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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017) OLED First Impressions

Posted August 27, 2017 | Hardware | Lenovo | ThinkPad | ThinkPad X1 Yoga | Windows | Windows 10

A month ago, I described the ThinkPad X1 Carbon as being one feature short of perfect. Well, guess what? The ThinkPad X1 Yoga fixes that problem. And it adds a few other important enhancements that really put it over the top.

Could it be? Could this device be the truly perfect portable PC?

I’m going to find out. But I can tell you upfront that the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, especially the version with the OLED display that I am testing, looks promising.

It starts, as it must, with Lenovo’s business-class design, which I’ve always found both attractive and durable. Looked at side-by-side with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you’ll note that they look almost identical, which makes sense given the familial relationship; the X1 Yoga is just a hair bigger in both directions than the X1 Carbon. But then the X-series has retained the same basic look and feel since its inception.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga (top) and X1 Carbon (bottom)

For ThinkPad purists like myself, this is as it should be. But I understand that some will find the design to be less daring than that of, say, the recent HP Spectre designs. This is fair, but it’s almost worth noting that Lenovo got it right years ago. As with BMW, you don’t mess with success.

The X1 Yoga may look like the X1 Carbon, but there are some important differences too.

Most obviously, it is a 2-in-1 design as its name suggests. That is, it utilizes a Yoga dual-hinge mechanism that lets the device transition between a normal laptop form factor, a thick-ish tablet, a tent-like mode, and a presentation mode. The emphasis here is on versatility, and while the X1 Carbon has that nice lay-flat functionality, I’ve always preferred the X1 Yoga. Because you never know.

Like its predecessor, the 2017 X1 Yoga also features a special variant of the vaunted ThinkPad keyboard that descends into the base when the device is converted into a non-laptop form factor. It does this in order to protect the keys should they end up on the bottom of the machine, as could happen in the tablet or presentation form factors.

This design worked well in the previous version of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, but for 2017, Lenovo has updated it using a new “rise and fall” mechanism that pulls the keys down into the body in a wave-like effect when the display is rotated. (The previous version used a “lift and lock” mechanism, Lenovo says.)

As with its X1 Carbon sibling, the X1 Yoga has been nicely modernized with two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, both with rapid charging capabilities and anti-fry protection. Either can be used to power the device as Lenovo has here, too, replaced its old proprietary docking solution with this industry standard. Unfortunately, both ports are on the same (left) side. I like to see this option on either side.

The X1 Yoga also features three full-sized USB 3.0 ports, a mini-Ethernet port with an included dongle, and an integrated ThinKPad Pen Pro. There’s also the expected dual-pointing solution, with the classic ThinkPad TrackPoint “nubbin” and a Precision Touchpad, plus an updated fingerprint reader. Inside, you will find the expected 7th generation Intel Core i-series processors and a variety of RAM and storage options.

And as with the X1 Carbon and other ThinkPads, the X1 Yoga is available exclusively as a Microsoft Signature PC. This means there is no third-party AV, no redundant applications or utilities, and no crapware. Amen.

But the most unique differentiator in my review unit is its OLED display. Lenovo had previously shipped the 2017 ThinkPad X1 Yoga with a more pedestrian display like that found in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon I recently reviewed, albeit with touch and pen capabilities. But it’s now available with a glossy 14-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) OLED display.

A photo just can’t do it justice.

And … Oh my.

OLED is one of those technologies that you can’t unsee once you’ve experienced it. OLED makes whatever you’re using now look like crap, thanks to its inky blacks and vibrant colors. OLED makes you start thinking crazy thoughts, like how logical it would be to put this thing on your home equity line of credit, and maybe your wife won’t notice and, oh my God, what have I done?

Yes, it’s that good.

Coming in at just under 3 pounds, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is about half a pound heavier than the svelte X1 Carbon, but as it’s a bit bigger, it still feels quite balanced. Battery life is an unknown, but then that’s one of the things I test.

So this will almost certainly be one of the more enjoyable reviews I’ve ever worked on. More soon.


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