(Pocket-lint) - Lenovo makes several of the very best laptops that sit under the four-figure mark. And this, the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7, is probably the one you should buy.
Sure, the MacBook Air is a more exciting prospect, and even more powerful. But the Yoga Slim 7 is actually one of the best reasons not to buy a MacBook in 2021. Oh, and we should probably mention it's hundreds cheaper too.
Its build quality is superb, it almost certainly has more power than you need, its screen is excellent in most respects, and the AMD version (as reviewed here) can even handle some recent-ish games well enough.
Lenovo once again gives us a masterclass on how to make a world-class laptop for under a grand. There's very little reason to spend any more unless you need an ultra-high-resolution screen.
- Dimensions: 320.6mm x 208mm x 14.9mm
- 1.4kg claimed weight (1.326kg measured)
- Finishes: Slate Grey / Orchid Purple
- Aluminium shell design
High-end laptops are an odd category. Sometimes when you spend more to jump up a league, you end up with a laptop that feels less expensive. A lot of the most pricey ones use magnesium alloys rather than primarily aluminium ones: lighter but less metallic to the touch.
The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7's case panels are aluminium. It leads to weight of 1.3kg rather than, well, a couple of hundred grammes less, but you get the same lovely cool-to-the-touch feel as a MacBook.
The screen is stiff, the keyboard doesn't bow under the pressure of your fingers, and it's a classy-looking laptop in a minimalistic sort of way.
This isn't quite the device you might expect given that it's part of the Yoga series, though. The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7's screen folds open to 180 degrees, not a hybrid-style 360 degrees, and it does not have a touchscreen.
It's definitely a laptop, not a lifestyle gadget that thinks it can replace an iPad. Lenovo has its eyes on MacBook Air buyers, thus some of the core stats are similar. The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 is 16mm thick, just like an Air, and the weight is more-or-less the same too.
- 14-inch IPS panel, 300 nits birghtness
- 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution
- No touchscreen control
The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 has a 14-inch IPS LCD screen. It's here we see this laptop start to move away from one that costs hundreds more - but less so than you might guess.
This is a 1080p screen, which means you'll see slight pixellation in small fonts. Lenovo does make a 4K version, but this doesn't seem to be sold as widely as the Full HD Yoga 7 Slim.
In almost every other respect, though, we have no complaints. It actually outperforms Lenovo's own claims in some areas.
For example, Lenovo says the 1080p Yoga 7 Slim reaches 300-nit brightness. But it actually hits 385 nits by our measure. That extra headroom makes the display look clearer outdoors, and it also has a reflection-reducing matte finish. When you have some high-end laptops touting 500 nits as some kind of untouchable achievement, it shows just how well set this laptop is.
Lenovo says the screen's colour matches the sRGB colour standard, the old industry standard for monitors and printers. But its colour coverage is actually 20 per cent richer than that by our measure.
Sure, a MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13 has deeper colour still, but you only need to worry about that if you'll colour grade video or do other pro imaging work. The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7's colour looks well-saturated to our eyes.
Part of that eyeball-pleasing effect is thanks to the display's great contrast: it's 1762:1 at max brightness, which is an excellent result for an LCD screen. Blacks don't look washed out and grey.
All it really lacks in this class is the slick presentation you get from a glass-topped glossy screen. The screen image of a glossy display can seem to “pop” more than a matte one like this, and the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 has a plastic top layer with a slightly raised surround.
However, this is more a result of the decision to use a matte finish than a way for Lenovo to save a few pennies when making the Yoga Slim 7.
Keyboard & Touchpad
- 2-level white LED backlight
- NUMPAD-free chiclet keyboard
- Wide aspect textured glass trackpad
Want some more proof Lenovo isn't cost-cutting on the sly? The Yoga Slim 7 has a mid-size textured glass touchpad.
This laptop sits right at the border where we tend to see manufacturers switch from using relatively cheap plastic pads to fancier glass ones. Seeing textured glass in a laptop range that starts at this price is by no means a given though.
The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 'pad also has zero pre-click wobble, and nice'n'firm clicker feedback. We also saw zero driver or sensitivity issues, which often makes us disable tap-based button response in Windows 10.
In short: this is one of the best pads you'll see in this class.
The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7's keyboard is less remarkable, but still does the job perfectly well. Key travel is limited, much less than Lenovo's famously deep ThinkPad laptops, but the actuation feedback is good.
This is a relatively fast and light-feeling keyboard. It has a two-level backlight as well, and we switched it on more than usual. The key lettering contrast drops off when there's a light pointing directly at the keyboard as the keys and surround are a metallic grey, with less contrast in their colour than some.
At a glance you'd guess there's no fingerprint scanner here. But the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 does have one built into the power button on the side.
Performance & Speakers
- 2x 2W speakers with Dolby Atmos DSP
- Ryzen 7 4700U CPU with Vega 8 graphics
- 8GB DDR4X RAM
Lenovo makes both Intel and AMD versions of the Yoga 7 Slim. Our review model is an AMD one with a Ryzen 7 4700U, 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.
This setup is not quite as powerful as a MacBook Air's M1 processor, but it is better than the 10th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 you might find in another model. You can get a Core i7 CPU version of this same laptop for a mite more, but we'd stick with AMD.
While the Intel offers better performance in single-core apps, the AMD has twice the number of cores, at eight. And while this is a low-voltage processor made for slim and light laptops, it is punchy.
Windows 10 runs like a dream on the Yoga 7 Slim. This is helped by the very fast SSD, which reads data at a shade under 3500MB/s. Once again: no budget-related cuts here.
The Yoga 7 Slim's Ryzen 7 4700U also has better built-in graphics than anything on the Intel side (bar the latest 11th Generation chipsets with the “Xe” GPU). You may not get a full gaming laptop experience here, but given it slots into a slim and light case we're pretty happy.
You can play Skyrim at Ultra graphics, 1080p resolution, and see frame rates that hop between 30fps and 40fps depending on what's on-screen. Subnautica runs well at 1080p, Low graphics. You lose out on some of the more atmospheric visual effects at this setting, but the game still looks good.
The Witcher 3 is more of a challenge, but is still playable. Stick to 900p resolution and you can play at Low settings, 30ps, comfortably, or at Medium if you can live with some dips to the 20fps range when you get into combat or walk around cities.
A laptop with an Nvidia MX450 graphics card, like the HP Envy 13, will run games better. It's 50-100 per cent more powerful, depending on context. But the results from the Yoga 7 Slim are still much better than those of a vanilla 10th Gen Intel laptop.
The Yoga 7 Slim also has respectable speakers, with some caveats to note. There are drivers to each side of the keyboard, in those obvious hole-pocked grilles.
While not quite MacBook-grade, the sound does have some real mid-range output and good volume. But much of that comes from the Dolby Atmos digital signal processing.
Atmos is traditionally a way to add height channels to a mix, whether with real speakers or virtual ones. But in laptops this software's main effect is to max-out the performance of little drivers.
You hear it in full effect in the Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim, as the speakers sound weak, quiet and thin with Dolby Atmos disabled. Switched on the audio does tend to sound manipulated, which is a combination of the processing's effect on the soundstage and that the laptop's drivers are being pushed to their limits when volume is near full. Still, the result remains more powerful than that of some laptops in this price band.
Connections & Webcam
- 720p webcam with IR for login
- 1x HDMI, 2x USB-C (1x with DisplayPort)
Connections on laptops are a bit like headphone jacks on phones. Spend more and you often end up with fewer ports. The Yoga 7 Slim has plenty for our needs. You get two USB-C - the standard outlay for an ultra-pricey laptop - plus a stack of “older” connections.
There's a full-size HDMI, two USB 3.2 ports, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack. It's only missing connectors that frankly don't belong on a laptop like this in 2020, such as an Ethernet port and VGA connector.
We like that Lenovo recognises not everyone who buys a Yoga 7 Slim will have switched entirely to USB-C peripherals.
That said, the webcam doesn't get the same attention. It's a 720p camera with a soft, dull image. You can use the camera to login, because there's a Windows Hello-compatible IR camera by its side. This is used to recognise your face regardless of the light level. The webcam itself doesn't hold up so well in low light.
- 60.4Wh battery
- 65/95W charging (65W adapter included)
- Charging over USB-C
Lenovo makes a massive statement about the Yoga 7 Slim's battery, that it can last up to 17.5 hours. We were fully prepared to do our usual spiel about how manufacturers test their laptops' batteries with benchmarks from the 1970s, using screen settings so dim you can't even see the display. And then, well, we did some testing of our own.
Five hours of 1080p streamed YouTube at 60 per cent brightness only saw the charge level drop to 70 per cent, suggesting a total runtime of about 16 hours 40 minutes.
That seemed almost unbelievably long, so we tried playing The Witcher 3 until the battery died. The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7's brightness was maxed and we minimised graphics settings and resolution, to increase the load on the CPU while still using 100 per cent of the GPU's power. We started at 4:58pm, it died at 6:47pm. A shade under two hours: better than the vast majority of gaming laptops but then again the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 doesn't have a dedicated power-hungry GPU.
We like to rely as much on real-world use as possible for our reviews at Pocket-lint. But the Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim's battery really caught our interest, so we put it through some more battery benchmarks.
PC-testing suite PCMark 10 has a series of tests that emulate the workloads of real-world situations. We tried “modern office”, which uses some basic browsing and productivity apps punctuated by some gaps, stand-ins for your going to make a cup of tea or slacking off on your phone.
The Yoga 7 Slim lasts 20 hours 1 minute at 50 per cent screen brightness, using its CPU-throttling Battery Saver mode. This seemed ridiculous so we re-ran the test at 73 per cent brightness and took off the processor limits. It still lasted 18 hours 11 minutes.
We give in. It's all true. The Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim lasts forever.
Its battery is big at 60.7Wh, 17 per cent higher capacity than the latest Dell XPS 13. But the real hero here is the AMD Ryzen 4700U, which scales so well between exertion levels it starts to look more like the revolutionary Apple M1 CPU.
Charging speed is less impressive, though. It takes around 2.5 hours to charge from flat. The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 uses USB-C to charge and comes with a 65W adapter. This laptop does support a form of fast-charging, for 50 per cent juice in 30 minutes - much like a decent Android phone - but this requires Lenovo's 95W charger (and we didn't get one in the box).
The Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 is never going to be as renowned as the MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13, but we think it's a better all-round buy for many. Apple charges a premium for the most comparable Air spec. The closest Dell XPS 13 config costs even more and is worse at playing games.
But it's not all about money. The Yoga Slim 7 has a lovely aluminium casing, lots of power, lots of storage, a vibrant screen, an excellent glass trackpad, and incredibly long battery life.
Yes, we'd love the Yoga Slim 7 even more if its speakers had higher quality drivers and it had a webcam without cataracts. But would we pay hundreds more for them? Not a chance. As it is this is one of the best laptops available at this price point.
HP Envy 13
Pound for pound the HP Envy 13 is probably the most alluring alternative to the Yoga. We loved the late 2019 version for its power and all-metal build, all at the right price. The 2020 update nets you much better gaming performance, thanks to an Nvidia MX450 graphics card. But the Lenovo lasts longer, has a more powerful CPU and a glass touchpad.
MacBook Air 13
Ok, so the MacBook Air is a more interesting laptop than the Lenovo Yoga 7, but is it a better buy? For video editing and other intensive jobs we'd buy the Air. Use M1 processor-optimised apps and performance will be better, and the battery will last far longer. However, thanks to Apple's pricey upgrades system the Lenovo costs a stack less if you need 512GB storage rather than 256GB.
Dell XPS 13
The Dell is Windows laptop royalty. But if you're into the core substance of computing it simply seems clear the Lenovo is a better buy. It's more powerful, using multi-core optimised apps, the battery is bigger and lasts longer. The XPS 13's benefits are all to do with design and portability. It has a smaller footprint, is 4mm thinner, and slightly lighter. You'll have to decide if that's worth several hundred pounds.