Introduced a while ago, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga has shipped for some time. We have waited to have both the LCD and OLED options before publishing this review. In our initial coverage of the X1 Yoga, it was evident that the only 14-inch OLED laptop display should be given a chance of proving itself in the real world. The X1 Yoga is Lenovo’s latest thin & light business laptop that continues a successful series built to pass military durability tests.

The configuration tested has the following specifications:

  • Intel i7 6500 2.5-2.59 GHz processor
    • Other configurations include i5-6500U, i5-6300U, i7-6500U, and i76600U
  • 8GB RAM
  • Win 10 Pro
  • LCD IPS and OLED display
  • Samsung 512GB SSD over PCI-E

Design

With dimensions of 13.11 x 9.02 x 0.59 inches (333 x 229 x 15mm) and a weight of only 2.8 Lbs, the Lenovo X1 Yoga is positioned in the thin & light category of laptops which tends to blend portability and productivity well.

The 2.8 lbs weight is comfortable, and well within the norm for this category of laptops. This is equivalent to Lenovo’s own Y900 (2.8Lbs) and the Dell XPS13 9350 (2.8 Lbs) that we previously reviewed but not as light as the Surface Pro 4 (1.73 Lbs) which remains the thinnest and lightest PC in this performance range.

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As usual with the Lenovo X1 Series, the keyboard is very comfortable, and keys have a travel distance of 1.86mm (60g of force), which is ideal for my use. The keys are large and comfortable, and I find the keyboard to be excellent in general. The only think that caught my attention is that the “Fn” button on the right side is now at the corner of the keyboard, where the CTRL key normally is. It’s slightly annoying at first, but I got used to it, eventually.

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The trackpad feels like it’s made of glass, and is very smooth. Its size is 100x58mm is nice, and Lenovo allows the users to either click on the pad itself or use one of the two physical left/middle/right buttons just above the trackpad. Normally, they are there to be used with the TrackPoint controller which is the red button between the B/G/H keys. Many Lenovo customers are die-hard fans, although I am not one myself.

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The Thinkpad X1 Yoga has a relatively large number of ports, and a quick look at the specs show WiGig, OneLink+, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, 3 x USB 3.0, microSD. The three USB 3.0 ports are a great thing if you often work with USB devices such as Ethernet to USB adapter, mouse or USB keys, just to cite the frequent ones.

The microSD port is hidden in the back of the laptop, next to a SIM card tray. As it was the case with previous models, the X1 Yoga has an integrated wireless broadband option (4G LTE-A). For power users, this is much better than creating a hotspot with your phone, if you can afford the additional SIM card subscription.

Digital Pen (Wacom)

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The Lenovo X1 Yoga has an integrated Wacom Active ES pen. Note that this is different from the earlier Wacom EMR pens that Lenovo used to have. In case you want to buy compatible Wacom pens it’s a critical detail to know.

The X1 comes pre-installed with the Wacom driver and the Wacom Pen Radial Menu utility. It lets you change things such as the pen tip sensitivity, the physical buttons functions and the pen calibration (it’s pretty time-sensitive).

I’m no artist, but I’ve used Wacom tablets in the past. In general, I’m impressed with the pen, and the speed of the ink. The normal ink is very fast, and things will slow down as you use complex brushes but this is so much better than what we had just a year ago. If you wonder, it works well with Photoshop CC of course.

Durability: MIL-STD-810G Drop Test compliant

The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is one of the rare, if not the only, 13”-14” with a thin & light form factor. This has been one of the X1 staple features since the beginning, and it remains a potentially important criteria for users who may need extra durability over good looks.

You can learn all the necessary details about the MIL-STD-810G tests, but the gist of it is that the Lenovo X1 Yoga design was dropped from a height of about 4-feet, and all its surfaces (faces, edges, corners) were tested and visually inspected for damage. The test was originally designed to make sure that U.S military equipment could survive the transport and storage in tough conditions.

Lenovo says that the X1 passes eight military tests, but doesn’t provide details about which ones. The only one that I’m sure was included is the drop/shock test.

Learn moreWhat is MIL-STD-810G?

Not part of the MIL-STD-810G standard is the tough skin that the X1 has. I have used several generations of X1 laptops, and they are incredibly resilient to scratches and blemishes. Some of the issues that I had with all-metal aluminum bodies is that they could scratch pretty easily if there’s even a bit of dust/sand in the backpack. And the scratches can be quite visible. I never worried so much about the X1 family of laptops.

The X1 Yoga passed the following tests: Humidity, Low Temperatures, High Temperatures, Sand, High Vibration, Shocks, 15000ft Altitude and Temperature Shock.

Fingerprint touch sensor

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This time, Lenovo has integrated a touch fingerprint sensor (vs. swipe sensor). It works exactly like a smartphone fingerprint reader that you set up with a little utility for a few seconds. It worked very well and had very few false-positive (zero for now, but I assume it does happen sometimes). It is also more advanced that most options you can find for Desktop computers — it’s pretty amazing how primitive those finger-swiping USB sensors are.

Because I use a fairly strong (long) password, and I don’t want to fallback to a measly 4-digit pin, I find the fingerprint sensor to be very convenient. Now, you can use a very strong password and won’t have to deal with it every time you come back to your locked laptop.

Learn moreHow do Fingerprint Scanners Work?

Display: IPS or OLED

lenovo-x1-yoga_2016_review_22The Lenovo X1 Yoga comes with two 2560×1440 touch display options: IPS or OLED. I had the opportunity to try both, and I will also compare it with the Lenovo Y900 IPS display as well. Note that there is a 1080p IPS Touch that I have not tested.

The IPS display of the Lenovo X1 Yoga seems noticeably better than the Carbon X1 Gen 3. The backlight looks more evenly distributed, the colors look better, and the view angle seems to have improved as well. Since this was one of the rare weakness of the Carbon X1 Gen 3, I wanted to check that first. The brightness of this LCD display is 345 NIT when measured in our offices.

The Lenovo Y900 IPS display comes with a glossy finish, which makes the colors “pop” more and can make the image seem a bit sharper thanks to the 3200×1800 resolution. However, it is more reflective outdoors, and of course, the Y900 is not a “milspec” computer, so it is not as durable.

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The Lenovo X1 Yoga’s OLED display looks amazing and it’s a pity that the photos don’t fully show the difference. The OLED technology allows the X1 Yoga to have a nearly infinite image contrast and colors that feature an amazing saturation. Even the brightness is higher, topping 455 NIT in our measurements. If you can afford it, I highly recommend selecting the OLED version of this computer because you will use the display 100% of the time, it’s worth it.

Learn more: LCD vs. OLED. Which is Best And Why?

If you look at The ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2015 or ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2014, you would notice that the display, while very decent, didn’t compare favorably with other Lenovo laptops such as the Yoga 2 and Yoga 3 Pro. It’s because to pass the Mil-Specs drop test, Lenovo couldn’t use the exact same display between X1 and Yoga laptops.

The good news is that the OLED X1 Yoga solves this beautifully, now surpassing other Lenovo laptops, and quite frankly every other 13”-15” that I have looked at, in overall image quality (but not in resolution). The OLED X1 Yoga makes other laptop screens uninteresting.

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There are both touch and non-touch versions of the Lenovo X1 Yoga, so it’s up to you to choose which one fits your needs best. People have very strong opinions about touch in Windows laptops, and I’ve heard arguments both for and against.

My take is that touch is convenient because it can be faster than swiping and tapping with the trackpad. I also understand that some people use a lot of keyboard shortcuts and don’t want to pay extra for the touch option. You will need to decide based on your own habits.

Webcam

The Lenovo X1 Yoga webcam works well for web chat with a clear shot and framing where your face is. The image quality is not impressive at all, even in good lighting, and it gets worse in low-light. It’s OK for video chats, but it would be nice to see something better here. Unfortunately, laptop webcams have been largely outpaced by smartphone selfie cameras in terms of image quality. The thing is: while the technology is there, OEMs aren’t really pushing for webcam performance.

System Performance

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga has a wide range of options when it comes to computing power. The review unit we have is equipped with an Intel Core i7 6500 (2.5-2.59 GHz) processor and 8GB of RAM.

Benchmarks show us that the X1 Yoga behaves very much like other computers that have a similar processor configuration. Keep in mind that because the graphics unit is integrated into the Intel processor, most computers of the same “CPU class” will behave very similarly when running games. This is completely normal, and unless an OEM does something horrible, this is what you should expect. There are other ways to differentiate.

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The general performance is very satisfying, and this computer can run most tasks without any particular problem. If you want to do specific things such as video editing, you can also use Intel’s QuickSync hardware which will accelerate certain forms of video-encoding.

Other laptops with discrete graphics processors may outperform the Lenovo X1 Yoga at specific tasks, but they may also come with a higher power consumption, larger form-factor or a different set of pros/cons altogether. The same is true for gaming laptops.

Speed and relation to value and weight

If we look at performance through the prism of “value” (price), the Lenovo X1 Yoga does OK. It doesn’t particularly shine, and it’s not surprising since Core i5 laptops tend to have better performance/value (that’s their whole point of being).

However, the performance in relation to the weight is one of the strengths of the Lenovo X1 Yoga, and keep in mind that we have not even tested the most powerful version of the X1 Yoga. There’s another one with a Core i7-6600U processor that should be a little faster. Since this laptop has a digital pen, let’s look at the Creative performance vs. money spent:

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Battery: 52Wh + RapidCharge

With a 52 Wh battery capacity, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga is comparable to a Dell XPS 13 (9350) and superior to the Envy 13t-d000 (45 Wh). However, the Yoga 900 (66 Wh) and the new Yoga 910 (64 Wh) have superior capacities.

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Note that the X1 Yoga has a rapid charging capability that somewhat compensates for the potential difference in sheer capacity. RapidCharge enables much faster charging from 0% to 80% battery in 30mn. In general, it is extremely effective if you can have access to a plug from hop to hop. If that is not an option, then you may want to think about a higher capacity laptop.

In general, I can get some real work done for about ~4.5 hours, and accessing a plug by then is not an issue. Rapid-charging is ideal for folks like me since we often stop for 20-30mn during tradeshows to write something and post it to the back-end. Electric outlets are plentiful in conventions.

Conclusion: durable, light, fast

With a hardware platform that is comparable to other laptops in its class, the Lenovo X1 Yoga has a few key differentiators that are remarkable: Durability, OLED display option, Rapid charging. It is through this angle that we tested it.

While it is possible to find many 13” (The X1 Yoga is a 14”) laptops that have an Intel Core i7-6500U, it is much harder to find some with all three qualities above. The OLED display option is simply sublime and worth the extra money, if you can afford it. OLED and Rapid Charging can benefit just about anyone.

The extra durability and low-maintenance of the chassis is a cool extra, but unless you work environment is downright hostile, it’s more of a “nice to have” in my book — but still very appreciated. For businesses, durability also implies productivity gains for their IT staff, so it’s money right there.

In the end, it is not the performance that makes the Lenovo X1 Yoga unique, but the experience and its convenience. And all of this is extremely well packaged into a 14”, 2.8 lbs chassis. What’s not to like? I give the OLED X1 Yoga a 10/10 — that’s the one I recommend getting, but the IPS is great too.

Filed in Computers. Read more about Laptop Reviews, laptops, Lenovo, Lenovo reviews and Lenovo Yoga.

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