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Lenovo LaVie Z and LaVie Z 360 Review - Unparalleled Portability

Author: Ken Addison
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Overview

While the LaVie-Z might have a Lenovo logo engraved in the top lid it certainly doesn't feel like a Lenovo-designed machine, and for good reason. The LaVie is a machine born from a little-known joint venture between Lenovo and NEC in Japan. One of the advantages of pooled R&D resources between the two companies in this agreement is what helps make the LaVie-Z so light, the development of a Lithium-Magnesium compound which makes up the external shell.

While the LaVie-Z is the first US-bound computer born out of this partnership, NEC-branded Yoga products have been selling in Japan for several years.  After a short time with the LaVie-Z, the differences born from a product developed solely for the US market become apparent.

Physical Features

Beyond the weight of the device, one of the more unique features of the LaVie-Z laptops are the unconventional keyboard layout.

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Essentially this is a ISO keyboard layout, which comes with some changes from the traditional US ANSI layout that Americans are used to. Some of the major differences involve an L-shaped Enter key, a FWD Space button, as well as the addition of a back slash (\) key in the same row as the Fn, Ctrl, Windows, and Alt keys.

While there was a learning curve of a few days for this keyboard layout, I ultimately don't see it as too big of a barrier to entry for a user looking to purchase a LaVie-Z.

Being a MacBook user for several years now, I have become very particular about touchpads on all laptops. However, I am a big fan of the touchpad on the LaVie-Z. The click is very uniform, and activates evenly across the 95% of the mousing surface. Multitouch gestures like two-finger scroll, and pinch-to-zoom also work as expected.

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The screen on the LaVie-Z is a 13.3" 2560x1440 IGZO panel. While Indium-Gallium-Zinc-Oxide panels have been used before in some smartphones and tablets as well as the ASUS PQ321Q 4K display, this is one of the first time's we've seen this type of panel used in a notebook.

IGZO displays provide substantial power savings over traditional panel types, which is one of the main reasons we see it in use here. In part to achieve the impressive weight specs, only a 44.4Wh battery is found inside the LaVie-Z. To keep the LaVie-Z competitive with other notebooks like the Dell XPS 13 with a 52Wh battery, power-cutting measures like including the IGZO display were made. In addition to the panel choice, the backlight on the LaVie-Z is also weak, topping out at about 160 lux, compared to most notebooks which will hit about 300 lux on the high end.

While I don't necessarily think the display brightness issue is substantial, it might be noticeable if you tend to use your notebook in locations with lots of ambient light.

I also found the IGZO panel itself to have a bit of a blue shift. While this didn't bother me much for productivity usage, I wouldn't reccommend this machine for color-accurate work.

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Along the left side of the LaVie-Z we find a Kensington lock port, Lenovo's standard power plug, indicator lights for Caps Lock, low battery level, and sleep mode, as well as the power button. On the Lavie-Z 360, there is also a volume rocker for when the machine is in tablet mode.

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The opposing side of the notebook features a full size HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports (one with fast charging), an SDXC card reader slot, as well as  the combo headphone/mic jack.

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As far as features specific to the LaVie-Z 360, we of course find the name sake Yoga-style hinge which allows the screen to rotate completely backwards in order to emulate a tablet. The hinge is on the level of the Lenovo Yoga devices, and works as expected.

There is on oddity though, as the screen orientation does not automatically rotate to support "tent mode" as with the Yoga machines. Lenovo says this isn't an oversight or bug, but intended functionality as it is not a Yoga-branded machine. However, with the right keyboard shortcut you could manually rotate the screen orientation and gain the same functionality.

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August 4, 2015 | 12:30 PM - Posted by ciddo (not verified)

Ken, great review but I think you've made a small typo under the battery life section:

"While the Dell XPS 13 has a 52Wh battery, the capacity of the battery found in the Lenovo laptop is only 85% of that, at (4.44Wh)."

Shouldn't that be 44.4Wh?

August 4, 2015 | 12:43 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

Nice catch, Thanks!

September 24, 2015 | 02:13 AM - Posted by archer (not verified)

the 1.72-lb - HZ550 model(29.6Wh)
the 2.04-lb HZ750 model (44.4Wh)

September 24, 2015 | 02:22 AM - Posted by archer (not verified)

I think test laptop - HZ550 29.6Wh

August 4, 2015 | 12:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not sure if anyone's worked out an anodising process for MgLi alloys, so that may the the reason for the denting (no hard anodised layer to distribute force).

August 4, 2015 | 02:25 PM - Posted by Ken Addison

I think that's the likely culprit here, and something we might see in the near future

August 4, 2015 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

After years of technological improvements, we still have fragile, slow laptops with mediocre battery life. This trend of sacrificing everything on the altar of thin and light has gotten ridiculous.

August 5, 2015 | 03:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You want a small laptop with a long battery life? Get an X2xx series laptop with a battery slice/wedge. Same solution as pretty much the last decade.

August 12, 2015 | 04:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

we also have laptops that are tanks with crazy performance and laptops that are built to survive in a warzone. Different strokes.

August 5, 2015 | 07:06 AM - Posted by Roshan kalyan (not verified)

didn't ivy bridge tablets have a similar battery life and weight?

August 10, 2015 | 02:39 PM - Posted by obababoy

Good review Ken, but this thing is easily paralleled IMO. Battery life and durability are pretty damn important. You also mentioned brightness which is poor. These are HUGE features for Ultrabooks. I would rather get the Dell or better yet keep my Acer S7 392-9439.

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