Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15 Review Editor's Choice

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Long battery life; Sturdy design; Multi-mode, 360-degree hinge; Bright, accurate touch screen; Solid performance

The Cons

Grainy webcam; Keyboard has dim backlight

Verdict

The ThinkPad Yoga 15 is an almost perfect 2-in-1 that combines a great display, strong graphics and long battery life in a well-built machine.

With a 15.5-inch full-HD touch screen, Nvidia graphics and a 360-degree rotating hinge, the ThinkPad Yoga is a powerful business convertible. Presentations, spreadsheets, gaming -- the ThinkPad Yoga 15 can do it all, and with a starting cost of $929 ($999 as tested), it's reasonably priced as well. The ThinkPad Yoga 15 might be one of the most well-rounded 15-inch systems ever made, so read on to see how far Lenovo has taken it.

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Design

Like all of Lenovo's business machines, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 has great build quality, this time featuring a magnesium-alloy body and a smooth matte-black paint job. The ThinkPad logo on the palm rest apes the one on the lid, with red lights that glow and pulse depending on the laptop's current state.

Two chunky hinges connect the screen and the body, allowing you to rotate the display 360 degrees or anywhere in between for use in tent, stand and tablet modes. While the 15.5-inch screen makes transforming the ThinkPad a little more cumbersome process than with smaller 2-in-1s, the hinge was more than strong enough to support the system in any position.

At 15 x 10 x 0.82 inches and weighing 5.07 pounds, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 fits between the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W (15 x 9.7 x 0.75 inches, 4.8 pounds) and the HP Envy x360 15t Touch (15.11 x 10.18 x 0.93 inches, 5.2 pounds) in terms of size, despite neither of the other systems featuring discrete graphics. Compared to a traditional 15-inch laptop such as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (14.87 x 10.20 x 0.78 inches and 4.53 pounds), the ThinkPad is ever-so-slightly larger, and is an extra half-pound heavier.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Yoga 15 doesn't deviate from Lenovo's tried and true chiclet-style ThinkPad keyboard, and comes complete with red pointing stick wedged between the G and H keys. There's also a 10-key numpad on the right. I just wish the keyboard had better backlighting. They solid keys don't allow light to shine through, which makes seeing numbers and letters in the dark much more difficult than it should be. They keys are quiet and feature a slightly shallow 1.25-mm travel distance and a standard 60-gram actuation weight. This let me reach 77 words per minute on 10fastfingers.com on my second attempt, which is well within my typical 75 to 80 wpm average.

The ThinkPad's large 4 x 2.25-inch touchpad features a silky matte surface that made it a joy to perform multi-fingers gestures and mouse around on. Left- and right-clicks felt fine, but it would be nice to have a slightly crisper feel, on both the touchpad and the three discrete mouse buttons located above it.

Display

While the ThinkPad Yoga 15's flexible chassis and solid specs help the system shine, the real star is the Yoga's 15.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 touch screen. It's bright and benefits from a well-calibrated color range. The only downside is the display's super-reflective surface, which can be a little distracting when you're working outside or in brightly lit rooms. When I watched the trailer for the upcoming Hitman reboot, the Yoga 15 accurately displayed Agent 47's signature red tie, along with the brilliant oranges and yellows of raging explosions and ricocheting bullets.

Putting out 299 nits of brightness, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 was brighter than the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (180 nits), HP Envy x360 15t Touch (214 nits) and the Toshiba Satellite P55W (217 nits).

MORE: Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids)

The screen also achieved a near-perfect coverage of the sRGB color spectrum, with a score of 100.7 percent. Once again, that's better than the Inspiron 15 7000 (93), Envy x360 15t Touch (83) and the Satellite P55W (95).

In terms of color accuracy, the ThinkPad once again performed well, with a Delta-E rating of 1.55 (closer to zero is best). The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 managed just 5.4, while the mainstream average is 2.49.

Audio

Featuring JBL stereo speakers located above the keyboard, the Yoga 15 delivered an above-average audio experience for both music and movies. When I listened to Kiesza's "Hideaway," the ThinkPad did a good job recreating her delicate vocals and the colorful synth notes. The only aspect I found lacking was in the low-end thump of the '90s-inspired bass line.

Heat

While many 2-in-1s have problems dissipating heat because of their multi-function design, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 does not. After running the Laptop Mag Heat Test (15 minutes of streaming HD video from Hulu), the hottest spot on the laptop was the fan vent next to the hinge, which measured just 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Other areas, such as the touchpad and underside, barely got above room temperature, measuring 73 and 78 degrees, respectively. We consider anything above 95 degrees uncomfortable.

Ports and Webcam

For connectivity, the Yoga 15 features three USB ports (two 3.0 and one 2.0), an SD card reader, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 ac Wi-Fi.

The ThinkPad Yoga 15 also has a 720p webcam for selfies and video chatting, but the camera's pictures were often very grainy. When I snapped a picture in our well-lit office, it was easy to spot the heavy rainbow speckling throughout the image, and the shadow near my hairline looked more like a mosaic than a photo.

Performance

Equipped with an 2.2-GHz Intel Core i5 5200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 180GB SSD, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 easily handled my typical workload, which includes upward of 10 tabs in Chrome, a few spreadsheets and a photo-editing program. I even streamed a 1080p movie in the background without any slowdown.

In Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 scored 5,136. That's better than the i5-powered Envy x360 15t Touch (4,925) but expectedly a little worse than Core i7-equipped systems, such as the Inspiron 15 7000 (6,380) and the Satellite P55W (6,021).

Using Open Office, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 matched 20,000 names and addresses in 5 minutes and 8 seconds. This was similar to the Envy X360 15t (5:09), but slower than the Inspiron 15 7000 (4:33) and the Satellite Radius P55W (4:23), with their Core i7 CPUs.

When we used the 180GB SSD to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files, the ThinkPad finished in 49 seconds, for a transfer rate of 103.7 MBps. That's significantly faster than the Envy X360 15t (27.97 MBps) and the Satellite Radius P55W (42.76 MBps), but slower than the Inspiron 15 7000 (195.7 MBps).

Graphics

The Nvidia GeForce 840M might be a generation old, but with 2GB of video RAM, it can still hold its own, and gives the ThinkPad a great leg up over the majority of 2-in-1s that lack discrete graphics cards. When I played Dota 2 at 1920 x 1080 and max settings, the ThinkPad hovered at around 45 fps. But after I turned off a few effects, I got a smooth 60 fps, something that would be impossible on a laptop with integrated graphics.

In World of Warcraft, the ThinkPad Yoga 15 put out a buttery smooth 60 fps at 1920 x 1080 and full settings. The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 managed a decent 46 fps with its AMD Radeon R7 M270 GPU, while the Envy x360 15t Touch (25 fps), and Satellite Radius P55W (35 fps) struggled using Intel integrated graphics at the same resolution and settings.

Results were similar in 3DMark's Fire Strike graphics benchmark, in which the Yoga 15 scored 1,477. That's more than twice the score of the Envy x360 15t (494) and the Satellite Radius P55W (628), and a solid 23 percent higher than that of the Inspiron 15 7000 (1,197).

Battery Life

Lenovo claims that the ThinkPad Yoga 15 can last 8 hours on a charge. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits), this convertible delivered that and a little bit more, lasting an impressive 8 hours and 12 minutes. That's considerably longer than the HP Envy x360 15t (4:14), Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W (6:54), Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (5:45) and the 5:46 mainstream laptop average.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Configurations

A base ThinkPad Yoga 15 starts at $929 for an Intel Core i5-5200U CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB/16GB hybrid drive and an Nvidia GeForce 840M with 2GB of video RAM. Another $70 gets you our $999 review model, which hits a real sweet spot in terms of price and performance, featuring the same i5-5200U CPU and Nvidia 840M, but with 8GB of RAM and a 180GB SSD. For $1,095, you can move up to an Intel Core i7-5500U CPU and a 256GB SSD, while the maxed-out $1,139 model adds an Intel RealSense Camera.

Software and Warranty

The ThinkPad Yoga 15 comes with Windows 8.1 Pro and a standard one-year warranty. Lenovo has also included its suite of ThinkVantage tools, including programs such as Lenovo Solution Center to help keep your software up to date and monitor component health. Lenovo's Doit Apps consist of SHAREit, SECUREit, SYNCit, SNAPit and SEEit for simple data sharing and backup across a wide range of devices and platforms. Aside from that, there's a little bit of bloat, with apps like McAfee Central, but nothing too annoying or intrusive.

Bottom Line

The $999 ThinkPad Yoga 15 isn't just a great business convertible; it has almost everything I look for in an ideal notebook. It delivers solid performance, seriously good graphics chops for the price and long battery life, all in a package that bends and flexes to my will without breaking my back, or itself. And if you need more performance, a Core i7 CPU is just an extra $100.

Yes, I'd like better backlighting for the keyboard, and the webcam is just OK, but a similarly priced Inspiron 15 7000 has a UHD screen I don't need or want, lacks an SSD, has worse gaming performance and lasts two hours less on a charge. Competing systems from HP and Toshiba can be had for a couple hundred dollars less, but don't offer discrete graphics, and have even worse battery life than the Dell. The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15 is a jack-of-all-trades, without feeling like it had to sacrifice things to get there.

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CPU 2.2-GHz Intel Core i5-5200U
Operating System Windows 8.1 Pro
RAM 8GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 180GB
Hard Drive Speed n/a
Hard Drive Type SSD Drive
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.6
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive None
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce 840M 2GB
Video Memory 2GB
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel Wireless 7265AC(2x2)+BT4.0 M.2 Combo
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 4 x 2.25
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) SDXC card slot
Ports (excluding USB) USB 2.0
USB Ports 3
Card Slots 4-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year
Size 15.07 x 10.07 x 0.82
Weight 5.07 pounds
Company Website http://www.lenovo.com
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