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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: A perfect fusion of style and substance?

Tom Bruce
4 Dec 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2,026

Is the 4th-gen ThinkPad X1 Yoga the version best yet, or should you save money and buy an older model?

Pros 
Improved speakers
IR camera and webcam
Chassis is now smaller and lighter
Cons 
Gets far too hot
Seriously costly
Distracting glossy display
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It’s that time of year again when Lenovo rolls out its refreshed ThinkPads to almost every tech journalist in the land. This particular model is a fourth-generation ThinkPad X1 Yoga, the inevitable follow up to the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2018) that I reviewed 12-months ago. On the whole, it’s a remarkably similar laptop and comes with all the security features you’d expect from a high-end business machine.

Design tweaks have been made here and there and the specs have been bumped up as but it’s essentially the same product it was last time – only better. Ostensibly, at least. Is it actually worth upgrading, though, or are you better off sticking with an older model?

READ NEXT: Everything Lenovo revealed at IFA 2019

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: What you need to know

With its premium materials, speedy specifications and advanced security features, the X1 Yoga (2019) sits more towards the ThinkPad camp than it does the Yoga camp. Yes, it has a rotating hinge and touchscreen display, but these are not its main selling points.

The model reviewed here is a top-spec X1 Yoga (2019) with a 14in IPS 4K (3,840 x 2,160) touch-display. Powering the show is an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8565U plus 16GB RAM, and for storage, it uses a nippy 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD. For added device protection the X1 Yoga (2019) is equipped with a TPM 2.0 security chip that provides Core Isolation and Memory Integrity support. If you’ve bought a ThinkPad in the past, you’ll know that this configuration won’t come cheap.

Buy now from Lenovo


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: Price and competition

And far, far from cheap, it is. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) I've been sent goes for a bank-busting £2,026 on Insight.com. That’s over £250 more than the X1 Yoga (2018) model I tested last year, which Lenovo sells for £1,871. Presumably, the extra costs come from an upgraded display resolution and more powerful processor, but I’m not convinced these are worth it. Alternatively, if you’re willing to forgo the rotating touchscreen, you could pick up a sixth-generation Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon for around £1,700 at LaptopsDirect.

There are cheaper non-Lenovo alternatives out there, obviously. Take the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1, a powerful (not to mention gorgeous) hybrid that delivers on all performance fronts. It’s gone down in price since our review and now costs £1,500 on Amazon, which seems more than fair. Or you could opt for something smaller and cheaper but just as pretty, like the HP Spectre x360 13in (2019). This funky 2-in-1 with HP’s SureView screen privacy technology could be yours for just £1,400 at HP's webstore.

The caveat is that these competing machines don’t come with anything approximating Lenovo’s built-in ThinkShield hardware and software security features. If you don’t think you need all that, though, then you could save a big old chunk of cash.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: Design

There’s no denying that the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) looks classy, just as it did the year before, and the year before that. The sturdy grey chassis is lovely if a tad dull, and it would be nice to see some more interesting colours on offer. Comprised of aluminium and magnesium alloy, the case is light but strong, and the laptop’s overall weight has been cut down from 1.4kg to 1.34kg since last year. According to Lenovo, it’s also “17% smaller” than its predecessor, measuring just 323 x 218 x 15mm (WDH).

It’s an absolute breeze to pick up and carry. The chassis is well-balanced, and there’s hardly any wobble when flexing the screen or pushing down into the base. And as with every rotating Lenovo laptop, the 360-degree hinge is superbly smooth. The bezels surrounding the display look about the same size as they did last year, though this time Lenovo has managed to squeeze an IR camera in at the top, alongside the 720p webcam and ThinkShutter sliding webcam cover.

The previous model did not have Windows Hello face unlock, so the IR camera is a nice addition but, disappointingly, this ‘4K 500-nit’ model lacks the new PrivacyGuard software. This darkens the screen, obscuring it to nosy onlookers and then, using the IR depth camera, warns you when someone is snooping. Meanwhile, the Windows Hello face recognition and fingerprint scanner, located to the right of the touchpad, both work incredibly quickly. You can unlock the machine in a split-second.

In terms of connectivity, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is as versatile as any ultraportable on the market. On the left edge is the USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort), which doubles as the charging port, and to the right is a USB Type-C 3.1 as well as an Ethernet connector. Further along, is a USB Type-A 3.1 port, an HDMI 1.4 video output and, finally, a 3.5mm audio jack.

The right-hand side is equally busy, housing the self-charging ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus, the power button, a USB-Type A 3.1 port, some ventilation grilles and a Kensington mini lock slot. Finally – and this one is easy to miss – there is a microSD/SIM tray on the rear edge. Just pop a data SIM into this and you can make use of the X1 Yoga’s 4G LTE connectivity.

Of all the new features on the fourth-gen Yoga X1, I was most excited to test the new Dolby Atmos speakers. Two of these are located above the keyboard, while the two woofers are on the underside of the base. My excitement soon turned to disappointment because the volume and clarity of this quad-speaker setup are pretty underwhelming. It’s a level up from the tinny stereo units of previous generations, but no match for the Lenovo Yoga C930’s rotating Dolby Atmos soundbar. Classical music sounds grainy where it ought to be smooth, while strings screech rather than sing. That said, there’s just enough bass from the down-firing woofers to make hip-hop listenable.

Buy now from Lenovo


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: Keyboard and touchpad

ThinkPads always have excellent keyboards and this one is as dependable as any other. The chiclet-style layout hasn’t changed from the previous model, while the keys are weighty, and elicit a satisfying thunk with every stroke. They’re also subtly curved for added comfort. There are two levels of backlighting to choose from and, of course, there’s that iconic TrackPoint joystick between the G, H and B keys.

And I have no complaints about the touchpad either. It’s spacious, smooth and responsive, and I didn’t need to fiddle with any of the sensitivity settings (as I often do on review laptops) to make palm-rejection work effectively. In accordance with the traditional ThinkPad design, the physical clickers sit above the touchpad. To me, those seem out of the way, so I usually depress the diving-board touchpad instead.

As this is a Yoga model, the conventional inputs are joined by the touchscreen and the Pen Pro stylus. The latter is made of the same cheap-feeling plastic as always and it’s not very grippy, but it’s precise enough for taking notes and scrawling doodles, and it’s tough to grumble when it’s absolutely free.

READ NEXT: The best laptops you can buy

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: Display

From certain angles, the 14in IPS 4K (3,840 x 2,160) touch display on the X1 Yoga (2019) is stunning to behold, but – much to my annoyance – it’s coated in a hyper-glossy finish that reflects light and spoils the viewing experience. The previous Yoga X1 that I reviewed did not suffer from this problem. When not blasting external light rays back into your eyes, the X1 Yoga (2019) is great to use, with a fantastic maximum brightness of 440cd/m2 and a super vivid contrast ratio of 1,208:1.

Lenovo promises “life-like accuracy” from the X1 Yoga’s display, but this model doesn’t live up to the claim. Although the panel is capable of 97.9% sRGB colour gamut coverage it has a gamut volume of 130%. Essentially, it overshoots across a wide range and this results in a poor Delta E accuracy of 3.41 that’s not suitable for professional image or video editing. For streaming video content, however, this display is ideal, just because it’s so bright and punchy.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: Performance and battery life

In performance terms, not much has changed since last year. Take our in-house 4K multi-tasking benchmark, for example. Here, the X1 Yoga (2019) got an unexceptional score of 65, which isn’t as high as we’d expect given the Intel Core i7-8565U CPU and 16GB RAM. In fact, it barely surpassed the score of 59 recorded by the X1 Yoga (2018), and in real-life use, the difference won’t be noticeable.

Due to a conspicuously low score on the first go, I had to put the X1 Yoga (2019) through multiple runs of the Bench test. Results varied wildly – the score above was its best shot – and, upon consulting CoreTemp results, thermal throttling appeared to be the cause. One of the CPU’s cores reached 99°C (the safe limit is 100°C) while the others were all in the 80s and 90s. The chassis also gets much too hot. Using an IR digital thermometer, I recorded highs of 53°C underneath the base and 45°C on the top row of the keyboard, and when it’s that toasty you really don’t want it in your lap.

This X1 Yoga isn’t up to much for gaming, as it relies on its CPU’s integrated Intel UHD 620 Graphics, but lightweight titles will run just fine. In the DiRT: Showdown 720p benchmark on high settings, it managed to crank out 35.92fps, close to double that of its predecessor. Therefore, RTS strategy games and undemanding games like Minecraft will run fine, while Triple-A titles may be just about playable on lower settings.

Business laptops need to open and save files at speed and here the X1 Yoga (2019) excels. Its 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD ploughed through the AS SSD storage performance test, clocking sequential file read speeds of 2,899MB/s and sequential write speeds of 2,273.1MB/s. Those are outstanding numbers, even by ThinkPad standards, as the chart above demonstrates.

Alas, at the final hurdle the X1 Yoga (2019) falls flat on its face. In our standardised video playback battery test, it lasted for a meagre 4hrs 47mins. That won’t even see you through a Netflix binge on a medium-haul flight, let alone a full working day. The 4K display is a big drain on the 51Whr battery, and last year the X1 Yoga (2018) lasted for over 6hrs with its 2,560 x 1,440 display.

Buy now from Lenovo


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) review: Verdict

What can I say in favour of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019)? It’s a well-made business laptop that performs reasonably well, and it has solid security features and decent speakers. But it’s also quite boring. This is about as incremental an upgrade as I can possibly imagine for a laptop, and not all of the changes are for the better.

Like the 2018 model, it still has thermal issues that hamper performance and make it uncomfortable to use on the lap. That 4K display is a drain on battery life, it still isn’t colour accurate and its new glossy finish only serves to distract. If you really want a ThinkPad X1, it’d be more sensible to opt for an X1 Yoga (2018) or X1 Carbon (2018). They’re both notably cheaper and they’ll perform just as well.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2019) specifications
ProcessorIntel Core i7-8565U, quad-core,
1.8GHz-4.6GHz, Whiskey Lake
RAM16GB LPDDR3
Additional memory slots0
Max. memory16GB
Graphics adapterIntel UHD Graphics 620
Graphics memory1GB
Storage512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Screen size14in
Screen resolution3,840 x 2,160
Pixel density314.7ppi
Screen typeLCD IPS
TouchscreenYes
Pointing devicesTouchpad, touchscreen,
TrackPoint, ThinkPad Pen Pro
Optical driveNo
Memory card slotmicroSD (or nano-SIM)
3.5mm audio jackYes
Graphics outputsUSB Type-C (Thunderbolt 3) x2,
HDMI 1.4
Other portsUSB Type-A 3.1 x 2, Ethernet,
Kensington mini security slot
Web Cam1MP, 1,280 x 720
SpeakersDolby Atmos quad-speakers
Wi-FiWi-Fi 5 802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0
NFCYes
Dimensions (WDH)323 x 218 x 15.5mm
Weight1.36kg
Battery size51Wh
Operating systemWindows 10 Pro
Operating system restore optionWindows Recovery Drive