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

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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. 

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7.8

Lenovo IdeaPad S940 (14-inch, 2019)

Pricing Not Available

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.

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.

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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. 

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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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Watch this: Lenovo expands its premium Yoga line at CES 2019

The feature works as promised and is fast enough that it can be quicker than just moving the pointer or windows on your own. It can also track your eyes and lock the system if it senses you've walked away or alert you to someone shoulder surfing behind you. 

The webcam is matched with far-field mics that not only improve your video calls, but work with Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana voice assistants with voice matching to make the assistants respond to your voice only. 

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The keyboard is large and comfortable despite shallow key travel. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The backlit keyboard is comfortable with decent travel and a pleasing bounce to the keys to keep it from feeling mushy, which is impressive given the system's thinness. The precision touchpad is good as well with reliable palm checking and generally smooth performance that didn't leave me wishing I hadn't left my mouse at home. 

Following in the footsteps of the C930, the S940 has a remarkably good set of speakers. Coupled with Dolby Atmos processing, audio sounds full for both movies and music. A decent set of external speakers or headphones are still going to sound better, but the Lenovo's speakers are enjoyable enough to use regularly not just in a pinch. 

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4K display? Don't stray from an outlet for too long. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Want great battery life? Go full HD

The S940 features a newer eighth-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620. It's made for productivity with a side of entertainment of the non-gaming variety. The components are geared for average home, office and school tasks like word processing, web browsing and email. However, it does have enough processing muscle to push through more demanding work, assuming it's not overly graphics intensive. Note, too, that the memory is onboard, so if you get a model with 8GB you can't add more down the road. You can, however, swap in a larger SSD if you decide you need more storage. 

Also, while I love the UHD display, it basically cuts your battery life in half. We hit 7 hours, 26 minutes on our streaming video playback test, which lines up with Lenovo's claims for this display. Opting for the 400-nit full-HD screen, according to Lenovo's site, will get you 15 hours of battery life. And judging by what I've seen from similar laptops with 1920x1080-pixel displays, a runtime of 12 hours or more isn't unlikely. 

The laptop charges by USB-C and it's relatively quick about it. You can also turn on its RapidCharge feature for a faster fill-up, but you'll need to shut the laptop off to use it. 

Lenovo's Ideapad S940 is a stunning tech-filled ultraportable

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A showpiece laptop with a corresponding price

To be clear, while the Lenovo IdeaPad S940 is expensive, it's not overpriced. You're paying for the miniaturization as much as the performance and high-quality UHD 4K display and some new tech that isn't available elsewhere. If you want cutting-edge design and features you're going to pay for it. Everything here lives up to Lenovo's promises, though that unfortunately includes a shorter-than-average battery life due to the UHD display. If you can live with the full-HD option, you'll no doubt get better battery life and likely save yourself some money, too. 

Geekbench 4 (multi-core)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15050Lenovo Yoga C930 13978Lenovo Ideapad S940 13494LG gram 17 13209Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 7870
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Lenovo Yoga C930 635LG gram 17 528Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 520Lenovo Ideapad S940 340Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 253
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 750Lenovo Yoga C930 746LG gram 17 732Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 646Lenovo Ideapad S940 446
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Lenovo Ideapad S940 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
LG gram 17 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga C930 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD
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7.8

Lenovo IdeaPad S940 (14-inch, 2019)

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Battery 7