(Pocket-lint) - The Lenovo Yoga S740 is a near-perfect laptop if what you want is a computer, not a lifestyle accessory. Its keyboard is great. It looks smart. Build quality is excellent. And the price is right.

For many this is best lower-cost Windows alternative to a MacBook Pro 13. The entry-level Lenovo Yoga S740 costs £799, and gets you the same substance (with a newer CPU) as a £1500 MacBook.

We're reviewing the step-up £999 spec, which has a 512GB SSD and top-tier Intel Core i7 CPU. The only real stumbling block is that while Lenovo calls this a "Yoga" laptop, it really isn't one.

Design

  • Ports: 1x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 2x USB-A 3.0, 1x 3.5mm jack
  • Dimensions: 322.3mm x 212 x 18.1mm
  • Finish: Iron Grey aluminium
  • Weight: 1.4kg

Why not? Yoga laptops were so named for their flexible hybrid style, with 360-degree hinges and touchscreens. The Lenovo Yoga S740 does not have either.

Its hinge open up to 180 degrees, but as there's no touchscreen here, the only real use is to let a whole crowd of people see a YouTube video. And how often do you really need to do that?

The Lenovo Yoga S740 design isn't the stuff of paid-up mummy Instagram influencers, using their Yoga laptop to bake cookies while living their best lives. But it is otherwise a pretty fantastic laptop.

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Evidence item no.1 : build. The Lenovo Yoga S740 is an aluminium laptop with some of the stiffest panels we've seen in a sub-£1000 model from the last couple of years. Its keyboard doesn't flex, the screen is rigid, and there's a real heavy-duty feel to this thing all-round.

All the metal is tastefully anodised. And while the look is plain, the S740 seems minimal, not a style vacuum. Lenovo's cutely curved keyboard keys help here.

Like most recent laptops, the S740 also has fairly trim screen borders. There's no real magic to this. It doesn't affect how good a laptop feels to use, but does mean its footprint isn't all that much larger than the screen itself.

Lenovo has clearly not focused on supreme portability anywhere near as much as Acer did with the sub-1kg Swift 5, though. The  Lenovo Yoga S740 weighs 1.437kg according to our scales. That's above average in this category, and you do feel the extra couple of hundred grams when you pick the thing up. However, by allowing for some extra weight Lenovo could (we presume) use thicker aluminium panels, and fit in a larger battery.

Real portability plus a work-friendly 14-inch display are a good combo. The Lenovo Yoga S740 feels much tougher, much more expensive, than a rival Acer Swift 5. Low weight or a laptop that feels almost bulleproot? Take your pick.

Its connections are well above average, too, because you get a Thunderbolt 3 port. This looks like plain old USB-C 3.0 connector used in most phones and sensibly-priced laptops, but provides far greater speed reserves. That is important if you want to plug in, for example, two 4K screens.

The Lenovo Yoga S740 also has two USB-A 3.0 ports and a headphone jack. There's no memory card slot, no space for a SIM card (check out the Yoga C640 for that) and no HDMI, but what you do get covers a lot of bases.

Screen

  • 14-inch LCD, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • Max 11.8mm bezel
  • Dolby Vision

The display is ultra-solid too. A flat pane of glass covers the screen, no raised borders needed, and it is a good size: 14-inches is big enough for work, yet small enough to make the laptop easy to carry around.

Its top brighness of 367 nits is strong enough for outdoors use, too, although the glossy finish will make reflections more obvious and distracting. Lenovo also uses an odd brightness curve, where the backlight stays fairly dim until you reach about 80 per cent of the slider.

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Colour saturation is at least in-line with the competition at the price. The Lenovo Yoga S740 does not have super-deep colour coverage, which you only get in OLED or high-end LCD screens, but is easily good enough to make games and movies appear rich and punchy.

It covers 92.6 per cent of the sRGB standard: not perfect, but good enough to avoid the willowy look of an undersaturated screen.

Display resolution is, like almost all good sub-£1000 Windows laptops, Full HD (1080p). You can see the pixels in small fonts, but this screen looks good regardless.

It also supports Dolby Vision, an HDR standard (that's high dynamic range). However, this isn't an HDR display and as such does not support YouTube HDR. To get that you need to buy the 4K version of the S740. You can get this direct from Lenovo, not most retailers.

Neither version, 1080p or 4K, has a fingerprint scanner. But you can login with the camera using Windows 10's face ID, called Windows Hello. This seems quick and reliable, more so than the average laptop fingerpad. The webcam still sucks, though: it's a 720p camera, but the image is soft, murky and undersaturated.

Keyboard & Trackpad

  • Backlit keyboard
  • Textured glass trackpad

The Lenovo Yoga S740 is all about providing substance with no attention-seeking nonsense. Its keyboard and trackpad are great examples of this.

Keyboard response is great. Each keystroke is both crisp and meaty, effectively a lighter take on the class-leading deep dish keyboard of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 range. We'd take a few tenths of a millimetres of depth if they were on offer but, still, we write for a living and find this keyboard comfy enough. 

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The keys have a two-stage backlight for low-light typing, and the excellent case rigidity is only going to help the key feel.

The Lenovo Yoga S740 is far from the only laptop at the price with a decent keyboard, but it's relatively rare in pairing a good keyboard with a great trackpad.

This is a glass pad, where most alternatives that start at around £799 use plastic to save cash. Textured glass gives a smoother finger glide. There's also virtually no pad movement before you reach the clicker, so the Lenovo Yoga S740 trackpad feels as firm and confident as the best out there.

It's one of the best trackpads available in this class. No complaints.

Performance

  • Up to 16GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • Up to Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU
  • Up to 512GB M.2 SSD (1TB direct from Lenovo)

Given the Lenovo Yoga S740 is such a hit in terms of quality points per spend, we wish Lenovo had sent us the entry-level version. To many the leap from £800 to £1,000 is a huge. But we have the upgraded model with a Core i7 CPU instead of an i5, and a 512GB SSD in place of a 256GB one. Both versions you'll find sold widely online have 8GB RAM. Our spec costs £999, although as we write this you can find it for £899 online. That's a great deal.

This review spec makes the Lenovo Yoga S740 capable of just about anything you can ask of a laptop. Windows 10 runs like a dream, its productivity potential is off the charts and even the SSD is unusually quick. Its 3350MB/s reads and 2940MB/s writes were not long ago the kind of speeds you'd only see in MacBooks and select pricey Windows laptops.

Video editors and others with similarly laptop-crushing jobs might want 16GB RAM. But you can get such a Yoga S740 if you buy direct from Lenovo. Don't get too excited, mind: this Intel CPU generation does not offer major CPU power improvements over laptops with the 7th and 8th generation Intel processors.

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But let's get real. This is a laptop for people who want quality at a sensible price. It's not for those who upgrade their laptop every year. 

Our Core i7 Lenovo Yoga S740 does have much better gaming chops than previous-gen i7 laptops, though. Intel now uses Iris GPUs in its higher-end processors to get you performance a little closer to that of a low-end dedicated card. But what does it get you?

Skyrim runs at around 38-50fps at 1080p, on medium settings. Or it hovers around 25fps at the high graphics preset. Compared to an older-generation laptop at this level, you can bump up the detail setting or the resolution to a league and still see relatively smooth frame-rates.

The best compromise we found for pretty underrated survival game Subnautica was 900p resolution at medium graphics. While it only plays at around 25fps, you don't have to lose all the game's charming atmospheric visual effects. 

We are still dealing with an underpowered gaming machine here, but Intel's latest processors are still a big step up in the world of integrated graphics (from Intel, as AMD's are faster). The Iris Plus GPU is almost 50 per cent more powerful than older, basic baked-in Intel HD 620.

The Lenovo Yoga S740 is also silent when doing light work. And while the familiar hum of a tiny jet plane does fire up when you start playing a game, it only usually becomes distractingly loud if you block the heat vents on the underside. Air flow could be better though.

While we don't love the cooling system here, the Lenovo Yoga S740 is still a pleasure to use for our daily work when used on a desk.

Battery Life & Speakers

  • 62Wh battery with cylindrical charge socket
  • Stereo Speakers, Dolby Atmos

We also consider the Lenovo Yoga S740 one of the best around for roving workers, even if it isn't the slimmest or lightest laptop. It has a 62Wh battery, larger than that of the latest Dell XPS 13 (52Wh) or the rival Acer Swift 5.

Lenovo says it lasts for up to 14 hours between charges but, as is so often the case with these figures, that number is not based on the most taxing of tests. It uses MobileMark 2014, which is outdated at this point.

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We set the laptop to stream video from YouTube at a little over 50 per cent brightness, so we could watch it comfortably indoors. It lasted 16 hours 45 minutes, an almost shockingly long time.

Lenovo does "cheat" a little bit here, by making the brighness curve of the backlight so skewed the screen is only genuinely bright when you hit the top 15 per cent of the dial. But this is clearly a good laptop for all-day working.

We also kept an eye on the Lenovo Yoga S740 while using it for work - a mix of writing and web browsing - and the screen set to around 85 per cent. It lasts around 10 hours used like this.

While there has been a lot of love for Lenovo in this review, a laptop made to a careful budget can't get everything right. And the Lenovo Yoga S740 speakers are just OK. They use Dolby Atmos EQ processing to beef up the sound, but as they fire upwards their stereo image is not that wide and the mids are quite boxy. We're not close to MacBook Pro league audio here, so plug in some headphones if you want to do more than watch some YouTube.

Verdict

Lenovo hasn't played the same game as rivals Acer and Asus here. There are no gimmicks, no attention-grabbing features or specs. The Lenovo Yoga S740 is not particularly slim or light in this cut-throat class, and is at risk of looking a little plain and unambitious on the website of your favourite electronics retailer.

But this laptop is pure quality. It's stiffer and more solid-feeling than any of its key rivals. The trackpad is a lovely plate of glass, not the plastic you often get at the price. Its screen is good too, and battery life is above average. Lenovo has made all the right choices to make this "pure" laptop shine.

Just don't buy a Lenovo Yoga S740 expecting the usual "Yoga" experience. The screen doesn't flip around, and does not have a touch layer. But we'll totally forgive that, given how polished everything else is.

Also consider

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Acer Swift 5

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The Lenovo doesn't really have a feature calling card. Acer's Swift 5 does. It is the lightest laptop in its class at 990g, so the Lenovo weighs almost 50 per cent more on top. It's less stiff, doesn't feel as expensive and the trackpad is not glass. But if low weight is a top priority, the Swift 5 is a worthy rival.

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Apple MacBook Air

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The closest you'll get to Lenovo's pricing from team Apple is with the 2020 MacBook Air. It starts at £999, but instead of a Core i7 CPU, you get a less powerful Core i3. And half the storage. Spec it up to Lenovo's standard and the MacBook is £500 more. However, it does have a sharper screen and an even better trackpad.

Writing by Andrew Williams.