Lenovo ThinkPad Z13: The integrated TrackPoint buttons might succeed this time around

Lenovo has tried to integrate the functionality of the TrackPoint buttons into the touchpad in the new ThinkPad Z series. This kind of attempt has already failed once. But this time, the innovative design could be a success.

2013 and 2014 marked a difficult time in the long history of the ThinkPad brand. In 2013, the first truly dramatic redesign of the longstanding brand arrived under Lenovo’s direction in the form of the Lenovo ThinkPad T431s, marking the first actual departure in design from the classic IBM ThinkPads. A part of the redesign at the time was the so-called “Five Button ClickPad” – a mechanical ClickPad that could be clicked anywhere, allowing Lenovo to integrate the previously dedicated buttons for the TrackPoint into the touchpad. This made it possible to increase the size of the touchpad significantly.

The problem: This idea didn’t work at all in practice. The mechanical trackpad was prone to artistry issues; the travel was too long, and the mechanics were too noisy. At the time, users dubbed the new ThinkPad ClickPad the “Clunkpad.”

Lenovo couldn’t ignore the feedback given by its user base: As early as 2015, the design was mothballed, and 2015 models like the ThinkPad T450s had dedicated buttons for the TrackPoint again, as well as a normal ClickPad that could only be clicked in the lower area. Since then, Lenovo has only made a few changes in this area. Even the latest ThinkPads, like the X1 Carbon G10, still have dedicated buttons for the TrackPoint and a relatively minor mechanical ClickPad.

With the ThinkPad Z series, Lenovo is now taking another run at it years later. The new Z-Series ThinkPads unveiled at CES 2022 once again incorporate the TrackPoint button into the ClickPad, but this time, it s a haptic solution similar to Apple’s Force pad.

We were able to test the new trackpad in our detailed review of the ThinkPad Z13 – and in our opinion, the design is much better this time than it was in 2013. This is mainly due to the change to a haptic solution, which is superior to the mechanics from back then in terms of usability and quality, and it’s also relatively flexible in terms of configuration. For touchpad users, the new trackpad is a significant improvement, and for the minority of TrackPoint users, the TrackPoint would still be retained.

Therefore, we don’t think that Lenovo will make a U-turn again. On the contrary, we can imagine Lenovo extending the new ClickPad design to other ThinkPads. Considering that this allows Lenovo to significantly increase the touchpad size without sacrificing too much of the TrackPoint’s usability, the “integrated TrackPoint buttons” project could be a success this time around.

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