Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 range is the epitome of the premium business laptop. There are now three variants: the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, now in its 6th generation; the ThinkPad X1 Tablet, this year in its 3rd generation; and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (also at G3). The first to find its way to ZDNet is the X1 Yoga, a 360-degree convertible laptop.
With a starting price of £1649.99 (inc. VAT; £1,374.99 ex. VAT, or $1,269) and rising to £2,883.99 (inc. VAT; £2,403.32 ex. VAT, or $2,132) this laptop is clearly for the elite user. Even in that niche, it will need to be very, very good to pass muster.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) has a very similar industrial design to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen), featuring a sleek, solid shell encasing a traditional Lenovo keyboard, plus top-end specifications. What it adds, of course, is the fully 360-degree rotating screen characteristic of the Yoga line.
There are some other notable differences between the two laptops.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga adds about £200 to the starting price. There's also some weight gain, with the X1 Carbon starting at 1.13kg compared to the X1 Yoga's 1.4kg. And while both laptops share a 14-inch screen, the Yoga requires more screen bezel to promote usability in tablet mode. It's therefore a bit larger, measuring 333mm wide by 229mm deep by 17.05mm thick compared to the X1 Carbon's 323.5mm by 217.1mm by 15.95mm.
Still, this is not a comparative review, so let's focus on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga 3rd Gen itself from here on.
Lenovo hasn't tinkered with the general look and feel of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga in its third-generation outing. The soft-touch carbon-black chassis of my review sample is classic ThinkPad X1, although there's also a silver variant among the four preconfigured options on Lenovo's UK website.
The ThinkPad logo is recessed into the lid, and is reflective black. The red dot over the 'i' pulsates when the laptop is charging, and when the lid is closed but the machine is on. Meanwhile a distinctive 'X1' logo sits on the opposite diagonal of the lid, just to let you know that this laptop heads up the ThinkPad range.
The keyboard has Lenovo's familiar pot-bellied keys, the red TrackPoint between the G, H and B keys, and its associated scroll and mouse buttons above the trackpad. The keys have a wonderfully light touch, and bounce back in sprightly fashion as your fingers lift away from them. Touch typing is a pleasure.
The trackpad is responsive, with integrated buttons that depress quite a long way and are reassuringly resistant. The keyboard backlight is toggled by a Fn/spacebar combination that cycles through two brightness settings, off and an auto setting. It's all intuitive and easy to get along with, right down to the relatively large cursor keys. The handy Windows Snipping Tool shortcut, which I noted in my recent review of the Lenovo ThinkPad T480s, looks to be a regular ThinkPad feature.
When the screen is rotated, the keys recess completely, and are locked out. The lock kicks in at quite a wide-angled tent mode, so that the keyboard is protected at any position apart from standard laptop mode or with the screen flat on a desk or table. This solves a perennial problem I have with 360-degree rotating screens -- fear of damaging the keyboard.
All four preconfigured variants of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) on Lenovo's UK website have a 14-inch IPS touch screen. Nestled in relatively wide screen bezels, it looks a little old-fashioned in design terms. There is a clear trade-off here, with bigger bezels (11mm side, 19mm top, 21mm bottom) the price you pay for the flexibility of tablet-mode use cases.
The lower priced pre-configured laptops have FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) resolution, while the higher priced pair are WQHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels). The most expensive model sports LTE mobile broadband, NFC, Dolby Vision and 500 nits screen brightness (the other variants top out at 300 nits).
The big advantage of Dolby Vision is brighter colours and darker blacks, which are especially effective in video footage. My review sample did not have Dolby Vision, so I can't comment on Lenovo's implementation.
Those wanting to use this laptop for video conferencing or presentations will be interested in audio quality. The speaker is on the base, and can get a bit muffled by clothing. Volume goes pretty loud, and even at the top of the scale there's no serious distortion. But, as is often the case with laptops, it's light on bass and therefore sounds somewhat trebly.
Lenovo includes its ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus, neatly housed in a slot at the front right of the wrist rest. It's necessarily thin in order to fit into the chassis, but that's far preferable to having to carry it separately and risk losing it; also, the 130-minute battery is charged while the stylus is docked. With 2,048 pressure levels and right and left buttons, note taking and drawing are perfectly feasible in tablet mode. And if the worst happens, replacements aren't exorbitant at £37.20 (inc. VAT).
There is a ThinkShutter privacy cover on webcam, as seen on the ThinkPad T480s, although it's a different design. Here, the slider is built into the rim of the lid -- a more discreet solution that doesn't spoil the flat lines of the screen, which is important when you're working in tablet mode.
There's a fingerprint sensor on the wrist rest, and covered slots for SIM and MicroSD cards on the back of the keyboard section, where they're well protected in laptop mode but accessible in tent and tablet modes. NFC is only available in the most expensive of the preconfigured models.
All of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) models run 8th generation Intel Core processors with integrated UHD Graphics 620. For connectivity there's a pair of USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports (one of which is used for charging), two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack and Gigabit Ethernet (via a mini-port/RJ-45 dongle combo).
My review unit was not one of the four preconfigured specifications, but closely matches the £2,109.99 model, with 16GB of RAM rather than 8GB. Here are the four off-the-shelf configurations:
* Intel Core i7-8650U, Windows 10 Pro, 14.0-inch 2,560 x 1,440 touch screen 500 nits Dolby Vision, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, fingerprint reader, black chassis, NFC, LTE mobile broadband £2,883.99 (inc. VAT; £2,403.32 ex. VAT)
Lenovo says the 54Wh in the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) will last for up to 15 hours, but that's somewhat ambitious. My test configuration -- a tweak of the second most expensive preconfigured setup with 16GB of RAM -- tended to drain about a third of its life in three hours of mainstream productivity use (document creation, browsing and streaming) with the screen set to the default 60 percent brightness.
You'll probably want to carry the power adapter, even though it's neither small nor light. The X1 Yoga supports RapidCharge, so you should be able to give battery life a boost during a quick coffee break, for example.
Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) remains an excellent convertible laptop -- definitely up there in the top tier. It's slightly larger and heavier than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen), with thicker screen bezels, but brings 360-degree screen rotation to the ThinkPad X1 range.
The stylus is cleverly housed in a bay that also charges its battery, the screen and keyboard are both excellent, and the build is solid. Battery life could be better, though, and the need to use an Ethernet dongle may irritate some users. The top-of-the-range specification, including mobile broadband, a high-resolution screen with Dolby Vision and NFC, is also expensive.