- Touch-enabled display w/ Windows 8
- Good performance
- Runs cool and quiet
- Horrible keyboard and touchpad
- Low quality display
- Average all around
Quick TakeThe Z400 Touch is an average value at the $700 price point and lacks any unique or innovative features of note.
The Z400 Touch is one of the least expensive notebooks on the market to include a touch display. This notebook unfortunately loses its appeal off paper: it suffers from an anemic display, rattle prone keyboard and an equally bad touchpad. The Z400 Touch has some redeeming qualities including good performance, reasonable build quality, plenty of ports and a quiet operation.
Build and Design
The Z400 has a simplistic exterior constructed of plastic. The lid and chassis bottom are dark gray while the palm rest and keyboard surround are silver. The palm rest is stamped aluminum which looks and feels better than plastic. The plastic used is of satisfactory quality. The Z400 Touch is heavier and thicker than expected for a 14-inch notebook at almost five and a half pounds and 1.2 inches thick. The lid itself is one of the thickest we?ve seen on a modern notebook.
A notable positive about the design is lack of glossy plastic; the materials used have anti-glare properties. Glossy plastic is too often used on inexpensive consumer notebooks solely because it attracts the eye on a display shelf; it’s an eyesore in practice due to the collected dust and fingerprints. The Z400′s materials resist and hide them well.
The Z400′s chassis strength is above average for budget notebooks, exhibiting minimal flex under abnormal pressure. The lid has average strength; it flexes a bit more than I prefer; pushing in on the back of the lid produces ripples on the screen, meaning the protection could be better – be careful objects aren’t in contact with the back of the Z400′s screen while transporting it.
This notebook wasn’t designed with user upgradeability in mind; the whole bottom of the chassis (which is fortunately one piece) must be removed to access the storage drive and memory modules. There are two memory slots (occupied in our review unit by a 2GB and a 4GB module) and a 2.5-inch drive bay which accepts drives up to 9.5mm tall. The Z400′s battery is not user-changeable since it’s sealed inside the chassis.
Input and Output Ports
The Z400 has a standard assortment of ports including USB 3.0, HDMI, a media card reader and an optical drive; the latter is a continually less common feature on modern notebooks thanks to the Internet. A notable inclusion is the Kensington lock slot, a smart feature to include in a portable notebook (write that down, college students). All picture descriptions are left to right.
Left: AC power jack, cooling exhaust vent, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, media card reader
Right: headphone/microphone combo jack, 2x USB 2.0, DVD burner, Kensington lock slot
Lenovo neglected to include a page for the Z400 in its history of producing notebooks with good quality input devices. The keyboard has a bouncy, disconnected feel; it visibly flexes just using standard typing pressure. Keypresses have an excessively plastic action which robs them of encouraging feedback. The largest disappointment is the always-noticeable rattling; the noise is louder than the actual keypresses. The rattling seems to resonate from the entire keyboard tray; I checked whether it was seated properly and didn’t find anything amiss.
The positives of this keyboard are its good layout (the home, end, pgup and pgdn keys are nicely arrayed down the right side); enhanced usability in low-light situations thanks to the white backlighting; and what would be sufficient key travel for meaningful tactile feedback if that aspect wasn’t made immaterial by the observed deficiencies. The typing experience is wholly described as careless.
(Side note: I disliked this keyboard enough that I typed the review on a different computer, only the second time I have done so in approaching a hundred reviews).
The clickpad (as it’s called, since the surface is clickable in the absence of physical left/right mouse buttons) is another sore spot; it’s predictable enough and I like the smooth matte surface but it shares the overarching lack of competence I noticed with the keyboard. The clickpad curiously has about a millimeter of give; placing a finger on the surface with even the lightest pressure causes it to move downward that distance before it feels engaged. I failed to adapt to this during the review period. Another note is the inconsistent click pressure; it takes more effort towards the top. Good clickpads such as those on Dell XPS and Apple notebooks require uniform pressure.
Screen and Speakers
Our Z400 Touch review unit has standard a touch-enabled display with a glass surface and 1366×768 resolution. The display’s redeeming quality is its touch capabilities; it supports all Windows 8 gestures and multi-touch (such as ‘pinching’ to zoom). The glass surface is ideal for touch interaction but suffers from annoying reflections since it acts like a mirror in well-lit areas. The cons are about everything else; this 14-inch display appears to be the same lifeless panel found on rank-and-file 14″ notebooks costing hundreds less. The color reproduction is underwhelming; pictures have a washed-out and under-saturated presentation.
The brightness is adequate but the viewing angles aren’t; there’s about a 20-degree range where the display looks normal – any more upright and it washes out entirely. The display by design tilts back to a maximum of 45 degrees, probably to minimize wobbling from touching the display. The display hinge is stiff enough to counteract wobbling quickly; the downside to a stiff hinge is that it takes two hands to open the lid (one to hold the chassis down).
The Z400 Touch is also available with a 1600×900 display, meaning about one-third more resolution; I’m unable to comment on the picture quality but it’d be safe to harbor a guess that it’s probably not any worse than the panel on our review unit.
The Z400 has two speakers located below the palm rest. They’re audibly above average in volume level, bass and clarity but realistically leave users in the same situations as most notebooks do: an external audio solution is required for entertainment (especially for more than one person).