“The IdeaPad S940’s couple of compromises don’t detract from the attractive aesthetic, lovely display, and tight design.”
- Very small, thin, and light design
- Solid build quality
- Bright and colorful 4K display with good HDR support
- Useful auto-lock and unlock feature
- Lovely aesthetic
- Thin chassis limits performance
- 4K display takes a toll on battery life
- No touch display
Thin bezels are all the rage these days, and Lenovo has joined in on the fun. Its newest laptop, the IdeaPad S940, comes with a whopping 90 percent screen-to-bezel ratio, meaning its 14-inch display fits into a standard 13-inch chassis.
We looked at a midrange IdeaPad S940 configuration that’s built around an 8th-gen Whiskey Lake Core i7-8565U, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) IPS display with
Carrying less laptop around without giving up display size is a good thing. But did Lenovo have to make any compromises to fit everything inside?
Wow, that really is a small laptop
Picking up the IdeaPad S940 is a singular experience (at least, until the next tiny-bezel laptop comes around). Seriously, this is a small laptop, coming in at 12.57 inches wide by 7.77 inches deep by 0.55 inches thick. It’s not the smallest around, though. The Asus ZenBook 14 is almost the same size, at 12.56 inches by 7.83 inches, but it’s slightly thicker than the IdeaPad S940 at 0.63 inches. They weigh roughly the same, at 2.64 versus 2.62 pounds.
The IdeaPad S940 cheats, though, by including its cameras in a notch the extends above the display. Think of it as the reverse of a smartphone notch, and it performs the same function of making everything fit into an otherwise very tight space. On the laptop, though, that notch is useful – it’s easy to grab and open the lid with just one hand. You’ll want to watch out for fingerprints, though. The hinge helps by being very smooth and offering just enough pressure to keep the display in place while you’re typing.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a standout feature of the IdeaPad S940’s design. If you look at the left and right sides of the display, you’ll find another similarity to some modern smartphones: The edges are curved, making the bezels appear to be even smaller. We like the look, but we’re less impressed that Lenovo didn’t equip the laptop with a touch display – those smooth edges just beg to be swiped.
In terms of its aesthetics, the IdeaPad S940 is conservatively striking. Unlike the Dell XPS 13 with its multiple colors or the HP Spectre x360 13 with its gem-cut edges, the Lenovo achieved a very attractive look that doesn’t stand out quite as much. The IdeaPad S940 sports a similarly understated design as the Lenovo Yoga C930 and, oddly enough, the same forward-sweeping lines of the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1. It’s a darker color, which Lenovo dubs “Iron Grey,” and we like it as much as the Dell’s dark (but lighter) silver.
Picking up the IdeaPad S940 is a singular experience – it’s a very small laptop.
Of course, we need to be concerned about build quality with such a thin laptop. And here, the IdeaPad S940 excels. It’s a very solid laptop, with no give in the lid, the keyboard deck, or the chassis bottom. It’s nearly as rigid as the Yoga C930, which is our standard for robust consumer
Connectivity befits the laptop’s thickness, meaning that you’re limited to USB-C ports. One is a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 port while the other two support Thunderbolt 3. Any of the ports can be used to power and charge the laptop, and
The S940’s nifty security trick is powered by AI
The IdeaPad S940 doesn’t benefit from the excellent keyboard that Lenovo uses in its ThinkPad line. Instead, it’s the keyboard on the company’s premium consumer
The touchpad is a better experience. It fills most of the available space on the keyboard deck, and its plastic surface is smooth without being slippery. Microsoft Precision touchpad support means Windows 10 multitouch gestures work perfectly, and generally, we liked the touchpad as much as one of our favorites, the XPS 13.
As we mentioned earlier, Lenovo chose not to equip the IdeaPad S940 with a touch display. That’s disappointing, not only because the curved bezels beg for touch but also because using a laptop with a touchscreen is so much more pleasant than using one without. Sometimes you want to just grab the display and use your thumb to swipe through a long web page, and we miss that here.
Lenovo did pay some extra attention to security, though. Included in the reverse notch is a set of cameras that support Windows 10 Hello via infrared facial recognition. That’s not all, though – like the significantly more expensive Latitude 7400 2-in-1 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X390, the IdeaPad S940 can also recognize when a user steps away from the laptop and turn off the display and put the machine to sleep. When the user returns, the screen turns back on and Windows 10 Hello kicks in.
Lenovo chose a sharp, colorful, and bright
The IdeaPad S940 performed just as well here as did the Latitude 7400. There’s some artificial intelligence built into Lenovo’s solution, including the ability to automatically set the right distance sensitivity, and it can also turn video on and off as the user leaves the area. As with the Dell, we find this to be a useful feature that helps ensure you don’t inadvertently leave your laptop open to snooping. We didn’t specifically test to see if the feature impacts the battery life, but we discovered the effect on the Latitude and suspect it will be the same with the Lenovo.
Lenovo also included Glance software that moves your cursor from window to window and from display to display, in multi-monitor configurations, just by glancing. As with the ThinkPad X390 that featured Glance, the software keeps the webcam light turned on – which we found to be a real annoyance.
An incredibly bright 4K screen
Our review unit sports a
Our colorimeter provided mostly good news about the display. To begin with, it’s indeed very bright at 470 nits, which is well above our 300-nit preference and much brighter than most laptop displays we’ve tested. And, it offers 83 percent AdobeRGB and 100 percent sRGB color gamut coverage, both of which are again significantly better than average. Accuracy was just okay at 2.0 (less than 1.0 is excellent), and contrast was also rather average at 850:1 – we like to see modern displays at 1000:1 or better.
Those metrics compare favorably to most of our comparison group. The IdeaPad is significantly brighter and its color gamut is much higher – in fact, the average color gamut support in premium
Where the IdeaPad S940’s panel shines, though, is in its
The IdeaPad S940’s display isn’t as good at handling
What all this means in practice is that Lenovo chose a very sharp, very colorful, and very bright display with average contrast and color accuracy. It’s a weird mix, therefore – it’s not quite a great choice for creative professionals, and it’s not the best choice for productivity users. But it’s very good for both. And if you like watching Netflix TV shows and movies, then it’s better than most
Sometimes, being too thin can slow you down
We reviewed a high-end configuration of the IdeaPad S940 complete with a quad-core “Whiskey Lake” 8th-generation Core i7-8565U. It’s a fast processor that can usually churn through productivity tasks and even handle some demanding chores like video encoding.
Once we started running our benchmarks, though, we found a discrepancy.
First, in the Geekbench 4 synthetic benchmark, the IdeaPad S940 scored a slightly low 5,011 in the single-core test and a very low 13,467 in the multi-core test. The ZenBook 14 was slightly faster with the same CPU at 5,245 and 14,353, respectively, and the less expensive
Things got more concerning when we ran our usual real-world test, using Handbrake to encode a 420MB video file to H.265. Our first run saw the IdeaPad S940 take a full 411 seconds to complete the test, where other
Acer confirmed that the IdeaPad’s thin chassis results in some thermal throttling.
Those results stand out for two reasons. First, they’re significantly slower than our comparison group, including the ZenBook 14 that was very quick at 237 seconds. Second, most
The Samsung PCIe SSD that Lenovo selected provided strong results, scoring 2,077 megabytes per second (MB/s) in the CrystalDiskMark 5read test, and 1,462 MB/s in the write test. That’s much faster than the Kingston SSD in the
During our testing, we found the IdeaPad S940 to be a good performer in our usual productivity work. It seemed as fast in normal use as most
Being so thin, the IdeaPad S940 also gets a bit warmer than some other
Even less of a gaming laptop than usual
The IdeaPad S940 starts as an unlikely candidate for anyone who wants to do more than the most casual gaming. It’s limited to Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics, and adding in the thermal throttling had us even less excited than usual.
According to the 3DMark Fire Strike test, the IdeaPad S940 is indeed slower than similarly equipped
The IdeaPad S940 is therefore not any kind of gaming laptop – the
The 4K tax on battery life
The IdeaPad S940 has 52 watt-hours of battery packed inside that small and thin chassis. That’s not a lot for a 14-inch laptop, but then again most have more room inside. Given the
We’re not at all surprised, then, to see the IdeaPad S940 falling short against its competition. In our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, the Lenovo made it just past three hours, similar to the Swift 3 14-inch. The ZenBook 14, though, lasted for almost four and three-quarter hours and the also-expensive Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 lasted for close to seven hours.
Next, we ran the IdeaPad S940 through our web browsing test that loops a series of popular web pages. Here, it lasted for just over six hours while the next closest comparison machine, the ZenBook 14, lasted for almost eight hours. Again, the Latitude 7400 was the standout at a whopping 14.3 hours. We’ll note that the latest Dell XPS 13 with a
Finally, when repeating our 1080p Avengers local test video, the IdeaPad S940 just barely made it to 10 hours. The ZenBook 14 lasted for 11 hours, the Swift 3 for 15.3 hours, and the Latitude 7400 a spectacular 21.8 hours. The IdeaPad S940 did last three hours longer than the XPS 13, which shut down after just seven hours of video looping.
The IdeaPad suffers from too little battery capacity for too power components and a very power-hungry
The IdeaPad S940 is a great laptop to carry around – literally, it’s nice in hand and doesn’t take up much room wherever you need to use it. Lenovo did a remarkable job of packing a very nice
Unfortunately, the company also made it very thin, which limited performance due to thermal throttling and didn’t leave room for enough battery to satisfy that power-hungry display. The IdeaPad S940 has a very attractive aesthetic and tight design, but its svelte frame comes at a real cost.
Is there a better alternative?
We’ve reviewed a couple of 14-inch
Next up is the Asus ZenBook S13. It, too, features spectacularly tiny bezels and a very small chassis. It’s not quite as thin as the IdeaPad S940, but it’s also faster and doesn’t suffer from the same kind of thermal throttling. It also comes standard with the MX150, meaning it’ll provide better gaming and creativity app performance in basically the same footprint. And, it’s similarly priced at $1,400 including a larger 512GB SSD but with a Full HD display – that affords it much better battery life.
Finally, you could consider the IdeaPad S940’s business cousin, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It, too, is a pricey laptop $1,682 for a similar configuration. It’s also not as small or as thin, but it’s very light with a better keyboard. It also sports the iconic ThinkPad design, if that’s something that appeals to you.
How long will it last?
The IdeaPad S940 is very well built and provides some confidence that it will keep up with the usual productivity-worker wear and tear. It also enjoys up-to-date components, including
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you’re looking for an extremely small 14-inch laptop with a very nice display. But beware the performance and battery life tradeoffs.
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