The world’s biggest PC maker once again turned in a very impressive performance in our report, finishing second out of nine brands. As expected, Lenovo continued to rock the keyboard and touchpad category, but it also fared well in the design, value and selection, and software categories. Lenovo fell a bit flat in tech support compared with the previous year, but overall, we highly recommend this brand for PC buyers, whether you’re looking for a consumer or business laptop — or a notebook-tablet hybrid.
In our reviews, 11 Lenovo laptops received a 4-star rating, and five of those received an Editors’ Choice award. The highest marks generally went to the brand’s business-minded systems, such as the ThinkPad X240 and T440s. But we also praised the gaming- and budget-friendly IdeaPad Y510P and the innovative IdeaCentre Horizon 27.
MORE: 9 Best Lenovo Laptops
By our count, Lenovo’s tech support has grown steadily worse over the past three years. The company’s website is cluttered, its Community Knowledge Base is too specific to be helpful in general cases and its new social media support is inconsistent. Phone-call service is particularly frustrating and time-consuming: Our average call time with Lenovo was a whopping 49 minutes and 18 seconds, almost twice as long as for any other brand.
All hail Lenovo, king of the hybrid. Just look at the IdeaPad Yoga 11, Yoga 11s, Yoga Pro 2 and ThinkPad Yoga to see the right way to create a lightweight, portable tablet-notebook. However, the company dropped to the No. 3 spot in design because of the Flex 14; it’s the boxy, chintzy, less-flexible cousin of the Yoga. Lenovo also lost the fun splash of color we’ve come to expect from the IdeaPad line. Instead, the company has been serving up plastic gray (s400 and s405), with a heaping side portion of dark brown (z400 Touch and G580). At least the Y510 boasts intense red keyboard backlighting.
Thanks to their strong tactile feedback, wide key spacing and curved key shape, Lenovo’s keyboards — on both its business and consumer laptops — continue to set the gold standard. The company’s touchpads offer smooth, accurate navigation, and its TrackPoint pointing sticks are the most precise pointing devices you’ll find anywhere, even though the company compromised the TrackPoint experience slightly by eliminating the stick’s dedicated buttons, and building left and right click into the stiff top of the touchpad.
While Lenovo’s notebooks offer generally pleasant audio and visuals, there are few instances in which its devices stand out from the competition. For example, the IdeaPad S405 was brighter than some competitors, but its viewing angles were poor. The IdeaPad Flex 14′s 1366 x 768-pixel display boasted colorful visuals but was dimmer than the average notebook. In general, Lenovo’s laptop displays, which averaged 267 lux, were more luminous than the average notebook (242 lux).
The business-minded ThinkPad T440s suffered from muffled audio, but more multimedia-minded machines, like the IdeaPad Y510p, boasted booming JBL speakers. Lenovo’s laptops matched the 85-decibel category average during our testing.
Lenovo’s innovation score dropped from 10 points last year to 7 this year, but the company is still doing some interesting things. For instance, the ThinkPad Yoga has a keyboard deck that raises to hide the keys when you’re using the hybrid in tablet mode. We are also pleased to see the voice and motion control features in such devices as the IdeaPad U430 Touch.
From business laptops to Ultrabooks, Lenovo has one of the broadest range of laptops of any brand. Within its three main lines — the G Essentials, ThinkPads and IdeaPads — you’ll find good options at a variety of price points. For instance, the ThinkPad line ranges from the rugged X140e ($489) to the $1,343 Helix Ultrabook. You can also customize your laptop via Lenovo’s website. Plus, fans of the traditional Start button will be glad to find a Windows 7 option on many of the company’s laptops.
Lenovo continues to impress with its software selection, providing handy utilities across flagship notebook lines. IdeaPads, like the Flex 14, feature One Key Recovery for instant backup, a stylish Energy Manager and Lenovo Companion for quick app discovery. Business-minded Lenovo laptops, such as the ThinkPad T440s, pack QuickConnect for controlling your notebook with your Android phone, as well as QuickCast for transferring data between machines on the same network.