IPS display.

At least as far as pricing at this particular moment, the ThinkPad Z13 is the less expensive laptop, but it also can’t be configured with as much storage as the XPS 13 Plus.

Design

Both laptops represent significant departures from their lines, with the XPS 13 Plus dropping the carbon or glass fiber palm rest of the previous generation and the ThinkPad Z13 representing a complete overhaul from the usual black-on-black ThinkPad design.

The XPS 13 Plus is now all-aluminum, with the same sleek lines with the lid closed, but a thoroughly modern design inside. The palm rest is now all glass, with a hidden haptic touchpad, and the edge-to-edge keyboard has flat keys edge-to-edge keys. The row of LED function buttons along the top add to the modern look, but they’re functionality is questionable.

The ThinkPad Z13 is also aluminum, with an optional faux-leather covering on the lid that’s warm and inviting. From the outside, the laptop looks a lot more like the XPS 13 Plus than any traditional ThinkPad, with the same kind of sleek lines. It differentiates itself most with the “Communication Bar” that runs across the top of the lid as a reverse notch. Open up the lid, and you’ll find a black palm rest, the usual red TrackPoint nubbin, and a haptic touchpad barely visible on the palm rest. Both laptops are attractive, modern, and offer up a new look.

You’ll find no fault with the build quality of either laptop. They’re both rigid and robust, with no bending, flexing, or twisting. That’s to be expected from both companies’ premium machines.

The keyboard of the ThinkPad Z13.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Both keyboards are comfortable to use, albeit different in their physical layout, given the Dell’s flat keycaps. We’ll call it a draw. The haptic touchpads favor the Dell, which provided a more responsive and natural feel during our testing. The ThinkPad Z13 has its TrackPoint for ThinkPad fans, which means part of its touchpad is devoted to the TrackPoint’s virtual buttons. Overall, though, both laptops provide excellent input.

Connectivity is similar, with both sporting dual Thunderbolt 4 ports, but the ThinkPad Z13 includes a 3.5mm audio jack lacking on the XPS 13 Plus. We think that gives the ThinkPad a leg up. Wireless connectivity is up-to-date on both, while the ThinkPad Z13 also offers optional 4G LTE WWAN for always-connected internet.

The ThinkPad Z13 has a higher-resolution 1080p webcam, which is much better than the XPS 13 Plus’s 720p version, while both have infrared cameras supporting Windows 11 passwordless login via facial recognition. Both also have responsive fingerprint readers as well. Dell’s is embedded in the power button, which is where we prefer to see it.

Performance

A top down view of the Dell XPS 13 Plus' keyboard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The ThinkPad Z13 we reviewed was equipped with the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6850 U, a 15- to 28-watt CPU with eight cores and 16 threads. That compares to the XPS 13 Plus with its 28-watt Intel Core i7-1280P, with 14 cores (six Performance and eight Efficient) and 20 threads.

The ThinkPad had a slight advantage in multi-core applications like our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265 and Cinebench R23, and it was much faster in the PCMark 10 Complete test that runs through a mix of productivity, media consumption, and creativity tasks. The XPS 13 Plus had to run in its performance mode to keep up.

Both are very fast productivity machines, but the ThinkPad Z13 has a slight advantage. Neither are legitimate gaming systems given their integrated graphics.

Geekbench
(single / multi)
Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
PCMark 10
Complete
Lenovo ThinkPad Z13
(Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U)
Bal: 1,428 / 8,208
Perf: N/A
Bal: 97
Perf: 89
Bal: 1,410 / 7,865
Perf: N/A
5,812
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(Core i7-1280P)
Bal: 1,316 / 8,207
Perf: N/A
Bal: 170
Perf: 94
Bal: 1,311 / 6,308
Perf: 1,650 / 7,530
4.309

Display

Image used with permission by copyright holder

We tested the ThinkPad Z13 with its Full HD+ IPS panel, and it was a good premium display with plenty of brightness, excellent contrast for IPS, average color width, and excellent color accuracy. It couldn’t hold a candle to the 3.5K OLED display that we tested on the XPS 13 Plus. The Dell’s display wasn’t as quick or bright, but provided incredibly wide and accurate colors and deep contrast with inky blacks.

The ThinkPad Z13’s display is fine for productivity work, but creators and media consumers will much prefer the XPS 13 Plus’s OLED display. Of course, you can always upgrade the ThinkPad Z13 to OLED, although it’s not quite as high-resolution as Dell’s offering.

Brightness
(nits)
Contrast sRGB gamut AdobeRGB gamut Accuracy DeltaE
(lower is better)
Lenovo ThinkPad Z13
(IPS)
415 1,220:1 99% 80% 0.84
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(OLED)
386 386,030:1 100% 99% 0.83

Portability

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 front view showing keyboard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The ThinkPad Z13 and XPS 13 Plus are almost identically sized, with the ThinkPad being just a tiny bit thinner. Both are thin and light and easy to carry around.

Battery life, though, gave a huge win to the ThinkPad Z13. It lasted twice as long as the XPS 13 Plus in our web-browsing test and almost twice as long in our video test. That’s thanks to both a larger battery and the more efficient Ryzen CPU. If battery life matters to you, then the ThinkPad Z13 is the one to choose.

Web browsing Video
Lenovo ThinkPad Z13
(Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U)
16 hours, 34 minutes 17 hours, 50 minutes
Dell XPS 13 Plus
(Core i7-1280P)
8 hours, 0 minutes 9 hours, 20 minutes

Excellent laptops, but the ThinkPad Z13 wins out thanks to its longevity

The ThinkPad Z13 open on a white table.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The ThinkPad Z13 and XPS 13 Plus are both excellent 13-inch laptops that can meet the needs of the most demanding productivity users. They’re both attractive, well-built, and offer fast performance.

The ThinkPad Z13 wins out in its price, which right now is hundreds lower than the XPS 13 Plus, and in its excellent battery life. Those are enough to make it the better laptop.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Coppock
Mark has been a geek since MS-DOS gave way to Windows and the PalmPilot was a thing. He’s translated his love for…
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