Lenovo's ThinkPad Z Series Is Windows' Best Answer to the MacBook Pro

OLED, Wi-Fi 6E, and facial recognition give this PC an edge

Key Takeaways

  • The ThinkPad Z Series is packed with features, including facial recognition login. 
  • AMD’s Ryzen 6000 APU brings a two-fold boost to graphics performance. 
  • This combo of features and performance makes for a Windows alternative to the MacBook Pro line.
Lenovo ThinkPad Z series 16-inch laptop.

Lenovo

Apple's latest MacBooks are a serious threat to the PC laptop industry.

Fortunately, Lenovo has a response: the ThinkPad Z Series. An all-new design, the Z Series represents the best of the PC laptop world. It packs AMD Ryzen APUs with a big graphics upgrade, unique materials, OLED screens, and more. 

This is the opening volley in the PC industry's response to the MacBook Pro—and I think it just might work. 

"The raw efficiency of Apple's M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max changed what shoppers expect from a laptop."

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

Apple's MacBook line is expensive, but the features justify the expense. MacBooks are packed with goodies from a haptic touchpad to a pixel-dense display. Lenovo's Z Series matches these features point-for-point—then adds a few more, just to be sure.

Lenovo's Z Series, set to release in May, will come in 13-inch and 16-inch flavors. Both come standard with a 1440p IPS screen, with an optional OLED touchscreen available. A 1080p webcam is standard. Connectivity includes multiple USB-C 4 ports and, on the 16-inch model, an SDcard slot.

A fingerprint reader is baked into the keyboard for secure login powered by Microsoft's Pluton security processor. The Z Series is also among the first Windows laptops with a haptic forcepad similar to Apple's MacBook Pro line.

And the Z Series goes beyond what Apple offers. OLED models have a higher pixel density (2.8K resolution for the 13-inch and 4K for the 16-inch). The webcam supports facial recognition login, a feature Mac fans are longing for. 

There's better wireless connectivity, too, with Wi-Fi 6E and optional 4G LTE mobile data. Apple's MacBook Pro has so-so wireless performance, at least in my experience, and doesn't support mobile data at all. The Z Series prove more convenient if you rely on cloud storage while traveling. 

AMD Ryzen 6000 Brings a Boost to Graphics Performance

The raw efficiency of Apple's M1, M1 Pro, and M1 Max changed what shoppers expect from a laptop. AMD's response to this challenge, the Ryzen 6000 mobile APU, is at the heart of the ThinkPad Z Series. 

The APU's key improvement is AMD's RDNA 2 graphics architecture, the same found in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S game consoles. To be clear, the Z Series is not as quick as a current-gen game console, but it does provide a two-fold boost over AMD's prior generation. Need even better performance? The 16-inch Z Series offers optional AMD Radeon RX 6500M discrete graphics. 

There's a whole ecosystem of graphically demanding apps, from AAA games to 3D modeling software, that tend to favor the PC. The Z Series' new AMD hardware will likely smoke the MacBook Pro in these situations. The Mac will retain an advantage in video editing, however, especially when using Final Cut Pro.

Unusual Design Gives the PC an Edge

The new MacBook Pro 14 and 16 are wonderfully executed laptops but also a bit stale.

Apple has relied on simple, all-metal design ever since the first MacBook Pro was introduced in 2006. 

Lenovo's ThinkPad Z Series offers a different take. You can select an aluminum chassis for the traditional look or opt for vegan leather for a more luxurious and inviting feel. This premium novelty suits a premium laptop. 

Lenovo ThinkPad Z Series 16-inch Laptop, overhead view.

Lenovo

It also inverts the MacBook Pro's notch, placing the webcam in a lip that juts out of the top of the display. I understand this wouldn't vibe with Apple's elegant approach, but it's the better solution. There's space for a 1080p webcam without encroaching on the display and, as mentioned, support for facial recognition login, a feature Apple's notch apparently couldn't fit. 

PC Laptops Are Still in the Game

The ThinkPad Z Series is a prime example of how Windows laptops will remain competitive with Apple's M1-powered MacBook line. It delivers a huge range of features and competitive performance alongside Windows' broad app ecosystem. 

Pricing is reasonable, too, starting at $1,549 for the 13-inch and $2,099 for the 16-inch. That's sure to make Windows users who are tempted by Apple's shiny new Macs think twice about making the switch.

Want to read more? Grab all of our CES 2022 coverage right here.

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