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Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga review: A classy 13-inch 360-degree convertible

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  • Editors' rating
    8.5 Excellent

Pros

  • Familiar design and solid build
  • 360-degree screen rotation with keyboard lock-out in tablet modes
  • Mobile broadband option
  • Rechargeable stylus, housed on laptop

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • Moderate screen brightness
  • No ThinkShutter on webcam
  • Speakers lack bass tones

Lenovo's ThinkPad range needs no introduction: tough build quality and a clear design ethic run right through the range, along with a reputation for solid performance.

The 13.3-inch ThinkPad X380 Yoga is a 360-degree rotating laptop/tablet hybrid with a rechargeable stylus that sits inside the chassis. The keyboard retracts when the device is in tablet mode, locked down for protection.

Lenovo has played to its strengths with the design of the X380 Yoga. The chassis is tough and durable, with the lid and base both incorporating carbon fibre to help with strength. I found it needed a lot of pressure to bow the lid, for example. This convertible laptop should travel well in a bag without the need for a protective sleeve.

The 13.3-inch X380 Yoga is relatively compact at 313.5mm wide by 222.2mm deep by 18.2mm thick. It's not especially light though, with a starting weight of 1.4kg.

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The 13.3-inch ThinkPad X380 comes in black or silver, has a 360-degree rotating screen and runs on 8th-generation Core i5 or Core i7 processors.

Images: Lenovo

Visually the X380's black livery is broken by the usual ThinkPad logo with its red LED dot over the 'i', and also by the silver hinges that facilitate the screen's 360-degree rotation. There is also a silver version available. A fair amount of pressure is required to rotate the screen, and it stayed firmly in place when I chose to work in 'tent' mode.

The camera sits in the traditional location above the screen. On all of the preconfigured models available in the UK at the time of writing, the camera was a standard 720p unit. For £27.60 extra, it can be upgraded to an IR-equipped 720p camera if you want to use Windows Hello login. If you're considering this option, note that the IR camera can't be combined with wireless broadband.

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Unfortunately, the ThinkShutter camera privacy feature that Lenovo has introduced on some of its newer models -- such as the ThinkPad Carbon X1 6th Gen, ThinkPad X1 Yoga 3rd Gen and ThinkPad T480s -- is not a feature here.

SEE: Windows 10 April 2018 Update: An insider's guide (free PDF)

The display on my review unit was a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) IPS touchscreen. The anti-reflective finish reduces the screen's mirror-like capabilities, making it easy to work with in a variety of lighting conditions. Brightness might be an issue, though: the default battery mode setting has the screen at 80 percent, which is higher than average -- you can turn this down, but I'd find it challenging to work with less than 50 percent brightness.

This is no minimal-bezel design. I measured the upper bezel, housing the camera, at 13mm, left and right bezels at a shade under 8mm and the bottom bezel at 21mm. These measurements don't take into account the screen casing, which adds a little more all round.

The bezels have no negative effect on usability in laptop mode. In tablet mode, only the bottom bezel is wide enough to prevent fingers straying onto the screen if the laptop is held in the hand.

Audio performance is fair but lacking in bass tones. If you want richer sound you'll need to use a headset or carry an external speaker.

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The X380 Yoga comes with a ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus that lives, and recharges, in a slot on the right side of the chassis.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

On the keyboard, the keys have Lenovo's characteristic 'belly' that makes them just that little bit deeper; they are also springy with a light action. There's a TrackPoint between the G, H and B keys, and a scroll button flanked by left and right buttons above the trackpad. Two further buttons are integrated into the trackpad itself. Everything works smoothly.

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When the keyboard is not needed -- in tablet, tent and presentation modes -- the keys retract and lock down.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The keyboard retracts and locks down when the screen is rotated for working in tent, tablet and presentation modes, so that it's protected from accidental pressure. The trackpad is also switched off in these modes.

Lenovo provides its ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus, which sits neatly in a housing on the right edge of the chassis and will quietly recharge its battery here. It's a slim, light stylus with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, making it a flexible device.

Lenovo lists four preconfigured models at its UK website. My review sample was the top-end model and the only one with a Core i7 processor. There are plenty of configuration options if you want to personalise the specifications.

The four preconfigured ThinkPad X380 Yoga models available at the time of writing are:

  • Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Home, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 anti-reflective touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 128GB SATA3 M.2 2280 SSD, black chassis
    £1,059.99 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Home, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 anti-reflective touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 128GB SATA3 M.2 2280 SSD, silver chassis
    £1,069.99 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 anti-reflective anti-smudge multitouch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD, black chassis
    £1,139.99 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i7-8550U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 anti-reflective anti-smudge multitouch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD, black chassis
    £1,359.99 (inc. VAT)

The range of ports and connectors should suffice for most business users. You get a pair of USB 3.0 ports, one on each side of the chassis, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, and a full size HDMI connector. The slight disappointment is a mini-Ethernet port rather than a full size RJ-45 connector, so you'll need a dongle or docking station to attach a regular network cable. There is also a 4-in-1 flash card reader and an audio jack.

A smart card reader and fingerprint reader are optional extras. There is no NFC provision, oddly. On models with mobile broadband support, the SIM slot sits on the right edge below the smart card reader.

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

Lenovo rates the X380 Yoga's 51Wh battery as good for up to 13.6 hours. I think that's rather generous, and it might even prove tricky for some users to get through a standard 8-hour working day from a full charge. In one typical session I opened up around 20 Chrome windows, streamed some audio and wrote into a web-based app for four hours. This depleted the battery from 100 percent to 39 percent.

The good news here is that the laptop takes advantage of RapidCharge to provide up to 80 percent charge in an hour, according to Lenovo. The power brick is an average sized unit.

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Image: Lenovo

Conclusions

Lenovo's ThinkPad X380 Yoga is the latest iteration of a classic design. Its 13.3-inch 360-degree rotating screen may come in handy for a range of different situations, and the fact that the keyboard locks out when the screen is rotated is most welcome. Provision of a stylus that recharges in a housing on the device is a bonus.

There are some niggles. The screen lacks brightness, the speakers are no better than average, battery life could be better and the whole thing is a shade heavy. Still, this convertible laptop may hit a sweet spot for many.

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Specifications

System
Notebook Type 2-in-1

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