Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) review: A top-quality convertible laptop for business

tp-x1-yoga-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent

Pros

  • Well built
  • Screen locks out in tent and tablet modes
  • ThinkShutter webcam security
  • Stylus cleverly housed within the chassis
  • LTE mobile broadband option

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • Dongle required for Ethernet connection
  • Expensive

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.

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The 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) runs on 8th-generation Intel Core i5/i7 processors with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and SSD storage up to 1TB. The weight starts at 1.4kg -- slightly heavier than the X1 Carbon, which lacks a 360-degree rotating screen.

Image: Lenovo

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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.

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All X1 Yoga models come with a touch screen and ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus, which can be housed (and recharged) within the chassis. As well as traditional black, the X1 Yoga is available in silver.

Images: Lenovo

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.

tp-x1-yoga-keyboard.jpg

Touch typing is a pleasure on the X1 Yoga's responsive and thoughtfully laid-out keyboard.

Image: Lenovo

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.

See: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

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).

tp-x1-yoga-shutter.jpg

The slider for the webcam's ThinkShutter is built into the top of the lid so as not to interfere with tablet-mode operation.

Image: Lenovo

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 i5-8250U, Windows 10 Home, 14.0-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch screen 300 nits, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, fingerprint reader, black chassis
£1,649.99 (inc. VAT; £1,374.99 ex. VAT)

* Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Home, 14.0-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch screen 300 nits, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, fingerprint reader, silver chassis
£1,719.99 (inc. VAT; £1,433.32 ex. VAT)

* Intel Core i7-8550U, Windows 10 Pro, 14.0-inch 2,560 x 1,440 touch screen 300 nits, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, fingerprint reader, black chassis
£2,109.99 (inc. VAT; 1,758.32 ex. VAT)

* 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.

Conclusions

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Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

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.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip
Operating System Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Edition
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i5 (8th Gen) 8250U / 1.6 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 3.4 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
Cache 6 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Features integrated memory controller
Cache Memory
Installed Size 6 MB
RAM
Memory Speed 2133 MHz
Configuration Features provided memory is soldered
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 8 GB
Rated Memory Speed 2133 MHz
Storage
Interface PCIe
Memory
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Speed 2133 MHz - 2133 MHz
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Widescreen Display Yes
Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
Monitor Features 72% color gamut, anti-reflective, anti-smudge
Type LED
Touchscreen yes (10-point multi-touch)
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 35.5 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation Full HD
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel UHD Graphics 620
Sound Stereo speakers, dual array microphone
Audio Codec Realtek ALC3286
Hard Drive
Type SSD
SSD Form Factor M.2
Manufacturer Samsung
Capacity 512 GB
Hard Drive Features NVM Express (NVMe), TCG Opal Encryption 2
Input
Type TrackPoint, UltraNav, digital pen, digitizer, keyboard
Features multi-touch touchpad, spill-resistant
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Wireless Controller Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 - M.2 Card
Features Gigabit Ethernet via optional Ethernet (RJ-45) adapter
Processor
CPU Type Core i5
Processor Number i5-8250U
Generation 8
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.6 GHz
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Battery
Capacity 54 Wh
Cells 4-cell
Technology lithium ion
Run Time (Up To) 15.4 sec
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory microSDXC UHS-II
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 65 Watt, 20 V, 3.25 A
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces USB 3.1 Gen 1
USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Always On)
2 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2/Thunderbolt 3
HDMI
Lenovo Ethernet extension connector
Headphone/microphone combo jack
Memory Card Reader Yes (microSDXC UHS-II)
Header
Brand Lenovo
Product Line Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga
Model 20LD
Localization English
Packaged Quantity 1
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.1, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Interface (Bus) Type M.2 Card
Wireless NIC Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
Monitor
Diagonal Size 14 in
Image Brightness 270
Miscellaneous
Color black
Case Material carbon fiber reinforced plastic, glass-fiber reinforced plastic, magnesium alloy, polyphenylene sul?de
Integrated Options Ambient light sensor, three-axis gyro sensor, three-axis accelerometer, three-axis magnetometer
Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip, fingerprint reader
Features MIL-STD-810G tested, RapidCharge, administrator password, hard drive password, power-on password
Compliant Standards RoHS
Localization English
Included Accessories ThinkPad Pen Pro, USB-C power adapter
Theft/Intrusion Protection security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Security Slot Type Kensington security slot
System
Notebook Type 2-in-1
Mechanical Design 360° flip design
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 512 GB
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) Security Chip
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Dimensions & Weight
Width 13.1 in
Depth 9 in
Height 0.7 in
Audio Output
Compliant Standards Dolby Audio Premium, High Definition Audio
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Physical Characteristics
Weight 3.09 lbs
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Edition
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel UHD Graphics 620
Graphics Processor Series Intel UHD Graphics
Input Device
Backlight Yes
Interfaces
USB-C Ports Qty 2
Comment Always On

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