Lenovo LaVie Z 13-inch Ultralight Laptop Review

World's Lightest 13-inch Laptop That Weighs Less Than Two Pounds

Lenovo LaVie Z 13-inch Laptop
Lenovo LaVie Z. ©Lenovo

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The Bottom Line

Jul 1 2015 - Lenovo's LaVie Z is certainly the lightest 13-inch laptop on the market making it seem like a lesser computer than the components in it. Performance is great but there are enough issues that hold it back from being a superb system. Still, this is an extremely well engineered machine that is sturdier than it feels. Pricing is going to be the most obvious issue to consumers but the battery life and keyboard are the problems for those that actually have to use it.

Pros

  • Extremely Light
  • Strong Core i7 Processor
  • Excellent Build Quality

Cons

  • Priced More Than Comparable Systems
  • Battery Life Suffers From Higher Performance
  • Keyboard Layout Could Be Better

Description

  • Intel Core i5-5500U Dual Core Mobile Processor
  • 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
  • 256GB SATA Solid State Drive
  • 13.3" WQHD (2560x1440) Display with 720p Webcam
  • Intel HD Graphics 5000 Integrated Graphics
  • 802.11ac Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Two USB 3.0, HDMI, SD Card Slot
  • 12.56" x 8.35" x .67" @ 1.87 lbs.
  • Windows 8.1

Review - Lenovo LaVie Z

Jul 1 2015 - Lenovo's LaVie Z was a highly anticipated laptop that experienced some delays in its release. Now available, the system offers an extremely lightweight 13-inch laptop that weighs under two pounds making it the lightest on the market. While it is extremely light thanks to the magnesium alloy body frame, it is still not the thinnest available measuring in at .67-inches. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it does allow for ports unlike the thinner Apple MacBook.

The frame is well put together but the display panel does exhibit a fair amount of flex in order to keep the weight and size down.

Rather than using the new Intel Core M processors for the LaVie Z, Lenovo has decided to go with the more powerful Intel Core i7-5500U dual core processor. This provides it with stronger performance especially if you are looking to use the laptop for more demanding tasks like mobile digital video editing.

The downside is that this also uses more power which can be a concern with such a thin system that has limited space for batteries. The processor is matched up with 8GB of DDR3 memory that provides a smooth overall experience.

With the super thin profile, a standard hard drive is not an option for data storage. Lenovo uses a Samsung based solid state drive with a capacity rating of 256GB. Storage performance is very quick from the drive but it is a bit slower than the drive in the new MacBook thanks to its PCI-Express based interface rather than the SATA used here. Unlike the MacBook though, the Lenovo provides a greater level of flexibility with expansion by providing two USB 3.0 ports for high speed external storage. It may not be as advanced in terms of connection possibilities as the new USB 3.1 Type C connection but having more than one is extremely useful.

The display panel of the LaVie Z uses a 13.3-inch IPS based panel with a native resolution of 2560x1440. This is not as high as the nearly 4K display on some other laptops like the Yoga 3 Pro but it is actually a better screen in my opinion because the resolution does not make legacy Windows applications nearly impossible to read.

The color and viewing angles for the display are excellent and the anti-glare coating is extremely useful on cutting down on reflections. Graphics are handled by the Intel HD Graphics 5500 built into the Core i7 processor. This is slightly faster than the graphics of the Core M processors but it still has limited 3D potential such that you would not really want to use it for PC games but at least it provides some media acceleration with Quick Sync compatible applications.

In order to keep the laptop thin, Lenovo had to develop a new keyboard from their more traditional designs used in their other laptops. They did a good job with it but the layout could use some work. In particular, the keys in the lower right for the arrow, shift, ctrl, alt, del and ins are cramped and this causes issue for many touch typists. They keys have a very short travel that provides less feedback than other keyboards as well. I would definitely prefer the keyboard on the Yoga 3 to this. It isn't bad as it is fairly accurate and comfortable if you can get used to the layout. The trackpad is a decent size and uses integrated buttons. It was accurate enough but a bit overly sensitive on certain gestures with Windows 8.

Battery life is a huge issue for these ultrathin designs. This is why many have switched to using the Core M that draws less power. Lenovo claims that the system can run up to nine hours of video playback. In my digtal video playback testing with the settings as shipped, the system was able to run just under seven hours before going into standby. Now, this is typically quite good for a laptop but against other lightweight 13-inch laptops it is much lower. For instance, the MacBook Air 13 can go for over ten in the same tests. The problem is that this system is going to be used for many business travelers and it might be a little less than desirable to provide a full eight hour day of work on a single charge.

Pricing for the LaVie Z is also something that is a concern for it. The list price for the system is $1700 but Lenovo sells it for $1500. This puts it above most of the competition. Apple's MacBook starts at $1299 making it much more affordable. Sure, it weighs over two pounds but just over two pounds in weight but is thinner and smaller overall. It of course sacrifices the performance some with the Core M processor and its single peripheral port. Then there is the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Blade that is priced also at $1299 with comparable specs and offers a smaller design that is slightly heavier than the MacBook. It may not offer as much performance again from the Core M processor but it does have longer running times and an equivlanet set of peripheral ports.

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