Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017) OLED First Impressions

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017) OLED First Impressions

A month ago, I described the ThinkPad X1 Carbon as being one feature short of perfect. Well, guess what? The ThinkPad X1 Yoga fixes that problem. And it adds a few other important enhancements that really put it over the top.

Could it be? Could this device be the truly perfect portable PC?

I’m going to find out. But I can tell you upfront that the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, especially the version with the OLED display that I am testing, looks promising.

It starts, as it must, with Lenovo’s business-class design, which I’ve always found both attractive and durable. Looked at side-by-side with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you’ll note that they look almost identical, which makes sense given the familial relationship; the X1 Yoga is just a hair bigger in both directions than the X1 Carbon. But then the X-series has retained the same basic look and feel since its inception.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga (top) and X1 Carbon (bottom)

For ThinkPad purists like myself, this is as it should be. But I understand that some will find the design to be less daring than that of, say, the recent HP Spectre designs. This is fair, but it’s almost worth noting that Lenovo got it right years ago. As with BMW, you don’t mess with success.

The X1 Yoga may look like the X1 Carbon, but there are some important differences too.

Most obviously, it is a 2-in-1 design as its name suggests. That is, it utilizes a Yoga dual-hinge mechanism that lets the device transition between a normal laptop form factor, a thick-ish tablet, a tent-like mode, and a presentation mode. The emphasis here is on versatility, and while the X1 Carbon has that nice lay-flat functionality, I’ve always preferred the X1 Yoga. Because you never know.

Like its predecessor, the 2017 X1 Yoga also features a special variant of the vaunted ThinkPad keyboard that descends into the base when the device is converted into a non-laptop form factor. It does this in order to protect the keys should they end up on the bottom of the machine, as could happen in the tablet or presentation form factors.

This design worked well in the previous version of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, but for 2017, Lenovo has updated it using a new “rise and fall” mechanism that pulls the keys down into the body in a wave-like effect when the display is rotated. (The previous version used a “lift and lock” mechanism, Lenovo says.)

As with its X1 Carbon sibling, the X1 Yoga has been nicely modernized with two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, both with rapid charging capabilities and anti-fry protection. Either can be used to power the device as Lenovo has here, too, replaced its old proprietary docking solution with this industry standard. Unfortunately, both ports are on the same (left) side. I like to see this option on either side.

The X1 Yoga also features three full-sized USB 3.0 ports, a mini-Ethernet port with an included dongle, and an integrated ThinKPad Pen Pro. There’s also the expected dual-pointing solution, with the classic ThinkPad TrackPoint “nubbin” and a Precision Touchpad, plus an updated fingerprint reader. Inside, you will find the expected 7th generation Intel Core i-series processors and a variety of RAM and storage options.

And as with the X1 Carbon and other ThinkPads, the X1 Yoga is available exclusively as a Microsoft Signature PC. This means there is no third-party AV, no redundant applications or utilities, and no crapware. Amen.

But the most unique differentiator in my review unit is its OLED display. Lenovo had previously shipped the 2017 ThinkPad X1 Yoga with a more pedestrian display like that found in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon I recently reviewed, albeit with touch and pen capabilities. But it’s now available with a glossy 14-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) OLED display.

A photo just can’t do it justice.

And … Oh my.

OLED is one of those technologies that you can’t unsee once you’ve experienced it. OLED makes whatever you’re using now look like crap, thanks to its inky blacks and vibrant colors. OLED makes you start thinking crazy thoughts, like how logical it would be to put this thing on your home equity line of credit, and maybe your wife won’t notice and, oh my God, what have I done?

Yes, it’s that good.

Coming in at just under 3 pounds, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is about half a pound heavier than the svelte X1 Carbon, but as it’s a bit bigger, it still feels quite balanced. Battery life is an unknown, but then that’s one of the things I test.

So this will almost certainly be one of the more enjoyable reviews I’ve ever worked on. More soon.


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Conversation 23 comments

  • josephgerth

    27 August, 2017 - 5:26 pm

    <p>I haven't been able to find specs on the pen, such as latency, tilt, pressure levels, etc. Can anyone help? Thanks.</p>

  • Daishi

    Premium Member
    27 August, 2017 - 5:46 pm

    <p>And all that starting for the low, low price of …$1700. Seriously!? The PC market has gone completely insane on prices.</p>

    • MutualCore

      27 August, 2017 - 11:52 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#169051"><em>In reply to Daishi:</em></a></blockquote><p>That's what quality costs.</p>

    • Polycrastinator

      28 August, 2017 - 9:08 am

      <blockquote><a href="#169051"><em>In reply to Daishi:</em></a></blockquote><p>Actually, $1700 with an OLED screen is surprisingly cheap to me. I think when they first put out those OLED panels, a laptop with one was running $3500.</p>

      • robsanders247

        Premium Member
        28 August, 2017 - 9:46 am

        <blockquote><a href="#169111"><em>In reply to Polycrastinator:</em></a></blockquote><p>The model that Lenovo has available here in the Netherlands with OLED is EUR 3,150 including all taxes. Granted, that's an i7 model with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD drive (choice in models is limited over here) and you can bring the price down a bit by selecting a smaller drive and less RAM, but you're still looking at a premium of EUR 1,200 over an HP Spectre x360 with an 13" 4K display and the same specs. Which I doubt my employer will pay when it's time to renew my current laptop.</p>

  • Darmok N Jalad

    27 August, 2017 - 6:50 pm

    <p>It's probably a bit of a challenge to review stuff. You could have been trucking along with what you had, then you review something like this and it upsets your contentment. </p>

  • leonzandman

    27 August, 2017 - 6:57 pm

    <p>Looks promising, indeed. But it's also butt-ugly (sooooooo 1992) and has this totally redundant nubbin-thing.</p>

    • sgbassett

      Premium Member
      27 August, 2017 - 10:12 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#169058"><em>In reply to leonzandman:</em></a></blockquote><p>I disagree that the "nubbin-thing" is redundant. The "TrackPoint" is a very useful way to manipulate the cursor without taking your fingers off the keyboard. It is perfect for touch typists. One of the reasons I still keep my vintage ThinkPad X220 around despite having a Surface Book is the excellent keyboard and the TrackPoint. If I have a task that involves a lot of text input, but does not need the greater processing power or much better screen of the Surface Book, I will gladly switch to the old ThinkPad. </p>

      • leonzandman

        28 August, 2017 - 1:57 am

        <blockquote><a href="#169073"><em>In reply to sgbassett:</em></a></blockquote><p>Well, I'm a touch typist and taking my hands off the keyboard to control the mouse using a trackpad had never bothered me. I do prefer Macbook trackpads, but that's a whole other discussion.</p><p><br></p><p>I guess I prefer direct control of the mouse cursor, using either a mouse or a trackpad, over the indirect control a joystick offers. It's like playing a 3D shooter game using an Xbox controller instead of using a mouse and keyboard. That just doesn't work (for me) :-)</p>

        • ibmthink

          28 August, 2017 - 8:25 am

          <blockquote><a href="#169081"><em>In reply to leonzandman:</em></a></blockquote><p>It seems you have no idea how the TrackPoint works. Because its not a joystick at all.</p><p><br></p><p>And its not redundant. Its another method of input for people who prefer it. Do you really think there should be just one method of input? I guess then the Touchpad, the pen and the Touchscreen are also redundant, because there is a keyboard, after all…</p>

    • warren

      28 August, 2017 - 11:46 am

      <p><img src="http://oldcomputers.net/pics/ibm-thinkpad.jpg&quot; class=""></p><p><br></p><p>This is what a ThinkPad looked like in 1992. Other than the logo being written at a 45 degree angle and the layout of the PgUp/PgDown keys, what other similarities are there?</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

      • ibmthink

        28 August, 2017 - 2:36 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#169145"><em>In reply to warren:</em></a></blockquote><p>This is one very odd model (Thinkpad 300) that was completely DOA, because it was developed by Zenith, not by IBM. </p><p><br></p><p>The ThinkPad 700, the first ThinkPad notebook, is much more representative:<img src="http://richardsapperdesign.com/images/archive/52/ec/IMAGES_1235_52ece217ba96a.jpg"><img src=""></p>

        • cheetahdriver

          Premium Member
          29 August, 2017 - 4:22 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#169175"><em>In reply to ibmthink:</em></a></blockquote><blockquote><em>I had one of those! </em></blockquote><blockquote><br></blockquote><blockquote><em>My favorite though, was the 701c "Butterfly" keyboard.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • IanYates82

    Premium Member
    27 August, 2017 - 8:54 pm

    <p>I just bought a Lenovo ThinkPad T570 for work. Not quite as powerful as my old HP Envy 17" monster but certainly more portable with a longer battery life.</p><p>I like the look of this but suspect it would've been a good $1000 more than what I paid for the T570. Still happy with my purchase as I can use my Surface Pro 3 for pen, portable stuff, etc. </p><p>Still looking forward to the review :D</p>

  • pcl

    Premium Member
    27 August, 2017 - 11:44 pm

    <p>Before you all wax too eloquently on the X1 Yoga, I have the 2016 version which is excellent except for one glaring fault which is shared by many on the Lenovo comment site–the touchscreen has a nasty habit of stopping working for unexplained reasons (by users and Lenovo techs alike). Some thoughts are that it is a driver issue, some say bad capacitors. Lenovo has already replaced my X1 once. Fortunately I am from the old school and rarely use a touchscreen, but it is frustrating for it not to be working. Mine stopped unexpectedly last week. And it seems to have nothing to do with the Creators' update which has not made it to my X1 yet.</p>

  • wocowboy

    Premium Member
    28 August, 2017 - 6:33 am

    <p>A machine such as this is FAR more preferable in my opinion than the silly Surfaces that you have to carefully position the flexible keyboard and kickstand, then sit absolutely motionless with the thing balanced on your lap, typing very carefully or one false move or keystroke will cause the thing to tumble to the ground, never to run again. A REAL laptop is much better for ALL use cases.</p>

  • DataCrypt

    28 August, 2017 - 10:28 am

    <p>Hi Paul, I got this Lenovo OLED unit a few months ago. Got the 512GB NVMe SSD &amp; 16GB RAM with an i5 CPU. I absolutely love this unit!! The screen, functionality, feel, weight, size, etc. are excellent! I was a bit disappointed I could not order the 4G LTE modem with the option of having OLED. I figured I could live without it and simply tether off my cell – which some prefer anyhow. My only early complaint was the battery life (since this is not a removable battery). Initially when I received the unit I had about 6 to 7 hours of use with just normal browsing and nothing really pushing the PC. I wasn't too thrilled with that since it's spec'd much higher and had hoped for more (especially with the i5 over the i7). However, recent updates from Lenovo along with making some small adjustments to the screen brightness, I'm now hitting around 10 to 12 hours which is much more acceptable. Please let us know what you're finding and what settings you've made. As for the pen, it's a nice little stylus for taking some notes, etc. but I found it a bit small and nothing like the Surface pen. I ended up finding a great deal on a Wacom Bamboo Ink and use that instead. Thanks for the review!</p>

  • will

    Premium Member
    28 August, 2017 - 12:09 pm

    <p>I have this device right now and Paul is right, once you look at the OLED screen everything else looks like crap! The blacks and colors pop so much that you are able to keep the brightness down under 50%. I have been getting around 7+ battery with a moderate usage. The device comes with almost all of the ports you would need, and they are spaced out nicely. Even a microSD slot on the back.</p><p>The keyboard is amazing on this device. It has a good feel, and the keys have a good firm but easy travel to them. However the thing I link the most is that the keyboard is almost silent! No clicking, almost no anything when you type on it.</p><p>The dock is also pretty good and it is a Thunderbolt 3 dock. I have been running the Insider Builds on the machine and Microsoft has done some good work with docking and scaling issues with the Fall Update. I think this is more to do with the work they have done on Windows than the dock because with the Spring Update I would not always get the desktop to show up on the external screen and would have to open the device to make the change. However with the insider builds it works perfectly every time.</p><p><br></p>

  • ozaz

    28 August, 2017 - 3:24 pm

    <p>I'd absolutely buy this is I could afford it. But it's quite pricey in the UK at about £1800 for a 512 GB model.</p><p>I'll have to make do with my Yoga 260 for now, and look at used prices in a few months time.</p>

  • cheetahdriver

    Premium Member
    29 August, 2017 - 4:15 pm

    <p>I have the 2016 version of this, which replaced the SP4 that rarely worked as advertised. I have been drooling over the 2017 version (even though the only real differentiation is the Thunderbolt/c connectors and the new keyboard) and I am angling hard at putting my test 2016 X1 Yoga out in the company stock to replace the SP3's we are depreciating and getting this. With Intel bouncing through the twilight zone on their current versions, this should be a several year laptop. </p><p><br></p><p>This, this right here, is where my company plants it's flag for the next few years. </p>

  • steveoo987

    30 August, 2017 - 6:08 pm

    <p>Please recommend a warranty option…I live on an outer island in Hawaii</p><p>Paul, you've convinced me with: 14" is the sweet spot and your OLED praise. I need to read fine linework (CAD drafting). I had been leaning to the higher resolution of HP Spectre UHD.</p>

  • SenorGravy

    Premium Member
    30 August, 2017 - 8:50 pm

    <p>Thinkpads are without a doubt the sexiest laptops on the market. Can't beat that black and white with a touch of red and silver.</p>

  • James Kahn

    06 September, 2017 - 2:32 am

    <p>Paul, when you do the full review of this unit it would be great to know if it loses battery life when powered off. My Surface Pro 4 has a dead battery on Monday after getting powered off on Friday and I'm hoping this can replace it. </p>


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