Lenovo joins the OLED revolution

The new ThinkPad X1 Yoga has echos of both the serious ThinkPad line and the fun Yoga systems.

x1 yoga

The X1 Yoga can twist like a master yoga instructor but delivers the serious computing of a ThinkPad

Credit: Lenovo

I recently got my hands on a new demo Lenovo X1 Yoga, a kind of hybrid of the commercial ThinkPad lineup and the innovative Yoga consumer machines.  The standout feature of the X1 Yoga is its 14” 2560x1440 organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) display. One of the benefits of OLED is that the panel can be thinner (generating its own luminescence, it doesn’t need a backlight), allowing an even svelter profile.  The X1 Yoga — which is a full-on workhorse notebook with an Intel Core i7 processor — is only 16.8mm thick.

But the most spectacular benefit of the OLED screen is its rich color palette, including the deepest of blacks. Images truly pop. And video looks like you’re at the movies in a really dark theater.  This magnificent panel does come with a minor downside, though, which is a slight drop in battery life. Lenovo specs the OLED model out at 9 hours, whereas the regular backlit LED versions can make it to 11. Still and all, it’s a tradeoff I’d make without looking back.  There are various power-saving schemes you can use to squeeze some more life out of the 4-cell 56-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, but there is an energy cost to all that visual loveliness.

The Lenovo online configurator gives a list price of $2,554 for the beefy config I’m testing, but with “instant savings,” it slides in at $1,915.50, which, although a serious chunk of change, is actually not all that much for the i7 model with 16GB of 1866MHz LPDDR3, a 512GB SSD, and the aforementioned incredible OLED display.  So, this is really not your take-it-off-to-college-to-bang-around-and-take-notes kind of notebook.  It’s really more of a I’ve-finally-arrived-and-deserve-the-very-best sort of notebook.

Lenovo’s X series has always been the lightest of the ThinkPad line. It was designed for those who want top performance and don’t need all those legacy things like optical drives, Ethernet ports, and media card slots.  The T series is the kitchen-sink model, for the man who needs everything. The Yoga has been distinguished as the most flexible of the Lenovo family. It’s the one that bends and folds in any direction like an advanced yoga instructor.  The Lenovo X1 Yoga bridges both worlds.

The 360° hinge on the X1 Yoga isn’t the fancy bracelet type seen on some of the consumer models.  It has the more sober corporate look of buffed steel.  But the thing still bends and twists like Houdini, acting like a tablet in one mode (complete with included stylus for more-accurate touch input), “tent” in another mode (for video chat and other social activity), "stand" in a third mode (for video viewing on airplanes), and normal notebook mode (for regular work activity).

For old guys like me, the high-resolution panel can lead to difficulty reading the tiny text that results, but Microsoft has implemented a decent Windows 10 utility that allows the user to resize text for legibility.  The default on this machine was set to 125%.  I cranked it up to 200%, and now everything is fine.

Vanilla Intel HD 520 internal graphics run the fantastic panel. With 8GB of graphics memory, this setup has enough juice to power most visual tasks.  This is not a gaming rig, and adding external graphics would expand both the heat envelope and the physical space requirement, which would ruin the system’s sleek profile.

Even though it has some of the flair of the Yoga consumer line, the X1 Yoga is clearly a business system.  It has a TPM security chip and optional Intel vPro remote management suite. With optional adapters and a WiGig dock, the notebook can manage various legacy I/O, like Ethernet and VGA, as well as additional USB ports.  And it is always worth mentioning the Lenovo keyboard, which sets the standard for the industry.  The travel, feel, resistance, and feedback are second to none. In tablet mode, the keyboard retracts fully into the body.

While the X1 Yoga is a serious system for business use, it does have enough solid media characteristics for after hours at the hotel or that long plane ride back across the country. All in all, it’s one of the best premium-class systems on the market.

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