Lenovo: Best and Worst Laptop Brands
Lenovo makes some of the best laptops in the world, but it also has a few clunkers that hold the brand back. The company's ThinkPads remain the best business laptops in the industry, while its premium Yogas are fantastic, bend-back 2-in-1s. However, in 2015, we reviewed a couple of mediocre budget systems, along with the ambitious but fatally flawed LaVie Z, which weighed a wonderfully light 1.8 pounds but had an awful keyboard.
The company's weak phone support continues to hold the company back, as we experienced incorrect answers to our questions and long wait times. However, innovative applications such as WRITEit, SHAREit and REACHit are a bright spot.
If it's superlight or folds, it's got to be Lenovo. The brand that brought folding, multiuse Yoga laptops to the mainstream, Lenovo now has a Yoga for every use, from the business-minded ThinkPad Yoga 260 to the premium-consumer Yoga 900. The company reworked its Flex line, creating notebooks like the Flex 3 11-inch that significantly blurred the lines between budget and premium.
Though poor battery life and uncomfortable keyboards kept us from recommending them, the LaVie Z 360 and the LaVie Z were design highlights, with a thin and light chassis of record-breaking proportions. Speaking of featherweight, Lenovo delivered the G50-45, one of the slimmest budget laptops on the market, and the X1 Carbon, one of the lightest business laptops. Lenovo's budget laptops (100S Chromebook, IdeaPad 100, S21e-20) could use some work, as the materials and build quality are decidedly no-frills. The company's Y700 Series laptops, with their sturdy black aluminum frames, offer gamers an understated alternative to all the flashing lights and over-the-top effects.
The biggest change in the review rankings for 2016 belongs to Lenovo, which has fallen to seventh after being tied for third last year. For 2016, Lenovo is tied with Toshiba for having the most systems (five) that earned a 2.5 star rating or less, which hurt its overall score. Led by the 4.5-star ThinkPad Yoga 15, Lenovo's ThinkPad line reviewed markedly better than its IdeaPad series of laptops, and despite being superthin and light, Lenovo's partnership with NEC for the LaVie Z and the LaVie 360 was a dark spot in its lineup that contributed to its underperforming review ranking.
Tech Support (16/20)
With an average call time of 27 minutes, Lenovo's phone support representatives did a poor job handling our questions, no matter if we needed immediate support or asked them to call us back later. We appreciate the company adding online chat and tutorials, but Lenovo needs to nail down other basics, such as storing registration information so we don't need to repeat product information with every call.
The kind of warranty coverage you get with a Lenovo laptop depends on the make and model. Mainstream consumer models have a one-year limited warranty where the customer pays for shipping. Business laptops and premium consumer models have a one-year "depot warranty" where Lenovo pays for shipping, and some more expensive business models may come with a three-year depot warranty instead. The company doesn't penalize you for upgrading your laptop, and in some cases, it may actually ask you to fix your own device by shipping you the replacement parts.
In our reviews, Lenovo's file-transfer apps, SHAREit and REACHit, have been mentioned as some of the most helpful apps installed by a manufacturer. The company is also known for its OneKey recovery tool.
On the IT side of things, Lenovo's Solution Center could be helpful, allowing for hardware scans and analyzing security and performance.
Perhaps best of all, though, is that with the exception of a few computers, bloatware was either minimal or not on Lenovo's machines at all. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon, a machine with bloatware, was plagued only by Evernote and The Weather Channel app. In 2015, Lenovo released the record-setting thin and light LaVie Z laptop, which was a great technical achievement.
After pioneering the 360-degree, bend-back form factor with its Yoga laptops, Lenovo has been bringing the same hinge design to business and consumer notebooks of different sizes and prices. The company has been particularly innovative on the software front, adding to its suite of helpful apps with WRITEit, a program that lets you scribble handwriting into any text field, and REACHit, which helps you manage all your cloud files with Windows 10's Cortana assistant.
In 2015, the company released the record-setting thin and light LaVie Z laptop, which was a great technical achievement, but not such a great product overall. In 2016, the company will be among the first to offer a laptop with an OLED screen when it ships a special configuration of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga.
Value and Selection (15/15)
Lenovo hits every segment of the laptop market with great aplomb. Its $179 IdeaPad 100S is the best sub-$200 laptop we've tested, while its $1,199 Yoga 900 is the leading premium 2-in-1. The company is particularly famous for its ThinkPad line of business laptops, which range from the small business-centric ThinkPad E series to the mainstream ThinkPad T Series, ultrathin X1 Carbon and P70 graphics workstation. While not as powerful as the best Alienware or MSI gaming rigs, Lenovo's Y700 gaming laptops offer really good performance for the money.
The company offers some great values, including the IdeaPad 500 and IdeaPad 300, both of which provide 1080p displays for under $500. Lenovo.com also lets you custom configure many of the company's laptops, choosing specs like RAM, CPU, storage and screen.
MORE: Best Lenovo Laptops
How Lenovo Can Improve
Lenovo shouldn't release a product unless it's ready for prime time; that means avoiding failed experiments like the LaVie Z and the Lavie Z 360. The company also needs to raise the standards for its mainstream and budget systems. Improving the quality of its phone support and paying for return shipping on all of its products would also be welcome changes.