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Lenovo LaVie Z 360 review: A powerful two-pound hybrid

Review Sections

In contrast, Apple manages to take the limited space for its 12-inch MacBook keyboard and find hidden advantages to take the edge off of the tradeoffs, making each key face wider and more stable, despite being even shallower than the keyboard here.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the keyboard is a bust, the basic clickpad-style touchpad below the keyboard works surprisingly well, even when using multitouch gestures such as the two-finger scroll for navigating long Web pages.

There has been a trend in premium laptops over the past two years to shoot past the standard 1,920x1,080 resolution, in some cases all the way up to 4K, although that extreme is usually of dubious usefulness for a small laptop screen. In this case, the LaVie Z 360 sits at a happy medium, with a 2,560x1,440 native resolution (the non-hybrid version has the same resolution).

The display in this model has a glossy finish, with edge-to-edge glass over the front face of the lid. Off-axis viewing is decent, and this hybrid version of the screen brings back a bit of the punch and deep color missing from the matte display in the non-hybrid LaVie Z, although in general we still prefer matte screens. Touch response was very good, and makes navigating Windows 8 much easier.

Ports & connections

Video HDMI
Audio Combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance and battery

After the single USB-C port in the 12-inch MacBook , one might think overly connected laptops were a thing of the past, especially for the thinnest and lightest models. Fortunately, Lenovo shows us this doesn't need to be the case. Both the LaVie Z and LaVie Z 360 make room for two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port and an SD card slot, which should be enough for most users.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Bumping up to an Intel ULV Core i7 processor, both LaVie Z systems performed well in our standard benchmark tests, and felt fast and responsive in everyday use. Offering similar performance was the latest generation of Toshiba's Kirabook premium 13-inch laptop, which uses the same processor. Apple's 12-inch MacBook, with a slower Core M processor, fell well behind, as did a premium Windows laptop with a current-gen Core i5 CPU. Note, however, that the recently updated 13-inch MacBook Air, also with a current-gen Core i5 processor, was surprisingly a bit faster in our multitasking test, thanks in part to its operating system advantages in some of our testing apps, not to mention its lower-resolution display.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life was decent, considering the high-power i7 processor, but if this was a standard 13-inch Core i5 laptop, we'd expect more. The non-hybrid LaVie Z ran for 7:51 on our video-playback battery-drain test, while the LaVie Z 360 hybrid ran for 7:40 on the same test. The 12-inch MacBook ran longer, at around 12 hours, as did the high-end 13-inch Toshiba Kirabook, at 8:50. If you were performing more intensive tasks, such as continuously streaming HD video over the Internet, you could expect about five-and-a-half hours of life, based on our anecdotal tests.

Conclusion

The LaVie Z 360 packs a lot of power into a lightweight package, and this version includes both a touchscreen and hybrid hinge, while adding only a little weight. You could hand either LaVie Z we reviewed to someone and there's a good chance they'd ask if it was a hollow plastic mockup rather than a fully functioning laptop.

But, both this and the non-hybrid version suffer from a plain-looking design and an especially frustrating keyboard, that latter of which hurts real-world usability.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In this price range, I'd steer towards the Core-M-powered 12-inch MacBook or the similar Samsung Book 9 for casual websurfing and simple tasks, while also giving the LaVie Z series a serious look for heavier workloads, thanks to its more powerful processor. But, unless the touch screen is a must-have, I'd also lean towards saving $200 and going with the lighter, less-expensive non-hybrid LaVie Z version, which includes extra bragging rights by slipping in at just under two pounds.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
370
Toshiba KiraBook (2015)
382
Lenovo LaVie Z
390
Lenovo LaVie Z 360
409
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
441
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2015)
465

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

Lenovo LaVie Z 360
221
Lenovo LaVie Z
227
Toshiba KiraBook (2015)
228
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
243
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
268
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2015)
307

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Lenovo LaVie Z
101
Lenovo LaVie Z 360
101
Toshiba KiraBook (2015)
101
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
107
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
113
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2015)
130

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video-playback battery-drain test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015)
1,080
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2015)
747
Toshiba KiraBook (2015)
530
Lenovo LaVie Z
471
Lenovo LaVie Z 360
460
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
422

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Lenovo LaVie Z Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD
Lenovo LaVie Z 360 Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2015) Yosemite OSX 10.10.2; 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y31; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2015) Yosimite OSX 10.10.2; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-5250U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,536MB Intel HD Graphis 6000; 128GB SSD
Toshiba KiraBook (2015) Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2015) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD

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