Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Laptop Review
This unique convertible puts all of Lenovo's best tech in one place
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When you think about Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops, a few things probably come to mind. You might think of the unique red TrackPoint nubbin in the center of the keyboard, or maybe Lenovo's restrained (read: boring) styling. Whatever you think of Lenovo's superstar business computers, there's a reason why they're so popular with big businesses: these are computers that put function over form.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (MSRP $1,549, $2,218 as tested) is an excellent example of Lenovo's dedication to the time-tested ThinkPad ideals. It gets everything it sets out to do just about right. Though it's a transforming notebook, it doesn't compromise normal laptop usage, putting a great keyboard and nice-looking display front-and-center.
While it's not a perfect computer thanks to some obnoxious, intrusive software and an expensive starting price, this premium convertible notebook offers up a combination of features unlike anything on the market.
Lenovo doesn't hold back with its top-end devices, and the Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a great example of that. Just about every single feature can be configured when you order your laptop, but one thing that gives us a little pause is how the X1 Yoga comes at its base price of $1,549:
•Intel 6th Generation Core i5-6200U Processor
•8 GB LPDDR3 RAM
•128 GB SSD (SATA)
•14-inch HD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen with pen support
•Intel HD Graphics 520
These are pretty typical entry-level specs, but those PCs typically cost at least $500 less than what Lenovo is charging here. Since the X1 Yoga has such a lot of unique traits, it makes a certain amount of sense—premium features come at, well, a premium—but it means that you're paying more than you would for competing models from Apple and Dell.
All versions of this computer features a fingerprint scanner, stylus, and a microSD card slot. If you want to spend even more on the X1 Yoga, there is an upcoming version that packs a stunning WQHD OLED display. You have to pay even more than what our review unit cost to get cutting-edge PCIe-based SSD storage, which for less money you can get in Dell's premium XPS models or across the line in Apple's MacBooks.
What We Liked
Functional, ergonomic design.
ThinkPads are probably the most conservatively-styled computers on the market, but the X1 Yoga cuts no corners when it comes to functionality. With Lenovo's design being so focused on getting things done, the ThinkPad aesthetic has become a style all its own.
What you get in exchange for a trendy exterior are things like the awesome, magical Lift-and-Lock keyboard. The problem with most transforming laptops is that when it's in "tablet mode," you can still feel the keys on the back. Lift and Lock manages to make this less of a distraction, while still living up to Lenovo's high standards for keyboard feel.
TrackPoint is the best kind of throwback, fingerprint reader fast and accurate
It may be oldschool, but we're huge fans of Lenovo's TrackPoint. It's still the highest precision pointing device you can get on a laptop, and it's ergonomically placed in an ideal place in middle of the keyboard. We know that many people scoff at this little rubber nubbin as some archaic throwback but darn if it isn't effortless to use.
We thought the trackpad was better than some on the market, but it still lacked some of the feel of what Dell, Samsung, and Microsoft's trackpads offer. For us, if you're buying a ThinkPad for the trackpad, you're doing it wrong. But it's good to find that if you prefer a trackpad, you won't have a terrible time using it.
Beneath the keyboard is a standard fingerprint reader. Using Windows Hello, this fingerprint reader is integrated into Windows 10 for login and other purposes. Just register your fingerprints, and you'll be prompted to touch the sensor to log in. Logging with your fingerprint is just so futuristic that having to type in a password seems so clunky in comparison.
The Multi-mode hinge works great
Like its name suggests, the X1 Yoga combines the sleek, light design of the X1 Carbon ultrabook with the hinge of Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The combination is a match made in heaven, and this 14-inch device manages to be a bunch of different things to a bunch of different people. It can be used as a standard ultrabook, but then easily shift into a tablet or tent depending on how you're working or showing off your work to others. This design improves on the standard Yoga 900 by locking the keyboard keys into the device, and two little rubber feet lift the keyboard deck up off a table.
You get a pen! And you get a pen!
One of the best advantages of Windows 10 is that it plays nicely with keyboard, mouse, touch, and also pen input. The X1 Yoga makes the best of all those input methods. If pen is of particular interest to you, then you'll be glad to hear that you get a pen in the box with the X1 Yoga, and Lenovo has even made room for a silo inside the notebook's bottom half, which charges the pen when it's not in use. The pen uses Wacom's technology, which can recognize 2048 levels of pressure. Lenovo says that a quick charge of 15 seconds will give you two hours of notetaking and doodling.
Competitive screens on every version
Lenovo's business notebooks tend to be behind the curve when it comes to screen technology, simply because a lot of ThinkPads end up being bulk purchased by companies. A 1366 x 768 screen is pretty weak these days, but if it runs Excel, then that's all they really care about. Thankfully, the X1 Yoga bucks that trend, coming with an array of premium options to choose from.
The high-res 2560 x 1440 LCD on our X1 Yoga review unit is a matte display that's also touch-sensitive. It's still a little reflective, but not quite shiny enough to use as a mirror. The base model comes with a glossy 1080p HD screen, and Lenovo says there will be an option to get this laptop with a drop-dead gorgeous 2560 x 1440 OLED screen, making it among the first computers to use this technology that's been used in smartphones for years. We got to see this screen in person earlier this year, and we can confirm that it's really all that and a bag of chips, image quality-wise. That said, OLED screens come with the risk of some burn-in, so we'll remain cautiously optimistic about using this technology in computers.
What We Didn't Like
Like many of Lenovo's ThinkPads, the X1 Yoga commands a premium price. Though this is an exquisite notebook, it's far from a great value. In its base form, the X1 Yoga costs a lot, even though you get features here that competing entry-level ultrabooks might not give you. That said, you don't get a high-speed PCIe SSD without paying extra, and the lack of improved Iris graphics on the high end i7 version makes it less appealing for multimedia work.
McAfee and Lenovo software can be intrusive
Even though you're paying a premium for Lenovo's awesome hardware, some annoying software is included in the package. McAfee's anti-virus suite comes along for the ride, and you get some of Lenovo's "special" software, too. Unfortunately that meant that we kept seeing things like Lenovo's Hardware Scan pop up when we were trying to get work done. It's very annoying, and not what we expect especially from a business-oriented laptop.
The Intel Core i7 version is noisy and gets warm
We appreciate that Lenovo didn't hold back with the processors inside the X1 Yoga. You get a full-strength i5 or i7 processor, rather than the more limited Core M chips that some other computers sport these days. This is great if you have a need for speed, but it's a little less good if you were hoping for a quiet computing experience. Our Lenovo X1 Yoga almost constantly had its fan running when doing all but the lightest of tasks.
microSD is nice, but full-sized would have been better
While we're picking some nits here, we'll throw this one out with the rest: you don't get a normal-sized SD card slot with the X1 Yoga. The built-in microSD slot is nice to add a little bit of extra storage, but if you're an avid photographer, you know how nice having an easily-accessible card slot is for quick photo transfers.
The battery life is a tradeoff
Our i7 tester seemed like it would get middling battery life on paper, but it outperformed most of our expectations. When put to our intensive PCMark 8 Home battery life test, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga made it just shy of three hours on a single charge. We found that was enough for a light workday without dying on us, but it's far from the all-day dream of a dedicated tablet like an iPad Pro.
Even though we were very impressed with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, it's definitely not for everybody. While corporate IT will snap them up, for the individual user, the choice is much more difficult to make. The main issue is price, especially when you compare it to the Lenovo's Yoga 900 which you can get for hundreds of dollars less, netting you for most of the same performance and similar battery life. We also really liked HP's 13-inch Spectre X360, which is a little heavier than the X1 Yoga but can be had for a fraction of the cost and—if you're mostly into the laptop/tablet transforming ability—is just about as good.
But, competition aside, this ultrabook has a very unique combination of elements. That magical locking keyboard, signature TrackPoint, optional OLED screen, the option to have cellular internet, and the fact that it has a Wacom stylus built-in? These unique functions all work to help the X1 Yoga stand apart in the best way possible. It boggles the mind that you can get all these features in a package that's the same size and weight as most other standard ultrabooks. The X1 Yoga is truly one-of-a-kind, and if you must have a convertible that can do it all, it's worth the premium.