IT buyers who believe that the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the epitome of thin and light business laptops need to think again. The new ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga ($ 1,899) re-introduces the classic executive notebook. This sleek looker is the thinnest ThinkPad to date and rises a little more than 0.4 inches from the corner desk. Given the early look Lenovo gave us prior to the ThinkPad X1 Titanium’s debut at CES 2021 (we have a pre-release sample in hand), we found that the redesigned keyboard may be putting the company off from the company’s glory.
Any color as long as it’s titanium
Companies like ThinkPads partly because their rugged black chassis hasn’t changed much over the years. Lately, the current owner of the ThinkPad line, Lenovo, has been messing things up. The X1 Yoga Titanium is the tech giant’s latest endeavor. The new laptop is only available in a light titanium color scheme and gets rid of the black finishes found on the X1 Carbon and other previous ThinkPad flagships.
It’s a yoga, which means it has a 360 degree rotating hinge that you can use to turn it into an easel, tent, or tablet. For some ThinkPads, this has been the standard tariff for some time. There’s already a ThinkPad X1 Yoga for sale, now in its fifth generation, and a sixth generation is being announced alongside the Titanium.
Not only is the X1 Yoga Titanium’s unique display much thinner and lighter (it weighs 2.5 pounds) than the X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon, it also sets it apart. It’s a 13.5-inch touch-enabled display with 450 nit backlighting and a 3: 2 aspect ratio, making it larger and narrower than the 16: 9 widescreen orientation of most current ThinkPads. The extra height allows you to view more of a text document or web page before you have to scroll. This is a boon for overcrowded executives who review memos all day.
The 3: 2 aspect ratio is also making a comeback in other ultraportable laptops. We have seen a handful of such models over the past year. Before the advent of widescreen videos, the 3: 2 aspect ratio was more common on laptops.
State-of-the-art corporate functions
The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga has many of the innovative, business-friendly features you would expect from a laptop that costs this much. These include user-friendly innovations like a webcam that includes both IR sensors for facial recognition logins via Windows Hello and a reassuring lock for privacy. These components require a little more space between the top of the screen and the edge of the laptop, which means the inside looks a little less modern than, say, the latest iterations of the Dell XPS 13 (the pixels of which practically drip off the sides of the laptop).
There are many features in the X1 Titanium Yoga that IT staff will appreciate, including the option for brand new 11th generation core processors with remote vPro management and security features. The device that Lenovo has made available to try out has 8 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. However, buyers can order configurations for double the amount. The addition of vPro processors is often key to adoption by Fortune 500 companies and other large organizations that deploy and manage large fleets of laptops. According to Intel, the new 11th generation core processors with vPro offer 20% better overall performance than the 10th generation processors they are replacing.
Despite all of the business-friendly features of the X1 Titanium Yoga, some important ones are still missing. Most notably, those absent include a full-size HDMI port for physical connections to A / V systems in the conference room and classroom. (The case is much too thin for such a large port.) Instead, the X1 Titanium only offers two USB type C ports, a SIM card slot for the optional 5G / LTE modem, and a headphone jack.
Of course, there’s no problem ordering a USB-C to HDMI adapter or a USB-C to HDMI cable, but that’s one more thing to consider before heading out on your next business trip (whatever after that the still raging COVID-19 pandemic may not be the case for a while).
Hey what happened to the keyboard?
By far the most controversial features of the X1 Titanium Yoga are the keyboard and touchpad. These two traditional input methods are important to ThinkPad users, and Lenovo has radically changed them in this new laptop, starting with the touchpad. It dispenses with the conventional physical click switch and instead opts for haptic feedback that simulates physical clicks with tiny vibrations.
This technology has been around on Apple laptops for a number of years, where it works quite well. However, due to the short amount of time I’ve spent with the X1 Titanium, Lenovo’s implementation is more cumbersome. It’s based on technology from a small company called Sensel, whose design integrates the haptic motor sensors and all of the other touchpad components into a single package. This compact design is a major reason the X1 Titanium could be made so thin.
Sensel, which presented its next-generation haptic touchpad at CES on Monday, offers some settings in a separate app on the X1 Titanium. This includes setting the threshold for finger recognition and clicking, as well as adjusting the intensity of the haptic feedback or completely deactivating it. These are similar to the options MacBooks offer, but in general I found the typing and haptic clicking to be a little less precise on the X1 Titanium. However, this is based on only a few minutes of usage time, so I may not have fully passed the required learning curve yet.
The X1 Titanium’s keyboard is equally unusual and possibly more controversial. The luxury keys and travel distance typical of ThinkPads are overridden in favor of a flatter, stiffer keyboard. I think that’s a clear negative aspect. The buttons are full size, but they’re just not as comfortable as those on the X1 Yoga or X1 Carbon or any other ThinkPad laptop I’ve tried.
The general feel is more similar to typing on the XPS 13 or the previous generation MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, which come with butterfly switches. It types, not types.
Of course, we’ll have to wait to pass our full judgment until we can continue testing the keyboard and the rest of the X1 Titanium, but it’s now clear that the new keyboard isn’t a definite step forward in ThinkPad design.