Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Review

by Reads (23,314)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 4
      • Usability
      • 7
      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 5
      • Total Score:
      • 6.71
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Impressively thin and light
    • Beautiful WQHD display
    • Excellent keyboard
    • All-day battery life
  • Cons

    • Pricey in any configuration
    • RAM is not upgradeable
    • No snap-in docking solutions or USB Type-C
    • So-so touchpad

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga is Lenovo’s top-shelf ThinkPad convertible, sitting above the Yoga 260 and Yoga 460 in the company’s lineup. It has a rather steep entry price of nearly $1,400; our review unit approached $1,900 with the upgraded WQHD display, Intel Core i7-6500U processor, and a 512GB SSD. As of this writing, we couldn’t find a thinner and lighter 14-inch business convertible to dispute Lenovo’s claim of it being the thinnest and lightest. Provided you have the budget, the X1 Yoga delivers a good mix of quality, performance, and battery life. Notable cons include a lack of user upgrade options, no snap-in docking solutions, and of course, the price. While its price kept it from making our Editor’s Choice list, it’s still a solid choice for a premium convertible.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga frontBuild and Design

The ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s black exterior looks like just another ThinkPad at first glance. The difference is that it’s considerably thinner than most ThinkPads, especially next to the ones of yesterday. The chassis is just 0.66 inches tall. The rest of the chassis measures 13.1 by 9 inches, in line with a typical 14-inch notebook. The X1 Yoga’s modern look is made even more so by the refreshingly slim display bezel.

The twin 360-degree gunmetal hinges at the back of the chassis are the only giveaway the X1 Yoga has convertible capabilities. They allow the display to rotate all the way around and fold flat with the base of the chassis. If you stop at 270 degrees and flip the notebook upside down, so it’s standing on the top of its lid and front of the chassis, you’ll be in the tent-like Connect mode. You can also put the keyboard face down on the surface to enter Present mode.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 tablet 2Although the X1 Yoga is light for a 14-inch notebook, its 2.8 pounds still feels hefty in tablet mode. The 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro is only 1.6 pounds by comparison, less than half as thick, and slightly less in width and height. In other words, buying the X1 Yoga with the intent of replacing a dedicated tablet probably isn’t the best idea.

The exterior build materials feel like plastic. However, the chassis is actually magnesium alloy, and the lid is carbon fiber. Lenovo says the X1 Yoga is tested against military specifications. The chassis is relatively stiff, though has a bit of lateral flex. The lid allows some ripples to come through to the display when pressed in hard from behind, a likely casualty of making this convertible as thin as possible. The fit and finish is excellent; there aren’t any unusual gaps between parts. The chassis and lid corners are mostly square, rounded off just a bit to not feel sharp. The lid is bordered by a rubberized bumper to limit damage to the display in the event of a bump or drop.

The X1 Yoga lacks any real options for user upgrades. There are no access panels on the bottom of the chassis. Removing all nine Phillips-head screws rewards you with only the M.2 slot for a size 2280 SSD. The LPDDR3 RAM is soldered to the motherboard, and therefore cannot be upgraded.

Input and Output Ports

The X1 Yoga’s thinness prevents it from accommodating older ports like VGA, or even Ethernet. If you want either of those, you’ll need to purchase Lenovo’s OneLink+ dock or the ThinkPad Stack accessories. The dock connects via a dedicated port on the left side of the chassis. It’s a slight disappointment that the X1 Yoga doesn’t support traditional snap-in docking solutions, like the top-tier ThinkPad T-series. Also disappointing is the lack of a USB Type-C connector; we’d gladly trade one of the existing USB 3.0 ports for it.

On the left side, the X1 Yoga has its rectangular AC power jack (which isn’t a USB port), OneLink+ docking connector, mini-DisplayPort, and a USB 3.0. The right side has the pen slot, recessed power button, volume rocker, headphone/microphone combination jack, a pair of USB 3.0, HDMI, and Kensington lock slot. The power and volume buttons are stiff enough to prevent a casual touch from activating them.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga ports leftLenovo Thinkpad Yoga ports right

We didn’t think there would be any ports along the back, but that’s where the microSD and SIM card slots are awkwardly placed. The notebook’s lid has to be closed to effectively get a fingernail in the recess at the top left of the cover that hides the slot where they’re located.

Screen and Speakers

The X1 Yoga is available with three screen choices, and two resolutions. The base model has a FHD (1,920 x 1,080) pixel resolution, while our review unit has the upgraded WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) display. Mathematically, the WQHD resolution – also called 2K – has almost twice the pixels of the FHD display. It does result in a sharper picture, but the productive benefits are debatable. The use of Windows scaling is required to increase the text size to be legible – anywhere from 150 to 200 percent – making text appear about the same size as it would be if you had the FHD resolution.

The WQHD display uses an IPS panel. This allows for nearly limitless viewing angles, a required attribute on a convertible notebook, since the screen will be viewed from different angles. The picture looks consistent regardless the angle at which it’s viewed.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 screen frontLenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 screen side
Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 screen backLenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 screen back 2

The picture quality is first rate. The advertised brightness is 300 nits, well above what we usually see in a 14-inch notebook. We were comfortable using the display at half brightness indoors. The excellent contrast and nicely saturated colors make for a great viewing experience. The X1 Yoga would be a viable choice for photo and light video editing.

The display surface has a partially anti-glare surface. It doesn’t reduce reflections as well as a true anti-glare coating, but it’s far better in that regard than a glossy or glass display. The 10-point touch functionality works as expected. The display furthermore accepts input from the included ThinkPad Pen Pro, seamlessly recessed in a slot on the X1 Yoga’s right side. It’s an active pen – input is recognized hovering the tip about a centimeter above the display surface. The pen is battery powered, charging in its slot to 80 percent capacity in 15 seconds, and full capacity in 5 minutes. It has 2,048 levels of sensitivity. It took us some getting used to the fact the pen is smaller in diameter than a normal pen, though it’s still large enough to feel natural.

It wasn’t available when we wrote this review, but the X1 Yoga will soon be available with an OLED display.

The X1 Yoga’s speakers are buried inside the chassis. Despite that, they produce fairly loud and clear sound. It’ll still be outperformed by most budget Bluetooth speakers, but they’ll do in a pinch for video streaming.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 tent penKeyboard and Touchpad

Lenovo’s ThinkPad keyboards are relatively consistent across the ThinkPad lineup. The X1 Yoga is slightly different due to its “lift and lock” keyboard tray. It automatically rises up as the lid is folded backwards to form a flush surface with the tops of the keys. It’s a neat trick, all but eliminating the awkward feel of deactivated keys most convertible notebooks have while in tablet mode.

We suspect the lift and lock mechanism slightly reduces the key travel, as it feels a bit shorter on the X1 Yoga than it does on traditional ThinkPads like the ThinkPad T460s. It’s nonetheless an excellent keyboard for such a thin notebook. The key action is crisp, with an encouraging feel that’s not too hard or soft. There’s absolutely no flex in the keyboard tray. White LED backlighting is available in two levels, toggled via Fn + Spacebar.

The keyboard’s layout is first class. There are dedicated Home and End keys at the upper right, while the Page Up and Page Down keys are in the arrow key cluster. One of the nifty features of this keyboard is Function Lock. It allows you to toggle the function row F1-F12 keys as primary, or their underlying functions such as screen brightness and volume adjustments. Activate FnLk by pressing Fn + Esc.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 touchpadWe were slightly less pleased with the buttonless touchpad. It’s certainly large enough for the X1 Yoga’s 14-inch display. You can press down anywhere to produce a click. The clicks are the problem with this touchpad, since they’re occasionally inaccurate. There’s not a clear boundary where the right clicks begin. We’d intend to perform a left click, only to be greeted by the right-click menu appearing on the screen. Moreover, the clicks are stiffer than they should be. Call us old fashioned, but a traditional touchpad with dedicated left and right click buttons is preferable. The UltraNav pointing stick – that’s the red eraser head in the center of the keyboard – has its own left, center, and right click buttons. It’s been the best implementation of its kind for as long as we can remember.

Performance

The X1 Yoga has specifications mostly in line with other Ultrabooks. It has Intel’s latest processors; in our review unit is the Core i7-6500U dual-core model, running at 2.5GHz base, with the ability to dynamically jump to 3.1GHz using its Turbo Boost feature. It has ample power for most usages, including light photo and video editing. The Core i5-6200U processor is standard fare, which runs at 2.3GHz with a Turbo Boost to 2.8GHz. Most users won’t notice the difference between it and the upgraded i7-6500U model in our review unit.

Graphics processing is courtesy of the integrated Intel HD 520, which is built into the Core i7-6500U processor. It’s fast enough for everyday usage and up to 4K video playback. It’s generally not capable of playing the latest 3D games, though.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 tentThe RAM in this notebook is of the special LPDDR3-1600 variety. This was probably done to make the X1 Yoga as thin as possible, as it’s soldered to the motherboard. It unfortunately can’t be upgraded after the fact. Lenovo does offer 16GB of RAM on this model, but you’ll have to pay the premium for the top-tier Core i7-6600U processor if you want it. That configuration typically puts the price north of $2,000.

Storage options are limited to M.2 format SSDs, as the X1 Yoga is simply too thin to house a 2.5-inch drive bay. Offered capacities range from 128GB to 1TB. The 512GB Samsung SSD in our review unit was reasonably fast, though it’s not the higher-performing NVMe protocol version, which Lenovo offers for not much more.

Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review unit has the following technical specifications:

  • 14.0-inch WQHD touch display (2560×1440 resolution, anti-glare surface, IPS panel)
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • Intel Core i7-6500U dual-core processor (2.5GHz, up to 3.1GHz Turbo Boost, 4MB cache, 15W TDP)
  • Intel HD 520 integrated graphics
  • 8GB LPDDR3-1600 dual-channel RAM (non-expandable)
  • 512GB M.2 SSD (SAMSUNG MZNLN512HCJH)
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 wireless network adapter
  • Internal Bluetooth 4.1
  • Built-in 720p webcam
  • Dimensions: 13.1″ x 9.01 x 0.66 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • Starting Price: $1,394
  • Price as configured: $1,871

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
X1YOGAwprimechart

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
X1YOGApc8homechart

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
X1YOGApc8workchart

3DMark 11 measures the overall gaming performance of the GPU (higher scores mean better performance):
X1YOGA3dm11chart

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
X1YOGA3dmfirestrikechart

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
x1yogaCDM

Heat and Noise

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga botThe single exhaust vent at the back right side of the chassis occasionally turns on during general usage. The Intel Core i5 and i7 dual-core processors available in the X1 Yoga are quite power-efficient, helping to keep the heat down. The fan surprisingly has no whine and is therefore hard to notice. It’s audible at top speed, but it’s rare that it would need to run at maximum during general usage. The fan usually stays off, making the notebook totally silent. It spools up while streaming video, or for more intensive tasks like photo editing. The chassis gets lukewarm around the exhaust vent, both top and bottom, though doesn’t qualify as hot. The vent is positioned so that it isn’t blocked while the X1 Yoga is being used as a tablet.

Power Adapter

The X1 Yoga includes a 65W power adapter (20V/3.25A). The cords extend end to end, including the length of the power adapter unit, 9 feet, 7 inches. The total setup weighs 0.64 pounds. It’s overall a nicely compact solution. The adapter unit gets warm while charging the unit, which is normal.

Battery Life

We use our Powermark benchmark to measure battery life. This test is much more demanding than a standard battery rundown test. It uses a combination of automated web browsing, 3D gaming, video playback, and office productivity workloads to give a worst-case scenario. We set the screen brightness at 50 percent, and put the notebook’s wireless radios in airplane mode.

The X1 Yoga ran for 4 hours, 48 minutes in the rundown. Add about 30 percent to estimate real-world, light usage with minimum screen brightness, and you’re looking at about six and a half hours of life. That’s a respectable time, though won’t beat other convertibles like the HP Spectre x360 (http://www.notebookreview.com/notebookreview/hp-spectre-x360-review-ghost-chance-apple/), which went for over six hours in this benchmark. The non-convertible 14-inch ThinkPad T460s went for 5 hours, 19 minutes in this test, or about 10 percent better than the X1 Yoga’s time. All in all, the X1 Yoga delivers acceptable unplugged life, if falling a bit short of impressive.

PowerMark “Balanced” battery life test results (higher scores mean better life):
X1YOGApowerchart

Conclusion

There’s no doubt in our minds that the X1 Yoga is a top-grade business convertible. We couldn’t dispute Lenovo’s claim that it’s the thinnest and lightest in its class. It’s thin even for a regular notebook at 0.66 inches tall, and light at 2.8 pounds. As with just about all convertible notebooks though, it’s unreasonable to expect the X1 Yoga to replace a dedicated tablet. Consider tablet mode a bonus.

The X1 Yoga’s main highlight is its outstanding WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) IPS display. It’s extra bright and has unlimited viewing angles. We also liked its keyboard, not only for its good tactile feel, but because it has a clever mechanism that raises the keyboard tray in tablet mode to form a solid surface. The overall build quality and strength are top notch, too. The X1 Yoga even has a respectable set of speakers.

The buttonless touchpad could use better left and right click recognition. We’d prefer to see a traditional touchpad with dedicated left and right click buttons. At least the UltraNav pointing stick is still the best in the business. Unlike other ThinkPads, the X1 Yoga lacks a snap-in docking solution; it’s restricted to using the cabled Lenovo OneLink+ docks. It furthermore lacks USB Type-C.

The biggest obstacle to ownership of this sleek convertible is its price. At $1,394 starting, and $1,871 as we tested it, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is one of the most expensive convertibles on the market. It’s not inexpensive in any configuration. Put in perspective, you could get a less expensive notebook and an iPad or good quality Android tablet for the price of this one device – you might even save a few dollars.

Either way, if you’re after the sleekest 14-inch convertible notebook out there, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is the top contender. We’re anxiously awaiting the OLED version, which may make us change our minds about the price.

Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga frontPros:

  • Impressively thin and light
  • Beautiful WQHD display
  • Excellent keyboard
  • All-day battery life

Cons:

  • Pricey in any configuration
  • RAM is not upgradeable
  • No snap-in docking solutions or USB Type-C
  • So-so touchpad

 


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  1. jasonjohnson

    fyi I just checked on when the OLED screen is coming out, Lenovo said mid summer