01-05-2017 03:12 PM - last edited on 01-05-2017 04:12 PM by Serene_Lenovo
This review is an analysis of the 14” second generation ThinkPad X1 Yoga. The target audience is the mobile business professional who demands high performance coupled with usage flexibility, portability and long battery life. Being a ThinkPad, it has the traditional, clean, black exterior look that has long been associated with ThinkPads. Being a Yoga, the hinges are designed to allow 360° rotation.
The machine being reviewed is based on an Intel i7-7600U seventh-generation Kaby Lake 2.8 gHz CPU and comes with 8 GB of LPDDR3 memory. It has a bright 14” IPS WQHD (2560X1440) screen with 10 touch points. Graphics functions relied on the Intel HD Graphics 620 functions that are built into the CPU. There were three “normal” USB3 ports and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which doubles as the power input connector. There was also an audio combo jack and an HDMI port. In addition, there is also a port that accepts an included dongle to provide native RJ-45 (Ethernet) support. Networking is handled by an Intel Tri-band Wireless-AC 18265 adapter that combines WiGig (801.11 AD), WiFi 2 x 2 AC and Bluetooth® 4.2. The machine came loaded with Windows 10 Professional. For storage, the computer has a fast Samsung NVMe MZVPW256HEGL-000L7 256GB SSD. The machine also has a front camera and a fingerprint reader. On the rear, there is a slot for an SD card, and one for a SIM card, which is needed if you get the machine configured with the optional WWAN card. There is a rechargeable, dockable pen that can be used to allow more precision than finger touches. It is my understanding that the pen is powered by a capacitor, which explains why it charges very quickly.
The X1 Yoga I tested weighed 1401 gm or 49.4 oz. The weights do not include the charger, but do include the stylus. There may be slight variations depending on configuration.
Figure 1: Top cover
Figure 2: Bottom cover
Figure 3: Left side ports
Figure 4: Right side ports
Figure 5: Rear ports
Figure 6: Stylus and Ethernet dongle
My first impressions were positive. After unpacking, before I turned it on, I inspected the machine for any shipping damage or visible defects and found none.
I set the machine up and plugged it in. I booted into the BIOS to set the date and time, and to confirm that the processor, memory and disk storage were correct. I then booted normally and connected the machine to my Lenovo ID and Microsoft ID. I installed Office 365 and tested those applications. As I expected, everything worked correctly; Office tends to run on any Windows machine. Being a business computer, the machine supports TPM 2.0 for encryption and has a fingerprint reader for security. I put passwords on through the BIOS and turned on “Windows Hello”. Everything worked perfectly.
I was impressed with the clarity and viewing angles from the IPS screen. There was no backlight bleed and the colors were crisp, including the blacks and the whites. Based on the high-resolution and the size of the screen, the default under Display Settings was to render text and icons at 200%. I prefer more information per page, and the screen was so clear that, even with my old eyes, I was comfortable with a smaller value. I have not yet decided whether I prefer 150% or 175%.
In laptop mode, the machine looks like a traditional Lenovo ThinkPad.
Figure 7: Laptop mode
Using the Yoga 360° hinge, you can fold the top to resemble a tent and the picture automatically rotates, even while it is running.
Figure 8: Tent mode
Or, Tablet mode.
Figure 9: Tablet mode
When I read the specs for the machine I was surprised to see that it used LPDDR3 memory. Starting with 6th Generation Intel Core processors, both DDR3 and DDR4 memory were supported. In theory, DDR4 memory should be faster, but real-world testing has shown more of a theoretical than actual difference. I was familiar with DDR3 memory; it was used with Intel Core processors through the 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge). It operated on 1.5 volts. Starting with the 4th generation (Haswell) processors, DDR3 was replaced by DDR3L memory. The “L” stood for low-voltage (1.35V) operation. 6th generation CPUs (Skylake) continued to use DDR3L memory and were also compatible with DDR4. DDR4 memory, as I said, was theoretically faster, but its big advantage was that it ran on 1.2V, which yielded cooler temperatures and lower power consumption. When I read up on LPDDR3 memory, I learned that it runs at 1.2V, like DDR4 memory, and it also supported a new standby power mode, available in the 7th generation Core processors (Kaby Lake), like the one in my X1 Yoga. Apparently, this power state needs far fewer refresh cycles in standby mode, thus dramatically lowering the power drain when the machine is in standby. This is great for me, because if I am in one place for a long time, I tend to operate on A/C, but when I am moving around, I use the machine for a while, and then close the lid. I open it again when I am ready to do something else. I don’t like to test actual battery life, because it really depends on what work is being done, screen brightness, wireless usage, speaker usage and other factors. I can report that I used the machine all day, including watching a movie, a fair amount of web browsing and using some office applications. I was connected to wireless all day, and I still had about 40% battery life left at the end of the day. I was curious about how the LPDDR3 memory’s performance would compare to DDR4. There is no way to get a really good comparison, which would require trying both kinds of memory in the same machine. This is an impossible task, as the slots are physically different, and many candidate machines (including the ThinkPad X1 Yoga) have soldered memory, anyway. The best I could do was to compare the X1 Yoga to a ThinkPad 260 Yoga I have. The 260 has a 6th generation i7 processor and DDR4 memory. The improvements from the 6th generation Core processors to the 7th are mainly related to power management, rather than speed. Forgetting the difference between DDR3 and DDR4, I would expect the X1 Yoga to be a little faster because its processor base frequency of 2.8 gHz is a little higher than the yoga 260’s 2.5 gHz, although a stand-alone memory test has less to do with clock speed than it does with fetch time. I tend to use Memtest86+ for memory testing because it can be run outside of Windows and because it is freeware. I mounted an 8GB memory chip in the Yoga 260 to match what is in the X1 Yoga. My unscientific test consisted of me sitting and starting a timer when a test started and stopping the timer when it ended. Memtest86+ looks for memory errors and tries every possible bit configuration in blocks of various sizes. A complete cycle probably does more memory operations than I would do in 3 months of normal work. The Yoga 260 completed its test in just under 32 minutes; the X1 Yoga took just under 27 minutes. You can draw whatever conclusions you wish.
People frequently ask me about “upgradability”. In general, laptops are less upgradable than desktops, and compact laptops are less upgradable than larger ones. As computers get smaller and thinner, memory, CPUs and sometimes even disk storage cannot be changed as they are integrated or soldered onto the motherboard. In the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, CPU and memory are soldered and the SSD is a separate M.2 card. The battery is inside the machine and can be disconnected via the BIOS, for service, without opening the case. I suggest that you might be better off not opening the machine unless you really need to do it. Having said that, the bottom cover is held on by 8 captive (they don’t come out) screws. The lid lifts off from the hinge side. There are tiny tabs all around, and if you are not familiar with this sort of cover, it is easy to bend or break the tabs. Once the tabs are bent or broken, the cover will never fit correctly. I suggest that you buy a machine with a disk big enough for your needs, rather than planning to upgrade later. If you really want to know how it looks inside, you can look at my two pictures:
Figure 10: Overall view
You can see the large, 56 watt-hour battery. Below and on the left side, you can see the stylus in its silo. There is a slot for the optional WWAN card, but no antenna. I assume that the absence of an antenna indicates that you need to buy the machine with the WWAN card if you need that capability. It would be difficult to upgrade later.
The wireless card and the M.2 SSD are under a plastic sheet to the left of the CPU fan.
Figure 11: Close-up of plug-in cards
I always want to be sure that I won’t run into a problem related to overheating or excessive fan noise. For testing, I use TPFanControl to monitor temperatures. I ran Prime95 to exercise the CPU and watched the temperatures. After about 15 minutes, the temperatures stabilized around 78C – 79C, which is warm, but not excessively warm, especially for an I7 processor and a thin case. Fan noise was never a problem.
Figure 12: Prime95 and TPFanControl
I use CrystalDiskInfo to measure disk throughput. The raw numbers don’t translate well into real-world speed, but when you test two different machines with similar drives, or test 2 different drives in the same machine, you can compare the scores and bigger numbers are better. The MZVPW256HEGL-000L7 in the X1 Yoga seemed similar to the MZVLV512 in a Lenovo Miix 510 I have, so I ran benchmarks on both machines.
Figure 13: SSD test
I looked at the scores for some time, thinking that there must be some reason that they are so different. Especially interesting was the fact that the X1 Yoga had much lower scores on the 512K-block reads, but much faster scores on the 512K-block writes. I have no insights as to the reason, but I ran the test twice on the X1 Yoga, and, while there were small variations, the two runs had similar scores. You can draw whatever conclusions you wish.
The stylus fits snugly into its silo and provides a much greater degree of precision than a finger. In the memory testing I discussed earlier, I used a ThinkPad Yoga 260. That machine had a similar capacitor-powered pen that fit into a silo that was similar to those in the X1 Yoga. With the Yoga 260, I had a couple of problems where the pen would make poor contact with the charging connectors and the pen would stop working, forcing me to open the case to adjust the contacts. Also, the stylus was loose enough in the silo that it would fall out if the laptop were carried with the pen down. The X1 Yoga has more robust springs that make better contact and hold on tighter, thus solving both problems.
If the machine is folded into a tablet, the keys retract and the touchpad is deactivated, so that you don’t need to worry about accidental key-presses and touchpad actions. I always use password security on portable machines, and, on machines with fingerprint readers, I tie the passwords to the fingerprints. (Windows Hello). I tried starting the machine in tablet mode to see how things would work without a keyboard. On startup, I got the fingerprint prompt, and, even though the keyboard and touchpad were deactivated, the fingerprint reader worked fine. Fingerprints are not perfect, however. They don’t work as well in a very dry environment and they are obviated by some kinds of minor finger injuries (burns, bandages, etc.). In normal operation, you get three tries to get the fingerprint right, and then you are prompted to enter the password through the keyboard. With the X1 Yoga, it is awkward to use the fingerprint reader on the bottom of the folded machine, and, if the fingerprint is unsuccessful, there is no way to recover without unfolding into laptop mode. The Lenovo Miix (2-in-1 Convertible) that I used in the disk benchmark has no stylus and no fingerprint reader, but if you start it with a password set and no keyboard attached, a touch-driven keyboard pops up to allow password entry. A similar mechanism would be useful on the X1 Yoga. I think I would prefer to enter a password via a pop-up keyboard than to use a fingerprint reader on the bottom of a folded tablet.
The Intel HD Graphics 620 in the ThinkPad X1 Yoga works well with a wireless display adapter, allowing the use of larger displays. I tested using a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter (Miracast) connected to an ordinary television and also connected to an HDMI capture port like the one on a Yoga Home 900 AIO.
Figure 14: Screen duplicated onto Yoga Home 900
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga starts out being a high-end business laptop. Its 7th generation, Core I7 processor and fast NVMe SSD give it all the power you might need for normal business computing. The Yoga hinge, touch screen and stylus add the flexibility to do other things as well. You can start watching a movie while stuck in commute traffic.
Figure 15: Watching a movie while riding in a car
Later, you can pick up more of the movie while cooking dinner.
Figure 16: Different location; same movie
Then you can connect a television as a wireless display to finish the move from a more comfortible location.
Figure 17: Finish the movie while lying in bed
With the stylus, you can annotate pictures, work on home accounting or accomplish any number of other things.
Figure 18: Using the stylus
There is always something that I would like to see changed in the next model. I mentioned the fact that I would like a pop-up keyboard to enter start-up passwords. In addition, the SD card slot is along the back edge of the machine. It is awkward to insert or remove the cards while the lid is open.
Overall, I liked the machine a lot. It seemed like a well-thought-out, mature product. The touch and stylus functions were well integrated. Here is an example: On Windows 10 touch machines, the notification area has an icon for a pop-up keyboard. If you tap the icon with your finger, you get a normal keyboard; if you tap with the stylus, you get a screen to enter names via character recognition. As you enter text, suggestions for likely words pop up.
I think the Thinkpad X1 Yoga would be an excellent choice for anyone needing a high-end business laptop and who also wants the additional flexibility normally found in Windows tablets and Convertible PCs.
01-05-2017 04:09 PM
Interesting how different our Miix 510 results were. I did notice you're running an older version of CrystalDiskMark. I'd be curious to see if the numbers are more consistent with the newer versions.
01-05-2017 06:54 PM
I was just about to ask the same thing. I have a couple of diskmark runs on the 1st gen X1 Yoga that are quite different. Was going to post them, but I'm not sure it would be apples-apples.
Can't tell if it's the different Diskmark rev, different NVMe SSD, or other laptop hardware.
Excellent review! Thanks!
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01-06-2017 09:12 AM
It is always hard to be sure about conclusions based on tests that are run under an operating system, where there are things going on that you cannot control. I tend to run things twice and if the results are similar, I assume they are valid, but that may not always be the case.
01-06-2017 11:11 AM
Be interesting to see an SSD perf run with the latest Diskmark version - if you get a chance.
01-06-2017 01:50 PM
I reran the test with the newer version. I ran more than once and the results varied, but in all cases, the X1 Yoga was faster than the Miix 510
01-06-2017 02:08 PM - edited 01-06-2017 02:08 PM
FWIW, here are a pair of runs on the current X1 Yoga with a Tosh THNSN5512GPU7-TO NVMe SSD.
01-11-2017 12:19 PM
I like your review, very good.
What can you say about the keyboard, key travel in particular. Older Thinkpads had key travel around 2mm. What is your opinion about the X1 Yoga keyboard?
01-14-2017 04:06 PM - last edited on 01-14-2017 04:20 PM by zoltanthegypsy
Does the Lenovo X1 Yoga (2017) have a HDMI 2.0 (4K 60Hz) port or does it still only have a HDMI 1.4 (4K 30Hz) port?
The Kaby Lake series of Intel processors only natively support HDMI 1.4 and manufacturers need to use a "level shift converter" from DisplayPort to output HDMI 2.0.
Moderator note: post moved to existing discussion. Subject edited to match. Was: X1 Yoga HDMI 2.0
01-19-2017 06:46 PM
I have a 2017 X1 Yoga 2nd Gen plugged into a 4k60Hz capable HDMI 2.0a display here (via a known good 4k60Hz HDMI cable), and I'm seeing 4k30Hz. BTW the screen is 75" and it looks beautiful!
What's your application that would need 4k60Hz?