Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 3: Design and Build Quailty
The 3rd generation ThinkPad X1 Yoga is built first and foremost around user flexibility. It can switch from a laptop to a tablet in seconds, and back again just as fast. This is possibly a valuable feature for professionals on the go, who aren't just working in the office, but lots of other locations as well and with a variety of use cases. When comparing the Gen 3 system to last years model, very little has changed externally. Both use the same materials and weigh roughly the same. This generation is more about offering consumers more cores and additional features, rather than changing the clam shell. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, seeing as the enclosure does a good job of resisting finger prints, feels fairly durable and looks premium in an understated way.
As is the case with most laptops, you can configure the Thinkpad X1 Yoga to fit your specific needs via the Lenovo website
. The model we were sent sports a quad-core Intel Core i5 8250U processor, 8GB LPDDR3 memory and a 512GB NVMe SSD. In addition, it also has updated Intel UHD 620 graphics like many machines employing 8th Gen Core series chips. Overall, there is very little difference from last gen IGP in this case. It's still powered by the same architecture and has the same features, but Intel has increased the clock speed to 1.150 MHz, giving it a 100MHz faster engine. This means it will offer slightly better graphics performance, while staying within a 15W power envelope.
While the review unit we were sent doesn't sport a sexy OLED display like the Gen 2 model we reviewed
, it still has an above average FHD (1920 x 1080) display. Also, Lenovo does offer a new 14-inch HDR, WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS, 500 nits, touch display option for the machine, similar to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen laptop
we reviewed here recently as well. Regardless, with the 1080p panel, though not nearly as bright at just 270 nits, images still popped on the screen, thanks to expanded contrast and reasonably accurate colors. Black levels were also fairly strong, making this a solid laptop option for streaming movies. However, you prefer a brighter, HDR compliant display over the FHD display, it is available for roughly a $170 up-charge. There's also a standard 270 nits, IPS non-HDR WQHD 2560x1400 display option as well for just under $100 more. Our recommendation, go with the HDR display if you can swing it. We were really impressed by it in the X1 Carbon we reviewed. In fact, if you want to see that display in action, head here to our YouTube video review of the new X1 Carbon
One feature we would have love to have seen changed in X1 Yoga, is the placement of its microSD card reader and SIM slot. Like last years model, both are located on the back edge of the machine, making them hard to access, especially in certain modes. Not only can they be hard to access at times, but if the cover is left open, it can make switching between the different Yoga modes a challenge as well.
The Lenovo X1 Yoga offers a lot in the way of connectivity for an ultrabook, however. On the left side, there are dual Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as a USB 3.0 port with always-on power share. The Thunderbolt port offers both power delivery and lightning-fast data transfers of up to 40Gbs through USB-C. There are two of these on the machine, so you can charge the X1 Yoga and still have a spare port for data use. In addition, the X1 Yoga also supports RapidCharge technology, and "anti-fry" protection. The Rapidcharge feature allows the battery to be charged to 80% capacity in just an hour, while the “anti-fry” protection prevents damage from third-party chargers that could be sending an incorrect voltage.
On the opposite end, you'll find the ThinkPad Pen Pro port, a power/sleep button, audio jack, native Ethernet port (w/ adapter), USB 3.0, HDMI-out, and a Kensington Lock. Overall, these features are the same as last years Gen 2 model, but it's more than enough connectivity for most IT professionals. While most of these ports are self explanatory, we know some of you might be scratching your head over the Kensington lock. Simply put, and if you're unfamiliar, it's an laptop's version of a bike lock. The lock allows a security cable to be attached to the machine and then secured to a desk or wall, thus preventing thieves from walking away with your expensive gear.
We've said it before and we are saying it again: Lenovo makes one of the laptop keyboards on the market, hands down. The keys are all nicely spaced out for maximum comfort and the contoured surface makes them feel cradeled to the touch, unlike chiclet style keys. The keyboard also features the Lenovo "Wave" feature, first introduced on their Gen 2 products. Lenovo notes that, "Wave uses a “rise and fall” mechanism that pulls the keys down into the chassis when being used in Tablet Mode". With the keys tucked away, you don't have to worry about damaging or accidentally actuating them, when placing the ultrabook on a desk or hard surface. This feature, along with the carbon-fiber hybrid exterior, makes the Lenovo X1 Yoga a fairly durable ultrabook that can easily take being thrown into a backpack in any mode and hauled around easily.
The Lenovo X1 Yoga Gen 3 also comes equipped with a spill-resistant keyboard. This is one feature we will have to take Lenovo's word on. We weren't about to pour a glass of water over an ultrabook and see if it survived to power on another day. According to Lenovo though, the X1 Yoga can take a spill or two without issue, based on their in-house durability testing.
At the base of the ultrabook are some ventilation ports, rubber padded skids and dual speakers. When it comes to sound, Lenovo has included Dolby Audio enhancements, but you'll never get big sound out of dual 1 watt speakers. Like last years model, the Gen 3 also has audio that is best described as thin. In comparison to other ultrabooks though, the X1 Yoga's sound is on par and just as loud as other machines in its 3 pound weight class. For the best audio results, headphones or Bluetooth wireless speakers are the way to go.
The system's pen slot for the ThinkPad Pen Pro is located on the base of the Ultrabook near the right speaker. When the pen is inside the slot, it takes only 15 seconds to charge to a level where it can be used for up to 100 hours. The ThinkPad Pen Pro is also extremely accurate thanks to its 2,048 pressure sensitivity and Lenovo's Active Capacitive technology. By employing both active and capacitive technologies, the ThinkPad Pen Pro doesn't require a digitizing layer to be built into the display panel. Instead it uses a electrostatic field that's actuated when the pen touches the surface.
The ThinkPad Pen Pro works well, but couldn't quite turn us into an artist.
Above the display sits a fixed focus 720p camera with a simple yet clever security feature. For years the most paranoid (or practical, depending on who you ask) among us have covered their notebook camera's to prevent big brother from tuning in. Most people would cover their camera with some tape or a sticky note to get some privacy. Lenovo has eliminated the need to pull the tape out of the drawer though, with their ThinkShutter security feature. Simply put, its just a cover that slides over the camera when you want a little extra privacy. Go ahead ThinkPad owners get your strange on, no ones watching.
While no one might be watching, we are going to discuss Lenovo's improved microphones in our User Experience section next. The new microphones can hear you from up to 15 feet away in an effort to improve voice commands for Alexa and Cortona (yes, they're now a dynamic duo tag team)
. So, while you might not be seen, you will be heard.
Now that we have a good understanding of what makes the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 3) tick, let's move on and see what it offers in terms of software and usability.