In recent years laptops have gone through big changes: while embodying the familiar screen-and-keyboard form, increasingly touchscreen operation, detachable keyboards and flexible hinge designs have become ever prevalent, typically hiking up the price and, often, to the detriment of battery life.
The Lenovo Yoga 720 might look like a "me too" flexible hinge laptop but — and as we've learned from our long weekend of using the Windows 10 machine — it's a deft piece of design, well considered in every department, showing what Lenovo can do when it preens a product to near perfection.
Having recently reviewed the Lenovo Miix 720 2-in-1, which had poor battery life, we were holding our breath that the Yoga 720, which also comes with an Intel Core i7 CPU in this review guise, could buck the trend. It totally does, and then some.
Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Design and details
- 310 x 213 x 14.3mm; 1.3kgs
- Flexible hinge rotates 360-degrees for multi-position use
- 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB-C, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack
- Platinum, Iron Grey or Copper finishes
First things's first: you might not like the so-called copper finish of our review laptop. If you're looking for something less precious-metal-alike then an iron grey finish is available, for a more casual look. If you're buying the top-end £1,449 machine then a platinum finish is available too. And, hey, at least Lenovo isn't making garish bright orange finishes anymore, eh?
Irrelevant of the colour, there's no denying the quality finish of the Yoga 720. From the subtle chamfered edges — which avoid looking too bling, they just add an air of quality and make clear this is a metal laptop — to the trim screen bezel and the subtle fold-back in the body work towards the hinge.
Lenovo has previously leveraged its watchband hinge in some devices — think Yoga 910, for example — but for the step-down Yoga 720 it goes more subtle on the hinge design. But it's still got a trick hidden up its sleeve: although the 720 looks like its screen wouldn't move back too far on itself, those intelligent hinges allow it to flip all the way around to double-up on its closed position. It's one of the more subtle looking 360-degree laptop designs we've seen.
Now, why would you want the screen to flex around so far? The Yoga 720 knows where its screen is in relation to its body, so it can be used in laptop position, or turned through "tent", "upright" or "tablet" positions where its touchscreen kicks in and, if enabled, Windows 10 knows to engage its Tablet mode.
We've rarely used the machine as a tablet, given its 14.3mm thickness making it like two iPad Pro, but we can see why some people would want to. At first we didn't think the hinge proposition yanked the price up too much — Lenovo originally listed the Core i5 Yoga 720 at £799, which increased overnight to £949 prior to publishing this review — but, all things considered, the Yoga avoids the sky-high price point of its Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 competitor, for example.
In terms of connectivity, Lenovo has stuck with the present by using a single USB 3.0 port, while nodding to the future thanks to the presence of two USB Type-C ports. These latter, smaller ports, aren't widely in use today, but in the next couple of years will become prevalent. And we're extra pleased that there are two, because one of them doubles-up as the charging port, so there's always one spare for connectivity purposes. Oh, and as the lightning bolt symbol next to the port suggests, it is Thunderbolt 3 compatible for those top speeds.
Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Keyboard, trackpad and fingerprint scanner
- Full-size backlit keyboard and large trackpad
- Separate, integrated fingerprint scanner
The Yoga 720 has a large trackpad front and centre, while the keyboard — which sits in its own sunken pool, so the keys are flush with the body of the laptop — dominates much of the remaining space. As the front edge of the device is chamfered, it feels "rolled off" and avoids the the sharp finish of a MacBook, making the Lenovo more comfortable to use when typing.
It's a backlit keyboard — enabled by hitting Fn+spacebar, rather than being within the F-keys — so easy to see in the dark, while the bowed-bottom keys have a decent degree of travel and a good "clack" with each press. Zero complaints here.
The trackpad on the 720 is large, just not oversize like some of 2016's laptops introduced. There's a central dividing line to the pad, showing its left and right click separation, but we feel this is arranged a little too centrally — sometimes we would hit a right click by accident, given this central position. Something that repeat use adjusts for, but we would offset the trackpad position slightly across the body.
You'll also notice a recessed key-like area below the right arrow key, which is the integrated fingerprint scanner. Biometric login is becoming a bigger deal these days, and Windows 10 is well equipped to use such hardware for quick and easy login. When the laptop goes to sleep, simply press a registered finger into this reader and in about half a second everything fires back up ready for use — no login screen or anything to contend with. It's a great feature to have, although we think it could have been better hidden within the power button, like in the Acer Switch 5.
Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Screen
- As reviewed: 13.3in 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS LCD screen
- UHD/4K 3840 x 2160 resolution IPS LCD screen option available
- Touchscreen control, optional Active Pen stylus compatibility
The 13.3-inch version of the Yoga 720 comes with a Full HD screen resolution, reserving the UHD/4K panel for the top-spec model only.
In reality, however, we're more than happy with the Full HD panel. Some will want more resolution so, say, it's possible to edit a 1080p video pixel for pixel with surrounding tools in a video editor, in which case you may wish find the extra £349 for those extra pixels. But for those looking for an everyday laptop with ample power when it's needed, the standard resolution has proven good enough — and given how well the battery holds up (more on that later) it's perhaps the best choice for those on-the-go users.
We've previously alluded to the trim bezel surrounding the screen, which helps keep the form of the laptop compact. As its a touchscreen there's no real benefit to having fatter borders like you'll find on some out-and-out tablet devices. The exception, however, is the huge bezel to the bottom of the screen which, well, just looks a bit odd.
Fortunately, as the screen presents blacks in a deep, rich form, the bezel almost blends in among the display itself, so it's hard to notice this behemoth. Screen colours and bright and punchy, and while there's a slightly warm/yellow cast, brightness is ample — it could just do with being a smidgen more clean with its whites.
The touchscreen control is responsive and, given how Windows 10 is setup, is something we found ourselves using quite a lot to swipe into the settings. An optional stylus can be bought if you want to get scrawling on that screen directly — which, given the flexible screen position, makes a lot of sense. The screen holds rigid most of the time, with only the slightest "bounce" aftershocks after releasing a finger (or, presumably, pen) from its surface.
Lenovo Yoga 720 review: Performance and battery life
- As reviewed: 2.70GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processor; 8GB RAM (16GB in top-spec model)
- Intel HD Graphics 620 only for UK (Nvidia GTX1050 in 15-inch models only)
- 256GB SSD (512GB in top-spec model), no SD/mSD expansion
So far, so good. But having recently reviewed the Miix 720 device, complete with Intel Core i7 processor, we were dubious about how the Yoga 720 would therefore perform. And the answer, surprisingly, is considerably better: it's longer lasting by more than double, doesn't set fans a-blowing at the drop of a hat and, frankly, we were pleasantly surprised that such a processor had been intelligently integrated. In our minds the Yoga 720 usurps the higher-end Yoga 910, which sounds like a little leaf blower, whereas the 720 is nice and quiet.
To put it in perspective: with (yeah, ok, it's higher res than the screen) a 1440p YouTube stream open in Edge browser, brightness set to 100 per cent and sound volume to 50 per cent, the Yoga 720 lasts for seven and half hours. The Miix 720, on the other hand, lasted three hours and 15 minutes in the same situation. So the Yoga in its Core i7 form with its Full HD screen is very impressive indeed.
It's even more impressive when using it like a proper day to day laptop. In the long weekend we've been using the device, a mix of streaming tunes, watching Netflix, browsing, editing documents and pictures, and generally messing about, saw it last for around 10 hours. That's unprecedented compared to similar laptops we've been using lately. Colour us impressed.
Part of reason for such longevity in this instance is the non-UHD screen resolution, and no discrete graphics options. If you're after more power then you'll need to up the scale: Lenovo uses Nvidia GTX1050 discrete graphics in all the 15-inch Yoga 720 models, priced from £1,099 to £1,499 for respective Full HD and UHD screen options (so not a huge amount of cash more than the 13-inch models).
The only real downer in performance terms is the sound. Despite a JBL label on the Yoga 720, the decision to position the speakers to the base on the underside makes for a muffled sounding experience, especially when the laptop is positioned on a lap (clue's in the name, eh?). Things sound better from different positions, but that's not really the point.
Almost every laptop we've seen in recent months and years has some sort of notable compromise. But in the Lenovo Yoga 720, in this review configuration, it's hard to assert more than a few minor moans at this excellent laptop. For the near-£1,000 bracket it's among the best Windows laptops you could buy.
It looks great, performs well, longevity is impressive from a Core i7 chipset, there are high-end features such as a fingerprint scanner and USB-C ports (in combination with a full-size USB port), and the flexible hinge design further expands its appeal.
Sure, that bottom screen bezel is quite a behemoth, the JBL speakers are poorly positioned, and the fan can whistle a bit when it has a need to kick in. But that's about all we can leverage against the Yoga 720. It's got full Windows 10, unlike the Microsoft Surface Laptop. It's better priced than a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 by a considerable margin. It's more stylish than a MacBook Pro.
In short, if you're looking for a laptop all-rounder then you'll be hard pressed to buy anything better balanced than the Lenovo Yoga 720. It's one well conceived laptop that should really be on your radar.
Alternatives to consider
Microsoft Surface Laptop
The other buy-on-sight Windows laptop is this marvellous concoction from Microsoft. The main "problem" is the presence of Windows 10S rather than the full version — but that can be updated for free until the end of 2017. Choices, choices.
Read the full article: Microsoft Surface Laptop review
Dell XPS 13 review
A company to come back to the consumer space making a lot of noise, Dell was the first company to introduce some great laptop innovations, such as the infinity display of the XPS 13. It's a little pricier than the Lenovo, lacks the full flexible hinge, but configured right might be the most suitable option for power users with a little more cash.
Read the full article: Dell XPS 13 review