Lenovo's Yoga line includes many variations of convertible laptop/tablets – some of which are more polished than others. How does the Yoga 720, the mid-ranged 2-in-1 announced earlier this year, measure up? Join New Atlas as we review.
This machine, like several others we've seen from Lenovo, is a 2-in-1 laptop/tablet that is first and foremost a Windows 10-running laptop, as opposed to those that fall more into the tablet category, with detachable keyboards and/or mobile operating systems (such as the Surface Pro 4 or iPad Pro).
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At first glance, it looks like any other clamshell-style device, but with the added perks of a 360-degree hinge and a touchscreen. We have no complaints about its appearance: It has a brushed aluminum unibody and at 1.3 kg and 310 x 213 x 14.3 mm (or 2.9 lbs and 12.2 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches) it is competitively light and thin. If anything, it's a little nondescript, and the biggest detractors in the looks department are the rather prominent fan grates on its underside.
The two-prong hinge is more low-key than the jewelry-like "watchband hinge" seen elsewhere in the Lenovo lineup, such as the Yoga Book and Yoga 910. We appreciate the unusual mechanical-ness of the watchband hinge, but we can see why others might prefer the more standard-looking mechanism on the 720. And it does work well – no matter which angle it's in, the display holds firm without wobbling. The hinge is somewhat stiff; it takes two hands to reposition the display, since you'll have to at least hold the base firm while you fold and unfold the top.
In tablet mode, with the keyboard fully folded behind the screen, the device does not close flush due to its tapered edges. This might bother those with a strong preference for the tight, clean and tidy, but it doesn't really interfere with its use. In this position, the keyboard automatically locks so you can't make stray commands. There's also a software-based Tablet Mode, which you can toggle on and off as desired, which makes Windows a little-more touchy feely. Most importantly, it launches the onscreen touch keyboard.
Overall, we think this is a fun and user-friendly form factor. The touchscreen and 360-degree hinge don't radically change the capabilities of the machine, but they do make it more flexible. You can cozy up to it in a variety of positions, or if you're collaborating, you can more easily use the laptop as a small presentation device. Necessary? Not really. Fun and striking? Definitely.
Beyond the first glance, the Yoga 720 by and large feels good to use. For one, the keyboard offers a pleasant typing experience. The curved, relatively shallow keys are soft both to the ear and to the touch, without any of the rattling or insubstantial feel of a low-quality keyboard. We were pleased to see that Lenovo ditched its too-small right shift key in favor of a full-sized one. That minor detail caused lots of errors in our previous experience with the Yoga 910.
The keyboard is backlit, with three settings: off, low and high. We'd prefer adjustable backlighting that responds to ambient light instead, but it's better than no backlight at all. Users just need to remember the keyboard shortcut to switch modes: Fn + space bar.
The trackpad seems consistent with many similarly-priced Windows laptops we've got our hands on recently. It's tougher to click than some others, requiring some fingertip strength to get the job done. We found it easy to miss a click at first, due to pressing too softly. Still, we'd prefer that over a wimpier version.
And, as is typical of diving-board style trackpads, this one is much easier to click on in the middle/bottom than on the sides; the upper portion (perhaps as much of a quarter of the overall trackpad area) doesn't seem to accept clicks at all, no matter how hard you press. Nevertheless, these characteristics seem rather typical, and we adjusted to them without much difficulty or thought.
The 1,920 x 1,080 13.3-inch display is attractive enough. Though it may not have ultra-impressive resolution, it's without perceptible over-saturation or color inaccuracy problems. Unfortunately, there's a troublesome amount of glare. For instance, I had to get up and move when using the laptop in a medium-lit room with a window at my back. Even on a cloudy day, the light from the window caused annoying reflections.
We also question the bezel configuration of the display. It seems that the world of consumer electronics is in a rush to go bezel-less or nearly so, and makers like Lenovo are willing to shave down the top and side bezels even if it forces one large bezel at the bottom. This hasn't interfered with our day-to-day use of the machine, but it does present an asymmetry that doesn't seem worth it just to claim slim bezels.
Note that the touchscreen display is pen-capable, and is compatible with the sold-separately Lenovo Active Pen (US$39.99). We did not receive a stylus to try out with our review unit, however, so we'll have to keep mum about stylus performance.
Next, the webcam. Occasionally, laptops – especially 2-in-1s – put the webcam in less-than-flattering position. This one is centered above the display, right where we feel it should be. That means you won't get an unflattering below-the-chin angle when holding the device in the standard clamshell position. Of course, there's no one placement that's a slam dunk for all of the possible convertible forms, but since we feel the standard position is the most likely one for video chatting, it seems most appropriate. At 720p, it's far from razor-sharp, but it's duly capable for most basic conferencing applications.
The Yoga 720 has two JBL stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium. Again, we have no real complaints: They're loud enough for personal multimedia consumption and don't sound tinny. If anything, playback has a little bit of fuzz, especially at higher volumes. We also thought the speakers were slightly better suited for television or voice audio over music, which requires richer, more nuanced sounds.
On the other hand, the Yoga 720 does put out some sound that we don't appreciate: the fan. We'd of course prefer to go fanless – it's always better to avoid excess noise and the accompanying knee-jerk worry that the machine is going to overheat – but this fan seems to be louder than most. It could catch you off-guard if you're used to using fanless mobile devices or super-quiet laptops.
In the Yoga's defense, however, the fan seems to only come on in very short, brief bursts, which are also fairly unpredictable. I thought I could force the fan on by streaming YouTube in Chrome with dozens of other tabs open, but that was not the case. The fan seems more responsive to long-term use and room temperature than processing activities.
Indeed, the device's internals suggest capable, current performance, and our testing confirmed it. Our review unit is equipped with a 7th-generation (Kaby Lake) Intel core i5 processor, Intel HD 620 graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of built-in storage and Windows 10 Home. Through heavy-duty web surfing, video streaming and use of several productivity apps, we didn't encounter any sluggishness. This is not a gaming machine or a pro-grade device, but the value-minded consumers it targets should be amply covered.
The battery life is also sufficient – the 48W-h battery almost got us through a full eight-hour work day, shutting down around the 7.5-hour mark on a day where we streamed video, listened to music and generally put the machine through reasonable testing. Longer life is always better, but since this device is charged via USB-C, you may have the convenience of using your phone charger in a pinch.
Apart from our tested configuration, there's also an entry-level model with less RAM and storage (4 GB and 128 GB, respectively) though with current promotional pricing on the mid-tier model, the entry-level machine is actually more expensive. Alternatively, you can upgrade to an Intel core i7 processor with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage.
If a larger machine is what you're after, check out the 15.6-inch Yoga 720, which also comes with either an Intel core i5 or i7 processor and up to 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage. There are also more advanced display and graphics options on the 15.6-inch model. The FHD 1,920 x 1,080 device has up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050M graphics; there is also a 3,840 x 2,160 UHD resolution display option.
Both sizes of the Yoga 720 are equipped with forward and backwards-compatible ports: USB-C x 1, Thunderbolt x 1, legacy USB 3.0 x 1 and an audio jack, for a relatively dongle-free existence. There's also a fingerprint sensor for fast log-ins through Windows Hello – we found it easy to use and convenient as promised.
All in all, Lenovo's Yoga 720 is a well-rounded, serviceable addition to the Yoga line, without any of the disharmony or overly-adventurous features of some less favorable convertibles. It has only a few minor drawbacks, like fan noise and glare.
Lenovo markets it as affordable, but starting at US$859.99 (Lenovo's web price), we're not sure it fulfills our standards for being budget-friendly: It's more of a solid mid-ranger. Still, we think it's a good value, especially if you can score one at one of Lenovo's discounts (the tested configuration is currently available for $780 with an e-coupon) or through another retailer's promotions.
Product page: Lenovo
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