Build Quality, Keyboard, and Trackpad
The X1 Yoga is a constructed of a lightweight carbon magnesium material, and the body has a matte finish with a smooth-feeling texture; though it was something of a fingerprint magnet all the same.
Flipping the X1 Yoga over we see some vent slots for the warmer components within, as well as a pair of downward firing speakers (lower left and right) for stereo sound. This was actually pretty good, but the volume of sound will depend on orientation.
The notebook feels pretty sturdy, with very little flex when applying torque with both hands. The lid in particular is thicker than the X1 Carbon, which seems to help with its rigidity. And while the X1 Yoga isn't the thinnest notebook from Lenovo, the chassis is tapered for a slim feel. The bottom chassis slopes up, which makes it very easy to grasp the closed notebook with one hand.
On the subject of build quality, I have to say that the hinges are one of the best aspects of this design. These hinges are quite strong; certainly up to the task of 360-degree rotation, holding the screen in place at all points along the way. There's a bit of flex from the lid as you adjust it, but nothing concerning. Lenovo seems to have struck a good balance between strength and thickness.
Beyond offering conversion to a tablet (and "tent" mode, among other orientations), 360-degree rotation allows for total control of display angle. The same could be said for a number of ThinkPad notebooks, which allow the display to be folded flat, but in any case it's nice not to be limited.
The tighter hinge on this X1 Yoga resists movement more than, say, a MacBook Air (which cannot open nearly as far due to the limit placed on hinge movement to prevent the screen from falling back), and there’s not much weight to the upper and lower halves to offset the strength of the 360-degree hinge. I'm fine with this tradeoff, but the X1 Yoga won't feel as 'fluid' as some notebooks during adjustments.
Here we have another showcase of this ThinkPad's design. (Warning, nerding out over things like key travel, and concave vs. chiclet keys follows. The short version: I love the keyboard.)
Key travel is deeper than you’ll find on standard Ultrabooks by a wide margin, and this results in a very pleasant feel for typing. Sure, there are (thicker) ThinkPad notebooks with greater key travel, but there is a crispness to this X1 Yoga’s keyboard that makes me question whether I’d want any deeper travel. This isn’t to say there’s not much travel from the keys, as there is certainly far more than any other Ultrabook I’ve used (other than the ThinkPad Yoga S1, that is).
The keycaps have a slightly concave surface, which I find preferable to the flat surface of most chiclet-style laptop keys on the market. I directly compared the current iteration of the MacBook Air 13 to this X1 Yoga, and while the Air’s keyboard has a crisp feel, with a very short throw and light actuation force that permits very fast typing once acclimated, this ThinkPad keyboard is more satisfying from a tactile standpoint to this reviewer.
There is more force required for key actuation with the X1 Yoga, but I got used to it very quickly. It’s similar to using a mechanical keyboard, where (depending on the key switch, of course) the keys can feel ‘heavier’, and move quite a bit more before bottoming out compared to the average membrane keyboard.
Finally, a returning feature from the previous ThinkPad Yogas is the "lift-and-lock" keyboard, in which the space between the keys rises up, and the keys lock into place. This happens as the laptop is flipped into tablet mode, creating a solid-feeling surface.
If you’ve experienced the sensation of pressing keys on the underside of your 2-in-1 in tablet mode, this feature becomes even more impressive. I must say, all convertiable laptops should lock the keys in place like this. It's an outstanding feature.
Touchpad and TrackPoint
The touchpad surface is smooth (glass, I assume) and feels good under a fingertip. The size is adequate; slightly larger than ThinkPad designs I've used in the past. In general, mousing on the touchpad was good, though I had some complaints about the overall responsiveness. The amount of pressure needed to register a tap is a little high compared to other trackpads I've used, and getting a click/drag (selecting a line of text, for example) to work reliably was frustrating.
While there is a lot of room for adjustment in the feel department (with a full compliment of options in the control panel applet for the Synaptics touch pad, including gestures, dead zones, etc.), even with the settings tweaked I was never able to "dial-in" to a trackpad experience I prefer. Ultimately I think I was more disappointed by the touchpad on this particular machine because I love the keyboard so much. It's so close to the perfect laptop input experience (for me, anyway) that I would have loved to have a more responsive touchpad experience. (We can't have everything, I suppose.)
But this isn't the only way to mouse on a ThinkPad, as long-term TP users know:
For traditional TrackPoint users the pointing stick and dedicated mouse buttons work flawlessly, and I ended up using them more than I was expecting. There's a feeling of control from this mousing system that the touchpad on this X1 Yoga couldn't reach, so if you prefer the TrackPoint then my qualms about the touchpad can be safely ignored!