When I reviewed Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga last fall, I found little to complain about, but clearly Lenovo thought there was room for improvement. Then in January, 2017, Lenovo began showing the X1 Yoga Gen 2 at CES and other events.
The new version of the X1 Yoga featured seventh generation as you’d expect, but more notable were two other improvements—new ports and an improved keyboard.
As in the case of many competing laptops, the X1 Yoga now comes with two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports that support very high transfer rates. But they also support charging and delivery of 4K video. In addition, the Yoga has three USB 3.0 ports, one of which is always on. Lenovo makes it a point to explain that their USB-C ports have what the company calls “anti-fry” technology that’s designed to prevent poorly designed USB-C devices from damaging the computer.
But as nice as the ports are, and there are plenty of them, the main story is the physical user interface, in this case the keyboard, pointing device and screen. All are improved significantly.
The new X1 Yoga keyboard is designed to rise and fall as the screen is opened and closed. Lenovo calls this a “wave action” although you can’t actually see it happening unless you look carefully. What’s actually happening is that the keys are rising from beneath the top cover of the chassis when you first open the keyboard.But then they settle back when the top is opened past 190 degrees. In the previous version of the X1 Yoga, the keyboard surround did the rising and falling.
The result, according to Lenovo, is that they keys are less likely to be damaged, and they’re able to retain a consistent touch and feel. I will say that as good as the keyboard was on the first generation X1 Yoga, the second generation is better. This laptop is a delight to type on and there’s nothing in the design that stands in the way of fast typing.
The X1 Yoga comes with two pointing devices, one is the traditional rubber eraser-like pointing device that’s been on the ThinkPads since IBM originally introduced them in 1992. There’s also a touchpad in front of the keyboard, which is a standard feature on laptops, but in this case the touchpad has been redesigned so that it works extremely smooth and it’s very responsive. In fact, it’s so nice that I love this one even though I usually hate touchpads.
There are two sets of mouse buttons, one set immediately below the space bar and another set along the front edge of the touch pad. You can use either, and they both deliver results with a satisfying click.
Lenovo has several types of screens available, ranging from a very high resolution OLED screen to a standard High Definition LCD screen with LED backlighting. The 14-inch screen delivered on the review unit had a resolution of 1920 x 1080 using in-plane switching technology.
The screen was very clear and easy to read, although if I were buying such a unit, I’d pick the 2560 x 1440 OLED screen.
Of course with the Yoga, the screen is also an important part of the user interface in three ways. The first, obviously is that it’s the display. It’s bright and clear, but no more so than similar screens from other makers.
In addition, it’s a multi-touch touch screen, so you can use your finger as a pointing device. You can also manipulate objects on the screen by touching them, such as by making a photo larger or smaller by spreading your fingers or pinching them together.
In addition, the X1 Yoga includes the ThinkPad Pen Pro, which is stored beneath the front edge of the screen. You can use the pen to write notes, draw on documents or images and it can be used as another pointing device because you can make selections with the pen and there are mouse buttons on the barrel. The pen charges automatically when it’s stored.
Because you can use the X1 Yoga in so many configurations, including as a tablet, the pen is surprisingly useful. It provides a flexible drawing instrument when you need one, but you can also add notes to a document or you can use it instead of a mouse.
I found the ThinkPad X1 Yoga a joy to use. The keyboard is large enough for fast typing. The wealth of pointing devices make work fast and effective and the laptop is light and easy to use. I took the laptop with me on a couple of trips, and found that 3-pound weight makes it highly portable.
But just because it’s light doesn’t mean it’s fragile. I was happy to toss this laptop into the luggage racks of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train knowing that its hybrid carbon-fiber body meets MIL-STD 810G requirements for ruggedness. The X1 Yoga never missed a beat.
It’s worth noting that the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 2 comes with Microsoft Signature Edition Windows 10. This means that the computer is delivered without the dreaded bloatware add-on applications. There are no trial packages and nothing to slow it down. That translated into a very fast laptop with no compromises beyond those that were present in the configuration.
The review version of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 2 was equipped with a 2.6 GHz Intel i5 and 8 gigabytes of memory. It also had a 256 GB solid state storage drive. The price as tested is $1772.
My ideal configuration would include the i7 processor, 16 GB of memory, a 1 TB SSD, and that wonderful OLED screen. It could set me back another $500 at least. But a person can dream, right?