In its 3rd generation, the Lenovo X1 Yoga has been announced at CES 2018, and we had an early peek at it, including in the video below. We had a unit in the office for some time now, and it’s Review time! As usual, the X1 Yoga is aimed at a business-oriented user base that wants a care-free, robust 2-in-1 convertible laptop that is dependable under heavy travel or “in the field” conditions. Let’s take a closer look at this 2018 (aka Gen 3) model of the X1 Yoga.
Specifications as tested
Here is the configuration as tested. There are many more options to choose from, and we will cover the primary differences for differences choices you may have.
- Core i5-8250U (4C, 8T), 8GB, 512GB (475GB available out of the box)
- Windows 10 Pro
- 512 GB SSD Samsung MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7 (Samsung PM981)
- Official X1 Yoga 2018 product page
CPU: the Lenovo X1 Yoga Gen 3 has four CPU options which are
- Core i5-8250U
- Core i5-8350U
- Core i7-8550U
- Core i7-8650U with vPro.
Intel does a good to job scale performance and price as the numbers go up in the naming scheme. We will come back to this in the Performance section, but price-wise, there is a gap of $265 from the most affordable to the most expensive CPU option.
Memory: core i5-8350U and core i7-8650U can get a 16GB RAM option. Otherwise, it’s 8GB of RAM.
Displays: Three different 13.9” (aka 14” in common language) screens can be chosen with very distinct advantages as you upgrade.
- Base 1920×1080 IPS LCD display ~300+ NITs
- The first upgrade (+$96) increases the resolution to 2560×1440
- The second one (+$170 from base) adds Dolby Vision HDR + 2560×1440.
Storage: 256, 512 or 1TB of SSD (PCIe-NVMe OPAL2.0 M.2)
Among the changes made for the 2018 edition of the X1 Yoga, we think that the Dolby Vision HDR screen option and the new Gen 8 Intel CPUs will have the most impact, especially for users who do image-based work, or simply enjoy HDR videos.
At first glance, the industrial design of the X1 Yoga 2018 uses the same design language as the prior editions. Over the years, Lenovo has modernized the design, but from last year’s model, the size of the laptop has not changed much. The 2017 edition is ~2.1% bigger and ~2.4% lighter than the unit we are reviewing today.
The X1 Yoga has not been designed to compete in the ultra-thin / ultra-light space (The X1 Carbon is…). If you want such a ~14” laptop, the Lenovo Yoga 920, the Zenbook 3 Deluxe or the Huawei MateBook X Pro are good options to look at. Yet, these laptops will serve as competition because the X1 Yoga has very unique and specific features that set it apart."HIGHER SURVIVABILITY"
Instead, this X1 Yoga design is focused on being extremely sturdy, carefree, but performant and relatively thin at the same time. The X1 Yoga was initially introduced as being the multimode (tablet-convertible) version in the X1 line, and it is still the case.
The X1 laptops are among the rare, if not the only, laptop in this category to pass 12 U.S Military STD-810G durability tests and have some degree of water survivability. For professionals who do want to reduce possible downtime to the maximum, these are very desirable features that are often worth a premium, given how much it costs to have a high-skilled worker idle because of a problematic computer.
Learn more: What is MIL-STD-810G?
Keyboard and Trackpad
The spill-resistant keyboard is another thing that makes the Lenovo X1 Yoga more sturdy than other 14” laptop computers. Drinks and coffee are never far from keyboards, and this design allows the water to flow away without damaging the electronics.
When folding the laptop past 180 degrees, the keys retract to be flush with the chassis’ surface. This makes the laptop more stable, and removes unwanted pressure on the keys, further reducing the odds of damage."THINKPAD LAPTOPS ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR EXCELLENT TYPING COMFORT"
The keyboard has comfortable ~225 square mm keys and a long key-travel of 1.8mm. The space between keys is ~3.6mm. Depending on your habits, long key-travel is often associated with extra typing comfort. This, and the retractable keys, partly explains why the X1 Yoga is thicker than its Lenovo Yoga 920 counterpart by ~3mm for example. The priority has been given to comfort and durability over good looks.
Many people complain about shallow keyboards, while some don’t mind or even love them. Since this is a personal preference, we would recommend you to test the keyboard if you can do so at a retail location. If you have never tested one of these keyboard, you are in for a treat. ThinkPad laptops are known for their excellent typing comfort.
The trackpad surface is made of glass, which is the smoothest and best material for this purpose. This is typical in this price range, but more affordable laptops can have various trackpad materials to reduce the cost.
At ~9.92 square inches, the trackpad is large and comfortable. You can find larger trackpads, but whether you need it or not depends on what kinds of gestures you use in Windows. Most people use a swipe and pinch-zoom gestures. However, if you use the circular or pinch-rotation gestures, a more substantial trackpad might bring additional comfort.
Another great reason why there are extra millimeters of thickness on the X1 Yoga is the number of ports.
- On the Left side, you have
- 2x USB-C connectors
- 1x Full-size USB-A
- On the Right side, you have
- 1x 3.5mm audio connector
- 1x Power button
- 1x Native Ethernet port (needs an Adapter)
- 1x USB-A
- 1x Full-size HDMI
- Lenovo ThinkPad Pen Pro which slides into the chassis.
- Anti-theft lock port.
- On the back, you have
- 1x SIM tray
- 1x microSD slot
This is much more Ports than many thinner computers. For business people, not having to require a dongle for HDMI or full-size USB is often of great importance. I wished that the Ethernet port did not require a dongle, but unfortunately, Ethernet ports are huge, it’s not even close to fitting. Also, the Ethernet adapter is NOT included.
If you are going to have to use a dongle, I would probably opt for having a USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 dongle with a bunch of connectors. It should easily be able to handle Gb Ethernet as well. The full-size HDMI video connector is probably the most important because it is the most commonly used for presentations. At the end of the day, if you use dongles, at some point you will forget/lose them.
Interestingly, the microSD slot lets you add slower-performance storage at a low-cost. You can get 128GB for ~$40 or 256GB for ~$62, with a monster 400GB microSD card going for ~$200. You could use it as a backup or to store media files.
The X1 Yoga’s rear can be quickly opened with a small Philips screw driver for access/maintenance. The user has access to the M.2 SSD module, but also the battery, fan and WiFi module. The RAM is soldered to the motherboard.
We’re not sure what the warranty says about having the user open the chassis, but from an IT’s perspective, it makes the laptop easier to maintain/repair if ever needed. Again… this means less downtime and possibly faster recovery time, especially for simple things like disk-imaging.
The two 1W speakers are powerful enough to be used in a reasonably large (and quiet) conference room. Also, watching movies would pose no problem, and if anything I would turn the volume down even if I was by myself. The sound is definitely loud enough, although one might argue it it lacks a bit of “body” and bass — but this common with laptops.
The speakers are placed on the bottom of the laptop, and in theory, they should sound better in “tent” mode (270 degree screen rotation). However, I found that the sound was not that different and also sounds good in standard laptop mode.
The X1 Yoga display options are outstanding. The base FHD/1080P display already very decent (sRGB) color coverage and a measured brightness of 315 NITs. All display options use IPS technology, the image retains a high-level of quality, even when seen at shallow angles.
However, if you opt for the Dolby Vision HDR version of the 2560×1440 display, you will experience a sharp difference in terms of color reproduction (in both sRGB and Adobe RGB spaces) and in terms of sheer brightness."SHARP DIFFERENCE IN COLOR REPRODUCTION WITH DOLBY VISION HDR"
Not only the highest-end display can reproduce more colors at normal brightness levels, but the HDR capabilities mean that it can reproduce more colors at higher brightness levels as well, which increased the “Color Volume.”
Additionally, a higher brightness makes the display more readable and comfortable to use outdoors or in very bright environments. Most laptops hover between 250-350 NITs of brightness, but at ~500 NITs, this laptop is well above the average and would make a huge difference in some situations. We took a photo that shows the light distribution across the base FHD 1080p panel. As you can see below, the uniformity is quite good.
Finally, if you happen to stream HDR movies from services like Netflix or Hulu, the difference is noticeable, and this is something that you can quickly get used to.
The only regret that we have from the 2017 model is the lack of OLED option this year. It is not easy to procure OLED screens for laptops because OLED manufacturing is setup for either handset (sub-7 inches, Samsung) or OLED TVs (40”+, LG). The laptop OLED monitor market remains underserved, and although Lenovo pushed for it last year, it seems that Dolby Vision was a more pragmatic choice this time.
Learn more: LCD vs. OLED. Which is Best And Why?
Laptop webcams have not evolved much, and with a 720p resolution, this one is right on the average in this price category. That said, it has a physical privacy shutter, which prevents any video snooping, even if the camera is hacked. We think that it won’t electrically shut down the webcam, including the microphones, so maybe audio snooping is technically feasible. That said, it sure beats sticking tape on it.
The X1 Yoga has an array of microphones which allows it to have a far-field audio capability. This means that the computer is optimized to listen at audio from anywhere in the room, instead of just within 1 yard in front of it. Thanks to far-field audio, it is possible to use a laptop with voice assistant, like Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa.
Far-field microphones are much better for group conferences as it can pick up the voice of everyone, regardless of their location relative to the laptop. Non-far-field microphones often drop off your voice if you go out of the optimum location right in front of the computer.
Integrated Pen"YOU WILL LIKELY NEVER RUN OUT OF PEN BATTERY"
The pen is an active pen which is charged via two small electrical connectors when in the computer’s chassis. Having the pen stored inside the laptop is hugely convenient and far superior (in convenience) to external solutions. The risks of loss are significantly reduced and you will likely never run out of pen battery because 15 seconds of charge yield 1.5 of use, according to Lenovo. It also means that it is an Active Pen.
As far as I know, all Lenovo pens use Wacom’s technology, although it’s not clear if you can use Wacom’s drivers. In general, the pen works fine with Photoshop and similar software but I have to admit: I’m no graphic designer. The pen has 2048 levels of pressure, which is very good, but some models climb up to 4096 levels (if you can tell the difference).
The small Pen is a little bit less comfortable to hold (than a bigger one), but the convenience of having it ready at all times seems like a worthy trade-off. It is possible that designers prefer a more substantial pen, in which case looking at the Lenovo accessory might yield something interesting.
CPU Synthetic Performance
As it is often the case with PC laptops, the performance between different competitors within the same price, and with the same CPU is quite similar. If two systems use the same CPU with comparable memory and frequency, they should yield comparable synthetic benchmark results. This is what we can see by looking at the Geekbench 4 scores of the Yoga 920, X1 Yoga, Dell XPS 13 (9370) and Huawei MateBook X Pro.
Although they are not all equal, they fall into a reasonable range which could be explained by small variations in load, background work, local temperature, etc.
Interestingly, the single-core performance of the i5-8250U CPU is noticeably lower than its i7-8550U cousin. However, the Gen8 i5-8250U CPU single-core performance is as high as the Gen7 Core i7-7500U. This is a remarkable improvement.
The multi-thread test in GeekBench 4 reveals two things. First, the Core i5-8250U performance is not very far from the Core i7-8550U, so maybe you can save a little without trading-off much performance. Secondly, the Intel Core Gen8 CPU leave their Gen7 part in the dust when it comes to multi-core workloads.
This is particularly important for multi-core friendly apps that are designed to spread the workload across many CPU cores. Creative and video apps, Scientific apps and games are typical examples. Web browsers also use a surprising number of CPU cores, so nearly everyone is concerned.
Going from 8 to 16 cores may not be of use to many people, but keep in mind that these laptops have gone from 2 to 4 cores in the span of one year. So far, the perceived performance gains are very noticeable. In short, do NOT get a Gen7 dual-core laptop if you can get a Gen8 one at a similar price point.
3D Graphics Benchmarks
We just mentioned 3D games in the context of CPUs. It is essential to have a CPU which is fast enough to “feed data” to the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), but ultimately, nearly all graphics-heavy applications will be limited by the GPU’s power.
By default, most laptops in this category use the small Intel GPU which is embedded into the CPU. It is called “integrated graphics” for that reason. 3D Benchmarks like 3DMark FireStrike show a performance difference of ~5% between laptops of the same price, equipped with the same intel graphics.
However, there is one notable exception: the Huawei MateBook X Pro is one of the rare laptops in this category to feature a discrete NVIDIA graphics chip. Discrete graphics chips are larger and more powerful, so they need to be on their own. Because of this difference, the MateBook X Pro is about 2X faster than other laptops we considered as challengers.
That level of GPU performance is usually not very relevant for office/productivity workers. However, designers, videographers, and gamers could use the extra graphics horsepower.
Storage / SSD synthetic performance
The Lenovo X1 Yoga has a very good SSD sub-system (our unit has a Samsung SSD PCIe NVME) which scores ~5000 in the PCMark 8 storage benchmark. However, that high score is quite common in this category of laptops.
Productivity performance test
Benchmarks like PCMark 8 Work are perhaps more representative of the day to day workload of users who would be interested in purchasing this kind of computers. The results were a bit surprising: the X1 Yoga 2018 was ahead by ~10%-12% versus other we looked at. Because PCMark 8 Work is a sophisticated test, with a lot of factors, it is not always easy to pinpoint a cause. However, it appears that the “SSD write” performance on the X1 Yoga Gen 3 is a bit better than others.
In the case of the Huawei Matebook X Pro, that could be explained by the fact that the write latency for the MateBook X Pro’s Toshiba SSD drive (KXG50ZN512G) is higher (~5ms) when compared to the X1 Yoga’s Samsung SSD drive (~3ms, model MZVLB512HAJQ-000L7).
Overall, the X1 Yoga provides excellent performance for this form factor and has even a slight edge over other systems that we have tested, thus far. That said, all competitors stay within a reasonable distance, with the exception of the Matebook X Pro’s gaming performance.
Temperature and cooling
Just before looking at the charging speed, we went on to deplete the battery by running a very intensive CPU test called Prime 95. It will push all cores to 100% utilization and will heat up to the point where the thermal throttling will kick and and stabilize the temperature of the system to avoid a critical crash."THE YOGA X1 IS LITERALLY COOL"
After throttling, the system stabilized at 80% CPU utilization and a top frequency of 1.6Ghz (instead of 2.0Ghz at the beginning). As you can imagine, this has an impact on performance, and that is why a high-performance cooling system leads to better sustained performance. However, laptops have extremely tough internal volume constraints, so this is entirely normal.
With an ambient temperature of 21.5C, the surface we could measure was at 34.6C at the hottest point, and the palm rest area was at 24.5C, so the Yoga X1 is literally cool. The test ran for almost ~2 hrs and even after a long while, the temperature was stable at these levels. We took from Infra-red photos with a FLIR One camera, and you can see how the hotspots clearly. The short story is: you should not experience “burning hot” sensations on the lap, and definitely never on the palm rest area.
With standard battery capacity in this category of laptops (13.3-14”, ~3 lbs, $1300+) ranging from 52Wh to 60Wh, the 54Wh battery capacity of the Lenovo X1 Yoga 2018 lands near the middle. One could argue that the relatively large size of this computer, one could expect a higher battery capacity. After all, the Lenovo Yoga 920 is ~22% smaller in volume and has a remarkable 70 Wh battery capacity.
If you want to maximize battery life, we would recommend selecting the 1080p base display version. Higher resolution means more pixels, and higher brightness (HDR) means more power. Lenovo has options for several use cases, so think about how you will be using this computer.
Even switching to a Core i5 might save some power, although they have the same TDP (Thermal Design Point), which correlates to actual power usage.
Finally, it is worth nothing that this computer can charge from 0 to 80% battery in 60mn, according to Lenovo. We have verified this claim and can confirm this charge speed. In our test, it even charged a bit faster than this. Charging speed is a crucial matter for anyone who cares about batter life.
The Lenovo X1 Yoga Gen 3 is an excellent professional computer designed to provide a comfortable, care-free, high-endurance and reliable computer that is easy to maintain. Also, it reduces the need for dongles, especially for widespread use cases such as USB-A and full-size HDMI connectivity. The same is true for the anti-theft connector, which has been abandoned in many/most consumer-level laptops."THE LENOVO X1 YOGA IS AN EXCELLENT PROFESSIONAL COMPUTER "
The price to pay for these features is to have a larger chassis. If your priority is to have an ultra-compact computer, keep an eye out for our upcoming X1 Carbon review. If you are willing to go for consumer-centric designs, Lenovo’s Yoga 720 is excellent (we gave it a 10/10). The Intel Gen8 Zenbook 3 Deluxe is much lighter but has even less battery capacity.
Finally, any IT department will look favorably on the Intel V-Pro option available with the X1 Yoga. This allows better and more secure remote computer management.
The Lenovo X1 Yoga is not designed to compete on price. This line of product never has. However, if you factor in a few hours of downtime for a worker, small price variations may not be a sway factor in the grand scheme of things.