As far as laptop ranges go, there's very little introduction needed for the ThinkPad family. First produced by IBM more than twenty years ago, Lenovo acquired the entire range a decade later.
It managed not only to keep the successful line going but more importantly infused some interesting features while sticking to the ThinkPad ethos, which was critical in terms of retaining existing customers.
Which brings us nicely to the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Ultrabook (not to be confused with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon or the ThinkPad X1 Tablet), a fusion of the classic ThinkPad DNA with Lenovo's very own Yoga, a range that's only four-years-old but has been one of the most popular in the industry, and almost singlehandedly rekindled the 2-in-1 category.
Hailed by Lenovo as the world's lightest 14-inch 2-in-1 business laptop, it comes at a price point that puts it squarely in a league of premium, high-end devices.
Its cheapest model (Core i5-6200U processor, 14-inch FHD IPS display, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD) costs £1,290 (around $1,730, AU$2,260). That's far more expensive than its only direct competitor, the HP Spectre Pro x360 G2, but then again, the price premium only tells part of the story.
The rest of the traditional business/enterprise laptop vendors have a 2-in-1 laptop with a bigger-than-13-inch display. Dell's Latitude 12 7000 series is a 12-incher only while rugged models from Panasonic and the likes are altogether different beasts.
Lenovo engineers opted for a dual-hinge design with an anthracite matte finish all round. The hinges allow the screen to be rotated all the way, converting the X1 Yoga into a tablet within seconds. In that mode, the keys retract automatically and can't be pressed.
At 1.27kg, it is lighter than your average Ultrabook and while its footprint is slightly bigger than an A4 sheet, the thickness (17mm) is more than reasonable for a convertible laptop with a 14-inch diagonal. The bottom line is that there are thinner and lighter laptops around but most, if not all, don't offer the full array of features that comes with the X1 Yoga.
That includes – on top of the tablet functionality – far more connectors than seen on thinner rivals (the OneLink docking station connector, a Mini DisplayPort, three USB 3.0 ports and a full-size HDMI port). Located behind a flap are a microSD card slot and a SIM card reader if you plumped for the mobile broadband option. No USB Type-C connectors are present, however, which will come as a disappointment for many.
There's also a stylus located next to the power button; it's short, a tad slippery and thin, which makes long note-taking sessions uncomfortable. Fortunately, Lenovo gives you the option of a full-size pen.
The display is a beautiful IPS affair with a semi-reflective finish (which proved to be a fingerprint magnet) and a native resolution of 2560 x 1440 (QHD).
The top edge of the screen is slightly tapered which makes it easier to open the laptop with one hand. As expected, because of the touchscreen functionality, the screen has a massive bezel, varying between 11mm and 32mm.
The model we tested wasn't the one equipped with an OLED display but according to our previous hands-on of the X1 Yoga: "OLEDs typically provide better contrast ratios, viewing angles and black levels. Unfortunately, OLEDs also come with a few flaws, including the potential for burn-in and shorter lifecycles than LCD displays.
"We can't immediately tell if the X1 Yoga will have these issues, but it was obvious to me and to my colleagues that the OLED monitor featured more vibrant colours, more complex blacks and much less glare than its LCD brother."
As for the keyboard, it doesn't disappoint, offering the best features of ThinkPads and making full use of the much larger usable area. That translates into larger keys, with the Escape key, for example, being around three times bigger than the one on the Dell XPS 13.
ThinkPad keyboards are also known for their typing experience and this one is no exception. It offers a decent, comfortable key travel combined with a slightly curved shape that instinctively guides the fingers to the middle of the key.
The touchpad disappoints for two reasons (although we are nit-picking really). It is smaller than expected (even smaller than the one on the nimbler Dell XPS 13) and it doesn't have physical left/right buttons. For that though, you can always use the TrackPoint eraser head pointer, which is also available on the X1 Yoga.
Using the stylus – a Wacom AES pen – was pleasant for most part. We noticed no lag, no artefacts and didn't encounter any issues with drawing doodles or handwriting. The screen has a built-in digitizer which supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Specifications, performance and features
The review model provided to us ran with an Intel Core i7-6600U Skylake processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 520, 8GB LPDDR3 memory in dual-channel configuration, a 256GB NVMe SATA SSD from Samsung (MZVPV256). It also had an integrated mobile broadband LTE modem, a built-in fingerprint reader and software TPM (Trusted Platform Module) enabled.
Here is the full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga configuration sent to techradar for review:
CPU: Intel Core i7-6600U (2.6GHz with Turbo to 3.6GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3
Screen: 14-inch, 2560 x 1440 resolution IPS
Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, microSD slot, OneLink connector
Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC (2x2) 8260, Bluetooth 4.1, Integrated Mobile Broadband 4G LTE
Camera: 720p webcam
Size: 13.11 x 9.01 x 0.66-inches (W x D x H) (333 x 229 x 16.8mm)
The processor is a dual-core model and only a marginal improvement compared to the Core i5-6200U. It has the same graphics subsystem, a tad more cache and a slightly higher base frequency. All of which is nice, but doesn't fully justify the Core i7 moniker.
You can access the innards of the laptop by taking off the nine screws that keep the bottom plate in place. Sadly, none of the components are user-serviceable.
The X1 Yoga comes, by default, with a 4-cell, 52Whr non-upgradable battery with a 45W or 65W PSU. Select the latter (for free) if you want a fast charge (although it is bulkier).
Windows 10 Home is the operating system, a curious choice given the target audience of this device. Windows 10 Pro, as an option, costs £55.20 (around $73, AU$95) extra.
Lenovo bundled an Ethernet adaptor with this hybrid and the company earns extra points for delivering the ThinkPad X1 Yoga in a very nice box. Something the competition should try to emulate.
Another thing that sets the X1 Yoga apart from rivals is that it has passed the stringent MIL-STD-810G test. On top of that it comes with three years on-site warranty.
Given the components on the spec list, we were not disappointed by the performance of this ThinkPad. Here's how the X1 Yoga performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
GeekBench: Single-core: 3562; Multi-core: 7332
PCMark 8 Home: 2633
PCMark 8 Work: 2950
PCMark 8 Creative: 2584
PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours 29 minutes
3DMark: Sky Diver: 3537; Cloud Gate: 5874; Fire Strike: Did not run
The latter Fire Strike test did not run because of a lack of GPU memory. The numbers were roughly in line with what we'd expect from a mobile Core i7 CPU with an integrated GPU. Battery life was slightly disappointing at just 3 hours 29 minutes in PCMark 8 and that's a shame given that you won't be able to swap the current battery for a higher capacity one.
Note that the fan was almost always on during our tests with temperatures hitting 80 degrees centigrade and upwards, which meant that the underbelly of the beast got quite warm.
Pricing and competition
Four models are currently available from Lenovo UK. The most expensive one, at £2,440 (around $3,260, AU$4,270), is the only one featuring the famed OLED display as well as a massive 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD, 16GB of RAM and the Core i7-6600U processor.
There are only three real competitors with active stylus capability. The Microsoft Surface Book, the HP Spectre Pro 360 G2 and, surprise, surprise, Lenovo's very own ThinkPad Yoga 460. The latter is essentially a more affordable version of the X1 Yoga and a worthy rival to its bigger brother if you don't mind the increase in thickness and weight.
There's plenty to get excited about here, including a good quality display (with an OLED option too), and particularly given this 2-in-1's size, it offers an impressive array of ports. The X1 Yoga also comes with a stylus, is very nicely built and designed, and performed well in our benchmark testing.
This isn't a cheap hybrid, but there aren't many major issues here. Our biggest problem with the X1 Yoga is the battery life which is disappointing, and you can't switch the power pack out for a bigger capacity model. There are also a few slight niggles such as the size of the touchpad, and the fact that the default stylus isn't great.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga will appeal to those looking for a great all-rounder hybrid, regardless of the cost. It is supremely versatile, switching between tablet and laptop mode and everything in between.
Blending the best of the ThinkPad and the Yoga ranges produced an exceptional piece of engineering with very little competition in the business laptop arena (Dell, hear us out!).
The 14-inch display provides just the right amount of real estate for the higher-than-average QHD resolution.
What sets this Yoga apart from its nearest rival though is its ability to be used, out of the box, as a note-taking device, one that can challenge even the iPad Pro.
The battery life is the biggest disappointment and the legacy of the Apple MacBook Pro which has spoilt us with 10+ hours of battery life means that the X1 Yoga has a lot to live up to.
Lenovo claims that it will last up to 11 hours when using MobileMark 2014, but we only achieved a fraction of that during our benchmarking, and sadly those looking to purchase the OLED model can expect battery life to be even worse.