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Review: The Lenovo LaVie Z is crazy-light and surprisingly fast

Gordon Mah Ung | June 23, 2015
At 1.94 pounds, the LaVie Z is the lightest 13-inch laptop in the world. But here's what's wrong.

Build Quality

As mentioned before, the LaVie Z is actually an NEC laptop and thus has a different look and feel than most Lenovo laptops I've touched. This is no ThinkPad. The lithium magnesium shell that helps save weight has quite a bit of give to it, for instance. I won't say it feels flimsy, but pick up the HP Spectre x360, Dell XPS 13 or Apple MacBook 12--all feel solid, with no shell flex. The LaVie feels almost hollow when squeezed between your fingers.

The good news is, structural integrity doesn't seem to take a hit. I was able to do the classic "hold it by the corner" without feeling like the LaVie Z was going to fold up like an empty can of Budweiser. You can't do that on all laptops. On the original Google Chromebook Pixel, for example, the corner test would render the trackpad inoperable occasionally due to body flex. The LaVie Z is obviously helped because it's just so damned light.

Audio quality? There is none

If you're the cynical nerd who likes to scoff at the ridiculous claims of "audio by Harman / Beats / B&O" stickers on laptops, you'll be happy to find there is no such certification here. Unfortunately that's probably because no audio company would actually associate its brand with the LaVie Z's poor audio. Yes, it's that atrocious. Ultrabook audio tends to go from poor to awful. A few standouts include Dell's current XPS 13 and HP's Spectre x360. Both are adequately loud, and the Spectre x360 has better mid-range and low-end bass. 

The LaVie Z's audio is so bad it's hard to believe. I'm sure if I cracked the LaVie Z open, the world's smallest and lightest kazoo player would wave back at me from inside.

Keyboard and trackpad

While I found the trackpad with its slightly textured surface to be fine, I won't say the same of the keyboard. I tried the early LaVie Z at CES and complained the keyboard wasn't "Lenovo enough." Unfortunately, not much has changed. The keyboard is smaller, and the keys tiny. It's even smaller than the keyboard in the Dell XPS 13 2015, which I think is right on the edge of usability.

I've been using an XPS 13 long enough to say it's almost a deal-breaking feature on an otherwise spectacular laptop. I'll say the same for the LaVie Z, but in this case it probably is going to be a deal-breaker for some. You'll really need to try the keyboard first to see if you can live with it. I'm also not a fan of the keyboard layout, such as the function key in the lower left. That's where the Ctrl key goes, Lenovo! Yet other wacky keyboard decisions will require further acclimation. 


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