There will probably always be a place for boxy business notebooks (many have landed on our list of the best ultrabooks), but it’s time for some freshening up. The Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 ($2,249 as tested) with its brushed aluminum chassis, a bump for a modern, high resolution camera and haptic touchpad gives some much-needed modernity to the ThinkPad line.
The ThinkPad Z16 is an all-AMD machine, which we tested with a Ryzen 7 Pro 6850H, as well as the latest in AMD’s integrated graphics (discrete graphics are available, but were not in the model we reviewed).
The bright display and long battery life are cherries on top, but ThinkPads are still business laptops, which still mean business prices. The Z16 costs a pretty penny, and some competitors undercut it on price.
Design of the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
My father has used ThinkPads since they were made by IBM. The Z16 looks like none of them. It’s a refreshing change, keeping the spirit of the ThinkPad ethos but making a laptop that is modern, if not exciting.
The Z16 is a matte gunmetal gray on the aluminum chassis’ lid, with the ThinkPad logo stamped on the top left corner and Lenovo’s in the bottom right. A small, shiny oval-shaped bump near the top is a statement piece (and also holds the cameras).
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Lifting the lid is a huge transition. Inside, the chassis is black, while the sides of the laptop are brushed aluminum that contrasts from the rest of the design. The whole thing is part computer, part luxury watch.
The 16-inch screen has thin bezels on all sides, with a bump up top (the same silver oval from the back) to fit a 1080p webcam and IR camera for Windows Hello.
Lenovo’s red TrackPoint nub punctuates the black deck and keyboard with a bit of red. The touchpad doesn’t have extra buttons for use with the TrackPoint; those are built into the top of the haptic touchpad (more on that later).
At 4.3 pounds and 13.95 x 9.35 x 0.63 inches, the ThinkPad Z16 is quite close in size to the Dell XPS 15 (9520), which weighs 4.51 pounds and is 13.56 x 9.07 x 0.73 inches. The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 is significantly lighter at 2.2 pounds and is a similar 0.64 inches thick, while Lenovo’s own 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 10) is 2.48 pounds and 0.6 inches thick.
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Like the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15, Lenovo has abandoned USB Type-A here. The left side of the laptop has a pair of USB Type-C ports (3.2 Gen 2 for charging and USB-C 4) as well as a full-sized SD card reader. The right side has a Kensington lock slot, another USB-C 4 port and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Just like on the XPS, there’s room for more here, and I wish Lenovo would take advantage of the real estate.
While only the USB 3.2 Gen 2 port has a picture of a plug next to it, all three of the Type-C ports will allow you to charge. That being said, you might as well leave the faster ports open for data transfer.
Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 Specifications
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6850H|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon 680M (integrated)|
|Storage||512GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD|
|Display||16-inch, 1920 x 1200, 16:10 aspect ratio, LED|
|Networking||Qualcomm WCN685X Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2|
|Ports||2x USB Type-C 4, USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2, SD card slot, 3.5 mm audio jack|
|Camera||1080p webcam, IR camera, digital camera shutter|
|Power Adapter||135 W|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Pro|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||13.95 x 9.35 x 0.63 inches / 355 x 238 x 15.8 mm|
|Weight||4.3 pounds / 1.95 kg|
|Price (as configured)||$2,249.99|
Productivity Performance on the ThinkPad Z16
The mix of an AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6850H, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB storage drive proved to be a potent combination in our ThinkPad Z16 review configuration, though one competitor managed to give it a serious fight.
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On Geekbench 5, an overall performance test based heavily on the CPU, the ThinkPad Z16 achieved a single-core score of 1,536 and a multi-core score of 9,018. It lost only to the Dell XPS 15 (9520) with a Core i7-12700H, which had a significantly higher multi-core score of 11,258. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Core i7-1260P) and HP Elite Dragonfly G3 (Core i6-1265U) did better at single-core performance, but weren’t as good for multi-core tasks.
The Z16 copied 25GB of files at a rate of 1,423.02 MBps, falling just behind the X1 Carbon. The Dell XPS 15 also took this round at 1,637.22 MBps.
We use Handbrake to transcode a 4K video to 1080p using test laptops. The ThinkPad Z16 came in at 6:37, while the XPS 15 took the crown at 5:42. The HP Elite Dragonfly’s U-series chip came in at 13:09.
We stress tested the Z16 and its Ryzen Pro processor by running Cinebench R23 for 20 loops. The ThinkPad was largely consistent in the high 12,000’s, with the exception of its first run and a weird dip down to the 10,000’s on the third run. During the Cinebench test, the CPU ran at an average of 3.84 GHz and measured 94.95 degrees Celsius.
Display on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
The ThinkPad Z16 has a 16-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Our review unit is non-touch with a 1920 x 1200 resolution, but it also offers a touch option and an OLED, 3840 x 2400 configuration on the high end.
I found that for writing documents and using spreadsheets, the ThinkPad Z16 is plenty bright. If you wanna kick back with it and watch TV, you may wish the 1920 x 1200 display got a bit more luminous. When I checked out the trailer for Shazam: Fury of the Gods, a daylight shot of the Shazam family gathering on a bridge had vivid colors, with each of their distinct costumes standing out against the cement and steel. In a darker scene in some sort of temple later in the trailer, the purple, gray and green outfits were a bit harder to make out.
The ThinkPad measured 81.2% of DCI-P3 color gamut and 115% of the sRGB gamut — and again, without the OLED display. It was behind the Dell XPS 15, which we did test with OLED, but just by a few percentage points, and just barely above the HP Elite Dragonfly. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon came in the rear.
The Z16 measured 432 nits of brightness on our light meter, coming only behind the other ThinkPad (the Carbon) at 496 nits.
Keyboard, Touchpad and TrackPoint on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
Lenovo’s keyboard isn’t the best I’ve used, but it’s still pretty decent. My main complaint is that it doesn’t have much in the way of feedback (similar to our thoughts on the Z13), though its 1.35 mm travel seemed deep enough to my fingers. On the monkeytype typing test, I reached 127 words per minute with 99% accuracy, so it’s hard to complain too much.
The touchpad uses haptic feedback and is one big piece of glass. I really love this decision, as it makes for a smooth navigating experience and lets you click anywhere — even at the top. If you want to adjust the feedback, you can do so easily enough in Windows settings.
But I use the touchpad as my main means of interacting with a laptop. Another Tom’s Hardware editor with a specific affinity for the TrackPoint wasn’t much of a fan of the glass trackpad. That’s because Lenovo has done away with the click buttons that you use to click with the nub. Now, it’s built into the top of the trackpad, which is admittedly less tactile.
That being said, I’m of the opinion that you can get used to it, and the nub, if you’re a fan of it, hasn’t changed much at all otherwise. Perhaps the big difference is that you can now push on the nub to open a context menu to make changes to camera brightness and contrast, different microphone modes, activate system mute and, ironically, turn off the part of the trackpad that acts as buttons to work with the nub.
Audio on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
The ThinkPad Z16’s top-firing speakers are decent, but they won’t blow your socks off. They’re totally fine for voice calls, but if you like to listen to music to get in your headspace, they’re just OK. I tapped my foot along to Caamp’s “All the Debts I Owe,” and the Z16 had clear, layered vocals and a twangy guitar. The drums, however, were quiet and lost in the mix.
There are some audio settings buried in the Lenovo Commercial Vantage app. It defaults to music mode,but I had the most luck on the dynamic setting. There’s also an option to let the computer adjust based on the apps you have playing audio. I recommend checking it out under Device > Device Settings > Audio > Audio Smart Settings.
Upgradeability of the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
There are five captive Phillips head screws on the bottom of the Z16’s aluminum chassis. That means you don’t need to remove them — just loosen them — which makes the screws effectively impossible to lose. I found that using a pry tool from the back of the machine made quick work of getting the base off.
Despite having more space than the smaller ThinkPad Z13, there isn’t any more to upgrade. The battery and SSD are replaceable (the SSD is beneath a copper heat shield, held down by two more Phillips head screws), but the Wi-Fi card and RAM are soldered to the motherboard.
There is another PCIe slot, but it’s not for your SSD. The maintenance manual (opens in new tab) indicates that that’s where the WAN card would go if you had a configuration with wireless support. Since there aren’t any antennae cables here (and our laptop doesn’t have a SIM card slot), this is just empty space.
Battery Life on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
The ThinkPad Z16 lasted an incredibly long 14 hours and 36 minutes on our battery test, suggesting many people won’t need to worry about schlepping a charger around with it (at least, in the unit without a GPU). Our battery test involves laptops browsing the web, streaming video and running graphics tests in the browser, all with the display pegged to 150 nits and connected to Wi-Fi.
The HP Elite dragonfly G3 came close at 14:20, but the XPS 15 (9520) was the next highest at 9:43, a pretty big drop.
Heat on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
To see how hot the AMD-powered ThinkPad Z16 can get under stress, we took skin temperature measurements during our Cinebench R23 gauntlet.
At the center of the keyboard, between the G and H keys, the Z16 measured 100.58 degrees Fahrenheit (38.1 degrees Celsius). The touchpad was a cooler 84.74 F (29.3 C).
On the bottom of the notebook, the hottest point measured 101.12 F (38.4 C), which isn’t too bad.
Webcam on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
The hump on top of the ThinkPad Z16’s lid houses the 1080p webcam (along with an IR camera for facial recognition in Windows Hello and the microphones). I’m glad to see a high resolution webcam. Not only should all business notebooks have one at this point — all notebooks over $1,000 should, period.
In good lighting, the picture was decent enough, catching the stitching in my sleeves and all the hairs in my head. In darker scenarios, there was a bit of grain. In Lenovo Vantage, there are settings to use AI to brighten your image and make other changes, though you may want to be careful with it, as it seems to suck battery life. It’s off when unplugged by default, but you can turn it on.
Software and Warranty on the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16
There’s very little software on the ThinkPad Z16 out of the box. That’s the way things should be.
The big application is Lenovo Commercial Vantage, a hub app that shows how much RAM and storage are being used, warranty status and lets you change power and audio settings, among many other options.
There’s also Lenovo View, which the company describes as an “Imaging Processing Framework that enhances camera quality.” An app called “Clean Your Device” temporarily disables the mouse and keyboard for a set duration of time while you wipe down your laptop.
Of course, there’s some bloat built into Windows 11, like Spotify, Disney+, TikTok, Adobe Express and Facebook.
Our review unit of the ThinkPad Z16, sold through CDW, comes with a three-year warranty. On Lenovo’s website, you start with a one-year warranty and can increase the duration for an additional fee.
Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 Configurations
We tested the Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 with an AMD Ryzen Pro 6850H, Radeon 680M graphics, 512GB of SSD storage, 16GB of RAM, a 1920 x 1200 display and three year warranty, which runs for $2,249.99.
On Lenovo’s website, it is exclusively (as of this writing, anyway), selling the Z16 with the AMD Radeon RX 6500M discrete GPU with 4GB of VRAM. This allows for AMD SmartShift, and may be worthwhile for those who are editing photos or videos for business, or who may be using it for entry level gaming in their spare time.
The cheapest config on Lenovo’s site is $1,975.35 with a Ryzen 5 Pro 6650H and that GPU, but the same display, memory and storage. The top-end model is $2,800 and combines our top-end CPU and that RX 6500M GPU, along with 2TB of storage, 32GB of RAM and a 3840 x 2400 OLED touch screen.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 is a modern take on the ThinkPad, with a sleek, luxury design that still maintains a serious level of professionalism.
In our testing, we found the display to be bright and colorful, and that the battery could last way more than a workday under the right conditions. AMD’s chips are powerful, too, though not the top tier that we tested.
If you’re willing to go with a bit more of a dated design and Intel chips, the Dell XPS 15 (9520) may save you some money. As of this writing, a similarly configured XPS 15 starts at $1,549, albeit with a Core i5 instead of a Core i7. To get the Core i7, you also have to add at least an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, which will get you up to $1,899, still a few hundred less than the ThinkPad and with better graphics.
The Z16 paints a future of the ThinkPad that modernizes the flagship business laptop, but you have to be willing to pay enterprise prices to get it.