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Same series, different generation: ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 2 vs Gen 5 Comparison

2020-06-30, 19:19 PM

Disclaimer: I am a Lenovo advocate; I'm a volunteer; I don't work for Lenovo. All opinions are my own. 


Note: Photos are limited and have been compressed on this post.  To view more high quality photos with this post, click here: https://ibb.co/album/X7jWTN


Three generations and a design overhaul after, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 is a more modern and sleek take on the classic ThinkPad X1 Yoga series. 

​How does it stand up to my daily driver for the past three years, the X1 Yoga Gen 2? Let's find out. ​

Left: 5th gen.  Right: 2nd gen.  



While the models I am comparing are the 2nd and 5th generation X1 Yogas, they share largely the same design as the 3rd and 4th gen respectively, just with different silicon.  The 2nd and 3rd gen X1 Yogas sports a matte black carbon fiber reinforced plastic chassis, whereas the 4th and 5th gen X1 Yogas sports an "iron gray" CNC aluminum chassis.  As with all ThinkPads, they are MIL-spec tested, meaning they have passed durability tests including extreme temperatures, shocks, and vibrations.  My 2nd gen X1 Yoga has fared very well, with only minor scratches from my past three years of use.  The CNC aluminum on the 5th gen X1 Yoga seems very durable on first impressions and doesn't leave as many fingerprints as the 2nd gen soft-touch surface. 


Lenovo also managed to trim the bezels on the 5th gen X1 Yoga, resulting in a 14 inch laptop in the same form factor of a 13.3 inch laptop.  This difference is especially noticeable when fitting the laptop in a backpack.


Ports & Active Pen

The 2nd gen has three USB 3 Type A ports, two USB 3 Type C ports with Thunderbolt support, a HDMI port, and an audio jack.  The 5th gen has two USB 3 Type A ports, two USB 3 Type C ports with Thunderbolt support, a HDMI port, and an audio jack.  It also has a docking port compatible with the ThinkPad Docking Station.  This docking station is compatible with many other ThinkPads, including the X1 Carbon.  Both laptops have two USB-C ThunderBolt ports, so ThunderBolt docking stations will work with these laptops as well.  


The built in pen in both laptops are essentially the same specification, though the one on the 5th gen is slightly thicker. 


Fans & Cooling

As you may have noticed, the layout of ports on these two laptops is slightly different because the fans have been reconfigured.  On the 2nd gen, the fans exhaust out the back; on the 5th gen, the fans exhaust out the right, similar to the fan layout in the X1 Carbon.  After using Autodesk AutoCAD for an hour, both laptops were pretty warm to the touch, though I did not notice any visual thermal throttling.  In normal usage of web browsing and word processing, the 5th gen is silent most of the time, whereas the fans on the 2nd gen come on more frequently.  Taking the back cover off of the devices reveal a slightly larger fan on the 5th gen.

2nd gen.

5th gen. 


Keyboard, TrackPad, TrackPoint

The ​5th gen has slightly less key travel than the 2nd gen, but the keys on the 5th gen are more clicky and tactile than on the 2nd gen.  To that end, short bursts of typing are definitely better on the 5th because of the better responsiveness.  I prefer the 2nd gen for long typing sessions, though just marginally.  

Because the form factor of the 5th gen is smaller than that of the 2nd gen, the trackpad was shrunk by about half a centimeter.  I didn't notice a significant usability difference as the 5th gen's trackpad was large enough for me.  The texture on the 5th gen feels more smooth and doesn't attract fingerprints as much as the 2nd gen.  


On the 2nd gen, the keyboard would retract into itself in tablet mode so that the keys were flush to the surface.  This feature, dubbed Lift-n-Lock, is no longer present on the 5th gen to make the laptop thinner and lighter.  


I thought it was a very cool feature and miss it in the 5th gen, but the entire keyboard in the 5th gen is recessed into the chassis so that the keys won't touch the display when the laptop is closed and won't touch a table when the laptop is in stand mode.  While not as good as the Lift-n-Lock of yesteryear, it's better than nothing. 



The display on the 5th gen is rated at 400nits, whereas the 2nd gen is rated at 300nits.  The difference is definitely noticeable, especially outdoors or with sunlight glare.  Because the display on the 5th gen is brighter, I can set the display brightness lower to save battery and still get the same display performance.  The colors on the 5th gen sit on the warmer side compared to the 2nd gen, but it does look more color accurate and realistic than the 2nd gen.  



I've always complained about the speakers in ThinkPads as they are often tinny and not good for anything other voice.  That is not true with the 5th gen X1 Yoga; the speakers are tuned by Dolby and sound excellent.  There is a set of downward firing speakers like on the 2nd gen, but there is also a speaker bar above the keyboard and makes the audio more filling.  The difference is night and day between the two.  Take a listen at the difference between the two, both set at 40% volume and automatic Dolby audio settings:



Both models feature a fingerprint reader, and while the one on the 2nd gen is slightly larger and has an LED light telling you the status of the reader, the 5th gen's reader is significantly faster and more accurate.  I seldom experienced failed fingerprint readings on the 5th gen, something I've experienced several times a day with the 2nd gen.


The 5th gen is also offered with an IR camera for Windows Hello facial recognition.  There is also a piece of software preinstalled called Glance by Mirametrix that is able to utilize the IR camera to do things like alert you when someone is peeking over your shoulder, or blur the screen if you look away.  It works pretty well, but you do need to have your camera on at all times for the software to work, and the IR camera emits a red light constantly when it's on. ​  


There's a camera shutter on the 5th gen which is a little switch that blocks off the camera, a great alternative to the tape I use on my 2nd gen. ​


Odds and Ends

The 5th gen X1 Yoga has the latest 10th generation Intel Core processors, including vPro and non-vPro variants.  The model I'm testing has the Intel i7-10510U, which is plenty powerful for everyday workloads and even light gaming and CAD design. 

It also has WiFi 6 support, which is particularly important for future-proofing, as WiFi 6 routers will inevitably become more widespread.  LTE support is also offered, though 5G support hasn't been announced yet. 

The top row of function keys on the 5th gen feature buttons for hanging up and picking up a call, a very useful feature especially now when everyone is video chatting. 



I am pleased by the upgrades Lenovo made with the latest generation of their X1 Yoga line.  The 5th gen is sleeker and more compact than its predecessors, and I think the new aluminum CNC build will fare very well in the long run.  Though I cannot test battery life as the processors on both laptops are different, the more efficient display panel on the 5th gen inclines me to believe that battery life would be improved despite a small decrease in physical battery capacity (the 5th gen is also benchmarked to get about three more hours of battery than the 2nd gen according to MobileMark 2014).  While I wish the lift-n-lock keyboard were still present, I think making the laptop thinner and lighter is a reasonable trade-off.  The speakers on the 5th gen make it a really desirable upgrade, especially for those who listen to music or podcasts on their laptop. 

Overall, the latest 5th generation X1 Yoga is a handsome machine paired with great performance, build quality and battery life, making it easily the best 2-in-1 business laptop on the market today and a great upgrade from the old X1 Yogas. ​


Eric Xu

I'm a Lenovo forums advocate and brand advocate (Lenovo INsider). I'm a volunteer; I don't work for Lenovo.

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