Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: my new favorite laptop
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th-Gen)$1,299
I genuinely love the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. It isn’t perfect and it has issues I simply can’t ignore, but beyond all that, this is my favorite laptop.
This is a bold way to open this review, but it’s true. I’ve loved using the X1 Yoga from the moment Lenovo gave it to me. It’s a laptop that’s good at business, general productivity, simple tasks like web browsing, and entertainment. It checks so many boxes that I can’t help but rave about it every chance I get.
But like I said, it has some issues. There are certain aspects of the fourth-gen X1 Yoga that really annoy me. But at the end of the day, Lenovo built a great laptop, albeit not a perfect one.
Design and display
There’s no doubt about it: the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a good-looking machine. I can understand if you’re not a fan of its beefy, menacing aesthetic, but I certainly am. It feels super sturdy when you handle it, it’s been put through various drop tests for durability, and it hints at the powerful internals under the hood.
Lenovo built the X1 Yoga out of aluminum, a departure from other ThinkPads that typically use carbon fiber. I think the aluminum makes the laptop feel more premium (the cool-to-the-touch aesthetic is there every time you wake up in the morning, which I thoroughly enjoy), although it does make it slightly less durable. Still, Lenovo put the machine through various drop tests, so you should be okay.
As far as portability goes, it’s pretty easy to toss the X1 Yoga in your backpack and get going. It’s not a pain to haul around, either, since it weighs about three pounds. It isn’t the thinnest laptop around and, no, it’s not as light as a laptop can be, but it’s still plenty portable for on-the-go productivity.
Around the laptop, you’ll find plenty of IO like a couple of USB-C ports (one being a Thunderbolt 3 port) two USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI port, a networking port, and a headphone jack. Given its targeted demographic of productivity-hungry people, I wish it had an SD card reader, but I guess that’s why we have adapters.
There’s also a slot on the right side of the X1 Yoga where a stylus is stored. Granted, this isn’t the most advanced stylus you can get with a laptop, but it is Wacom-based and works really well for what it is. I’ve only ever used mine to sign documents and do some light photo editing, but if you wanted to sketch or draw something, you should be fine.
When Lenovo offered me the X1 Yoga, I asked if they had a 4K model I could test. They said yes, so I’ve been using a version of the laptop with a 14-inch 3840×2160 IPS touchscreen. It also includes Dolby Vision HDR 400 and up to 470 nites of brightness.
It looks gorgeous. Colors are super accurate, contrats are beautifully executed, and brightness is sufficient enough for both indoor and outdoors-during-the-summer usage. Mind you, this is a glossy screen, so I wouldn’t sit with my back to the sun, if I were you. But as a whole, the display is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen in a laptop, and it’s way better than any Full HD screen Lenovo has shipped.
Worth noting is the size of the bezels. In this case, it’s not a terrible situation, but it could be better. I especially get annoyed when I look at the chin – it’s massive, and I feel like it could be fixed if Lenovo just adopted a 3:2 aspect ratio already. They’ve been shipping 16:9 laptops for years, and not one high-end model has come with an aspect ratio similar to what Microsoft includes on its products.
Lenovo, at some point, please adopt a 3:2 aspect ratio, at least on your higher-end stuff like the ThinkPad X1 line. Millions of customers will thank you.
Rounding things off, the hinge that the screen is attached to allows for 360-degree rotation. Whether you’re into 2-in-1 designs like this is totally up to you, but I kind of am. I like being able to fold it back to edit a photo with the stylus, and I really enjoy having tent mode at my disposal. Still, some might be fine with a traditional laptop form factor, and this machine can give you that. It just gives you a few other form factors as a bonus.
Hiding in the top bezel of the X1 Yoga are a cluster of sensors that enable face unlock through Windows Hello. It works just as well as other face unlock systems do on Windows 10 machines, and it should work well enough for you.
The only time face unlock will never work is when you use ThinkShutter. Lenovo includes a physical sliding mechanism with the X1 Yoga to hide the front-facing camera and prevent people from hacking your computer and spying on you from it. It eliminates the need for a piece of security tape, but it disables facial recognition completely since you still need the webcam to use it.
If you’re paranoid about people peaking in on your through your laptop, you can use ThinkShutter to guard you and the fingerprint scanner to log in. Granted, I haven’t found the fingerprint scanner to be as reliable as the face recognition since Lenovo still isn’t great at making them, but it’s there for the times you need it while blocking your webcam from unwanted invaders.
Specs and configurations
The X1 Yoga ships in a variety of configurations that start at $1,299. You can get it with a 14-inch Full HD screen, one with a Quad HD panel, or one with a 4K panel like mine. As far as chipsets, some come with 8th-gen Intel Core i5 processors, while others ship with the latest 10th-gen CPUs. Storage ranges from a 256GB SSD to a 1TB SSD, and RAM goes up to 16GB. You don’t get any dedicated graphics, only integrated Intel UHD 620 at the higher end.
My model came with the following configuration.
- 14-inch UHD (3840×2160) IPS display with Dolby Vision HDR
- 8th-gen Intel Core i7 with vPro (1.9GHz, up to 4.8GHz with Turbo Boost)
- 16GB LPDDR3 RAM
- 1TB SSD PCIe
- Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620
- Price: $1,699
For the price, my ThinkPad X1 Yoga runs like a dream. Everything is fast, smooth, and responsive on this machine. I’ve had literally no problems with performance. This would be the same case for anyone trying to edit video, photos, or even game. I genuinely think it’ll hold up to at least some gaming titles. Maybe not everything, but at least a handful of selections from the Microsoft Store.
I don’t game, so I couldn’t tell you.
It’s worth pointing out, though, the X1 Yoga runs hot. Having just a few Chrome tabs open at once is enough for the fans to kick in. While I don’t have a 1080p model to test, I think it has to do with the 4K screen since it’s trying to push more pixels than usual. I could be wrong (it might jut be a bad thermal design), but I typically don’t have heat problems with Lenovo laptops, and the only thing that’s really changed compared to other models I’ve tested is the bump in screen resolution.
At the end of the day, however, I don’t think anyone will complain about the X1 Yoga’s speed.
Keyboard and trackpad
You know what else you won’t be complaining about? The keyboard and trackpad.
Laptops nowadays are always trying to achieve a perfect status when it comes to their keyboards. You have companies like Apple who, for years, tried to tell everyone having a thinner keyboard was better when, in practice, it wasn’t. Then, you have companies like Microsoft who try to strike a balance between comfort and thinness in order to deliver a more portable laptop that’s still nice to type on.
Lenovo is neither of these things, but they are kind of a mix. The X1 Yoga is a super portable laptop, but the keyboard is thick, spacious, and possibly my favorite laptop keyboard ever.
Seriously, this keyboard makes you wanna respond to treacherous emails, type out a dozen reports, and get work done. It’s just that comfortable. There’s plenty of travel, the keys feel great on your fingers, and durability isn’t a problem. Plus, the whole thing is backlit with very little light bleed.
It’s worth mentioning that with this X1 Yoga, Lenovo didn’t include its retractable mechanism that would make the keyboard sink into the body of the laptop when you flipped it 360 degrees. Lenovo says it did this for the sake of thinness, but I’m sure I buy it. Just know that when you use this thing in tablet mode, you’ll be tapping the keys.
Admittedly, I don’t feel as excited about the trackpad as I do the keyboard, but it’s still pretty great. It has a smooth glass surface that’s very pleasant to touch, and the dedicated buttons above it make clicking more accessible since you can reach down with your thumb to select something. But the trackpad is a bit cramped, and I can see this becoming an issue for some people. I like it, but if you’re used to something more spacious, you might find using a Bluetooth mouse easier.
Audio on the X1 Yoga is great. The outward-facing speaker grille that sits below the display sounds full and crisp, even at max volume. Plus, there’s a headphone jack and Bluetooth 5.0, so connecting headphones isn’t a problem.
You see what I mean when I say I love the X1 Yoga? I only have a few gripes with it – everything else is great. But my biggest gripe is battery life, and this might prove to be a deal breaker for some people.
I’ll be 100 percent honest with you: I can’t get through a full day with the X1 Yoga. Its 51Wh cell isn’t enough to power me through a full 12- to 13-hour day, so you’ll have to bring your charger with you everywhere you go. I can get about five to six hours of usage out of it, but that’s all.
I do know what the culprit is, though: the screen. Like the heat issue, the battery life is greatly affected by the extra pixels the laptop is pushing. This is obvious. Any Full HD laptop from Lenovo can last you an entire day, but adding more pixels to the screen will quickly diminish that statistic. That’s the case with the UHD X1 Yoga. While the screen is pretty to look at, you have to keep in mind that you’ll be sacrificing battery life.
My buddy Rich at Neowin reviewed both the Full HD and 4K X1 Yoga, and he said battery life is much better on the former, as it should be. So if you’re worried about battery life, don’t buy the 4K model. You won’t be getting through a full day and you’ll have to haul around its power adapter.
Personally, I really don’t care. The 4K screen is so nice to look at that, as odd as it sounds, I’m willing to sacrifice the battery life. Whenever I do work, I’m usually near a wall outlet anyway, so it’s no problem for me to just plug it in when I’m low in the afternoon, especially since it means I can keep staring at its gorgeous display. But not everyone is like me, and if you like to travel light with no chargers or annoying cables, you can forget about buying this laptop if you wanna get through a full day.
Despite battery life being terrible, I still love the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. It checks so many boxes for me that it’s gonna be hard for me to give up its spot in my backpack when I move into something else. It’s powerful, it has a great screen, the keyboard is superb, and the construction is fantastic.
If you buy the Full HD model, I really don’t think you’ll find a more all-around great laptop. At that point, you’ll get much better battery life, and there won’t be much to complain about. Plus, you’ll save like $400, which is always a plus.
In the end, if you need a laptop that can handle heavy work loads, is great for entertainment, and is optimal for common household laptop operations, the X1 Yoga is perfect. I might just be fan-boying, but I genuinely love this machine, and I think you will, too.
Update 12-12-2019: Updated to reflect the new pricing of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga on Lenovo’s website.
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