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Review: The Lenovo LaVie Z is crazy-light and surprisingly fast

Gordon Mah Ung | June 23, 2015
At 1.94 pounds, the LaVie Z is the lightest 13-inch laptop in the world. But here's what's wrong.

If you think about a laptop, the watt-hour rating is analogous to the gas tank on a car. As noted earlier, Lenovo/NEC opted to keep the battery size small to save weight. It's a 44-watt-hour cell that's about the size of the one in the Zenbook UX305 and the Surface Pro 3. Overall it achieved a fair run time  considering the LaVie Z's weight and resolution. It's about on a par with the Surface Pro 3, which has a lower-resolution panel--but also a power-eating touchscreen. The Zenbook's advantage in battery life is likely due to the Intel Core M and its lower-resolution 1920x1080 screen. It's basically serviceable battery life.

Lighter, but thicker too

To give you an idea of the LaVie Z's thinness and port complements, we stacked it against a gaggle of other laptops. In port selection, it's fair, with two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4 and an SD card reader. One thing I'm not a fan of is the power switch, which is oddly placed on the left side of the unit. That's normal on a convertible laptop like HP's Spectre x360, but why do this on the LaVie Z, where the screen doesn't even rotate like that?

The Cost

The last salient point about the LaVie Z is its cost. Spec'ed-out with the Core i7-5500U, 8GB of LPDDR3 and 256GB Samsung SATA SSD, it pushes $1,500. That's a slight premium over its contemporaries, but much of that comes from the pricier Core i7 CPU. It's true there's no touch screen, but there's also a price premium to be considered for the weight. Overall, the pricing is inline with comparable units that play to niche needs.

Conclusion

Lenovo's aim with the LaVie Z was to make one crazy-light laptop. In that regard I can say the company accomplished that goal. You can chuck the LaVie Z in your bag and you won't know it's there. You may not think there's a world of difference between the almost 900-gram weight of the LaVie Z and almost 1,300 grams of, say, the Dell XPS 13, but when you're carrying it, it matters.

The question is, are the compromises made worth it? The keyboard is almost a deal-breaker. I've used far worse, but those were on tiny netbooks or folding-tablet keyboards. Considering the size and cost of this laptop, Lenovo really should have put a bigger keyboard in the unit when it made the hop across the ocean. The audio is also truly atrocious. 

In the comfort of my cubicle yeah, it bugs me. But the next time I've been standing in line at the airport for an hour, maybe, just maybe, the tradeoff is worth it.

 

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