Thin and light. Inexpensive as configured. Good full HD touch display and full-size keyboard.
Relatively slow computing performance. Mediocre battery life. Screen bounces with finger taps.
- Bottom Line
Versatile albeit underpowered, the Lenovo Yoga 720 is a good choice for budget-conscious shoppers who want a well-designed convertible laptop for light tasks.
The Lenovo Yoga 720 convertible laptop comes in several shapes and sizes. The best option for most people is probably the 13-inch model, the recipient of an Editors' Choice award for its feathery weight and balance of features and price. But if you'd like to go even smaller and less expensive, there's a $649.99 12-inch version, the subject of this review. To keep the price and size down, Lenovo outfits it with barebones components—an Intel Core i3-7100U, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD—that result in a relatively slow machine with scarce room for your multimedia collection, but enough power for light web browsing, emails, and word processing. Throw in a high-quality full HD touch display, and you've got a versatile convertible laptop for casual use, albeit one that can't offer extra computing oomph if you ever need it.
Thin Bezel, Good Display
The Yoga 720 rides the thin bezel wave that began to wash over the high-end ultraportable market a few years ago, and has no signs of breaking any time soon. The bezel, or border around the screen, is quite thin on the sides of the Yoga 720's 12.5-inch full HD display, but thick enough on the top to include a webcam in the normal position at the center of the screen. Compare that with Dell's Infinity Edge display on the XPS series, which is so thin on all sides that there's no room for a webcam above the screen. People who use their laptops for video conferencing will much prefer the Yoga 720's webcam position to the awkwardly placed camera at the lower left corner of Dell XPS 13, where it mostly captures a view of your knuckles. The Lenovo's webcam takes surprisingly non-grainy HD video, even in low light conditions.
The glossy display itself is also very good, with rich colors and wide viewing angles thanks to in-plane switching (IPS) technology. When you tap on it, though, you'll notice significant bounce. As a result, in testing, I mostly interacted with the Yoga 720 using the touchpad in Laptop mode. Fortunately, the touchpad, while small, is quite responsive to multitouch gestures and has excellent palm rejection so you don't accidentally move the cursor while you're typing. In Tablet mode, the bouncing of the screen is obviously not a factor, and you'll appreciate that the Yoga 720 includes support for Lenovo's Active Pen ($39.99), an optional stylus that features more than 4,000 levels of pressure sensitivity to mimic the feel of writing on paper. It's too bad that Lenovo doesn't throw in the pen for free, as Toshiba does with the business-focused Portege X20W-D.
The Yoga 720's keys are relatively sturdy, but they lack backlighting and their switches feel cheap and produce a hollow clicking sound when you press them. It's clear that the keyboard falls victim to cost-cutting on this model, since the more expensive 13-inch version and the premium Yoga 920 both have excellent, backlit keyboards. I appreciate the inclusion of full-sized left and right directional arrow keys, although I would prefer full-sized up and down arrow keys, too. That's not possible since Lenovo put the fingerprint reader directly beneath the keyboard on the right side of the laptop, which in itself is a handy feature for logging in to Windows without typing your password. It's even more useful since the webcam doesn't support face recognition log in.
Input/output options are very limited on the Yoga 720, but that's nothing out of the ordinary for a small laptop. You'll have to make due with a single USB 3.0 port and a single USB-C port, both located on the right edge next to the power button. Luckily, unlike the Apple MacBook, neither of those will be occupied when you're charging, since the Yoga 720 includes a dedicated power port on its left edge, next to the 3.5mm audio in/out jack.
Sound emanates from two speaker grilles at the bottom of the chassis, near the left and right edges. This means that dialogue tracks are somewhat muted if you're using the Yoga 720 in Laptop mode, since the fabric of your clothes acts as a muffler. Change to Tent or Tablet mode, however, and the speakers are noticeably louder, although they never deliver as clear highs or as robust bass as you might expect from their Harman branding.
All of these features fit into a very slim footprint. Despite its 12.5-inch screen, the laptop is about the same size as a traditional 11-inch notebook, thanks to the thin bezel. It measures 0.6 by 11.5 by 8 inches (HWD), just a hair bigger than its predecessor, the 11.6-inch Yoga 710 (0.59 by 11.06 by 7.68 inches) and about the same size as the Portege X20W-D (0.61 by 11.8 by 8.6 inches), which also features a 12.5-inch screen. The Yoga 720 weighs 2.53 pounds, making it neither exceptionally heavy nor featherlight (the larger HP Spectre 13, for instance, weighs just 2.4 pounds, and the 2.3-pound Huawei MateBook X is even lighter). Sure, it could do to shed a few ounces, but the Yoga 720 will imperceptibly clutter up and weigh down your backpack or large handbag.
Wireless connections include 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1, and Lenovo supports the system with a one-year warranty.
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As configured, the Yoga 720 is quite slow, and best suited for basic PC tasks that don't tax the Intel Core i3 processor. It scored 2,689 on our PCMark 8 benchmark, which measures a wide range of tasks that PC users are likely to perform regularly, everything from web browsing to video conferencing. Anything above 2,500 is acceptable for these types of tasks, although you will likely notice slowdowns if you have multiple browser tabs or apps open at once. Its PCMark score is slightly better than last year's Core m3-powered Yoga 710 (2,451), but significantly lower than conventional laptops its price range, such as the Acer Swift 3 (3,085) and the Asus ZenBook UX330 (3,061). The convertible Dell Inspiron 13 7000 (2,983) also performs better than the Yoga 720 on this test, and it's more than a minute faster on our specialized multimedia tests, too. The Dell took 2 minutes and 14 seconds to convert a video in Handbrake compared with the Yoga 720's time of 3:18, and it finished our sample Photoshop image-resizing tasks in 4:40, while the Yoga 720 took 5:57.
Both the Inspiron 13 7000 and the Yoga 720 lasted about 7 hours and 45 minutes on our battery rundown test, which involves playing a local looped video file at 50 percent screen brightness. Those are disappointing results for people who want to use their laptops all day and evening long without plugging them in, and even more disappointing when you consider that the Yoga 710 managed more than 11 hours of battery life on our test. The switch from a Core m3 to a Core i3 processor is likely responsible for the decline. If you want marathon battery life at this price, you'll have to stick with a conventional laptop—both the Swift 3 and the ZenBook UX330 lasted more than 12 hours on our battery test.
None of these convertibles and notebooks should be used for graphics-intensive gaming, as evidenced by their scores of just a few hundred points on the Fire Strike Extreme gaming simulation test (gaming laptops typically post scores in the thousands). But the Yoga 720's performance on the less-intensive Cloud Gate test (4,816) is disappointingly low even among its peers. The Asus, the Acer, and the Dell all manage to eke out higher scores from the same Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU.
Of course, if you plan to use the Yoga 720 to type up notes or check the weather and movie times, as I did during my real-world testing, you'll likely be satisfied. It's also worth noting that you can upgrade the memory, storage, and CPU, all the way up to an Intel Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, for a reasonable $250 extra.
Go Bigger, or Go Dell
The Lenovo Yoga 720 succeeds in doing what it sets out to do, offering a step up from the cheap-looking, unimaginative chromebooks and Windows laptops that proliferate around the $300 mark. For a little more than twice that price, you get a very good full HD touch screen and a convertible hinge that allows you to use the PC as a tablet or prop it up like a tent to watch videos. Sacrifices are required, however, and they come in the form of computing performance. Not only is the Yoga 720 slower than similarly priced conventional laptops, it's lags slightly behind Editors' Choice Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1. The best course of action for most people is probably to buy the Dell, or move up to the 13.3-inch version of the Yoga 720 instead of spending more money on faster components for the 12.5-inch version.
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's sister site, Computer Shopper, where he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of water. In his spare time, he's written on topics as… More »
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