1 year update on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga laptop

Last year I replaced my old laptop with a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, and I wrote a preliminary review of it. This laptop is my only computer, used for both work and play. I’ve had it for a year, gotten used to some of my initial annoyances, and discovered a few new ones. So I thought I’d provide an update with some more long-term impressions.

What’s still annoying

Location of PrintScreen key

I have not been able to get used to having the PrintScreen key between the right Alt and Ctrl keys. I hit it by accident and open Spectacle all the time. So I have re-bound it in the Keyboard KCM to be a second Meta key, which is much more useful. Now I can do window tiling with one hand! However this means I lose my PrintScreen key. I initially re-bound the stupid useless Insert key to be a new PrintScreen key using xmodmap, but that only works on X11, and I have not yet found a Wayland-compatible solution that I am capable of making work over the long haul. I did succeed in performing the re-mapping using config files and submitted a merge request upstream to offer “Insert key is Printscreen” as a keyboard option, but it was rejected. Since applying the patch locally relied on modifying system files, my changes gets blown away on every system upgrade. Our keyboard KCM is in need of a generic and user-friendly way to let people re-bind keyboard keys without having to mess around with config files.

Battery life

Battery life remains lower than I would prefer, even after a number of kernel upgrades. I usually limit charging to 90% to preserve battery longevity, but when I let it charge to 100%, I’m still getting 5 hours max, even when I baby it and don’t use power-hungry apps. This is quite disappointing. The laptop I replaced easily got 8 hours, even with a smaller battery. So I know it isn’t my software being an energy pig. I haven’t done any international travel over the past year due to the pandemic, but once I do, this will become a real pain real fast.

Screen resolution and aspect ratio

While I love the sharpness of the laptop’s 3840×2160 4K display, this resolution is overkill for its 14″ screen size. At 200% scaling, things are too small. Currently I am using 200% scale with 11pt Noto Sans font, which takes advantage of a bug in Noto Sans in that 11pt is 22% bigger than 10pt, not 10% bigger like you would expect. The super high resolution also results in excessive power consumption, contributing to poor battery life. And the 16:9 aspect ratio is not ideal.

Later models of this laptop have a 16:10 screen, but with the same excessive 4K resolution. Boo.

A 14″ laptop screen ideally needs a resolution of 3200×2000 so that when you scale it to 200%, you get an effective resolution of 1600×1000. This is still perfectly sufficient to make the individual pixels invisible, but would draw less power and yield un-problematic 200% scaling for perfectly crisp and pixel-aligned visuals.

Lousy Intel CPU

This laptop has an Intel Comet Lake 10th gen Core i7-10510U CPU manufactured with a 14nm process. While it is faster than what I had before, performance is disappointing compared to AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, which also generate less heat and consume less power due to their more advanced 7nm manufacturing process. Graphics performance is also quite bad, though the 11th gen version is apparently much better. But overall a monster Ryzen 4800 or 5800 series CPU would be a much better fit, providing superior performance, lower heat, and better battery life. Sadly Lenovo does not offer those CPUs in this laptop. They should, because AMD’s offerings are clearly better in almost every way. You’d lose Thunderbolt support, but I haven’t plugged in one Thunderbolt device in ten years of owning laptops with Thunderbolt ports. I don’t even know if any of then work.

Can only charge it from the left side

It’s a minor thing, but after a year of use from many locations, it’s annoying to have to wrap the cord around the back of the laptop when I happen to be somewhere where the nearest power outlet is on my right side rather than my left side. This might be less of an issue if the machine got better battery life so I didn’t have to keep it plugged in all the time–but it doesn’t, so I do, and it is.

Wobbly USB-C ports

This is a common problem in many laptops, but I expect better for an expensive one. There is really no excuse for USB-C cord to be super wobbly after plugging it into the laptop. It makes the whole thing seem flimsy and weak. More firmness would be much appreciated.

What’s still great

Everything else! The touchpad, rest of the keyboard, speakers, display quality, build quality, durability, portability, port selection, and design are all wonderful. The software issues I ran into before have largely been fixed (at least in the Plasma Wayland session, which is almost usable day-to-day for me). With the above-mentioned problems fixed, it would be a perfect computer.

Alas, they persist, and I have not found one that meets all of my requirements. The hunt continues…

23 thoughts on “1 year update on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga laptop

  1. Hi Nate
    I’m waiting for the new generation of this laptop to arrive, so I hope lenovo learned some lessons…

    regarding the screen resolution, why do you scale with 200% at and not with a factual factor? I would even scale with xrandr (if you use X, don’t know it this works with wayland) as it works perfectly for all applications… on my 13Β° screen with a native resolution 3200×1800 I have a scaled resolution of 2112×1188 which is perfect for my eyes.

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    1. With a fractional scale factor, all non-text pixel-aligned line-art becomes blurry. This is true no matter the pixel density of your screen, because line-art UI elements do not have the kind of hinting and sub-pixel anti-aliasing abilities of fonts It would be cool if they did, but I’m not aware of any GUI toolkit that provides this. The only way to avoid this blurriness is to use integer scaling, i.e. 100%, 200%, 300% and so on.

      What laptop are you using? The resolution of your screen is in fact perfect for 200% scaling. You’d end up with an effective resolution of 1600×900 which is just about right for a 14″ screen and almost right for a 13.3″ screen (the ideal 16:9 13″ resolution would be 2880×1620 for perfect 1440×810 effective resolution at 200% scale).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. at the moment I have a XPS 13

        No 200% scaling is too much, at least for me, but that really depends on the individual…
        Have you tried to scale with xrandr? I don’t see any blurriness

        xrandr –output eDP-1 –mode 3200×1800 –scale 0.66×0.66

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        1. If you don’t see any blurriness, it means that line-art elements are not actually being scaled at all (or are being rounded up or down to integer scale), meaning that the proportions of everything in the UI becomes wrong. Those are basically your options: icons being blurry or else too big or too small.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. i’m still waiting for someone to build, well… the laptop i described in that homer-car blog entry i posted half a year ago or so πŸ˜‰ i have /some/ hope for frame.work doing the thing, but, first they have to make it past the release hurdle, hopefully it goes well for them πŸ™‚

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    1. Have you checked out the new ASUS ROG Flow X13 2-in-1? It seems like it has everything you want: 360Β° hinge, 4K screen, 32 GB RAM, monster Ryzen 5980H CPU proprietary Nvidia GPU can be ignored and disabled because Ryzen chipset includes a good integrated GPU.

      I haven’t bought one because its keyboard lacks no dedicated text navigation keys, integrated speakers are bad, and battery life is bad (there’s that silly 4K screen sucking up all the power again)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As to battery life, have you tried powertop? It has a section with power management related kernel parameters which you can switch from bad to good, this easily accounts for 30% battery usage in idle periods (which is most of the time in your ligher usage pattern). Makes battery life go from “meh” to “great” on my X1 Yoga.

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          1. > I’m loving it.
            You’ve ate too many times at McDonald’s!? πŸ˜›

            > No regrets.
            Wait, you just have switched, haven’t you? Don’t tell me you have spotted all your bugs on your list on the first day. πŸ™‚

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      1. > It’s one of the contributors to my increasing desire to move to another distro.

        Oh, which are the others? 😦 However, I’m afraid, THE perfect one, does not exist.

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  4. Hey Nate,

    Thanks so much for this long term review. It’s funny, I too get driven nuts about 4K and even 1080p screens being fitted on 14” laptops. It’s just not big enough. 1600 x 900 is honestly perfect for that. But nobody makes that res anymore.

    And they do the same thing with 15” ones and also adding the useless numpad.

    I just ordered the new Tuxedo Pulse 15 and that looks VERY promising. 15 inch, centered keyboard, lots of battery life, 1080p, good thermals.

    If you’re ever curious, illl let you know how that holds up when I get it!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Tuxedo Pulse 15 uses the same chassis as the KDE Slimbook which I reviewed at https://pointieststick.com/2020/07/23/the-superfast-ryzen-powered-kde-slimbook/. The color and the function keys are different (better IMO) but that’s about it. It’s a great machine and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The Ryzen CPU gives it absolutely bananas performance for compiling code. If there was a brighter 4k touchscreen version with slightly better speakers and touchpad, I’d be typing on one right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Could you document how you remapped the prtscr key to insert? With the wayland shift, I know a few interested/curious πŸ™‚
    And rather than meta, do you know if it’s possible to remap Prtscr to “action” (right click) like on some/most? laptop keyboards?

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  6. Hello, Nate. In your previous article I see that you have Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (gen 4).
    > What’s still annoying – Screen resolution and aspect ratio
    Did not you considered to replace your lcd with another one? Replacing parts on a Lenovo is well documented.
    I do not know your exact model modification. Go to https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/partslookup. I can see there are 20QF, 20QG, 20SA, 20SB.
    Select your model. Then in Commodity Type select LCD ASSEMBLIES. Then you see a list of compatible parts. Some of them have Full HD resolution, some have Quad HD. Choose which you want. Then try to search that part number in ebay or any other web site.

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    1. The problem is that they don’t make a screen with what I consider to be the most appropriate resolution for a 14″ laptop: something around 3200×2000. This would provide an effective resolution of 1600×1000 at 200% scale, which I think is the perfect amount of pixels for a laptop of that size. 4K gives you more than this at the cost of worse battery life, and QHD gives you fewer.

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