Notebookcheck

Face Off: Lenovo ThinkPad 13 vs. Acer Aspire S 13 vs. HP Spectre 13

For work and home. We compare three more 13.3-inch notebooks designed for office work, home use, and easy carrying. In the end, it's hard not to choose the Spectre for day-to-day and on-the-go workloads.

According to an internal study by HP, 80 percent of premium notebooks are bought for both personal and work use. It's more important now that business notebooks offer not only versatility and performance, but also be lightweight and sleeker for the millennial generation.

The 13-inch ThinkPad 13, Aspire S 13, and Spectre 13 all offer strong portability and varying levels of business features for the constantly moving office worker. At about $1000 USD each, however, this is going to be a decision to stick with for at least a couple of years down the line. We compare the pros and cons of these three notebooks to see which is the better fit for word processing and travel.

We encourage users to check out our dedicated review pages below for more data and detailed analyses of each of the three models. This comparison is by no means a replacement, but a condensed aid for those on the fence.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13

Working For Notebookcheck

Are you a techie who knows how to write? Then join our Team! Indian citizens welcome!

Currently wanted: 
News and Editorial Editor - Details here

Case

Starting with the Lenovo, the ThinkPad 13 is simply not as sturdy as the lauded T series since it skips the signature magnesium roll cage in favor of a more standard ABS plastic chassis. While still pretty sturdy, the base still creaks and warps when attempting to twist it or when applying pressure down the center of the keyboard. Additionally, its lid is noticeably weaker and more tensile even though it is thicker.

The Aspire S 13 utilizes an amalgamation of aluminum for the sides and corners, magnesium for the base, and plastic for the outer lid and display. The final product is fairly strong with good resistance to twists and depressions and with no noticeable creaking.

Lastly, the Spectre 13 is the thinnest and lightest out of the three, but it makes no compromises in presentation or quality. The aluminum chassis is rigid from the top down and the hinges are firm up to its ~120-degree maximum. Pressing down on the center of the keyboard or outer lid will depress it slightly, but there are no creaks or major gaps to be found.

From a pure quality and portability perspective, the Spectre 13 is a great example where going thin doesn't necessarily mean downgrading case rigidity or quality. That's not to say that the Lenovo or Acer are poor or even average, but they aren't leaps and bounds stronger than the Spectre despite what their size and weight differences may imply.

Winner: HP Spectre 13

322.2 mm / 12.7 inch 222.8 mm / 8.77 inch 19.8 mm / 0.78 inch 1.4 kg3.17 lbs327 mm / 12.9 inch 228 mm / 8.98 inch 14.6 mm / 0.575 inch 1.3 kg2.8 lbs325 mm / 12.8 inch 229 mm / 9.02 inch 10.4 mm / 0.4094 inch 1.2 kg2.56 lbs

Ports in Comparison

Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13

Connectivity

Available ports are limited due to the sizes of the systems, but there are still notable differences between them. The HP, for example, includes no full-size USB ports or even an SD card reader. In return, the core package throws in a USB Type-C to Type-A adapter for free and it's probably the only notebook currently in the market with three USB Type-C ports of which two are Thunderbolt 3 compatible. Its video-out and docking options are thus wider than both the ThinkPad 13 and Acer.

If full-size USB ports, SD, and HDMI-out are all more important than Thunderbolt 3, then the Lenovo or Acer will have the more lucrative connectivity options. Both systems still sport one USB Type-C port each, but only at 5 Gbps compared to 40 Gbps on the HP. The ThinkPad 13 is compatible with Lenovo docking stations through its proprietary OneLink+ docking port and offers more options than the Acer. It's a tougher call between the Lenovo and HP as some users may prefer the multiple Thunderbolt 3 ports on the latter.

Ports and Connections

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Acer Aspire S 13 HP Spectre 13
USB 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB Type-C Gen. 1 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB Type-C Gen. 1 1x USB Type-C Gen. 1, 2x USB Type-C Gen. 2 + Thunderbolt 3
Video-out 1x HDMI 1x HDMI 1.4a --
Audio 1x 3.5 mm audio 1x 3.5 mm audio 1x 3.5 mm audio
Other SD reader, OneLink+, Kensington Lock SD reader --
Storage Bays 1x M.2 1x M.2 1x M.2

Display

Though the three notebooks sport the same display size and 1080p native resolution, the panels on each are quite different. The ThinkPad 13 sports the dimmer backlight and narrower color gamut for poorer outdoor visibility compared to the other two. Meanwhile, the Acer is the brightest and most usable when outdoors especially since the Spectre 13 is glossy by default. If color accuracy is of utmost importance, however, then the Spectre 13 will be the better choice as it covers nearly 95 percent of the sRGB spectrum and exhibits the higher contrast ratio compared to the Lenovo and Acer.

It's a tie between the Acer and HP as outdoor visibility is superior on the former while colors and grayscale are deeper on the latter.

Winner: Tie - Acer Aspire S 13

                       HP Spectre 13

Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13
Displays at a Glance

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Acer Aspire S 13 HP Spectre 13
Size 13.3-inch IPS 13.3-inch IPS 13.3-inch IPS
Native Resolution 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080
Pixel Density 166 PPI 166 PPI 166 PPI
Panel ID LG Philips LP133WF2-SPL1 AU Optronics B133HAN04.1 Samsung SDC4259
Panel Matte Matte Glossy
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZHP Spectre 13
Response Times
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
43.2 (19.6, 23.6)
50 (22, 28)
50.8 (20, 30.8)
Response Time Black / White *
26.8 (9.6, 17.2)
29.6 (7.6, 22)
33.2 (7.2, 26)
PWM Frequency
Screen
Brightness middle
233
375
300.5
Brightness
227
358
305
Brightness Distribution
86
87
76
Black Level *
0.22
0.39
0.184
Contrast
1059
962
1633
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
5.41
4.6
2.64
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
13.61
8.8
5.06
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
4.15
4
2.8
Gamma
2.45 90%
2.34 94%
2.16 102%
CCT
6773 96%
7304 89%
6999 93%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
36.52
57.9
60.9
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
57.16
88.7
94.3
Total Average (Program / Settings)

* ... smaller is better

Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13

Input Devices

The typing experience is above average on each of the three notebooks, but it's the Lenovo system that comes out on top in terms of feedback and travel. Its keyboard is slightly wider and thus more spacious than both the Acer and HP while having the larger Directional keys as well. The main downside here is the model's lack of any backlight options even though certain SKUs can go for over $1000 USD. Otherwise, feedback is slightly softer on the Acer and HP, but not uncomfortably so.

Touchpad performance is again excellent on all systems with the Lenovo ahead simply for its dedicated mouse keys and TrackPoint. This makes precision cursor control easier compared to the integrated clickpads of the Acer and HP. 

Winner: Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Performance

CPU Performance

Lenovo, Acer, and HP all offer multiple CPU options beyond what we have here, so this comparison is only between the configurations on hand.

CineBench results show the Lenovo lagging behind both competitors in single-threaded workloads. Meanwhile, the three systems are much closer in multi-threaded workloads with the HP coming in last. This can be explained in our stress test section where the Lenovo proves itself to be very capable of maintaining high Turbo Boost clock rates for longer periods of time while the HP is more likely to throttle under high loads. Nonetheless, the shorter 3DMark Fire Strike Physics test places both the Acer and HP systems ahead of the Lenovo by 15 percent each. The CPU performance deltas are not significant enough for users to notice if word processing, browsing, or playing videos.

See our dedicated CPU pages on the Core i5-5200U and Core i7-6500U for more comparisons and benchmarks.

Hardware at a Glance

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Acer Aspire S 13 HP Spectre 13
CPU 2.3 GHz Core i5-6200U 2.5 GHz Core i7-6500U 2.5 GHz Core i7-6500U
TDP 15 W 15 W 15 W
RAM 8 GB DDR4-2133, 2x SODIMM slots (1x slot free) 8 GB 8 GB LPDDR3-1866, Dual-Channel, soldered
GPU Intel HD Graphics 520 Intel HD Graphics 520 Intel HD Graphics 520
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
116 Points ∼53%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
129 Points ∼59%
HP Spectre 13
125 Points ∼57%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
290 Points ∼7%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
293 Points ∼7%
HP Spectre 13
266 Points ∼6%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
1.47 Points ∼60%
HP Spectre 13
1.37 Points ∼56%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
3.56 Points ∼8%
HP Spectre 13
3.2 Points ∼7%
wPrime 2.0x
1024m (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
524.919 s * ∼6%
32m (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
15.157 s * ∼3%
Super Pi Mod 1.5 XS 32M - --- (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
684.827 Seconds * ∼3%
3DMark
1920x1080 Fire Strike Physics (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
4327 Points ∼13%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
4938 Points ∼15%
HP Spectre 13
4971 Points ∼15%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Physics (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
3117 Points ∼8%
HP Spectre 13
3448 Points ∼9%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
42031 Points ∼49%
HP Spectre 13
43183 Points ∼50%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Physics (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
39206 Points ∼47%
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
4041 Points ∼62%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
4316 Points ∼66%
HP Spectre 13
4498 Points ∼69%
Creative Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
3651 Points ∼35%
HP Spectre 13
4222 Points ∼40%
Home Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
3024 Points ∼50%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
3386 Points ∼56%
HP Spectre 13
3549 Points ∼58%
X264 HD Benchmark 4.0
Pass 2 (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
18.67 fps ∼0%
Pass 1 (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
103.15 fps ∼38%

* ... smaller is better

GPU Performance

The Lenovo GPU may be the same as on the Acer and HP by name, but its raw performance is proportional to the CPU that it is paired with. Thus, graphics performance is slower on the Lenovo and it also doesn't help that our test unit was running on single-channel RAM, either. Both the Acer and HP outperform the ThinkPad 13 by about 15 percent and 30 percent in 3DMark 11 and Fire Strike, respectively.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
1252 Points ∼2%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
1428 Points ∼3%
HP Spectre 13
1487 Points ∼3%
3DMark
1920x1080 Fire Strike Graphics (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
719 Points ∼2%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
935 Points ∼2%
HP Spectre 13
919 Points ∼2%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
5898 Points ∼3%
HP Spectre 13
7786 Points ∼4%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
81622 Points ∼15%
HP Spectre 13
81381 Points ∼15%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Graphics (sort by value)
HP Spectre 13
46151 Points ∼6%
Cinebench R11.5 - OpenGL 64Bit (sort by value)
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
39.5 fps ∼23%
HP Spectre 13
35.16 fps ∼21%
Cinebench R15 - OpenGL 64Bit (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
36.48 fps ∼15%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
42.86 fps ∼17%
HP Spectre 13
41.76 fps ∼17%

Gaming Performance

The GPU disadvantages of the Lenovo carry over to real-world gaming performance. Frame rates are about 50 percent faster on the two competitors in Bioshock Infinite and the gap will likely remain for other titles as well. Nonetheless, gaming on any of these notebooks is very limited compared to mainstream Nvidia offerings.

See our dedicated GPU pages for the Intel HD Graphics 520 for more comparisons and benchmarks.

BioShock Infinite
1366x768 High Preset (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
16.9 fps ∼4%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
25.5 (min: 9, max: 53) fps ∼7%
HP Spectre 13
24.9 fps ∼6%
1366x768 Medium Preset (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
20.31 fps ∼5%
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
30.8 (min: 12.7, max: 53) fps ∼7%
HP Spectre 13
29.8 fps ∼7%
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13

Stress Test

To test system stability, we run both Prime95 and FurMark to simulate maximum stress. These unrealistic conditions do not represent daily workloads, but are instead meant to put both the CPU and GPU at 100 percent capacity each. Unfortunately, our editor for the Aspire S 13 chose not to run Prime95 and FurMark at all and instead used CineBench R15. We included the data below regardless, but note that this will not be an an apples-to-apples comparison as a result.

Throttling occurs most heavily on the HP where the CPU will stabilize in the low 1.1 to 1.3 GHz range compared to the 2.4 to 2.7 GHz ranges on the Lenovo and Acer. Meanwhile, core temperature is much cooler on the Lenovo by about 10 C when under heavy loads. This can be attributed partly to the slower i5-6200U CPU and thicker build of the chassis.

Winner: Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Lenovo ThinkPad 13
Acer Aspire S 13
Acer Aspire S 13
HP Spectre 13
HP Spectre 13
CPU and GPU Clock Rates Under Stress

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Acer Aspire S 13 HP Spectre 13
Rated GPU Core Clock (MHz) 300 300 300
Stable GPU Core Clock on FurMark (MHz) 950 -- ~800
Rated CPU Core Clock (GHz) 2.3 2.5 2.5
Stable CPU Core Clock on Prime95 (GHz) 2.4 - 2.5 2.6 - 2.7 1.1 - 1.3
Average CPU temperature 71 C 79 - 84 C 80 C

Emissions

System Noise & Temperature

All three notebooks are silent when idling, but low-medium loads like browsing or video playback will be enough to bump fan noise up to audible levels. Even so, the systems are quiet enough where ambient office noise can drown out the fans. If running heavier loads like games, however, the differences between the notebooks widen as the HP is clearly the louder notebook followed by the Acer and Lenovo. This also happens to be the exact order from the thinnest model up to the thickest.

It's worth noting that our ThinkPad 13 test unit suffered from a pulsating fan every couple of minutes even when idling during our tests and it's unknown if Lenovo has come out with a fix. Additionally, while the Aspire S 13 is not the loudest, its fan is high-pitched and more sensitive to onscreen loads. The dual fans on the HP behave similarly as well. The winner in this category is still the ThinkPad 13 because it is generally the quieter notebook during all types of loads, but its buggy fan behavior is an overhanging asterisk.

As for surface temperature, the HP has the smallest heat sink and thinnest chassis for the steepest temperature gradient out of the three notebooks. Fortunately, most of its heat is concentrated at the very back of the notebook away from the palm rests and keyboard. This is compared to the ThinkPad 13 where most of its keyboard surface can become very warm up to over 40 C under high loads or the Acer where its frontal surfaces can be warmer on average as well. 

Winner: System Noise - Lenovo ThinkPad 13

               Temperature - HP Spectre 13

Average Fan Noise and Surface Temperature

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Acer Aspire S 13 HP Spectre 13
Fan Noise when idling 29.1 dB(A) 31.2 dB(A) 28.5 - 31.6 dB(A)
Fan Noise under high loads 31.5 - 33.5 dB(A) 35.7 dB(A) 38.8 - 41.4 dB(A)
Average surface temperature when idling 28.8 C 26.1 C 27.4 C
Average surface temperature under high loads 33.4 C 31.9 C 31.5 C
Ambient temperature 21.3 C 22.0 C 20.0 C

Battery Life

Runtimes are noticeably longer on the Acer than on both the Lenovo and HP. Our WLAN test shows it outlasting the Lenovo by over an hour and the HP by over two hours under similar testing conditions. The Acer notebook carries the denser internal battery followed by the Lenovo and HP.

Winner: Acer Aspire S 13

Lenovo ThinkPad 13-20GKS01100
42 Wh
Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-71QZ
45 Wh
HP Spectre 13
38 Wh
Battery Runtime
Reader / Idle
944
1028
715
WiFi v1.3
372
472
338
Load
129
99
78

Verdict

We don't see large enough benefits from the thicker and heavier ThinkPad 13 or Aspire S 13 to make us want to choose either over the Spectre 13
We don't see large enough benefits from the thicker and heavier ThinkPad 13 or Aspire S 13 to make us want to choose either over the Spectre 13

The HP Spectre is receiving a lot of praise from the press for its attractively thin design, high quality, and even performance. This makes comparisons against the ThinkPad 13 and Aspire S 13 interesting as the latter two notebooks should offer better experiences from all sides to justify their thicker and heavier builds. Other than having more connectivity ports than the HP, this doesn't appear to be the case as their displays, keyboards, and core performances aren't immensely or even objectively better than the ultrathin HP solution in some cases. The Thunderbolt 3 ports on the HP ensure compatibility with a wide range of docking ports to put it more in line with the features of the ThinkPad 13 or Aspire S 13. 

The few key drawbacks keeping the Spectre 13 from being a full recommendation are its shorter battery life and lack of USB Type-A ports. Likewise, some users might simply prefer the dedicated mouse keys and TrackPoint on the Lenovo instead. The Spectre may be easier to see due to its brighter display backlight, but the Lenovo is easier to use in comparison.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13Acer Aspire S 13HP Spectre 13

+ Larger number of ports

+ More comfortable typing experience; Easier-to-use trackpad and TrackPoint

+ Cooler core temperature

+ Generally lower fan noise

+ Larger battery capacity; Longer battery life

+ Brighter backlight and outdoor visibility

+ Extremely thin and lightweight; Strong build quality

+ 3x USB Type-C ports; 2x Thunderbolt 3

+ Higher color gamut

- Weaker chassis; Thicker and heavier

- No Thunderbolt 3

- Dimmer display backlight; Narrower color gamut

- Weaker GPU performance

- Warmer surface temperatures on average

- More difficult serviceability

- No docking port or Thunderbolt 3

- No USB Type-A port, HDMI, or SD reader

- Louder fan noise; Sensitive fans

- Smaller battery capacity; Shorter battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Pricecompare

Acer Aspire S 13

Pricecompare

HP Spectre 13

Pricecompare

See more quick comparisons in our Face Off series:

static version load dynamic
Loading Comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Face Off: Lenovo ThinkPad 13 vs. Acer Aspire S 13 vs. HP Spectre 13
Allen Ngo, 2016-06-29 (Update: 2019-04-30)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.