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Best ThinkPad in 2021: Which Lenovo business laptop is best?

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best thinkpads
(Image credit: Future)

The best ThinkPads attract many business users and corporate IT departments thanks to their strong build quality, industry-leading keyboards, hyper accurate pointing sticks and simple black aesthetic. The ThinkPad line has a number of mainstays that Lenovo fans won't do without, which is why the best ThinkPads are considered the best laptops around.

Even if you've already got your heart and your budget committed to a ThinkPad, you've got a lot of choices. Lenovo currently sells over a dozen ThinkPad models across several different lines. The laptops all have the same basic aesthetic, but vary greatly when it comes to size, price, screen quality, performance and battery life. Some even have snappier keyboards than others. There are options for the average business user, artists who need a professional tablet or even users who need a beast of a workstation. See our article about why I hate Windows 11 — here’s what Microsoft needs to fix.

Once you've made a decision, check out our roundup of the best ThinkPad accessories to bolster your productivity, but if you're more interested in the best Lenovo laptops in general, we have a page for that, too.

What are the best ThinkPads? 

In the world of laptops, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon is a masterpiece. With a lightweight yet durable chassis, the X1 Carbon is an excellent option for business users who are frequently on the go. But the ThinkPad X1 Carbon isn't just an enterprise notebook: We don't hesitate recommending this machine to everyday consumers, too, who will appreciate the laptop's bright, vivid 14-inch display, long battery life, fast performance and immaculate build quality.

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga proves that ThinkPads don't need carbon fiber to compete. Made from CNC aluminum, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga's chassis is now thinner and lighter yet just as durable as ever. Combine that sleek frame with a gorgeous 1080p display, a best-in-class keyboard and all-day battery life, and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is easily one of the best 2-in-1 laptops around.

Taking a page from its consumer laptop twin -- the ThinkPad X1 Extreme -- the workstation-class Lenovo ThinkPad P1 offers powerful performance in a thin and lightweight chassis. The optional 4K display pops with rich, vibrant colors, and the P1's wonderfully comfortable keyboard might just be Lenovo's best yet. On top of that, the Xeon CPU and Nvidia Quadro P2000, available on the pricier models, offer outstanding performance. It’s a great machine if you’re doing more than plugging numbers into a spreadsheet.

Need something more portable? The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a durable and secure 2-in-1 business detachable that's also powerful enough to let you dominate noobs in Overwatch on the device's vibrant, 13-inch, 3K display.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gen 9

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9) makes clever changes to move a winning business laptop to the brink of perfection. (Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

1. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)

Best overall ThinkPad you can buy

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Iris Xe
Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display: 14-inch (1200p, 16:10)
Size: 12.4 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Slim, lightweight design+Good 14-inch, 16:10 FHD+ display+Class-leading keyboard+Great quad speakers
Reasons to avoid
-Poor 720p webcam

Pros: Lenovo took the best business laptop and beefed it up with 11th Gen Intel CPUs. You still get the ThinkPad X1 Carbon's attractive, slim and durable chassis. Business users who travel frequently will appreciate the 15+ hours of battery life offered by the 1200p version. The 1200p screen was surprisingly bright. And in typical ThinkPad fashion, the latest 9th Gen X1 Carbon has a best-in-class keyboard that you'll love typing on. It's easily at the top of the best ThinkPads.

Cons: While we adore this laptop, it's not truly perfect. It features a poor 720p webcam, no card slot and the touchpad is a bit small. On top of that, the IR camera doesn't even come included by default, which is odd considering it's a business notebook.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9) review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD) best thinkpads

If you're on a budget but you still want that sweet keyboard, the best ThinkPad for you is the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD). (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

2. Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD)

The best budget laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U
GPU: AMD Radeon
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch (768p/1080p)
Size: 12.3 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding performance+Durable chassis+Best-in-class keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Subpar battery life-Thick display bezels

Pros: Your average ThinkPad isn't very wallet-friendly, but the ThinkPad X13 goes against the grain. For less than $1,000, this machine offers a speedy AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U CPU, a carbon fiber/magnesium alloy design and even a select few security features like a fingerprint reader and an optional IR camera for Windows Hello. Despite the price, Lenovo doesn't skimp on the keyboard. Its keys felt super responsive. Those concave keys we've praised for years have what feels like an impossible amount of travel for a laptop this thin. 

Cons: The ThinkPad X13's affordable price requires a few compromises: namely, the super thick display bezels, the lack of Thunderbolt 3 ports and being limited to only 16GB of RAM. And its battery lasted 7 hours and 53 minutes, landing below the premium laptop average at the time (10:00).

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD) review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano best thinkpads

Lenovo's X1 Nano proves an ultraportable 13-inch version of the X1 Carbon belongs in the hands of consumers and professionals alike. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

3. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Best 13-inch ThinkPad

CPU: Intel Core i7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
Storage: 512GB
Display: 13-inch, 2K
Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.66 inches
Weight: 2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Stylish, stealthy design+Bright 13-inch, 2K display+Weighs 2 pounds+12-hour battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Limited ports

Pros: You already know what the X1 Nano looks like — it's the classic ThinkPad design except in a smaller, lighter chassis. It's actually the most portable ThinkPad ever, with its carbon fiber and magnesium frame weighing in at a measly 2 pounds. It has a 13-inch, 2K (2160 x 1350-pixel) anti-glare display. Not 13.3 inches or 13.5 inches, just 13 inches flat, meaning the panel is smaller than those on rival devices. I don't mind though; the 16:10 aspect ratio has the same height (Y-axis) as most larger panels, it's just not as wide. Portability is great, but what's the point if you need to log around a battery charger everywhere you go? Fortunately, with the X1 Nano, you can leave the brick at home. The petite notebook lasted for 12 hours flat on our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness.

Cons: Buy a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with the X1 Nano. Well, either that or brave the dongle life. That's because there are no USB Type-A ports. Our unit has a flat matte-black lid but you can opt for a woven pattern on the lid to accentuate the carbon materials used within. Regardless of which surface you choose, expect to clean lots of smudges -- the X1 Nano left a glossy fingerprint every time I touched the design. Below the keyboard is a 3.9 x 2.3-inch touchpad. It has a silky soft-touch texture, the surface responded well to my swipes. My main gripe is the size. Those with larger hands may find their fingers brushing up against the sides.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) best thinkpads

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga tweaks the formula enough to retain its position as the best 2-in-1 business laptop (a lot of) money can buy. (Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6)

The best 2-in-1 Thinkpad

Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel IPS (16:10)
CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
Weight: 3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Solid, sleek design+Fantastic keyboard+Speedy performance+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid

Pros: Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 is a refinement of the best 2-in-1 laptop for business users. Taking a page from the X1 Carbon, the newest Yoga now flaunts a 14-inch display with a taller 16:10 aspect ratio for more vertical screen space — a boon for enterprise users. Also improving productivity are a wider touchpad and a human presence detection sensor for convenient login and enhanced security.  Swapping the engine for 11th Gen Intel chips adds considerably faster performance, but the battery life upgrade is even more enticing; the Gen 6 model lasts for nearly 15 hours on a charge. These perks are packaged in a sleek aluminum chassis with a convenient 2-in-1 design and a handy stylus slot. 

Cons: It may not be as lightweight as the ThinkPad X1 Carbon or as alluring as the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga. There's no SD card and it's hella expensive, so you have to decide whether or not you can bite the bullet that is its $2,000+ price.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2) best thinkpads

If you need a workhorse version of a ThinkPad, then the best ThinkPad for you is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme, as it boasts a discrete GPU, a 4K HDR panel and a luxurious design. (Image credit: Future)

5. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2)

The best multimedia laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7
GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650
RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB/64GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch (1080p/4K)
Size: 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Attractive, lightweight chassis+Gorgeous 4K HDR anti-glare display+World-class keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Poor battery life (on 4K HDR model)-Storage limited to 1TB

Pros: Whether you're a video editor or even a gamer, the 15-inch ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 is an excellent multimedia business laptop that suits your needs. Armed with a Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, this beast can get you through rigorous programs as well as a select few games. It ran the Hitman benchmark on Ultra at 1080p at a solid 47 frames per second. At only 0.7 inches thick and roughly 4.5 pounds, the X1 Extreme is seriously portable for a laptop this size. We were blown away by the system's 4K display, which reproduced 163% of the sRGB color gamut and averaged 384 nits of brightness. It also happens to have a cushy keyboard, and offers the same durability and security features as the Lenovo X1 Carbon. It's one of the best ThinkPads for performance.

Cons: Regardless of all that power and beauty, a battery life of only 5 hours and 28 minutes is a major buzzkill. The fact that the storage is limited to only 1TB is also nuts, considering that laptops like the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro offers up to 8TB of storage.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2) review.

Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook best thinkpads

The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Chromebook is a solid performer that’s par for the course in the Chromebook ecosystem. (Image credit: Future)

6. Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook

The best Chromebook

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 3500C
GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics
Storage: 128GB SSD
Display: 13-inch, 1080p
Size: 12.1 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3.2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Snappy performance+Durable, lightweight design+Colorful display+Solid battery life
Reasons to avoid

Pros: The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook’s Abyss Blue all-aluminum chassis has some chrome flecking, giving the unit some pleasant sparkle. The ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook’s 13-inch, 1080p touch display is crisp and vivid, but not exceptionally bright. With an AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 3500C CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and integrated AMD Radeon Graphics running the lightweight Chrome OS, the Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook’s performance is pretty snappy, with near-instant boot times. The laptop came in at 8 hours and 7 minutes in our in-house battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits). 

Cons: There are two tiny slots on either side of the deck where I imagine the smallest speakers in creation are housed. I started listening to Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off” on full blast, and although it was somewhat loud, the audio quality was tinny. Our review unit is a little pricey for a Chromebook at $766; it comes with a 2.1-GHz AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 3500C CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, integrated AMD Radeon Graphics and a colorful 13-inch, 1080p IPS display.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet best thinkpads

Need something detachable but still want that great Lenovo keyboard? The best ThinkPad for you is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet.

7. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

The best detachable

CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7
GPU: Intel UHD 620
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Display: 13-inch (3K)
Size: 12 x 8.9 x 0.4 inches (0.6 w/ keyboard)
Weight: 2 pounds (2.8 w/ keyboard)
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design+Durable, MIL-STD 810G tested+Great keyboard and stylus+Impressive webcams
Reasons to avoid
-Below-average battery life

Pros: If you need to be versatile in your line of work, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet serves as an excellent, durable and secure 2-in-1 detachable. Artists in particular will appreciate the ThinkPad Pen Pro, which has a full metal body and a elastomer pen tip that supports up to 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Our review unit had a Core i5-8250U processor, which scored 12,772 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance benchmark, flying past the premium laptop average (10,586) at the time of the review. What's also unique about this machine is that its detachable keyboard maintains Lenovo's quality standards: Its keys have a good 1.3 millimeters of travel and require 61 grams of force to actuate. Additionally, its 13-inch, 3K display will lull you into a trance, covering 118 percent of the sRGB spectrum and unleashing a whopping 415 nits of brightness. It has an impressive pair of cameras: The rear has an 8-megapixel resolution while the front has a 2-MP shooter. It adds a lot of variety to Lenovo's best ThinkPads.

Cons: While it's physically portable, the slate's battery lasts only 5 hours and 59 minutes (below the 8:18 average), so you won't be able to survive a typical workday. And if you usually listen to music while you work, it's going to be difficult to jam out with the X1 Tablet's quiet speakers.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet review.

Lenovo ThinkPad T480 best thinkpads

The Lenovo ThinkPad T480 is the best ThinkPad you can buy if you want to prioritize battery life, as it can last 17:19 with an extended battery.

8. Lenovo ThinkPad T480

The laptop with best battery life

CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7
GPU: Intel UHD 620/Nvidia MX150
Storage: 500GB HDD or 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Display: 14-inch (768p/1080p/1440p)
Size: 13.3 x 9.2 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 3.6 pounds (4 with battery)
Reasons to buy
+Epic battery life (with extended battery)+Snappy keyboard+Good performance
Reasons to avoid
-Dull screen-Heavier than competitors

Pros: With the ThinkPad T480, you never have to worry about your laptop dying during your workday -- or even two. Its six-cell, 72-watt-hour battery lasted a ridiculous 17 hours and 19 minutes on our battery test. You can top that off with a speedy 8th Gen Core i5 processor and an Nvidia MX150 GPU, which is strong enough to take on some light gaming like Dirt 3 (117 fps). In addition, you get a snappy keyboard with 1.7 millimeters of travel and 72 grams of actuation force. For a mainstream business laptop, the ThinkPad T480 actually sounded pretty good. When we played AC/DC's "Back in Black," the music was free from tinniness.

Cons: Unlike other ThinkPads, the T480's 14-inch, 1080p panel is not very colorful, reproducing a bland 77 percent of the sRGB color gamut and averaging 269 nits of brightness.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad T480 review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga best thinkpads

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is the thinnest ThinkPad ever yet it delivers excellent battery life, solid performance and a useful 3:2 aspect ratio. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

9. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga

The best 2K laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5-1130G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 13.5-inch (2K)
Size: 11.7 x 9.2 x 0.45 inches
Weight: 2.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Unbelievably thin+Solid and durable chassis+Decent webcam+Bright and unique 3:2 display
Reasons to avoid
-Haptic touchpad isn’t great

Pros: If you need the versatility of a tablet but you aren't feeling the whole detach-and-reattach thing, then the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is a great choice. It's a slim, lightweight 2-in-1 (2.5 pounds, 0.5 inches thick) that features an full sized Pen, which has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and shortcut buttons. While the other ThinkPads have lovely displays, the X1 Yoga's 13.5-inch, 2K panel beats them all. This baby reproduced 71% of the DCI-P3 color gamut and gleamed with 425 nits of brightness. And in terms of speed, its 11th Gen Core i5 processor notched a solid 4,747 on the Geekbench 5.4 test.

Cons: The ports are where you'll feel some pain when it comes to the thin X1 Titanium. In short, if you don’t already own a good USB Type-C hub, add that to the budget when you are ordering your X1 Titanium. Turning to the touchpad, the 3.6 x 2.7-inch surface feels diminutive compared to those on many other modern laptops. The haptic feedback versus actually depressing the touchpad was irritating.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga review.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 best thinkpads

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 delivers massive performance, but it has the price and size to match. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

10. Lenovo ThinkPad P15

Best workstation

Display: 15.6-inch, 4K
CPU: Intel Core i9-10885H vPro
GPU: Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q
Storage: 1TB SSD
Battery Life: 3:56
Weight: 6.1 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Stellar performance and graphics+Excellent array of ports+Bright and crisp 4K display+Comfortable typing experience
Reasons to avoid
-Weak battery life on 4K model

Pros: The P15 is an absolute powerhouse of a ThinkPad. Our machine boasted a Core i9-10885H CPU with 32GB of RAM, which ripped apart Geekbench 5.3, scoring 7,784. On top of that, its Quadro RTX 5000 Max-Q GPU ran Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm in 4K at a wild 93 fps. Its 15.6-inch, 4K display covered 84% of the DCI-P3 spectrum. This speed demon also features an unbelievably comfortable keyboard.

Cons: Utilitarian is the highest praise I can muster for the ThinkPad P15 Gen 1. It’s a beast of a laptop at 6.1 pounds and 14.8 x 9.9 x 1.2 inches. That is large even by workstation standards and the featureless matte-black chassis doesn’t give off a premium feel. Workstation pricing can bring tears to the eyes of anyone who needs this level of performance in a mobile form factor. I know this well, but the $7,879 retail price of my ThinkPad P15 Gen 1 review unit still elicited a double-take. It also managed a weak 3 hours and 56 minutes in our battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad P15 review.

How to choose the best ThinkPad for you 

Choosing the best ThinkPad for you really depends on your needs. If you’re looking for a vanilla clamshell laptop, you’re more than likely to find everything you want in the Thinkpad X1 Carbon. However, if you’re looking for something more flexible, then the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is the next best bet. 

Artists might want to check out the ThinkPad X1 Tablet, while users who need their laptop to have a little more kick, whether it be for video editing or photo editing, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a great choice. If you want to go beyond that, the most powerful ThinkPad you can buy is the Lenovo ThinkPad P1, which is great for all kinds of high taxing work. If you want to prioritize battery life, you could probably find the Lenovo ThinkPad T480 still on sale, but keep in mind that it’s a little old, using an 8th Gen Intel CPU.

How we test the best ThinkPads 

We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect of the laptop, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.

In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of the laptop's display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings at 1080p resolution.

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas of the laptop. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. For MacBooks and premium Windows 10 laptops, a runtime of over 9 hours is considered a good result whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered for longer than 5 hours deserve praise. 

These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers who critique everything from the laptop's materials to the feel of its touchpad.

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is a Senior Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.