Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga 2019 review

SEMrush

2-IN-1 HYBRID laptops-come-tablets seem to be improving each year, with slimmer designs and enhanced performance making them compelling alternatives to normal laptops, where once they felt a little faddish.

Case in point is the fourth-generation ThinkPad X1 Yoga, which offers a design and spec refresh of Lenovo’s premium 2-in-1.

Seemingly designed as a machine for the professional with a bit of creative flair, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga can come with a hefty price tag that sails past the two grand mark. Is it worth it? Read on to get out skinny on the premium machine.

Design
‘High-end utilitarian’ is probably the best way to describe the 2019 version of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. It blends the rather unassuming aesthetics of ThinkPad X1 line with a premium aluminium and magnesium frame, looking very much like the business machine ThinkPads tend to be.

A 360-degree hinge that allows the ThinkPad X1 Yoga to earn the last part of its name, slickly transforming the laptop into a 14in chunky tablet, and enabling it to be propped up in tent or picture frame modes.

But unlike the Spectre x360, for example, there are no fussy accents on the hinges or elsewhere on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s body.

In many ways it’s a bit dull; the ThinkPad logo’s red dot on the lid does light up when the machine is on, but otherwise the whole thing is an unflashy affair. However, the slate grey colour scheme and premium feel of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga grew on us pretty quickly.

Choosing practicality over aesthetics means the ThinkPad X1 Yoga has a strong suite of ports for a machine that’s smaller and lighter than its predecessor; it measures 323x218x15.5mm and weighs 1.36kg.

A pair of USB Type-A 3.1 ports join a brace of USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, while there’s a mini Ethernet network extension and even an HDMI 1.4 port and 3.5mm headphone jack.

A Kensington lock, integrated stylus and optional nanoSIM slot complete the port selection.

Our only gripe is that we’d have liked to have seen a full-sized SD card reader, but those can be a bit of a rarity in such thin and light 2-in-1s; the sizable air intake on the machine’s right-hand side probably took up space for such a slot.

Above the keyboard, there’s an unassuming Dolby Atmos speaker system, which kicks out some decent sound, with bottom-firing woofers adding some bass into the mix. But don’t let the Atmos support trick you; the speaker setup is decent but far from class-leading, with some aural performances being a tad hollow, albeit passable for laptop-level sonics.

Speaking of laptops, we found ourselves mostly using the ThinkPad X1 Yoga in its laptop form. Sure, it was handy to flip it into tablet mode while stuck in a cramped plane seat, but the machine felt like a laptop first and a 2-in-1 second.

That’s no bad thing, as the ThinkPad X1 Yoga does being a laptop very well and it’s nice to have the option to prop it in a picture frame like fashion and watch a bit of Netflix after a hard day of tech journalism.

Overall, we very much liked the practical yet premium design of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga; there are flashier hybrids, but few feel this good to simply hammer through work on,

Keyboard and trackpad
The use of high-quality frosted glass and Windows Precision drivers means the ThinkPad Yoga X1’s trackpad is rather good.

At 10cm x 5.5cm it’s not particularly spacious but it’s responsive and accurate to use.

We’re not completely convinced there’s much need for the trio of buttons for left, right and middle mouse buttons above the trackpad. Diehard ThinkPad fans might like them, but we felt they look a bit dated and we didn’t end up using them.

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The same can be said for the nubbin-like TrackPoint mouse pointer, a sort of in-the-middle-of-the-keyboard alternative to the trackpad.

While we appreciate it has its place in the ThinkPad’s DNA, we never found ourselves using it and it seems a little pointless when the trackpad is decent.

We did appreciate the use of an unassuming fingerprint scanner for biometric unlocking to the right of the trackpad, for those who don’t fancy signing in with their face using the webcam’s IR scanner or typing in passwords. Ideally, we’d have liked the scanner to be integrated into the power button, but that’s the most minor of gripes.

ThinkPads, especially X1 variants, have always offered excellent keyboards, and the same can be said of the ThinkPad Yoga X1.

The slimmer design of the machine means key travel has been reduced from 1.7mm to 1.5mm, but the typing experience feels simply excellent.

The slight convex indent the keycaps seem to welcome the taps of touch-typing digits skipping across the keyboard. And the feedback is superbly tactile, leading to precise yet fast typing.

In fact, the ThinkPad Yoga X1 has one of the best keyboards we’ve used, beating the likes of the XPS 13 and on par with the Surface Laptops 2’s wonderful keyboard.

There is one caveat; the CTRL key sits where one might expect to find the function key and vice versa. That means when rapidly touch typing we found ourselves often hitting FN + C rather than CTRL + C for copying and pasting shortcuts.

This went from being a minor irritation to quite frustrating at times. If you are good at retraining your typing technique then it won’t be a big deal, otherwise it could end up being a pain in the neck.

Nevertheless, the keyboard is a proper standout feature for the ThinkPad Yoga X1.

Display
There are four panel options for the ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s 14in display; an FHD 400nits panel, the same panel but with privacy tech to mess things up for over-the-shoulder snoopers, a 2,4560×1,440 WQHD screen, and a 4K panel. Our review model came with the top-end 3,840×2,160 IPS display.

While it ramps up the price, the 4K screen is lovely. Everything is pin-sharp and there’s plenty of brightness providing you crank up the screen’s settings.

Colours are vivid and punchy but don’t err into oversaturation, with plenty of contrast to boot thanks to the hybrid’s support for high dynamic range.

Though this is not quite a panel for professional-grade photo editing, viewing everything else from content-rich web pages to movies and Netflix, is a very pleasant experience, especially when it comes to watching stuff with the machine propped up in its picture frame or tent orientation.

And given the reasonably trim bezels, the screen has plenty of space to shine, though it lacks any really slick design features like Dell’s bezel-eating InfinityEdge display.

It also has a very glossy finish that can be a bit of a pain when you’re sitting outdoors on a bright day or have a bright light above you.

The glossy finish might help make colours pop, but it reflects a heck of a lot, which is distracting and at times had us wishing Lenovo had opted for a matte finish on the panel.

Despite this caveat, the 4K display is still very good and the touchscreen side of things is responsive, meaning scribbling things on it with the basic but functional stylus is a doddle.

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Performance, storage and battery life
Like many other ultraportable-sized laptops and 2-in-1s in 2019, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga makes use of Intel’s eighth-generation processors, with options for the Core i5-8265U, Core i7-8565U, and Core i7-8665U; our review unit came with the Core i7-8565U.

We’ve already seen this chip pop up in the likes of the Dell XPS 13, and inevitably the ThinkPad X1 Yoga’s CPU kicks out similar performance. When paired with 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM – there’s 8GB on offer as well – the ThinkPad X1 Yoga racks up a score of 5,154 in the Geekbench 4 single-core benchmark, and 15,038 for the multi-core score.

That’s around the same as the aforementioned XPS 13, and in real-world use the ThinkPad Yoga X1 performance pretty much the same.

In day-to-day tasks, there’s no sign of any slowdown, and plenty of RAM means you can have a whole host of apps and Chrome tabs open without the ThinkPad Yoga X1 struggling. Fan noise can be noticeable when the machine is being pushed but it’s hardly a distracting din.

And like other machines using eighth-gen Intel CPUs, the integrated UHD Graphics 620 can run a few 3D games at reduced settings, which is neat if one fancies a break from cranking out emails.

Storage in our review unit came in at 500GB of PCIe NVMe SSD space, which we felt was plenty for an ultraportable; there are options to drop down to 265GB or jump up to 1TB or 2TB depending on how much you think you’ll be storing locally.

Battery life is ok. With brightness cranked up on the 4K display, the ThinkPad Yoga X1 delivered some six to seven hours of general everyday use before it cried out for electrical juice. Charging is delivered through one of the left-hand USB-C ports, which is handy as the charger can be used to juice up modern smartphones as well; it also supports rapid charging.

In short
A lack of fuss might not make the ThinkPad X1 Yoga the most eye-catching bit of tech around, but it turns out function over form isn’t a bad way to go.

The stellar keyboard, albeit with the CTRL-key caveat, strong display, and proper ultrabook performance makes the ThinkPad X1 Yoga well worth considering if you want a machine for business rather than pleasure.

It’s worth noting that Lenovo is refreshing the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the rest of the X1 line with Intel’s tenth-gen Comet Lake processors, which offer more power and efficiency over the older CPUs, so they might be the machines to go for one they become available in the UK. But if you can find a current-gen machine at a discounted price, then you could be in for a bargain.

The very best ThinkPad X1 Yoga costs some £2,200, which is a heck of a lot of money for a 2-in1; Dell’s refreshed XPS 13 2-in-1 with an Intel Ice Lake processor is some £300 cheaper at the time of writing. But models with a slightly lower spec and FHD display come at a more reasonable, yet still not cheap, £1,450.

We feel you do get what you pay for with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, and thus it’s certainly a 2-in-1 machine we can wholeheartedly recommend. µ

The good
Fantastic keyboard, great display, premium finish.

The bad
Expensive top-spec, some design features are dull and arguably outdated.

The ugly
Baffling placement of the CTRL key.

Bartender’s score
8/10

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