Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Review: Bending Over Backwards

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Review: Bending Over Backwards

I’m not big on laptops. Or PCs in general. Most of my work day-to-day is handled by a tablet, with the occasional tweet or text from my phone. So, if I’m going to buy into the idea of a laptop, it has to radically improve the work experience, while retaining the battery life and content library for entertainment. I think Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga might have done just that.

 

Laptop

IMG_0795

As a laptop, the X1 Yoga is light and portable. At less than three pounds, the rather large 14-inch body is reasonable for everyday carry. Being so light and thin, it fits right alongside my notebooks for class, and has no problem sliding into my camera backpack for travel. There is very little flex in the chassis, which is surprising for a laptop this large and thick. The sharper corners and angled edges build on the enterprise aesthetic that accompanies a branding like ThinkPad. The design here demands respect and, in using the laptop, I think it deserves it.

In opening the hinge, which takes some effort, you’re presented with the 14-inch, 2560×1440 IPS display. That display, which is touch enabled, is gorgeous. For video and photo editing, it’s accurate enough to be workable, while movies and YouTube videos just pop. It gets bright enough for work outside, while also being dim enough for late night Netflix marathons.

Below the screen sits a capacitive Windows button, but I generally forgot it was there and never used it. Hidden in the keyboard is the infamous red nub that remains a hallmark of ThinkPad laptops. I really never used that either. There is a capacitive fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello, which was fast and accurate about 70-80% of the time I used it. If it worked, it worked instantly; if it struggled, it locked me out. The trackpad next to that is spacious, comfortable, and responsive. It handles multi-touch gestures and palm rejection really well, and just worked when I needed it to work. Then there’s the keyboard.

x1 yoga keyboard

Lenovo really knows how to make a keyboard. I’m not really a keyboard junkie, but I know when something just works. The key caps are gently rounded, keeping your fingers centered and helping to prevent slipping between keys. The keys are well spaced, with decent, if not a little shallow, travel for a laptop this thin. The function keys were largely inoffensive, and I was able to find most of what I was looking for. I would have liked for the backlight to light the actual symbol, instead of just the outline of the key, but any backlight is better than no backlight.

Overall, the keyboard is just really pleasant to use. For typing, I consistently chose this over my desktop mechanical keyboard. By far my favorite feature is its response to tablet mode. For most laptops of this style, the keyboard gets disabled, so accidental keypresses don’t register. Not only does the X1 Yoga disable the keys, but it raises the border plate to match the key cap level to level the surface for being held. It’s such a small thing, but I miss it every time I use another 2-in-1.

In the official documentation, Lenovo advertises the keyboard as being spill proof. I don’t have an extreme horror story involving a smoothie or frappuccino, unfortunately. There might have been a few tacos dropped right on the keyboard (long story, don’t ask), but in rotating the screen, the border piece just pushed all the debris out and made cleaning a breeze.

My review unit Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga runs Windows 10 off a decently quick 512GB SSD, includes 8GB of RAM, and is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor with integrated Intel HD 520 Graphics. The specs here really aren’t anything fancy, especially for the price. But between daily writing and web browsing, and the occasional video editing project, the laptop kept up well. Gaming didn’t really work out; most games from Steam just won’t do well here. There are a few Windows 10 Universal games designed for tablets that ran smoothly, but you shouldn’t expect this to replace your gaming rig.

stone wall x1 yoga

Heading around the outside, the X1 Yoga has most of the right ports. On the left, there’s Lenovo’s standard power jack alongside their OneLink+ port, as well as a Mini Display port and USB 3 port. On the right, things get interesting. To complement that Mini Display port, they’ve included a full size HDMI. There’s also two more USB-3 ports, and a combo headphone and mic jack. The right edge also includes a power button, a two button volume rocker, and the included stylus; more on these later.

On the bottom, there’s a standard array of intake vents, and a couple of screws to get inside. I don’t trust myself doing that, so I didn’t

On the back, along the hinge area, sits the single exhaust vent, which you only notice during video renders or failed gaming sessions. Also back there is a flap that hides a MicroSD slot and, surprise, a SIM slot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any of my sim cards to work properly, but I’m sure this will be useful for someone.

The inclusion of MicroSD, with no full SD slot, just gets to me. I do quite a bit of photo editing and uploading, and having a dedicated slot would have been really nice. Not once did I find the need to pop in a MicroSD card, but maybe someone, somewhere, will.

Tablet

This laptop, like any worthy of the Yoga name, is a convertible. Like so many recent Windows offerings, it aims to be both a high power laptop and a consumer friendly tablet.

It does this by rotating its display nearly 180 degrees to lay flat like a tablet. As I mentioned earlier, that keyboard hides itself nicely. But being a 14-inch display, the X1 Yoga is just too large for any normal tablet usage. Desktop websites just aren’t designed for touch and, while the Windows App store is catching up, there aren’t enough tablet ready experiences here to give up a trackpad or mouse.

That included stylus, though, is pretty awesome. If I’m sketching ideas in OneNote, or moving Calendar events around, or just doing some article browsing, having a large tablet with stylus support is perfect. The stylus itself is fairly comfortable, if not a bit small. The display is pressure sensitive, and even reacts to the hovering stylus like a mouse. Palm rejection here, like with the trackpad, must have been great, because I didn’t encounter any issues.

The power and volume rocker become positioned in the top right when in tablet mode. I found them to be small and hard to hit blindly, and only marginally useful, but they’re there.

Remember that angled design I praised earlier? It’s still great, just not so much in tablet mode. The angles look cohesive when the laptop is closed, but when rotated back in tablet mode, the keyboard juts out away from the display portion, creating a gap that just feels awkward when held.

But this thing is really thin and light for its size, and that certainly helps comfort when in tablet mode. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide if a tablet this large fits in your workflow. For me, it’s perfect for quick notes and sketches.

Final Thoughts

So that’s the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. It’s a great laptop, a massive tablet, and a solid everyday carry machine. For students, or moving professionals, who just need something that gets out of the way and works, this is the machine to get. But at this price (my unit clocks in just under $2,000), you have to really want a 14 inch tablet with a non-removable keyboard. Or a powerful tablet with a night life. If that’s you, there isn’t a better laptop/tablet to get.

IMG_0796

IMG_0797

Leave a Comment