Typing and trackpad experience
If there's one thing you can be guaranteed to find on a Thinkpad, it's a solid keyboard. That's been true of the line since IBM debuted it decades ago, and it's something Lenovo has maintained ever since it took over Big Blue's computer arm. The X1 Yoga's backlit chiclet keyboard is one of the most comfortable I've used in an Ultrabook. I had no trouble quickly typing up notes and reports from Intel's Developer Conference, or banging out most of this review. The keys are sloped inward slightly, which feels comfortable as you're resting your fingers on them, and they have a satisfying amount of depth.
Basically, the X1 Yoga's keyboard feels like a balance of traditional Thinkpad typing with the modern chiclet style. I wish Lenovo included some media keys among its second functions though. Even the ability to start and stop music would be helpful (and being able to move between tracks would be even better). Lenovo used to offer some media keys on the X1 Carbon's capacitive touch strip, so hopefully we'll see those return eventually.
The Thinkpad's trackpad is incredibly smooth, though it's not as roomy as the MacBook Air's or those found on other Ultrabooks. And if you're a Thinkpad diehard, you'll be pleased to learn there's also red Trackpoint nub among the keys, as well as mechanical mouse buttons right below the keyboard. For the most part, I relied on the X1 Yoga's trackpad, which was accurate for mousing, though it sometimes got confused between left and right clicks. I'm not a huge Trackpoint fan, but it was admittedly helpful while I was cramped in a middle airplane seat. In situations like that, being able to mouse with just your finger, and without moving your elbows, is immensely helpful.
Performance and battery life
On the hardware front, the Thinkpad X1 Yoga offers everything you'd expect from an Ultrabook today. It starts with an Intel Core i5-6200U, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD. The model we reviewed is a bit beefier, with a Core i7 6600U, 16GB of RAM and 256GB SSD.
It tackled just about every productivity task I threw at it: My daily workflow typically consists of having several browsers open with dozens of tabs, Slack, Spotify, and photo editing software running all at once. The Thinkpad handled video streaming from Netflix and Hulu just fine, and it processed dozens of large photos without any issues. It was about as fast as other recent ultraportables, like the new HP Spectre, when it comes to benchmarks. Tough, since it's sporting Intel HD 520 graphics, it can only tackle basic games.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the Thinkpad X1's battery life. It lasted only around 4.5 hours during typical usage, and I always had to recharge it in the afternoons. In our battery test, which involves playing an HD video continuously at 50 percent brightness, it lasted 8.5 hours. It's likely just far more efficient at handling video than a plethora of different programs running at once.
Configuration options and the competition
As always, expect to pay dearly for the privilege of using OLED. This Thinkpad X1 Yoga model starts at $1,682, while the standard LCD version starts at $1,400. Its hardware starts with the specs I've mentioned above, but it would cost you $2,168 to upgrade to all of the specs from our review model. Still, the premium is likely worth it if you've been hankering for some OLED goodness.
While there's plenty of ultraportable competition on the market, there are few alternatives that pack an OLED screens. HP recently revamped its Spectre x360 convertible with the technology, which starts at a more reasonable $1,499. And Alienware's gaming-ready OLED models come in at $1,800. It might be worth sticking with the Thinkpad if you want OLED with the best productivity build quality, but if you're a gamer, Alienware's option is worth a look too.
It'll likely be a while before OLED becomes the norm on laptops, but the Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a fine example of why we'd want it in all of our devices. Yes, even in a laptop that looks like it belongs in a boring corporate cubicle. That could also be appealing to some buyers: it looks like a dull Thinkpad on the surface, but it'll blow your mind when you actually turn it on.
The Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a reminder that OLED isn't just bright and bold, it's a transformative display technology. Now if only it weren't so expensive.