There’s a certain baseline weight you expect when you pick up a laptop. Lenovo’s LaVie Z exists so far below that baseline you feel like it just has to be hollow. And it doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of performance. It’s nuts.
The LaVie Z comes in two flavours: the 770g traditional clamshell version, and a 925g touchscreen convertible version that packs the same 360 backflip tricks as a Yoga. At a distance, they both look like pretty standard and suave ultrabooks. Both have a bit of the angular flair. They’re slim but not quite as tiny as the Yoga Pro 3, with its hyper-mobile Core M chip, but the LaVies have full-on Core i processors. They look great. Solid, slick, but not mind-blowing.
Then you pick one up and like holy crap.
The non-convertible version is the real star here, weighing in at a minuscule 770g. That’s nearly half a 13-inch MacBook Air. In fact, it’s closer to (and just slightly over) the weight of the original retina iPad. But the numbers and comparisons really undersell what it’s like to pick this thing up for the first time, which is to say “just bonkers.”
It feels like a display model, some plastic mock-up of another, heavier device. I might have taken it for one had I not known better. And even knowing it was an actual laptop, seeing it actually turn on was still kind of surprising. The vaguely heavier convertible version is only slightly less impressive at first blush, but once I folded it back into full-on tablet mode, I was surprised to find it alllllmost comfortably one-handable, which is nuts for a 13-inch tablet, much less one that is actually a laptop.
It’s one thing that the LaVie Z weighs as little as it does, but another when you consider the specs. Lenovo’s ultraportable Yoga Pro 3 (.2 inches thinner but half a bound heaver than the convertible LaVie Z) slimmed down by opting for a low-powered Intel Core M chip. The LaVie Z doesn’t; it’s got full-on 5th generation Core i5 in there. It is, by all measures, a real-arse laptop.
Lenovo credits a magnesium-lithium frame for most of that lightness; it weighs less than heavy aluminium but still retains all the strength. The Z didn’t feel flimsy to me, but I also didn’t try and bend it over my knee or anything, so it’s hard to know for sure.
This really impressive lightness doesn’t come without drawbacks. The first big question mark is battery life. Lenovo says that thanks to a low-powered IGZO screen, the featherweight Z can still muster 7 to 8 hours of video playback, but that definitely seems like a best-case scenario, especially when you consider the Yoga Pro 3 was tapping out at 4.5 hours with its low-powered Core M chip and these bad boys pack something more power-hungry. We’ll have to wait to get our hands on one to give its battery a more thorough testing.
Then there’s price. Lenovo’s been putting out ultra-light laptops under the LaVie name in a partnership with NEC for a few years now. But only in Japan, where laptop buyers are super obsessed with expensive, premium devices that flirt with abandoning practicality for pure showmanship. This time, though, Lenovo may have gotten that price close to right. It cites approximate prices of $US1300 and $US1500 for the clamshell and convertible respectively, each kitted out with a 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM, and a 5th generation Intel Core i5 processor (with an option to upgrade to an i7 and 8GB RAM in the convertible). Not bad, considering the Japanese predecessors to these monsters have hovered around $US2000 after price conversion.
But as impressive as these devices are — and despite how much I want one right now — I just have to ask “to what end?” Being light as hell is a great party trick, but a laptop that’s hardly noticeable in your backpack isn’t worth a whole hell of a lot if you have to carry around a power brick and constantly hunt for outlets because it won’t last the day. Once you get around the 2-3 pound range, the returns on being light promptly diminish down to zero if any other part of the experience suffers for it.
But who knows! Maybe the LaVie Z can hold its own in day-to-day use. We’ll have to wait until May of this year when they actually hit shelves. One thing is for sure though: Until then — and even after — this is one hell of a laptop to lust after.