ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 review: flexible flagship

Once upon a time, the Thinkpad X1 Yoga was Lenovo’s flagship business convertible and joined the clamshell X1 Carbon at the top of the company’s business tier. There are more companies these days. Now available is the paper-thin, titanium-coated X1 Titanium Yoga, the featherweight X1 Nano and the powerful X1 Extreme. All are great, expensive and can be considered flagships in their own right.

A lot of innovation is happening across the ThinkPad line, but the X1 Yoga retains many of the features that have graced older ThinkPads over the years. (Starting at $1,493.40 — $2,315.28 as tested — that includes the premium price.) Of course, it has a 16:10 (final) touch display, a new gray color, a wider touchpad, and new security features that will appeal primarily to business users. It’s far from the most cost-effective Windows convertible you can buy, but it has a lot to offer, especially for longtime ThinkPad fans looking for a modern spin in an existing package.

Starting with what’s new: 16:10 aspect ratio is here. These are the changes Lenovo has brought to other top ThinkPads of the year, including the X1 Nano. I much prefer this panel over the 16:9 panel we saw in the 5th gen. Because it provides a lot more vertical space without adding a lot of space to the chassis.

Another thing to note about this display is the matte texture. Matte touchscreens are not often seen. Writing with a stylus basically feels like writing on a glossy panel, but the tip dragging sound is slightly louder on a matte screen. (I also prefer to touch matte textures, but my preferences vary.) Mainly matte textures look slightly darker in color compared to glossy screens, but they also have much less glare and are much better to work with on lighter settings. A more viable outlook. The colors were vivid, so it was fun to watch the video, and the details were well expressed, so the matte texture was a positive overall feeling. Additionally, there were no stains or fingerprints left on the panel during the test period.

Fingerprint sensor on ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 viewed from above.

Fingerprint reader and power button in one.

ThinkPad X1 logo on ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 viewed from above on a stone table.

No fingerprints here.

Another notable change: the touchpad is larger. In particular, at 4.33 inches wide, the Gen 5 (which many reviewers criticize for its small size) was only 4. It’s wide enough now, but it’s still a bit short, and my fingers often hit the plastic frame when scrolling. If your trackpad is too cramped, the X1 Yoga offers multiple ways to click. ThinkPad TrackPoint signature in the center of the keyboard. And the unit comes with a small stylus in the garage to the right of the chassis.

And there are plenty of updated security features that Lenovo has drizzled throughout the ThinkPad line. There is an optional IR webcam with human presence detection that can automatically lock the computer when the user is not nearby (the webcam itself has a physical shutter like the ThinkPads and provides fairly grainy pictures). It features a fingerprint reader on the power button, a dTPM 2.0 security chip (which encrypts user data on the system), and an optional feature called Privacy Guard that makes the screen hard to peek from the side.

But the most notable update is the appearance. The Gen 5’s chassis had a bit of gray, but the Gen 6’s are all gray, including the keyboard, touchpad, and hinges. This means that yoga looks a bit different from the ocean on other ThinkPads that are traditionally very black. Although the reds and grays aren’t quite as striking as the reds and blacks, the X1 Yoga offers a more futuristic vibe than devices like the X1 Carbon and X13.

Anyway, to each of you about aesthetics. What’s a bit disappointing is how easily the finish can be scratched. I folded my device into a tablet and left it on an outdoor table for a few minutes, writing simple drawings and writing, and when I heard it there were scratches on the palm rest. After that, I was afraid to put the device remotely near sharp objects. If this was the effect of a few minutes of writing, I’m worried how much this chassis will get scratched by everyday tablet use.

Otherwise, no complaints about the build quality. There is a bit of flex on the keyboard deck, but none on the display, and the screen didn’t wobble while typing or touching the screen. The finish was not very fingerprinted (sometimes a problem with the black ThinkPad). The hinges are soft and can be folded and unfolded. It can be easily opened with one hand. There are some difficulties. It’s also fairly portable at 3 pounds and 0.59 inches thick, but is a bit heavy to hold as a tablet for long periods of time.

ThinkPd X1 Yoga 6th Gen, half open, tilted to the left and viewed from behind from an outdoor stone bench.

Upper aluminum, lower aluminum.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga in tablet mode viewed from above on a stone bench.

Use in tablet, tent, stand or clamshell mode.

Elsewhere, the X1 Yoga is great. ThinkPad keyboards are world-renowned, and although they are flatter than some of their siblings, they are still comfortable for great portability. Like most ThinkPads, the Yoga has half-size arrow keys, and the Fn and Ctrl keys change from positions found on most other laptops, so it takes a while to get used to. (You can remap those keys, but they can still be annoying if they are mislabeled.) Two Thunderbolt 4 ports (new to the X1 Yoga), USB 3.2 Type-A and HDMI 2.0 on the left, HDMI 2.0 on the right has a USB 3.2 Type A, headphone jack, and a lock slot. 4 360 degree microphones picked up my voice well. And the Dolby Atmos speaker system sounds great with audible bass and very clear vocals.

The X1 Yoga Gen 6 has a million configurations with all kinds of extra features. One interesting thing is that the cheapest model on the list (currently $1,493.40) is actually a Linux model. Base specs include a Core i5-1135G7, 8 GB of RAM (soldered) and 256 GB of storage. My test model (running Windows 10 Pro, not Linux) costs $2,315.28 from B&H and includes a quad-core Core i7-1165G7, 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM.

Then there are various add-ons. Windows 10 Pro costs $60 more than Windows 10 Home. Privacy Guard lets you scale up to 3840 x 2400 screens or 1920 x 1200 screens. Both of these options are only available on IR cameras, which cost $30 more than regular cameras. Human presence detection, available only with IR cameras, is an additional $15. And you can add 4G and 5G mobile broadband. Pricing depends on the modem selected.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 opens on a stone bench viewed from above.  The screen shows an outdoor night view with a waving orange banner and a Lenovo banner in the lower right corner.

Do you see scratches on the remote control?

The Core i7 used here is the same processor found in many of the best laptops on the market and is good enough for all kinds of demanding workloads. Intel’s Iris Xe graphics card may help with work tasks and lighter gaming, but the X1 Yoga isn’t a gaming laptop at all. The app ran fast and I didn’t notice many stuttering or slowdowns during a day full of Slack over streaming, photo editing, and about a dozen Chrome tabs. Performance is more dependent on battery profile than other Windows laptops. All tabs and apps started to freeze, so I had to turn off sleep mode when trying to make Zoom calls over many tabs and apps.

Speaking of batteries, the lifespan of the X1 Yoga isn’t a disaster, but it’s still decent for a convertible at this price point. It was used for an average of 8 hours and 7 minutes consecutively with a medium brightness screen. That’s not a bad result, but I’ve seen better in the best ultraportables at this level.

One final observation that made me a little bit too happy is that there is no bloatware in this matter. Neither McAfee, nor Norton, are nonsense that should be removed as soon as you power on. I usually don’t want laptops over $1,000 to have this feature. But it’s often seen in expensive consumer laptops made by all sorts of companies, including Lenovo. It’s a good thing the ThinkPad isn’t full of garbage, but consumers should have the same experience.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 in easel mode leans to the left on an outdoor stone bench.  The screen shows an outdoor night view with a waving orange banner and a Lenovo banner in the lower right corner.

A bloatware-free zone.

With tons of additional features and configurations, and prices ranging from $1,500 to over $3,000, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is customizable. It can be a mid-range convertible with basic specifications, or it can be a premium business laptop with the security-focused characteristics of the ThinkPad family. It’s an absolute must-see among the saturated convertible ThinkPads.

That said, it’s a fairly expensive line for consumers or self-employed people. For reference, a similar model to Lenovo’s top consumer convertible, the Yoga 9i, is available for just $1,529. This model also has the Core i7-1185G7, which is a notch higher than the chip shipped with the test model. The X1 Yoga model with that processor starts at $1938. Like the X1 Yoga, the Yoga 9i has a convertible form factor, a physical webcam shutter, a built-in stylus, a one-year warranty, and most of the same software offered by Lenovo.

That raises the question of what all that extra money actually pays. The X1 Yoga’s 16:10 aspect ratio is definitely a bonus, and it lacks bloatware and a matte display. The 9i, on the other hand, offers some truly innovative features like better battery life (like many consumer convertibles at this price), great audio, a haptic touchpad, and an ultrasonic fingerprint reader. At some point, X1 Yoga buyers are actually paying a premium for their ThinkPad build. ThinkPad has some unique aspects. The TrackPoint and its unique keyboard arrangement will always be enthusiastically supported. But it also has a sleek, professional look and feel. They are known for their extreme durability (and the X1 Yoga is MIL-spec tested, but the X1 Yoga’s scratch-prone chassis and keyboard flex pauses in that area). Overall, like a bitten apple on a MacBook, the ThinkPad logo is a recognizable graphic. It is associated with a high level of build quality, longevity and performance, and gives a certain status to both business users and consumers.

Which is good and good if that’s what you want. If you’re looking for the latest ThinkPad to compete with today’s best laptops, and are especially interested in Linux and simple information like human presence detection, then this is probably the machine of your dreams. It’s important to note that if you think about the ThinkPad branding that way, you can get most of it on offer for a lot cheaper.

Photo: Monica Chin

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