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Review: Lenovo's ThinkPad X390 Is A Step Up

The CRN Test Center finds strong battery life, portability and performance on one of the newest additions to Lenovo’s business-focused ThinkPad portfolio.

Lenovo has made some smart moves with one of its latest additions to the business-friendly ThinkPad lineup, the ThinkPad X390.

The notebook is a follow-up to the ThinkPad X280, a device that wasn't among our favorites at the CRN Test Center in a tryout a year ago.

[Related: Review: Lenovo's Latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon May Be The Business Laptop To Beat]

The ThinkPad X390 is much improved, with better battery life, a larger display and slimmed-down bezels around the screen.

On battery life, we got 7.5 hours on a charge with heavy usage (multiple browser windows and applications) and the "better battery" setting in Windows. (We think our approach offers a real-world approximation for how notebooks will perform on battery life.)

By contrast, the ThinkPad X280 had yielded just six hours of battery life in our testing last year.

Another key difference between the two notebooks is on screen size, with the ThinkPad X390 moving up to a 13.3-inch display from 12.5 inches on the X280. Having this added screen space can make a big difference for the sort of multi-tasking worker that the ThinkPad series is targeting.

Even with the larger display, Lenovo takes measures to ensure portability on the X390. The most noticeable step is on the bezels around the screen, which are quite small on the left and right sides, and not huge on the top and bottom sides, either.

That allows the overall size of the X390 to be kept to that of a typical 12-inch notebook, according to Lenovo.

The X390 is also thin for a business notebook, at 0.67 of an inch thick, and light, with a starting weight of 2.7 pounds.

The display itself is just OK. While our model thankfully came with FHD resolution rather than the starting HD configuration, the display's appearance is a bit dull. The emphasis seems to be on anti-glare rather than providing vibrant colors. We had the same issue with the ThinkPad X280. The display approach is great for cutting out glare, but overall we're not sure the trade-off is worthwhile.

The touch screen is optional on the X390, but doesn't add too much ($74) to the price.

Our model was configured with a quad-core Intel "Whiskey Lake" Core i5, which offered solid performance in our tryout. Benchmarks via Geekbench 4 revealed scores of 4,295 for single-core and 13,529 for multi-core (putting the X390 above, for instance, the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3 that we reviewed in December).

We recently took the ThinkPad x390 on a two-week conference roadtrip, and all in all it was a good experience thanks to the battery life, portability and performance offered by the device.

The X390 is also equipped with key business features such as enhanced security (including a built-in webcam shutter, optional fingerprint reader and optional Windows Hello facial recognition); a variety of ports (USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, microSD, optional smart card reader); deep, fairly comfortable keys; a highly responsive touchpad; and the well-known ThinkPad durability standard.

Users that would love to have a top-of-the-line ThinkPad X1 Carbon, but don't have the budget for it, might want to take a look at the X390. The notebook (as configured in our tryout, with Core i5, touch screen, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage) is currently priced at $1,166. That's compared to $1,443 for the X1 Carbon (6th gen) in that configuration.

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