Lenovo Yoga 730 13-inch review

Lenovo’s Yoga 730 13 takes a step up in performance, a step back in battery life

The Lenovo Yoga 730 is a minor refresh that lacks the battery life and display quality to be a contender.
The Lenovo Yoga 730 is a minor refresh that lacks the battery life and display quality to be a contender.
The Lenovo Yoga 730 is a minor refresh that lacks the battery life and display quality to be a contender.

Highs

  • Solid build quality
  • Enjoyable in tablet use
  • Excellent productivity performance
  • Competitive pricing

Lows

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Keyboard feels lifeless
  • Not the best display

DT Editors' Rating

We sometimes review a notebook that strikes us as very middle-of-the-road. Its performance is fine, its design is fine, its build quality is fine — but nothing stands out as particularly good or bad. Lenovo’s Yoga 720 convertible 2-in-1 was just such a machine, and the company has now refreshed it with the latest Intel silicon, polished it up a little, and dubbed it the Yoga 730.

Lenovo equipped our review unit of the 13.3-inch model with Intel’s 8th-gen quad-core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of DDR4-2400MHz RAM, a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and an anti-glare Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 or 166PPI) display. This entry-level configuration prices out at $849 at Best Buy, which is a bit lower than the Yoga 720. You can save $50 by opting for a 128GB SSD or jump up to $1,350 for a faster Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD.

Lenovo touched up the previous generation, added in some new features, and lowered the starting price. Is that enough to make the Yoga 730 relevant in an increasingly competitive convertible 2-in-1 market?

An uninspired design that doesn’t stand out

Lenovo makes solid notebooks. That’s true pretty much across its entire lineup, and the Yoga 730 is no different. It’s an all-metal build that shaves a few millimeters off the Yoga 720’s already svelte dimensions, reducing the side bezels to a 7.9 mm thickness to match the HP Spectre x360 13. The chassis is slightly thinner at 0.62 inches (up from 0.60), making it thicker than the Spectre x360’s 0.53 inches and the Lenovo Yoga 920’s 0.5 inches. Its weight, though, is significantly decreased, from 2.9 pounds down to 2.47 pounds and less than the Spectre x360’s 2.78 pounds and the Yoga 920’s 3.02 pounds.

The build quality is excellent with only the tiniest bit of flex in the lid and keyboard deck. It doesn’t have the Yoga 920’s tank-like rigidity, but it’s still near the top of its class. Interestingly, the Yoga 730 also shares the surprisingly sharp edges that we noted in the Yoga 920, which make resting your hands on the keyboard deck a bit less comfortable. The Yoga 730 is a convertible 2-in-1, of course, which means the hinge is particularly important – and it does a fine job of both holding the display in place and smoothly swiveling from clamshell to tablet formats.

Lenovo is known for excellent keyboards, but we felt the Yoga 730’s version fell flat.

The 2-in-1’s aesthetic is fine, with our review unit’s professional, but boring silver-grey chassis. The Spectre x360 cuts a more striking figure and adds some panache without being ostentatious, while you’d need to focus on the Yoga 920’s watchband hinge to tell it apart. The Yoga 730 looks like it wants to simply fade into the background, and that’s fine if it’s what you’re looking for, but we do prefer HP’s Spectre splash of style.

Connectivity is very good for such a thin machine. Not only are there two USB-C ports with full-speed (40 gigabytes per second) Thunderbolt 3 support for external GPU enclosures and multiple 4K displays, but Lenovo also managed to pack in a USB-A 3.1 port for legacy devices. Then there’s the usual 3.5mm combo audio jack, 2X2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1. Charging is via either of the USB-C ports, and the Yoga 730 now supports Lenovo’s Rapid Charge technology that can add two hours of operation with only 15-minutes spent plugged in.

The keyboard is shallow, but touching, inking, and swiping is a pleasure

Lenovo is known for excellent keyboards, particularly on its ThinkPad line. But for some reason, the Yoga 730’s keyboard fell uncharacteristically flat. It’s too shallow, and while keystrokes are springy and don’t uncomfortably bottom out, we were yearning for more key travel. The HP Spectre x360’s keyboard is also light and springy, but it offers significantly more travel.

Lenovo Yoga 730 13-inch review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The touchpad is large for such a small notebook, and it’s a Microsoft Precision touchpad, which means you’ll enjoy precise and responsive Windows 10 gesture support. The buttons have a nice click to them but aren’t too loud, something we can’t say about other 2-in-1s the Microsoft Surface Book 2. The touchscreen display is equally responsive, making controlling the cursor and on-screen elements enjoyable.

The Yoga 730 now supports Lenovo’s latest Active Pen 2, which is a $70 add-on. The pen wasn’t included with our review unit, but we’ve used it before. The stylus’ 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support to put it right up there with the Surface Pen as a great tool for Windows Inking.

The Yoga 730 was plenty fast in real-life use, making it an excellent productivity choice.

Another addition from the Yoga 720 is better voice support, with far-field microphones that make talking to Cortana more accurate from across the room. And, that will be a plus when Amazon Alexa arrives (coming soon, according to Lenovo), giving you another personal digital assistant with which to interact.

Finally, the Yoga 730 supports Windows 10 Hello via a fingerprint scanner located on the keyboard deck to the far right of the touchpad. It’s as easy as usual to set up, and it’s plenty responsive. Our only complaint with its placement is that it’s harder to get to in tablet mode than if it were on the side of the notebook as with the Spectre x360.

A display that won’t win any awards

The Yoga 730 13 comes equipped with a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 or 166PPI) display, which has become a standard for premium and near-premium notebooks. It’s just sharp enough for its 13.3-inch size, and there’s no option to upgrade to a 4K UHD display.

According to our colorimeter, the Yoga 730 essentially duplicates the performance of the Yoga 720. And that’s not a good thing, because the result is a display that’s fallen below average in the intervening months. Contrast, color gamut, and color accuracy are all inferior compared to our comparison group, and brightness comes in at a low 276 nits – below our preferred 300 nits.

In real-world use, the display isn’t quite as bad as these objective results indicate, but they weren’t great, either. We had to crank up the brightness to over 70 percent for comfortable use with any kind of ambient lighting, which is unusual for recent machines. Watching video was less enjoyable as well due to a gamma that made things brighter than intended.

The audio was equally underwhelming, with some distortion at full volume and not a tremendous amount of sound at that. Bass was lacking, as usual, and the highs and midrange were both a bit scratchy. It’s good enough for the occasional YouTube video, but you’ll want to pull out your favorite headphones to enjoy music and movies.

Perfect performance for productivity users

It’s remarkable just how consistently and how well today’s notebooks perform thanks to Intel’s 8th-generation Core processors. Our review Yoga 730 was equipped with the midrange quad-core Core i5-8250U, which in other machines has proven itself to be a great performer with some real efficiency benefits.

The Yoga 730 didn’t disappoint, and it’s a significant upgrade from the Yoga 720. As usual, the i5-8250U was a capable performer in both synthetic and real-life tests. Its Geekbench 4 results were only slightly behind some Core i7-8550U-equipped notebooks, and it scored a class-leading result in our Handbrake test that converts a 420MB video to H.265. Note that you can step up to a Core i7-8550U for an additional $100.

Lenovo’s choice of SSD was also superior, with the Samsung M.2 NVMe drive scoring at the top end of our comparison group. Simply put, you won’t find data storage to cause any a slowdown in your workflow no matter what you’re doing with the notebook.

Lenovo Yoga 730 13-inch review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Subjectively, the Yoga 730 was plenty fast in real-life use, making it an excellent choice for anyone with demanding productivity tasks. The relatively thin and light 2-in-1 has good thermals as well as indicated by the fans that never got overly loud and the chassis that remained comfortable to the touch no matter the task.

Integrated graphics inside means no gaming allowed

Unlike some recent notebooks that squeeze discrete graphics into thin chassis, such as the Asus ZenBook Flip 14, the Yoga 730 is limited to the integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics that come with its Core processor. That doesn’t bode well for the 2-in-1’s gaming abilities.

As expected, the Yoga 730 didn’t blow our socks off in our gaming tests. In the 3DMark synthetic benchmark, for example, it scored right where we expected for integrated graphics, no better and no worse than comparably equipped notebooks.

In real-life gaming, things were also consistent with our expectations. The Yoga 730 was able to hit 50 frames per second (FPS) in Rocket League at 1080p and performance mode, but it dropped down to a 24 FPS with high-quality graphics turned on. Again, that’s right in line with the competition, and it makes the Yoga 730 best for older titles at lower graphics and for low-end esports and casual Windows 10 games.

Battery life takes a step back

Lenovo fitted the Yoga 730 with 48 watt-hours of battery capacity, equal to the Yoga 720’s and a little below average for the class. That’s mated with a 1080p display and an efficient CPU, and so we were hoping for decent enough battery life.

In our tests, the Yoga 730 fell behind the Yoga 720 and the rest of its convertible 2-in-1 competitors. It managed just over three hours in our most aggressive Basemark web benchmark test, which was an hour behind the HP Spectre x360. It managed just over six hours in our web browsing test, where the Spectre x360 lasted for well over eight hours, and it petered out after just eight hours of video while the Spectre x360 and Lenovo Yoga 920 went for around 14 hours. The Yoga 720 lasted for almost 10 hours in the same test.

Battery life was disappointing despite a more efficient processor than its predecessor.

Those are disappointing results, and we really can’t account for them. Yes, the Yoga 730 has a smaller battery capacity, but it also has a very efficient CPU. It should have been able to last for significantly longer in our less demanding tests, and we can only hope that firmware updates can improve its longevity.

Our Take

The Lenovo Yoga 730 13-inch is a solidly built convertible 2-in-1 with great performance and an attractive price. The keyboard is a bit shallow for our tastes, but the rest of the input options are top notch. Our first complaint is with battery life, with the Yoga 730 taking a step back from its predecessor and falling behind its 2-in-1 competition in this metric. Combined with a display that is underwhelming even given the relatively low price, and the Yoga 730 just doesn’t keep up with a fast-improving 2-in-1 market.

Is there a better alternative?

Lenovo’s strongest competitor is the HP Spectre x360 13, a very similar convertible 13.3-inch 2-in-1 that’s spent some time on our list of favorites. The Spectre is a better-looking machine with similar performance, a better keyboard, and better battery life. It’s also more expensive, at $1,120 for the same Core i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB PCIe SSD – note that this price includes an active pen, a $70 extra for the Yoga 730. HP also offers a 4K UHD display option, making it a more attractive option for pixel peepers.

If you want a little more power in your convertible 2-in-1, then you could consider the Asus ZenBook Flip 14. You’ll spend quite a bit more for a more powerful configuration that includes a Core i7-8550U, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe SSD for $1,300. You’ll also get a bona fide discrete GPU, the entry-level Nvidia GeForce MX150 that offers better gaming on older titles and esports games.

How long will it last?

The Yoga 730 is a solidly built notebook with a modern processor and future-proof connectivity. It’s likely to last you for quite long enough to justify the reasonable investment. Lenovo offers the usual 1-year parts and labor warranty on the Yoga 730, which is no better and no worse than its competition.

Should you buy it?

No, unless your budget simply won’t stretch to the Spectre x360. The Yoga 730’s mediocre display and disappointing battery life hold it back from receiving our Recommended badge.