Battery Life, Pricing and Conclusion
Battery life on the Lenovo LaVie-Z is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, 4.27 hours in our web browsing test for the world's lightest laptop is impressive. However, when compared to similarly equipped ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13 (2015) at almost 8 hours of battery life in the same test, the LaVie-Z is less than stellar.
Even though most of the components in the LaVie-Z were chosen for their low power drawl, this discrepancy comes down to battery size. While the Dell XPS 13 has a 52Wh battery, the capacity of the battery found in the Lenovo laptop is only 85% of that, at 44.4Wh.
Keep in mind, even though the Dell XPS 13 isn't a heavy laptop by any stretch at 2.6 lbs, that's almost a pound heavier than the LaVie-Z.
While we are traditionally used to the prices of notebooks varying on specifications, the LaVie-Z is a different beast. Lenovo is only offering the LaVie-Z and LaVie-Z 360 in one configuration option each. Along with the Intel Core i7-5500U and 13.3" 2560×1440 display (either touch-enabled or not), Lenovo includes 8GB of onboard DDR3L memory, as well as a 256GB M.2 SSD. It should be noted that for an ultrabook platform, this is a maxed out configuration for everything except the SSD. Given that the SSD resides in a M.2 slot, and the bottom panel of the laptop comes off easily, this could be user upgraded if desired.
As it turns out, ultrabooks utilizing the i7-5500U are few and far between. We managed to find a configuration of the Dell XPS 13 Touch with the same hardware as the LaVie-Z 360, but only as a Microsoft Store exclusive. The price of this one off SKU just happens to match the price of the Lavie-Z 360, for the same hardware configuration.
For a very high-end ultrabook configuration, I think what Lenovo is asking for the LaVie-Z is more than fair and inline with current similar offerings from other manufacturers when you can find them if you are willing to put up with the compromises that the LaVie-Z brings.
On one hand, I really want to love the LaVie-Z. Ever since we saw a preview of this machine at CES it has been on my radar as a potential replacement for my mid-2013 MacBook Air. I am a true believer in lightweight laptops, and my MacBook serves the purpose that some people use a tablet for – I bring it with me everywhere. Cutting that weight substantially again with the LaVie-Z was a very intriguing proposition.
However, there are still some major questions left to be answered about the LaVie-Z. As the Lithium-Magnesium composition of the body is a bleeding edge technology, I begin to worry about long term durability.
Just from carrying around the LaVie-Z 360 in my bag with me for a few weeks, I actually noticed a few dents on the bottom of the laptop. It's not the end of the world, but I can imagine most people would be very unpleased to find dents in their brand new laptop after just normal use.
I don't think this is a permanent indictment for this material and it's potential uses though. I think if we see Lenovo develop a laptop from the ground up, maybe in the ThinkPad or Yoga line, it could be a very interesting product.
Beyond the material concerns, there are just too many day-to-day compromises to recommend it to most users. A strange keyboard layout, very weak speakers, and a low powered backlight are just a few. While the formfactor might enable you to take this notebook more places, some of the issues with usability might actually give the LaVie-Z less utility than other ultrabooks.
That being said, if you know what you are getting into this laptop is a pretty incredible piece of engineering. Even after using this machine for a few weeks, I am still pleasantly surprised every time I pick it up.
Definitely keep your eye out for the next thing to come from this NEC-Lenovo partnership, and the evolution of Lithium-Magnesium construction. I know I will.