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Lenovo IdeaPad S940 Review

Back at CES 2019, Lenovo announced the new IdeaPad S940 laptop with slim display bezels, powerful specs, and a thin profile. I got a preview of the laptop during a meeting with the company, and I got super excited to review it. After months of waiting, I was able to get a unit and begin evaluating it. In short, it was worth the wait.

Starting at $1,4999, the IdeaPad S940 is a traditional-style laptop in which it opts for a laptop-style hinge instead of a 360-degree hinge and comes with a really attractive overall package. Let me spoil this whole thing for you: I’m a big fan of this laptop. There are a few things I’m not too big on, but overall, it’s a super sweet machine that has earned itself a place on my desk.

The IdeaPad S940, like I said, is super thin. It measures in at 12.2mm at its thinnest point which, while isn’t breaking any records, is definitely thin enough that you don’t notice it in your backpack while you lug it around all day. I would know since I walked for about an hour total in New York navigating to and from the OnePlus 7 Pro event.

Because it’s so light and thin, the S940 is perfect for holding on your lap. I’ve used a few laptops in my time that are just too big and heavy, but this IdeaPad is just the right size.

Touching on the design a bit, the Iron Gray finish of the S940 is a bit boring. I mean, it’s clean and all, but Lenovo could’ve spiced it up by offering a different color or accent trim. It’s simple and everything, but it isn’t exactly eye-catching. If you want eye-catching, you have to look inside the laptop.

Opening the laptop, you’ll be greeted by a 14-inch screen. My review unit came with a 4K 3840×2160 HDR display which, I have to say, is absolutely gorgeous.

Like, this is one of the best screens I’ve ever seen on a laptop. Colors are vibrant, it has 500 nits of brightness, and blacks are inky black despite the machine using an LCD. It has curved glass on the left and right sides for an immersive feel, and the slim bezels allow the S940 to take up a smaller overall footprint. If you get a chance to check this screen out before you buy it, go do it. It’ll be worth your time.

Normally, when a phone comes with slim bezels, it uses a notch that cuts into the screen to house the front-facing camera and other sensors. It’s a similar story with the IdeaPad S940, but instead, it opts for a sort of reverse notch where a cutout sits above the screen.

As you can see, Lenovo raises the bezel of the S940 a bit to fit the webcam and necessary Windows Hello sensors. It also works as a grip so you can open the laptop with one hand. I’m a huge fan of this design. Not only is it functional, but it also looks pretty good and makes the laptop unique. There are a couple of other manufacturers doing similar designs, so at some point, this reverse-notch look could become the new norm. But for the time being, it’s a rarity, and I’m in favor of it expanding to more devices over time.

Those sensors I mentioned aren’t just used for Windows Hello. For that, they work really well, but Lenovo also threw in a new feature that aims to make using multiple monitors easier.

Called Glance, the IdeaPad S940 uses the IR sensors to track where your eyes go. If it detects you’re looking at a separate screen to your left or right, it’ll move the content from your main screen to the secondary display. It doesn’t work with a monitor above your main display which is why I didn’t use it very much, but it’s there if you find moving content manually with a mouse is too hard.

In addition, Glance can notify you if someone is looking over your shoulder at your screen and can put your laptop to sleep if you step away from it. These are kind of gimmicky features, but they’re there if you want them.

Since this is a flagship laptop, it should come with some of the best specs you can get in a machine of its caliber. Luckily, Lenovo comes through with the IdeaPad S940. Under the hood, my review unit came with an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. You can also configure the computer with 8GB of RAM and either 256GB of 1TB of SSD storage. There’s also an option for a Core i5, but I think it’s worth at least upgrading to the i7.

Performance, as you’d expect, is great. Light tasks fly on this laptop, and heavier workloads are also easily managed thanks to the 16GB of RAM. You only get Intel UHD 620 graphics so you can’t necessarily do any heavy gaming or 8K video editing, but considering the size and form factor of the S940, you probably won’t buy it to do this anyway.

It’s worth noting, though, the S940 does run pretty warm. During my testing, I noticed it got a bit warmer than I was expecting. I don’t have a thermometer to measure exactly how hot it got, but I will say, it got warm enough that I questioned what else could be running besides a couple of Chrome windows. Notably, I didn’t have anything else running, therefore confirming that this laptop simply runs a bit warmer than most typical machines.

I was curious, though. For a while, I actually thought the IdeaPad S940 was fanless. I didn’t hear anything when the laptop got warm, so I thought maybe Lenovo was doing some sort of internal cooling that wasn’t working. so I asked Lenovo who told me they did include fans with the S940. To kick them up a notch, you can go into the pre-installed Lenovo Vantage app and click on “Intelligent Cooling” to benefit both the cooling property and battery life of the laptop. I switched it on, but it didn’t make very much of a difference.

That’s another thing I’m kind of on the fence about. The battery life of the S940 isn’t all that great. I’m getting around four to five hours of usage out of this machine which, while isn’t terrible, is kind of disappointing, especially since I just came from Lenovo’s Yoga C930 which has great battery life. It’s what happens when you only have a 52W cell to power a 4K display, a powerful chipset, and my demanding workload.

In case you’re wondering, the S940 charges over USB-C with a 65W charger that comes in the box. It’s nothing impressive, so you can expect typical mid-to-slow charging speeds. Oh, how I wish laptops came with fast charging.

One day. One faithful day.

Speaking of USB-C, that’s the idea behind the IO configuration on the IdeaPad S940. On the left, there’s one USB-C port for charging, while the right houses two Thunderbolt 3 ports. There’s also a headphone jack on the left. If you still use USB-A ports on the regular, you’ll have to buy some adapters for this laptop. At least for me, it isn’t that big a deal since a lot of my devices use USB-C, so I’ve been able to migrate over to the S940 pretty easily. Plus, I have a backup USB-C male to USB-A female dongle which I use from time to time.

As far as audio quality goes, the speakers on the IdeaPad S940 are actually kind of impressive. Lenovo includes Dolby Audio with the machine which gives the upward-firing speakers that flank the keyboard a boost. They’re clear, offer decent bass, and get pretty loud. To boost the volume, there are two speaker grilles on the left and right sides of the bottom of the laptop. It certainly won’t blow you away, but the audio performance on the S940 is good and should suffice anyone’s laptop speaker needs.

And like I said, there’s a headphone jack, so you can always use your own set of speakers or high-end cans.

Across Lenovo’s product range, you’ll find various different keyboards all with different levels of travel. The IdeaPad S940 has one of the more shallow keyboards the company has to offer, but it still makes for a nice typing experience. You still get satisfying keyboard clicks plus a decent amount of travel, so much so that it’s nowhere near as flat as something like a MacBook keyboard.

Unlike a MacBook, however, the S940 has somewhat of a small trackpad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good trackpad since it’s covered in smooth glass and packs Precision drivers. But due to its size, it can become unpleasant to use. I prefer a mouse in this case because of how crammed I feel using it, but if you’re holding the laptop on your lap, the trackpad should be okay.

Overall, the $1,799 IdeaPad S940 is a well-balanced laptop that’s ultra-portable, has a beautiful screen, and packs great performance. The battery life, trackpad, and heat management could be better, but to me, the pros outweigh the cons ten-fold. It’s worth it to buy this laptop for the screen itself. It’s just that good-looking.

If you want to buy the S940, you should just do it. Even though it’s kind of pricey, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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