I really like the X240. It’s a well rounded, versatile and highly portable notebook with numerous typical ThinkPad qualities. Two years ago, I also owned a X220. It served me well and had some impressive features, such as the ten hour battery life and decent IPS screen. However, it never really amazed me the way some other ThinkPads did. I always used to wonder why that was. I came to the conclusion that this was due to minor details, many of which the X240 and X220 share. Back then, there were no alternatives to the X220. Nowadays though, one might argue that we actually have one: The ThinkPad Yoga (S1). But what makes it better than the X240?
The X240 case is largely built with Glass-Fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP). This bestows the X240 with a good build quality and chassis rigidity. It’s light, durable and robust. However, it incorporates ABS plastic elements within the chassis casing, including the palmrest and LCD bezel, which detracts from the overall quality feel. The ThinkPad Yoga’s case on the other hand is forged entirely from magnesium-alloy (with PPS). As a result, the chassis is extremely rigid, unlike the slightly more flexible X240 with its GFRP. Build quality is almost seamless on the Yoga. The entire upper part of the body is a single piece with a removable access cover on the bottom. The downside is an increased weight and very cold to the touch surface when the machine is not in use (due to the higher heat transfer coefficient). The ThinkPad Yoga S1 actually feels a lot like the original X1, which was also made entirely out of magnesium-alloy and has proven to be one of the most durable ThinkPads ever.
Without a doubt, design is a matter of preference, but it’s hard to ignore that the X240 is essentially a square box. Granted, such utilitarian design can appeal to a wide variety of people, but that doesn’t make it any more exciting or good looking. It simply serves its purpose, as my unexciting X220 did. The Yoga is an entirely different story though. It offers a much sleeker and less blocky design. The prominent hinges, rounded edges and countless further design elements all sum up to an attractive, yet professional look. At 18.8mm, it is also a tad thinner than the 19.9mm thick X240.
While the X240 may offer an optional touchscreen, the Yoga, on top of always offering the touchscreen, also has an optional Wacom digitizer. But of what use would that be if you couldn’t do that eye-catching magic trick with it? I am of course referring to the 360° hinges that allow the display to be folded back entirely, thereby turning the Yoga into a tablet. Unlike some quirky convertible designs out there, the Yoga does not come with any major drawbacks due to this feature. It feels and handles just like any other laptop in laptop mode and does not have any disadvantages compared the X240. Because the Yoga also acts as a tablet, it comes with dedicated volume control buttons, which lack on the X240.
Neither the X220 or X240 offer anything to write home about. The internal speakers and soundcard are rather low quality on both. The Yoga does not fare particularly well either. You just can’t expect much from such small and thin machines. However, it is a step up from the X240. The internal speakers on the Yoga are located between the base and display and face upwards, so sound is never muffled. On the contrary, the X240’s speakers point towards the ground, making sound quality very dependent on the type of surface you place it on. Furthermore, the X240 only offers two 1.5W speakers that are Dolby Advanced Audio v2 certified. The Yoga actually offers more boisterous 2W speakers that are Dolby Home Theater v4 certified. They do indeed sound warmer and much more enjoyable than the tinny X240 speakers. But don’t expect anything mind-blowing from either of them. Unlike the X240 with its Realtek ALC3232 soundcard, the Yoga offers a Conexant CX20751. Both are rather miserable, though the Conexant has less driver issues and is generally considered to be of a higher quality than most Realtek cards.
There are certain things that can’t really be described using words. The Yoga feels a lot like a Formula One racing machine. It’s an engineering masterpiece and simply a joy to use. The X240 is more like a pick-up truck: more useful, but not as special. These are very good for getting work done, but can be equally as much fun as a race car, though in a slightly different way. However, this refinement that I am talking about does show in real world usage. For example, despite offering similar specs and features, the Yoga uses less power and thus lasts longer on a single charge than the X240. A X240 with i5, FHD screen and 3c battery offers about 6 hours of battery life, while the Yoga will achieve nearly 7,5h, despite offering a touchscreen on top of the mentioned features. Arguably, the 1Wh difference in battery capacity is negligible and will hardly cause the 1,5h difference.
In the end, both machines are superb. The ThinkPad Yoga is the higher quality product, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better in every aspect compared to the X240. The latter does offer insane battery capacities which results in equally insane run times of up to 16h. The X240 is much cheaper to purchase as well. It really comes down to your preferences. If you just want something simple that gets the job done, then by all means get yourself a X240. But if you’re after something slightly more intriguing or exotic, and have more sophisticated demands, then I can safely recommend the ThinkPad Yoga.