Functional laptop with responsive eye-tracking feature

The ThinkPad L13 is a clamshell notebook with sturdy hinges that can open to 180 degrees, thus allowing it to open flat on a desk.
The ThinkPad L13 is a clamshell notebook with sturdy hinges that can open to 180 degrees, thus allowing it to open flat on a desk.

Lenovo describes its latest ThinkPad L13 as a "powerful laptop with cost-conscious pricing".

The former is debatable, seeing as the base ThinkPad L13 comes with an entry-level Intel Core i3 processor, a middling 1,366 x 768-pixel display and only 4GB of system memory.

But with a starting price of $1,259, the L13 is certainly more affordable than Lenovo's other ThinkPad series laptops. In fact, the L13 can probably trace its origins to the ThinkPad 13, which was a budget model launched in 2016 and targeted at students.

Compared with the chunky ThinkPad 13, the L13 is slimmer with thinner bezels around its 13.3-inch display. The laptop, which is mostly made from plastic but has an aluminium lid, weighs around 1.4kg. It is not as handy as other modern ultrabooks that are just over 1kg.

Its design puts function over form. It is a plain-looking clamshell notebook with sturdy hinges that can open to 180 degrees, thus allowing the laptop to open flat on a desk.

Given its practical slant, I was not surprised by the laptop's variety of connectors, from USB-C for charging and data transfer to HDMI for display output to even a smart card reader.

A dongle from Lenovo (sold separately at $20) is required if you plan to connect an Ethernet cable.

My favourite part about the L13 is its keyboard, which lives up to the high standards set by ThinkPad notebooks. The keys feel tactile, are well spaced for comfort and offer plenty of key travel.

The review set comes with an in-plane switching (IPS) screen with a matte non-reflective finish. Viewing angles are good, though the screen has average brightness (rated at up to 250 nits). For comfortable viewing, I set the display to its maximum brightness in most scenarios.

Above the screen are the infrared and Web cameras, which can be used to unlock the laptop via facial recognition. They can be physically blocked by the built-in shutter cover (dubbed ThinkShutter) for privacy and security. A fingerprint sensor is also available if you prefer that method.

Included with the L13 is an eye-tracking feature called Glance by Mirametrix, which uses the laptop cameras to track your eyes for several tasks.

  • FOR

    • Excellent keyboard

    • Relatively affordable for a ThinkPad

    • Facial and fingerprint authentication

    • Glance feature is very responsive

  • AGAINST

    • Heavier than comparable ultrabooks

    • Screen could be brighter

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $1,914

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-10510U (1.8GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB Type-C, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI, network extension for Ethernet, microSD card slot, Smart card reader, audio jack

    BATTERY: 46 watt-hour

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

For instance, if Glance detects that your attention (or your eyes) have strayed from the L13's screen, it can automatically blur the screen for privacy. It will also blur the screen when it detects another person behind you. For those using a multi-monitor set-up with the L13, Glance can move the mouse cursor to the monitor you are currently focused on.

I found this Glance feature to be very responsive. It instantly blurs the screen the moment I look away from it. But given that the cameras are constantly in use, I believe it may shorten the laptop's battery life.

My customised $1,914 review set comes with an Intel 10th-generation Core i7 processor with 16GB of system memory and a 256GB solid-state drive. While it feels fast enough for normal computing tasks such as editing documents and Web browsing, its integrated graphics is middling for tasks involving photo editing and rendering videos.

Note that despite claiming that the L13 supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard, the Lenovo website does not currently offer this wireless option for local buyers. Instead, the laptop comes with a built-in Wi-Fi 5 adaptor (802.11ac).

Its battery life is decent at six hours and 40 minutes in The Straits Times' video-loop battery test.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2020, with the headline 'Functional laptop with responsive eye-tracking feature'. Subscribe