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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: The ultimate business Yoga

Alphr logo Alphr 06-06-2016 Sasha Muller

Lenovo knows a thing or two about building great business laptops, and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is no exception. Fusing Intel’s Skylake processors with a 14in WQHD display, this business hybrid is designed to flit between laptop and tablet modes with ease – and with a dash of style to boot.

Not that the ThinkPad X1 Yoga draws attention to itself. Entirely encased in sheets of matte black carbon fibre, bar the small pinprick of red afloat in the centre of the keyboard – yes, there’s still a TrackPoint, this is a ThinkPad after all – the X1 Yoga is relentlessly monochromatic.

There’s still something lovely about it, though, something reassuringly utilitarian in its simplicity. And crucially for a 14in laptop, it’s actually pretty thin and light. Weighing 1.27kg and measuring a slender 16.8mm thick, it's lighter than many 13.3in laptops. (I’ll keep quiet about Dell’s 1.13kg Latitude 13 7370, though.)  

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

Oh, and did I mention it’s MIL-SPEC rated for toughness? The combination of carbon fibre and a metal skeleton make for a business laptop that’s ready to handle whatever punishment you can dish out.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: Design

By far the X1 Yoga’s greatest talent, however, is that its hybrid trickery doesn’t come at the expense of usability. Where the HP Elite X2 and Microsoft Surface Pro 4 push the tablet into the limelight, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a much easier sell for many people. It’s a great laptop that just happens to turn into a king-sized tablet. Yes, at 1.27kg, it’s heavy by tablet standards, but even here it has several advantages over some of its peers, not least that the stylus docks invisibly into the X1 Yoga’s right-hand side.

In truth, it’s pretty hard to find anything to moan about. The backlit keyboard offers the usual ThinkPad quality and, as the X1 Yoga has a 14in chassis, it’s every bit as spacious and comfortable to type on as a desktop keyboard. Personally, I’d still rather have a touchpad with discrete buttons, but Lenovo’s buttonless touchpad is reliable enough, and you can always resort to the touchpoint if you prefer.

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is more than just a superb laptop, though. Tilt the screen back and the solid-feeling yet super-flexible hinge allows you to fold it through 360 degrees and use it in stand, tent or tablet modes. In tablet mode, the X1 Yoga is in its element. Pull the small stylus out of the right-hand edge, and the matte finish across the display gives a lovely feel to everything from writing to sketching or annotating documents. It’s probably the most responsive tablet I’ve ever used – and that includes the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – with the Wacom active digitiser and pen technology providing a perfect blend of sensitivity and accuracy. It’s seriously impressive.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: Display

The most unusual twist in the X1 Yoga’s specifications is perhaps the one you’d least expect in a business laptop: that 14in touchscreen also comes in an optional OLED version. Our review unit only had the standard IPS touchscreen, but if the OLED panel is up to these standards, it’s fair to say it’ll be very, very good. The 2,560 x 1,440 panel is so crisp and vivid that I briefly wondered if I was looking at a fake laptop. Desktop icons are suspended on an inky blackness and colours look gorgeously vibrant. For a while, I wondered if I actually had the OLED model in front of me.

Run through the numbers and there’s equally little to complain about. The panel covers 96.9% of the sRGB colour space, hits a maximum brightness of 296cd/m2 and has a solid, if not class-leading, contrast ratio of 916:1. The clincher here, however, is colour accuracy; not only has Lenovo ensured that the X1 Yoga reproduces almost all the colours you could want, it also serves up the right colours at the right time. An average Delta E of 1.37 is good by any standards, and the maximum deviation of 3.55 isn’t bad at all. The only shortfall is the panel’s inability to delve down into the most intense blues, which is barely noticeable. Here is a business laptop that's equally at home with colour-critical applications, which is something of a rarity.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: Performance

No corners have been cut in the performance department. You get your choice of dual-core Core i5 or Core i7 Skylake processors, stretching up to the 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U in the review unit. With 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM as standard, you can upgrade that to 16GB on the high-end models for a reasonable £70. Factor in the choice of everything from bog-standard 128GB SSDs to encrypted OPAL 2 drives, right up to blazingly-fast 1TB Samsung NVMe drives and you can configure models at anything from £1,300 right up to more than £2,000.

I didn’t find the X1 Yoga wanting for performance. That’s not especially surprising. With a top-of-the-range Core i7, 8GB RAM and a ridiculously fast 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD inside, you’d never expect this laptop to be slow. The SSD produces read and write speeds that are highly impressive, sequential read speeds tickling the 2,000MB/sec mark, while write speeds still nudge just over 1,000MB/sec. Boot Windows 10 Pro from cold and it’s mere seconds before you land on the desktop.

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited Oddly enough, the Lenovo didn’t perform quite as brilliantly in benchmarks as you might expect. An overall score of 39 puts it a tad behind the Dell XPS 13 with its slightly slower 2.5GHz Core i7-6500U processor. I have a sneaking suspicion that Lenovo’s more aggressive power management might be the issue here, so I’ll be re-running the benchmarks after tweaking some of the power settings in Windows. My experience suggests that this laptop will coast through most applications without blinking, though. However, do grab the 16GB RAM upgrade if you’re a fan of OS virtualisation shenanigans.

Battery life is very respectable as well. With the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2 and Wi-Fi off, the X1 Yoga was able to play a movie constantly for 7hrs 55mins. However, this is a laptop that’s more than likely to last the working day under normal usage. Use a more aggressive power plan, drop the screen brightness (even 85cd/m2 is fine for most indoor environments), and you’ll be closing the lid and heading home for the day before having to dig the charger out of your bag.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: Connectivity & security

It’s probably easier to start with what’s missing here: USB Type-C. In all honesty, though, this isn’t a big loss for a business device and is still far from essential on any consumer devices.

Thankfully, the X1 Yoga hits the nail on the head elsewhere. There are three USB 3 ports, a OneLink+ port for adding Lenovo’s various optional docking stations, and you get both HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs, too. Factor in the fingerprint reader just beneath the keyboard and the X1 Yoga ticks all the right boxes.

© Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited This review unit, which is currently the priciest pre-configured model on Lenovo’s site, also partners an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi chipset with a Sierra Wireless EM7455 LTE modem that supports the fastest mobile broadband speeds going (up to 300mbps, if you’re wondering). However, you can swap the mobile broadband for an Intel WiGig module, which opens the door to high-speed wireless docking stations.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: Verdict

The big names in business laptops, tablets and hybrids have been producing some amazing devices in recent times but it’s no surprise to see Lenovo waltz in and do what it does best: produce another effortlessly brilliant business hybrid. It's not cheap – even in its most modest specification the X1 Yoga is a cool £1,300 – but you most certainly get what you pay for.

Apart from the cost, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is pretty much perfect to my mind; the screen is large enough to use all day without once wishing for an external monitor, everything from the keyboard to the stylus is faultless, and the performance is good enough to please all but the most demanding users. Factor in the flexibility on offer and it’s nigh-on unbeatable. Beg your IT department for one now.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: The ultimate business Yoga© Alphr Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga review: The ultimate business Yoga

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