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Lenovo IdeaPad S940 (14-inch, 2019) review: A droolworthy laptop you'll want to take everywhere

The Good One of the smallest, lightest 14-inch laptops available. Its excellent UHD HDR display and eye-tracking software enables useful privacy and productivity features.

The Bad The S940 is expensive and its battery life is unremarkable due to the 4K UHD display.

The Bottom Line From its curved-edge HDR display to its AI-enhanced webcam to its amazingly small design, the Lenovo IdeaPad S940 epitomizes a premium ultraportable -- right down to its high price.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7

With its lid closed, the $2,000 Lenovo IdeaPad S940 laptop doesn't look too different from other premium ultraportable laptops from AsusDell and Acer. It's thin at 12.2 mm (0.5 in), it weighs less than 3 pounds (1.2 kg) and its metal chassis is understated and elegant. 

But thin, light and metal are prerequisites for ultraportables and even the S940's components are standard at the moment for the category: Intel Core i5-8265U or i7-8565U processor, 8GB or 16GB of onboard memory, up to 1TB PCIe SSD and integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics.

It's not until you lift the S940's lid that things get more interesting. PC makers have been whittling away the top and side bezels around displays to make a laptop's footprint ever smaller -- usually at the cost of an awkwardly placed webcam or a big chin below the display. Lenovo somehow managed to avoid both, eliminating the chin while keeping the webcam above the screen. 

On top of that, the glass curves around those bezels and disappears into the lid -- the world's first laptop with this curved glass. Not only does it look nice, but it makes the overall footprint far smaller than past 14-inch laptops, though Acer's Swift 7 is equally extraordinary for this reason.

11-lenovo-ideapad-s940

The S940 (left) and Lenovo Yoga C930 both have 13.9-inch displays. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The curved edges look nice, but really that's all they're there for -- to look nice. Lenovo does give you a few other reasons to consider this over the smaller Dell XPS 13 and the thinner, lighter Swift 7, however. Not one of those reasons is a low price, though: The IdeaPad S940 starts at $1,500, but depending on promotions it can be found for less. The configuration I tested is $2,000, and sells for AU$3,500 in Australia where it's called the Yoga S940. It's currently unavailable in the UK, but the US starting price converts to roughly £1,200. 

Lenovo IdeaPad S940-14IWL

Price as reviewed $2,000
Display size/resolution 14-inch 3,840 x 2,160 display
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 512GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)

Have a look

Lenovo offers two display options with the S940: A UHD (3,840x2,400-pixel) DisplayHDR 400 with 500-nit brightness or a 400-nit FHD (1,920x1,080-pixel) Dolby Vision panel. I tested the higher-end UHD screen and it's gorgeous with excellent color and contrast for this class of laptop.  

The 500-nit brightness helps considerably with glare off the glossy screen, though it's still not enough outdoors in the sun. I used it in a brightly lit coffee shop with no issue, for example. Well, maybe one issue. The hinge design doesn't let the screen open much beyond 120 degrees, so adjusting for your viewing position and lighting can be tricky. 

01-lenovo-ideapad-s940

This is as far as the S940's screen opens. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

As I mentioned earlier, despite the thin top bezel Lenovo put an infrared (IR) webcam above the display by creating a notch that, unlike the ones used on phones, goes up and not down. It's a clever solution that not only allowed the camera to be up top, but also doubles as a lip to make the lid easier to open. 

The IR camera works for facial recognition sign-ins with Windows Hello. It's also paired with other sensors and Glance by Mirametrix attention-sensing AI software. If you connect the S940 to an external display -- it has two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports -- Glance detects whether you're looking at the laptop's display or the attached one, and will move open windows accordingly or automatically shift the pointer back and forth between the built-in and attached displays. 

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