Hands-On with the Lenovo IdeaPad S940

Posted on July 15, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 3 Comments

Lenovo’s IdeaPad S940 is a premium small, thin, and light laptop with high-end components and a gorgeous 4K UHD display.

Design. I was impressed when I saw the magically thin and light Acer Swift 7 and I’m just as impressed by the similarly-sized (if heavier) IdeaPad S940. The mission statement here seems identical to that of the Acer, and road warriors will appreciate its small and thin dimensions, and that it is full of powerful and modern components. The materials are premium, as you’d expect, with a sandblasted aluminum body that looks great and feels great to the touch. And I like the angular look to the design, especially when the lid is closed.

Display. While the S940 can be had with a 1080p display too, the review unit shipped with a gorgeous 14.0-inch 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) glossy IPS display that emits a very bright 500 nits of light. As with the Acer Swift 7, I’m impressed that Lenovo was able to shimmy a large 14-inch display, let alone a stunner like this one, in such a small form factor. And I found myself distracted by watching The American, thanks to how vividly the stunning scenery in the movie was rendered on this display. The display does not lay flat, however.

Components. If the Y-series processor in Acer’s similar-looking Swift 7 is too pokey for your tastes, you’ll appreciate the 1.5 GHz 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor in the S940. It’s mated to 8 GB of RAM, but can be had with up to 16 GB, and a 512 PCIe SSD; up to 1 TB is available. The S940 also provides stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support, and the sound quality is both loud and crisp.

Performance, noise, and heat. As you should expect when you combine a U-series processor with a 4K UHD display and an ultra-thin form factor, the IdeaPad S940 emits some fan noise in normal operation. It’s not usually loud or obnoxious, but it is fairly constant.

Connectivity. Connectivity is exactly as expected: The S950 ships with dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi with and Bluetooth 5.0.

Ports. The Lenovo one-ups the Acer Swift 7 by providing three USB-C ports, one on the left and two in the right; the right two also provide Thunderbolt 3 capabilities.

Keyboard and touchpad. The S940 provides Lenovo’s excellent full-sized keyboard with two levels of backlighting and, unlike the Acer Swift 7, it’s a full 6-row keyboard with a dedicated row of function/multimedia keys. The glass touchpad is a precision touchpad, which is ideal, and is excellent in use.

Unique hardware features. Unlike with the Acer Swift 7, Lenovo found some room at the top of the display to add a webcam. It’s not a terrific camera by any measure—it’s only 720p—but this is the best location for such a thing. And it does provide Windows Hello-compatible facial recognition sign-in capabilities if that’s your thing. There’s no fingerprint reader.

Portability. The S940 is quite thin and light but its more powerful innards and display add a bit of heft when compared to the similarly-sized Acer Swift 7. It’s 12.2 mm (.48 inches) at its thinnest point, compared to just 9.95 mm (.39 inches) for the Acer. And it weighs 1.17 kg (2.6 pounds), which is quite a bit heavier than the Acer (890 grams (1.96 pounds); it’s quite noticeable. Battery life is rated at up to 15 hours for the Full HD display (where the Acer is rated at 13 hours), but the 4K UHD display in the review unit is only rated at 7.5 hours. I’m guessing real-world battery life is just north of five hours, but I will test that.

Software. Aside from the crapware included with Windows 10 Home, the Lenovo IdeaPad S940 is largely devoid of crap. There are a handful of Lenovo utilities and a weird application called Glance that appears to use eye-tracking technology to “make your mouse and keyboard smarter.” But the worst offender, of course, is McAfee, which warned me about cyber-attacks on first boot. So I removed it.

Pricing and configurations. The Lenovo IdeaPad S940 starts at $1400 for a model with an Intel Core i5-8265U processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of M.2-based PCIe-NVMe SSD storage, and a 400 nit Full HD (1080p) display. The review unit costs $1800 and includes the faster Core-i7 processor.

Recommendations and conclusions. If the Acer Swift 7 is too underpowered for your tastes—I find the performance to be acceptable in day-to-day productivity tasks—the similarly sized IdeaPad S940 should be exactly what you’re looking for. It provides the full performance of a U-series processor, albeit at a bit of cost in weight and, if you opt for the 4K UHD display, battery life as well. But that’s what makes life so grand, the choices.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Gorgeous 4K UHD display
  • 14-inch display in a very small, thin, and light form factor
  • Premium design
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Full-powered U-series Intel processor choices
  • Properly situated webcam

Cons

  • Poor battery life (in 4K UHD model)
  • A bit of fan hiss
  • Heavier than the similarly sized Acer Swift 7
  • 16:9 display

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