A series of minor but welcome changes to Lenovo’s consumer 13-inch 2-in-1 convertible laptop mean that the latest model, the Lenovo Yoga 730 (starts at $799.99, $849.99 as tested), is thinner, lighter, and more powerful than its Yoga 720 predecessor. The improvements are probably not enough to prompt an upgrade if you already have the previous model, but they make this laptop an even better choice if you want a single device to use mostly as a laptop and occasionally as a tablet or movie player. It’s our new Editors’ Choice for midrange convertible laptops.
Replace Your Laptop and Tablet
The 2-in-1 laptop is a flawed but potentially very efficient piece of tech. On the one hand, it’s typically a bit heavier and thicker than an equivalent conventional laptop, since it needs to fit a sturdier and more complicated hinge that enables the screen to rotate through 360 degrees. Ironically, that added weight and girth are at their most cumbersome when you’re using the device in Tablet mode (with the keyboard folded back behind the display), which is the entire point of the more complicated hinge in the first place.
On the other hand, the ability to use it as both a laptop and a tablet means that you only have to bring along a single device on your next business trip, commute, or vacation instead of two. Couple that with innovations such as Lenovo’s unique watchband-style hinge that’s both strong and light, and it’s an enticing solution, with manufacturers shifting their efforts to convertible laptops as sales of slate tablets struggle, according to IDC.
The watchband hinge is reserved for more premium models like the Lenovo Yoga 920, however. The Yoga 700-series has to make do with two conventional, slightly bulkier hinges. But that doesn’t mean it’s heavy. Our Yoga 730 review unit weighs just 2.73 pounds and measures 0.55 by 12.1 by 8.5 inches (HWD), dimensions that are on the thin and light side even for conventional 13-inch laptops. They’re also a tiny bit better than the Yoga 720’s weight (2.83 pounds) and size (0.6 by 12.2 by 8.4 inches). Did Lenovo set a goal of trivial weight and bulk reductions just to entice people to upgrade? Maybe, but the fact remains that any weight and size improvement will make the Yoga 730 more enjoyable than its predecessor to use as a tablet.
There are a few visual changes that help you tell the two convertible laptops apart. The ports have been centered in the middle of the left and right edges, instead of hugging the bottom of each edge as they did on the Yoga 720. Otherwise, the port selection is identical. There are two USB-C ports on the left edge, each with Thunderbolt support, as well as a headphone jack. One of the USB-C ports is used to charge the laptop, a process that took a little longer than an hour from a 5 percent charge to a 100 percent charge in my testing.
Including two Thunderbolt 3 ports on a laptop that costs less than $1,000 is generous, and it shows that adoption of this new 40GBps interface is marching forward. But most keyboards, mice, and other peripherals still use USB Type A ports, so it’s nice that Lenovo includes one of these on the right edge, which supports USB 3.0 speeds. The left edge also includes the power button, which has a futuristic backlight that glows amber when the battery is charging and white when it’s not. Alas, Lenovo apparently ran out of room to include an SD card slot.
Also absent on the Yoga 730 (and many other ultra-thin laptops) is any dedicated video output, such as HDMI. You’ll need to buy a USB-C-to-DisplayPort adapter if you want to connect an external monitor. You won’t find an Ethernet jack, either, but you do have 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 at your disposal for wireless connections to peripherals and the internet.
Active Pen Support
The Yoga 730 sports a 13.3-inch full HD (1,920-by-1,080) touch-enabled display. You can use your fingers to tap it, or employ the $39.99 Lenovo Active Pen, an optional accessory that affords more precise control when you’re sketching on the screen or taking notes. The display is glossy and uses In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology, which means an excellent contrast and wide viewing angles. Unfortunately, it also means lots of glare from ambient lights, though you can mitigate that somewhat by setting the brightness level to maximum.
Thanks to a 720p webcam centered above the display, video conferencing quality is excellent, even in a room with lots of shadows. The video feed is noticeably less grainy than what you can expect from VGA webcams, although still images are of unsurprisingly poor quality.
Screen bounce is noticeable when you’re tapping the screen while in Laptop mode, but that problem goes away once you flip the screen over to use the Yoga 730 as a tablet. In this configuration, the keyboard is deactivated, but the keys are still exposed to potential scratches and other damage. Lenovo’s more expensive X1 Yoga convertible is less susceptible to this damage since its keys automatically retract in Tablet mode.
The typing experience is wonderful, with sturdy key switches and two levels of backlighting. The touchpad is also excellent for a Windows laptop, with a large, sturdy surface. Even the fingerprint reader is a joy to use; it never struggled to recognize my print over several days of testing.
Thanks to the Yoga 730’s far-field microphone, you can summon Microsoft’s virtual assistant by saying “Hey, Cortana” even when you’re as far as 13 feet away from it. I tested it from a distance of about 10 feet, and Cortana did in fact respond each time. I don’t recommend using this feature, though, because to get the most out of it you’ll want to set the PC to never sleep so Cortana is always ready, which will drain the battery. Even worse, Cortana is a distant third place to Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant when it comes to usefulness, and the Yoga 730’s speakers aren’t loud enough for Cortana to be heard if more than two people are talking in the room at the same time.
Lenovo offers the Yoga 730 with a one-year warranty and several different memory, storage, and processor configurations. Our model comes with specs that arguably represent a sweet spot between price and potential performance: an Intel Core i5-8250U running at a base clock speed of 1.6GHz, a 256GB SSD, and 8GB of memory. The SSD is a Samsung model that uses the cutting-edge M.2 NVMe interface. That means theoretically better data throughput that you don’t often see in laptops in this price range, most of which use the older SATA interface. We don’t test drive performance on ready-built laptops or desktops, but you can read all about the performance benefits of NVMe in our roundup of the best M.2 SSDs.
The move to Intel’s eighth-generation “Kaby Lake R” CPU architecture means the Yoga 730 gets a noticeable performance bump across the board compared with the seventh-gen CPU in the Yoga 720. On our PCMark 8 benchmark, which measures common computing tasks like web browsing, video conferencing, and editing spreadsheets, the Yoga 730 scored 3,345 compared with the Yoga 720’s result of 3,092. Anything greater than 3,000 on this test is very good, however. What’s more, I didn’t notice any sluggishness in everyday use, including restarting the PC, installing apps, and watching web videos.
The eighth-generation CPU advantage is far more noticeable on our specialized multimedia tests. The Yoga 730 took just 1 minute and 9 seconds to transcode a short HD video file into an iPhone-friendly format using the Handbrake app, compared with 2:44 for the Yoga 720. Scores on the Cinebench 3D-rendering and Photoshop image-editing tasks showed equally dramatic improvement.
Graphics performance also demonstrated gains across all of our tests, but the Yoga 730 is no better at rendering video games than any other laptop with an integrated graphics processor. It barely breached the 30 frames per second (fps) threshold needed for smooth gaming at medium quality settings on our Valley simulation, and the rest of its scores were far lower. You can expect to play casual games like Solitaire or Minecraft just fine, but any game or app designed to harness GPU power will perform poorly. This is to be expected. If you want a hybrid laptop with a powerful GPU, like the Microsoft Surface Book, plan to spend a lot more money and deal with more weight.
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The only Yoga 730 performance test that is slightly disappointing is the battery-rundown score. It lasted just less than 10 hours on this test, which involves playing back a local video file at 50 percent screen brightness with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off, until the battery is dead. By itself, 10 hours is very good, and it will almost certainly get you through more than an entire day of intermittent use without visiting a power outlet. But it’s a large decrease compared with the Yoga 720’s time of 12 hours on this test. The addition of fast charging could be partially responsible for this decrease, since battery capacity remains the same and the eighth-generation processor is more energy efficient than its predecessor.
An Ideal Solution
The Lenovo Yoga 730 manages to be more powerful than its Yoga 720 predecessor on every metric except for battery life, and accomplishes that in a slightly slimmer and lighter chassis. There’s very little not to like here, including the very palatable $849 price (the same as the Yoga 720). If you frequently use both a tablet and a laptop and are looking to reduce the weight of your purse or backpack, the Yoga 730 is an ideal solution. If you spend more time on your tablet, though, you’ll want to consider a detachable tablet like the Microsoft Surface Pro, which has a keyboard that can be removed completely instead of folding it back.
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