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

On the subject of laptops powered by ARM-based SoC, many see Apple because the king. The MacBook Air M1 has superb battery life, efficiency, and app-emulation when in comparison with Home windows units with Qualcomm Snapdragon compute platform SoC.

The MacBook Air stands nicely forward of a Microsoft gadget just like the Floor Professional X, which is powered by customized ARM-based Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 silicon. Lately, although, a brand new challenger has come to attempt to take down Apple’s spot on the high of the ARM-chip heap. It’s the ThinkPad X13s, which is on the market from Lenovo for costs beginning at $1,300.

That brings us to our side-by-side comparability, taking a look at specs, design, efficiency, show, and portability — serving to you resolve which flagship ARM-powered laptop computer is best to your wants.

The back lid of the ARM-powered ThinkPad.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Tendencies

Specs and value

  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 kilos 2.8 kilos
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 Apple M1
Graphics Qualcomm Adreno 690 Apple M1
8GB Apple Unified
16GB Apple Unified
Show 13.3-inch WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS, antiglare, 300 nits, 100% sRGB


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
512GB  SSD
Contact Sure 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

Wi-fi Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1

Non-obligatory 5G sub6 eSIM or 5 mmWave eSIM

Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
Webcam 5mp Home windows Hi there with digital privateness shutter 720p FaceTime HD
Working system Home windows 11 Professional macOS
Battery 49.5 watt-hour 49.9 watt-hour
Value $1,301 $999
Ranking Not but absolutely reviewed 4.5 out of 5 stars


The ThinkPad X13s, open on a table.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Tendencies

Each the MacBook Air and the ThinkPad X13s are designed as conventional clamshell laptops. Each are additionally passively cooled, that means they’re fully fanless. That’s the place the design similarities finish, although, as these units are fabricated from very completely different supplies.

The ThinkPad X13s is fabricated from recycled magnesium. This materials is so much lighter than aluminum. It’s been used on different ThinkPad fashions earlier than and is kind of sturdy and sturdy.

We have now a ThinkPad X13 in-house and assume the magnesium stands up nicely, with no bending, creaking, or warping to cope with. Total, although, it does really feel a bit like plastic on the corners of the keyboard deck. The fabric feels far more like aluminum on the lid, the place it’s cool to the contact. Be aware that this magnesium ThinkPad can be extra susceptible to fingerprints and may get soiled shortly.

The MacBook Air, in the meantime, is made out of recycled aluminum. It is a rinse and repeat selection of fabric for Apple as this materials is discovered on all the corporate’s laptops. But, it nonetheless finally ends up feeling rock-solid once we reviewed it. It feels very costly and premium in any respect corners of the laptop computer, and we by no means had points with it getting soiled.

The M1-powered MacBook Air, open on a table.
Mark Coppock/Digital Tendencies

Should you’re inquisitive about how that design selection shapes up for weight and dimensions, then surprise no extra. In size, the ThinkPad is shorter than the MacBook Air. It’s shorter in width and likewise barely thinner at 0.53 inches, versus the 0.63 inches on the MacBook Air. The ThinkPad can be lighter at 2.35 kilos versus the two.8 kilos MacBook Air.

In coloration choices, the ThinkPad X13s solely is available in one “Thunder Black” coloration. The MacBook Air, in the meantime, is available in both gold, silver, or house grey.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard and trackpad on the ThinkPad X13s.
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Tendencies

The keyboards on the ThinkPad X13s and MacBook Air M1 are fairly completely different. On Apple’s laptop computer, you get a backlit Magic Keyboard, in addition to a Drive Contact haptic trackpad and a fingerprint sensor on the facility button. The ThinkPad X13s has a standard spill-resistant keyboard, a glass touchpad, and a TrackPoint nub. An identical fingerprint reader can be on the facility button.

Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the M1 MacBook Air replaces the troublesome butterfly keyboard on older fashions. We thought the keys had been properly sized, with nice precision and bottoming motion. The Drive Contact trackpad, in the meantime, was one thing that we discovered fairly massive and correct on the time of evaluate versus Home windows laptops — although the Floor Laptop computer Studio and XPS 13 Plus now have this, too.

MacBook Air logo shown on the laptop.
Mark Coppock/Digital Tendencies

With the ThinkPad X13s that we’re testing, the keycaps on the keyboard have a pleasant gentle feeling when pressed into the chassis. There’s not an excessive amount of bottoming out, and typing motion feels nice. The keycaps are curved, although, just like the Lenovo Yoga Line. We additionally do just like the trackpad, as it’s clean to make use of and fabricated from glass. It’s not haptic just like the one on Apple’s machine, nevertheless. Clicking produces loud noises and harsher suggestions. It’s additionally so much smaller, too. The addition of the TrackPoint helps with finer clicking, although, as does the extra left, proper, and scroll buttons above the trackpad.

Oh, and identical to Apple’s MacBook Air, there are audio system to the left and proper of the keyboard deck on the ThinkPad. It’s an incredible design selection that helps make audio really feel immersive on each laptops.


The CPU on the ThinkPad X13s
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Tendencies

Efficiency is crucial factor to think about within the ThinkPad X13s vs Apple M1 MacBook Air debate. We’ll be diving deep into the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 vs Apple M1 debate, however there’s a catch. Home windows on ARM limits which kinds of testing software program we are able to use for our efficiency comparability, however we do have some early calls to make with our unit, which is maxed out with 32GB RAM.

It’s not actually good for the ARM-powered ThinkPad, although there are some actually massive positive aspects when in comparison with different laptops within the Home windows on ARM house. Right 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 outcomes. That’s put up in opposition to the MacBook Air M1, which acquired 1,727 single-core and seven,585 multi-core outcomes.

That Geekbench rating may look unhealthy in opposition to the MacBook, however there are big variations between Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx generations. The Samsung Galaxy Ebook Go 5G with the 8cx Gen 2 acquired a 796 single-core rating and a 3,105 multi-core rating. It even kills the unique Floor Professional X, which scores 618 single-core and a couple of,593 multi-core.

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

For reference within the Home windows house, Lenovo claims system-level efficiency on this gadget will be boosted by as much as 57% and that multi-tasking will be as much as 85% sooner. This brings the ThinkPad nearer to an Intel Core i5 when it comes to efficiency within the Home windows house. For instance, the quad-core Intel Core i5-11320H on a Dell Inspiron 15 nets a 1,429 single-core rating and a 4,275 multi-core rating.

Simply as you’d get on an M1 MacBook Air, we expect issues like internet looking in Chrome and Edge work nice on the ThinkPad. Together with workplace work, these apps carry out very nicely on this method in our real-world exams. That’s even with Chrome, which runs emulated on this machine as a result of app not being optimized for Home windows 11 on ARM. Whereas it’s behind the 100 scores we get on most Home windows laptops or the 200 scores on the MacBook Air M1, our Speedometer 2.0 check can account for that, because it nets round 87.2.

Even some very gentle gaming in a Steam title like Broforce works nicely on the ThinkPad, because the title performs at a stable 60 frames per second. We received’t transcend that although on the ThinkPad, as once we examined a extra demanding title like CS: Go, the system locked up and we ended up placing the sport in a windowed mode with settings all the way in which down. Encoding a podcast in a video editor, Filmora additionally suffers badly on the ThinkPad, with a 30-minute challenge and 2GB of information taking 25 minutes to finish.

This ThinkPad is nice for workplace work, internet looking, or utilizing frequent Win32 apps not optimized for ARM. Nonetheless, the extra demanding duties on the ThinkPad X13s are behind expectations from different Home windows laptops of its class — and what you’ll get with the M1 MacBook Air. From our expertise, the MacBook is ready to encode motion pictures in simply 4.5 minutes in our exams and run video games like Fortnite at greater resolutions than the ThinkPad ever can.

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

The explanation for that finish consequence has so much to do with the emulation Microsoft is utilizing on the ARM taste of Home windows 11. It’s behind what Apple has completed with Rosseeta 2 on the M1 MacBook Air. With the ThinkPad, for those who’re utilizing an app that’s been optimized for Home windows on ARM (like Edge), will probably be capable of absolutely unlock the efficiency advantages of the 8cx Gen 3.

In case your app isn’t optimized (many will not be), it is going to run below emulation and received’t be capable of use the Adreno GPU contained in the ThinkPad X13s. Take our check with Cinebench, for instance, which is below emulation. It simply sees the CPU and netted some actually poor outcomes with 2,029 for multi-core, and 554 single-core. That’s behind the 1,498 factors in single-core mode on the M1 MacBook Air and the 8,359 factors in multi-core of the MacBook.

Optimized apps like Visible Studio 2022, although, did unlock the GPU energy and put in with velocity, as did a number of Home windows Retailer video games like Asphalt 8, so it’s not all a loss. However throughout, the M1 MacBook Air undoubtedly has higher efficiency, since all apps and video games work nicely, even with emulation.


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

The MacBook Air M1 and the ThinkPad X13s have detached shows. Each are tuned to the 16:10 side ratio for nice multitasking, however that’s all they share in frequent.

Apple’s MacBook Air M1 has a greater panel than the Thinkpad X13s. It’s an IPS, shiny panel tuned to 2,560 x 1,600 decision. That panel can hit as much as 389 nits and may max out at 400 nits. In our exams, coloration hits 100% of the sRGB spectrum and 79% of the AdobeRGB spectrum.

The ThinkPad X13s is behind that. It’s decrease decision at 1,920 x 1,200. It additionally has an IPS panel just like the MacBook, nevertheless it solely can high 300 nits of brightness. Contact is an choice, although, which you’ll by no means get on a MacBook panel. The non-touch choice on the ThinkPad can hit 300 nits brightness, in addition to 100% of sRGB, identical to the MacBook. This implies it won’t be one of the best for outside work.

In any other case, contact fashions hit 72% of the NTSC spectrum. The show continues to be visibly shiny and vibrant when indoors, as we might make out the high quality colours of blue waters in opposition to yellow sands in a pattern video throughout our viewing of a YouTube video with the display screen at 100% brightness. However we undoubtedly nonetheless really feel that the M1 MacBook Air will get higher brightness when open air.

Portability and battery life

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

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

Each laptops have USB-C ports and headphone jacks, however the MacBook is suitable with Thunderbolt equipment, and the ThinkPad isn’t. Be aware that M1 MacBook Airs can also’t hook up with twin shows, however the ThinkPad can. It helps as much as 3 impartial shows (the native show and a couple of exterior screens) through USB-C.

One other factor that makes the ThinkPad transportable: It has an optionally available 5G modem with an eSIM. The MacBook doesn’t have this. Even webcams are higher on the ThinkPad, because it is available in at 5 megapixels and is backed by AI options on the Qualcomm SoC for higher picture high quality. Apple’s MacBook is caught with a boring 720p webcam.

The webcam on the Thinkpad X13s
Arif Bacchus/ Digital Tendencies

So far as battery life goes, the ThinkPad and the M1 MacBook Air are neck-in-neck, however with some essential caveats to level out. The Lenovo has a lower-resolution display screen, so it will probably use that for higher battery life. We acquired to round 28 hours of battery when looping a film on the ThinkPad with Wi-FI off and the display screen at below 100 nits.

That’s forward of the MacBook Air, however the panel is the exception. As for internet looking, the MacBook Air wins out. We acquired to round 13.5 hours of life in our exams that contain utilizing Microsoft Edge in our every day workflow with the display screen at 32% brightness. It’s nonetheless behind the MacBook Air, although, which wins out at 15.5 hours and is on the high.

The Apple M1 nonetheless wins

Within the battle between ARM-based laptops, we’re going to have to offer the win to the Apple MacBook Air. Whereas the ThinkPad X13s makes massive positive aspects for the Home windows on ARM area, it’s nonetheless behind what Apple has achieved with the M1 MacBook Air when it comes to efficiency.

That is primarily as a result of emulation layer in Home windows 11 not absolutely unlocking the facility of GPU and plenty of non-ARM optimized apps solely relying solely on the CPU layer for GPU-needed duties. The ThinkPad although does get nice battery life and has the massive plus of 5G connections, however till a number of the kinks of Home windows on ARM get labored out, Apple continues to maintain the lead.

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