Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and Z16 Gen 2 hands-on: Slick updates for hybrid work

Upgrades include new AMD CPUs, a haptic touchpad and an optional flax fiber lid.

Sam Rutherford

Back at CES, Lenovo showed off a huge portfolio of new devices including a true dual-screen laptop and a desk lamp that doubles as a webcam. But now, Lenovo is back at Mobile World Congress with a few more refreshed notebooks and tablets headlined by two interesting updates to the ThinkPad Z family.

Designed to be ideal companions for hybrid workers, the new ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 and Z16 Gen 2 feature an all-AMD setup. You’ll be able to choose from a range of Ryzen 7000 processors and even an optional Radeon 6650M graphics card on the larger Z16, along with up to 64GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. However, for people who are constantly hopping on and off video calls, the ThinkPad Z13 and Z16’s new communication features might be the bigger draw.

That’s because in addition to new full HD webcams, you’ll also get support for Wi-Fi 6E and Dolby Voice-enabled microphones, so you should look and sound good on Zoom meetings. But my favorite new feature is the TrackPoint Quick Menu that can be summoned by simply double-tapping the company’s signature red nub. This opens a window that lets you quickly adjust things like camera settings, mic volume, voice dictation, noise suppression and more. You can even customize which settings you want to see so you have fast access to the things you tend to change most often and I think it’s a great way of adding new functionality to a classic component like the TrackPoint.

Other specs include up to a 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED display on the Z13 Gen 2 or a larger and higher resolution 16-inch 4K OLED panel on the Z16 Gen 2. Lenovo has also retained handy features like an electronic shutter for the webcam, in addition to dual speakers with Dolby Atmos, two or three USB ports depending on the system, and a dedicated SD card reader on the Z16.

The second-gen ThinkPad Z line will be available in two sizes: the 13-inch Z13 Gen 2 and the 16-inch Z16 Gen 2.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Meanwhile, to help improve your mousing experience, both the Z13 and Z16 Gen 2 feature a Fusion UX touchpad from Sensel, which adds more sophisticated haptics, better palm rejection and more. On top of being physically larger (120mm across), long-time Trackpoint fans will also appreciate that Sensel’s touchpad supports three virtual haptic buttons that run across the top of the touchpad, so you’ll still have easy access to left and right mouse clicks without having to reach too far.

Finally, the last big change for the Z13 is that alongside the default aluminum finish, as part of its commitment to sustainability, Lenovo is also introducing a new flax fiber lid which is made from waste material collected during the harvesting process. This material is something we’ve seen before on a handful of concept cars from companies like Porsche and Polestar, but Lenovo says this is the first time this reinforced flax fiber material will be available on a consumer electronic device.

On the new Z13 and Z16 Gen 2, there's a new TrackPoint Quick Menu that can be summoned by double tapping the company's signature red nub.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone, but I kind of like it because it looks almost like a futuristic take on wood paneling. Not only does this add a bit of warmth to the laptop’s appearance, just like a nice piece of furniture, each flax fiber lid features a unique grain, which gives the whole system a bit of added personality. On top of that, Lenovo says the lid is bonded to a top cover made from 75 percent recycled aluminum.

While their designs aren’t changing a ton (aside from that new lid option on Z13), the addition of speedier components, larger touchpads and better conferencing features should make the second-gen ThinkPad Z-series laptops even better at getting work done – both at home or in the office. And thanks to its optional flax fiber lid, the Z13 Gen 2 might be the most stylish and sustainable ThinkPad yet.

The Z13's new Fusion FX touchpad from Sensel features a row of haptic mouse buttons, improved palm rejection and overall better accuracy.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 is expected to go on sale sometime in July starting at $1,249, with the ThinkPad Z16 Gen arriving a bit later in August starting at $1,749.

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