ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6: Future Perfect?

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 Collage – images Lenovo (edited)

(This is a public draft of an article written for the Lenovo forums.  The “official” version is there – please join that conversation: ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6: Future Perfect?)

The tech world never sits still. Capabilities and capacities – and bang for the buck – keep improving. Somehow, requirements do too. Processing power, RAM and storage capacity, offset by the tug-of-war between upgradability, battery runtime, footprint, thickness, and weight. Even display density and connectivity.

Nothing is ever “future proof” but given the eye-popping specs of the the X1 Yoga Gen 6 that just landed on my bench, I think we can call it “future friendly”. And then some.  Let’s have a look, but first…

From time to time  Lenovo sends me a gadget. They’re handy to have around – both for my own use and when trying to help out in the Lenovo forums. I do some testing and writing as well. Beyond the use of the laptop, I’m not otherwise compensated. Professional images are Lenovo’s.  Amateur snapshots are mine.  Opinions are exclusively mine.  I do not work for, represent, or speak for Lenovo.

I’ve done my best to gather accurate information, but things are subject to change and correction.  Please double-check anything I say here before using it to make a purchase decision.

 

Base Specifications:

A snip from Lenovo’s sales data sheet:

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Datasheet (partial – edited)

The PSREF pages, and base specification PDF:

https://psref.lenovo.com/Product/ThinkPad/ThinkPad_X1_Yoga_Gen_6

https://psref.lenovo.com/syspool/Sys/PDF/ThinkPad/ThinkPad_X1_Yoga_Gen_6/ThinkPad_X1_Yoga_Gen_6_Spec.pdf

Notes from Lenovo engineering:

  • Early documentation lists Bluetooth as 5.1.  It is 5.2.
  • RAM in all configurations runs dual-channel.
  • Even though it does not have a physical Ethernet port, the laptop has an Ethernet MAC address that’s presented via the Lenovo USB-C adapter (may not be included with the laptop).

[Update 2021.03.21] Additional notes re storage options:

I’ve been digging, and here’s what I think I know about the new X1 Yoga’s storage.  There will be two tiers of performance: “standard” gen 3 and gen 4 SSDs that are in the same performance class as the current PCIe 3.0×4 SSDs, and a “performance” tier that is gen 4 only and runs at roughly twice the speed of the current gen 3 offerings.  These higher performing SSDs will be classified as “PCIe 4.0×4 performance” or “gen 4 performance” in their descriptions.  A specific model (MT-M) with “standard” storage may ship with either a gen 3 or 4 SSD.  Performance will be roughly the same for either of the standard SSDs. I do not speak for Lenovo.

The ports:

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Ports – image Lenovo (edited)

 

Generational Changes:

Apart from slight differences in the range of options, and the lid logo, the Gen 4 and Gen 5 X1 Yogas were twins.  The Gen 6 is a major overhaul, upgrade, and re-engineering.  What’s changed?  TLDR: everything 😉

Display aspect ratio, docking, CPU options, RAM performance and capacity, storage performance, human interaction options – to name a few of the notable changes.

Perhaps the biggest change – across a range of new ThinkPad models – is the switch to a 16×10 display.  For years many of us have wished for more vertical pixels (for that reason a WQHD display has been my sweet spot) and at long last our prayers have been answered.  This is a big deal.  Also a big deal: 2TB gen-4 NVMe SSD options.  Lots of storage – and crazy fast.

The ports have changed too – see above.  They are no longer side-dock compatible so docking solutions will be Thunderbolt 4 most likely, and there’s no proprietary Ethernet port.  Most users won’t miss that latter, but a few of us do occasionally need wired connections – so USB-C or 3.0 dongles, or perhaps via a dock.  Per Lenovo engineering: the laptop has an Ethernet MAC address that is presented if the USB-C adapter is used.

What hasn’t changed is that solid “carved out of solid ThinkPadium” feel (it’s aluminum), excellent keyboard,  and the mandatory-for-a-ThinkPad TrackPoint and buttons.  The touchpad is a bit wider now, but personally, I’m indifferent.  Not a touchpad user.

A few of the notable changes from Gen 5 to Gen 6 – maximum options shown, not all models will have these specifications.  Gen 6 in italics.

Processor:

  • 10th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 / i7 Processor
  • 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 / i7 Processor

Graphics:

  • Intel UHD Graphics
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics

Display:

  • 14.0″ UHD (3840×2160) Multi-touch IPS 500 nits, Anti-reflection Anti-smudge, Aspect Ratio 16:9, Contrast Ratio 1500:1, Color Gamut 90% DCI-P3, Viewing Angle 170°, Dolby Vision™ HDR 400
  • 14.0″ UHD+ (3840×2400) Multi-touch IPS 500 nits, Anti-reflection Anti-smudge, Aspect ratio 16:10, Contrast Ratio 1500:1, Color Gamut 100% DCI-P3, Viewing Angle 170°, Low blue light

Monitor support:

  • Supports up to 3 independent displays via native display and 2 external monitors; supports external monitors via HDMI® (up to 4K@24Hz) or Thunderbolt™ (up to 5K@60Hz)
  • Supports up to 4 independent displays via native display and 3 external monitors; supports external monitors via Thunderbolt™ (5K@60Hz) or HDMI® (up to 4K@60Hz)

Memory (soldered – no slots, runs dual-channel):

  • LPDDR3-2133 – maximum 16GB
  • LPDDR4x-4266 – maximum 32GB

Storage:

  • M.2 2280 SSD – PCIe NVMe, PCIe 3.0 x4
  • M.2 2280 SSD – PCIe NVMe, PCIe 4.0 Performance

Ethernet:

  • Gigabit Ethernet, Intel Ethernet Connection I219-V or -LM, RJ45 via optional ThinkPad Ethernet Extension Adapter Gen 2
  • NONE: Ethernet support via optional Lenovo USB-C to Ethernet Adapter (may not be included with the Laptop). MAC address supported.

WWAN:

  • Fibocom L850-GL 4G LTE-A
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G LTE (not yet available from Sales or in PSREF specs)

Ports:

  • 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (Always On), 2x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 / Thunderbolt 3 (support data transfer, Power Delivery 3.0 and DisplayPort™ 1.2),1x HDMI 1.4b,1x Ethernet extension connector, 1x headphone / microphone combo jack (3.5mm), 1x side docking connector
  • 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (Always On), 2x Thunderbolt 4 / USB4™ 40Gbps (support data transfer, Power Delivery 3.0 and DisplayPort™ 1.4a), 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x headphone / microphone combo jack (3.5mm)

In addition to the above differences, there are slight differences in weight and dimensions. Fans (two now) exhaust via read vents.  More significant is the addition of HPD (human presence detection) as an option in the Gen 6.  It can provide enhanced security, convenience  (and perhaps complication) to user interaction.  This bears – and will receive – further examination.

Some amateur pics to show the differences in ports and dimensions:

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gens 5 & 6 (right) Height

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gens 5 & 6 (top) Width

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gens 5 & 6 (top) Left

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gens 5 & 6 (top) Right

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gens 5 & 6 (top) Rear

Bonus pic: Top view of the Gen 6 with its compact USB-C charger, a (purchased separately) Lenovo 65W GaN “wall wart” USB-C charger, and a USB-C to micro-USB adapter.  With the wall-wart and adapter in my backpack, I can charge most anything including my Yoga Tab 3 Pro and brand “S” phone.

[Update 2021.03.10] The corded charger below will charge the laptop, and a Yoga  Tab 3 Pro and brand “S” phone via the micro-USB adapter.  Unfortunately the wall-wart will charge the laptop and phone, but not the tablet.  Unclear which end  is the problem.  A little disappointing, and bears further research.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 Top and Chargers

 

This Gen 6’s Detailed Specifications:

TLDR: maxed out 🙂

Please note that this is a pre-production machine.   It has some features that are not yet available on the sales site – or in the PSREF specifications.  These are the specs of the machine actually on my bench, but I don’t/can’t/won’t make any promises about what will eventually be available to the general public.  32GB RAM, Gen 4 SSD, and 5G LTE are not generally available as of this writingI do not speak for Lenovo.

  • Model:  20Y0Z8ZAUS (not in the PSREF pages)
  • Product:  ThinkPad X1 Yoga (6th Gen)
  • Processor:  Intel Core i7-1185G7 (4C / 8T, 1.8 / 4.8GHz, 12MB, vPro)
  • Graphics:  Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Chipset:  Intel SoC Platform
  • Memory:  32GB Soldered LPDDR4x-4266
  • Storage:  2TB SSD M.2 2280 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe OPAL2
  • Display:  14″ UHD+ (3840×2400 – 16×10) IPS 500 nits anti-reflection anti-smudge
  • Multi-touch:  10-point Multi-touch
  • Pen: Lenovo Integrated Pen (Garaged)
  • Ethernet:  NONE
  • WLAN + Bluetooth:  Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201, Wi-Fi 2×2 802.11ax + Bluetooth 5.2
  • WWAN: Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G
  • Case Material:  Aluminum
  • Camera:  IR camera and HD720p camera with ThinkShutter
  • Audio:  Dolby Atmos speaker system, 2W x 2, 0.8 x 2 /
    four 360° far-field microphones, headphone / microphone combo jack, High Definition (HD) Audio, Realtek® ALC3306 codec
  • Color:  Storm grey
  • Keyboard:  Backlit, English
  • Fingerprint Reader:  Touch Style, Match-on-Chip, integrated with power button
  • TPM:  Discrete TPM 2.0
  • System Mgt:  Intel vPro Technology
  • Battery:  57Wh battery, supports Rapid Charge (charge up to 80% in 1hr)
  • Power Adapter:  65W USB-C
  • Operating System:  Windows 10 Pro 64, English
  • BIOS Security:  Power-on password, Supervisor password, NVMe password, Self-healing BIOS
  • Other Security: Camera privacy shutter, IR camera for Windows Hello, Privacy Guard with Privacy Alert, Human Presence Detection

 

Major Components and Performance:

The Gen 4 SSD performance is off the chart!  Well, not literally… its still on the chart, but I’ve not seen speeds like this before.  Amazing.

Please note that not all Gen 6 Yogas will be configured with a Gen 4 SSD.  Some will be Gen 3. Verify before purchase.


X1 Yoga Gen 6 SSD DiskMark

Wifi performance is fist-rate.  My router will actually support 2400mbps link speeds, and the earlier X1 Yogas will sometimes hit that.  I don’t think anything is amiss with the Gen 6.  It may be location re the router or something else. Will continue to monitor but for now it’s fine.  Can nearly max out my cable connection.

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Wifi Performance

Lastly, what PassMark thinks of the Gen 6.  I don’t generally run benchmarks and won’t try to interpret this.  Posting here for the interested reader.

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Passmark

 

Virtualization:

That’s pretty much a given with modern CPUs.  This Gen 6 with its 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage handles multiple VMs effortlessly.

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Virtual Machines

You may notice a problem with these virtual clients: they’re so small as to be nearly unusable.  This is an issue with high-DPI displays.  Thankfully modern Linux distros like the ones I’m usually running have scaling options that can help with this.  For other/older OSen, it can be a real problem.  Some notes on that here: High DPI Displays and Scaling

Ubuntu and Fedora Linux VM clients with scaling in use:

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Virtual Machines Scaling

 

Battery Runtime:

Runtime.  Not “life”.  Runtime. </soapbox>

A not-terribly-scientific, but hopefully fairly accurate look at runtime under various loads.  My approach is to let each application run until the “gas gauge” settles down and then grab a screen shot.  Display brightness was about half, and if audio was playing it was set at “20”.

I’d call this pretty decent.  It’s not quite as good as my Gen 5 but it’s pushing a much higher resolution display, among other hardware differences.  The HPD feature with its quick and automatic sleep/wake seems to help with battery usage.  It snoozes when I turn away and wakes when I turn back.  Nearly instantly.

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Runtime Idle

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Runtime Firefox

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Runtime MP3

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Runtime MP4

X1 Yoga Gen 6 Runtime Streaming Wifi

 

Final thoughts – for now:

This machine is too new to me to have many fully-ripened opinions.  First take is that it’s fantastic.  Quick and responsive. Long-wanted aspect ratio, lots of RAM, lots of really fast storage, decent CPU, and all that counted-on ThinkPad goodness.  5G LTE.  And some really interesting new features.

Planned follow-on articles will include Linux – live and installed – and a deeper look into new features like Dolby Voice and Human Presence Detection.  Quick take on that: it’s amazing… and a little surprising if you’re not expecting it.

 

Links:

Sales:

https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-x1/X1-Yoga-G6

The PSREF pages, and base specification PDF:

https://psref.lenovo.com/Product/ThinkPad/ThinkPad_X1_Yoga_Gen_6

https://psref.lenovo.com/syspool/Sys/PDF/ThinkPad/ThinkPad_X1_Yoga_Gen_6/ThinkPad_X1_Yoga_Gen_6_Spec.pdf

Support Pages, User Guide, Hardware Maintenance Manual:

X1 Yoga 6th Gen (Type 20XY, 20Y0) Laptop (ThinkPad)

https://download.lenovo.com/pccbbs/mobiles_pdf/x1_carbon_gen9_x1_yoga_gen6_ug_en.pdf?linkTrack=PSP:ProductInfo:UserGuide

https://download.lenovo.com/pccbbs/mobiles_pdf/tp_x1_carbon_gen9_x1_yoga_gen6_hmm_en.pdf

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Windows 10 USB Install Media … or MS BS

I got schooled (again) the other day whilst trying to help a forum member.  They’d been running Linux on a Lenovo machine and wanted to boot Windows 10 install media to set up a dual boot situation.

Forum Member: “I’ve made a flash drive with the Windows 10 20H2 ISO but it refuses to boot.”

Mr. Know-it-all: “Did you extract the contents of the ISO to a FAT32-formatted flash drive?”

Forum Member: “Tried multiple techniques for extraction and they don’t boot.  Some try but fail.  And no way to use FAT32.  One of the files in the ISO is too large.”

Mr. Know-it-all: “Huh?  I’ve done that many times – 7zip or Windows Explorer to do the extraction.  No prob.  Just tested it again with 20H2.  Even copied the ISO to Fedora Linux and used Linux tools.  How about a screen shot?”

Sure enough, /sources/install.wim is too large for FAT32.  But WTF, I’ve never run into this.

Hmmm… apparently the ISOs I’ve used have all been built by Microsoft’s media builder.  It creates an ISO using an ESD file – which per the interwebs is more compressed than a WIM file and can reduce the size by ~30%.  There may also be some editing to the contents during the creation process.  Don’t know.

How did the forum member end up with an ISO with a WIM file?  Aha… If one does the download from the MS site while running Windows, it only offers the creation tool.  If running the download from Linux, for instance, it only offers the ISO – and only the version with the over-large WIM file.

Windows 10 20H2 ISOs

Bleeping brilliant. Not.  Why in the world is MS offering an ISO that can’t be used directly to build a FAT32 install drive?  After all, FAT32 is the format common to all UEFI BIOSen when it comes to booting.  Support is required per the spec.  Some PCs may be able to boot UEFI from an NTFS drive, but not Lenovo PCs.

Also per the interwebs, there are ways to split the WIM file using Windows or Linux tools – I’ve not tested either of the ones linked below –  but good grief.  Why make this necessary in the first place?

Windows:  https://www.zdnet.com/article/windows-10-installer-files-too-big-for-usb-flash-drive-heres-the-fix/

Linux:  https://wimlib.net/

Might be easier to just run the MS media creation tool in Windows in the first place.  In a virtual machine, perhaps.  Absurd that any of this is necessary 🙁

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ThinkPad P1 Gen 2: a Beauty AND a Beast

ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 – images Lenovo

A beauty: slim and trim, carbon fiber display cover, gorgeous UHD OLED touch display.

A beast: hexacore i7, two NVMe SSD slots, major league RAM capacity.

This beastly beauty is my first workstation-class ThinkPad, my first 15 inch machine, and my first OLED display.  It came to me from Lenovo via NateS, an exceptionally generous Lenovo Forum SuperMod.The write-up is a little late – the Gen 3 is already available – but let’s have a look anyway.  Here’s the  usual list of things that I find interesting, a few fixes, and a couple of issues.  But first (and again):

From time to time  Lenovo sends me a gadget. They’re handy to have around – both for my own use and when trying to help out in the Lenovo forums. I do some testing and writing as well. Beyond the use of the laptop, I’m not otherwise compensated. Professional images are Lenovo’s.  Amateur snapshots are mine*.  Opinions are exclusively mine.  I do not work for, represent, or speak for Lenovo.

*  And worse than usual.  I hadn’t realized that a software update had turned off image correction in my phone.  Too late to redo some of them 🙁

There’s probably more low-level detail here than the typical workstation-class laptop user wants or needs, but if you’ll indulge me, read on… as always, double-check anything I say here before using it to make a purchase decision.

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Fob Story III, A Tale of Three Fobs, Goldilocks and the … oh never mind…

Another chapter in the “Swiss Army” external drive saga. First it was the classic multi-boot USB flash drive:  A FOB STORY: some notes on bootable flash drives then the “turbo” external NVMe/USB-A & -C version: FOB Story II and now a dual USB-A/USB-C flash drive.  A tiny one.

I’ve had my eye on dual-connector flash drives for a while.  This one caught my attention – a SanDisk 256GB unit that was very inexpensive.  It’s ridiculously tiny considering its capacity.  High-capacity flash drives have had limited utility for my applications since Windows would only recognize a single partition.  If they were to be UEFI-bootable that had to be FAT32, but that limited maximum file size and was difficult to format with Windows tools.

That’s changed with Windows 10 1703.  We can now create and access multiple partitions, so like the Turbo NVMe drive (which appears as a hard drive and wasn’t limited by Windows) we can have a FAT32 boot and tool partition and a large NTFS partition for data and things like backup images.  The dinky drive is set up like the NVMe drive described in FOB Story II –  a 30GB FAT32 partition containing a live Linux + tools, and the rest NTFS.

NOTE: it’s still necessary  to use diskpart to set the FAT32 partition active to allow legacy booting.

Below are images of the drives and their Crystal DiskMark speed reports.  The tiny SanDisk isn’t fast, but it’s actually a bit faster than my trusty ADATA for sequential reads.

Three Swiss Army Drives

Crystal DiskMark Three Drives: ADATA, M2X/P1 NVMe, SanDisk

 

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X1 Generations – ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 – Exploded – image Lenovo

 

ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 – 360 View – image Lenovo

 

Another non-review where we examine the usual suspects.  You know the drill:

From time to time  Lenovo sends me a gadget. They’re handy to have around – both for my own use and when trying to help out in the Lenovo forums. I do some testing and writing as well. Beyond the use of the laptop, I’m not otherwise compensated.

Professional images are Lenovo’s.  Amateur snapshots are mine.  Opinions are exclusively mine.  I do not work for, represent, or speak for Lenovo.

Well, my luck continues to hold.  A pre-customer-ship-level ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 showed up a couple of weeks ago.  As was the Gen 4 unit I took a look at recently – 2nd Look: ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 4 & 10th Gen i7 – it appears to be an evolution and enhancement of the previous model… and a nice one, at that.  Superficially almost identical to the Gen 4, but with a different set of CPU options, an upgraded wifi chip, and improved ergonomics – at least to my admittedly subjective first impression.

I have no reason to think that the X1YG5 on my bench is any different than the customer-ship units, but as always what I describe here is based on the unit in hand.  YMMV.

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