Lenovo ThinkPad 720S
Thin, smart, and just powerful enough
LAPTOP ENGINEERING is often a difficult thing to fathom. In this case, we’ve bent our brains trying to work out exactly how Lenovo’s engineers have distorted space and time in order to crush everything they have into this tiny machine. If we drop it on the wrong corner, will we rip open a portal to another dimension? Existential worries aside, the list is mighty impressive. There’s a cool, hyper-fast Kaby Lake i5 in the CPU slot, a proper SSD looking after storage, a wholly reasonable 8GB of DDR4 RAM flinging the quick bits about, and discrete graphics, too, in the form of a GeForce 940X mobile chipset. All this in a 0.8-inch thick shell. Plus, presumably, those dangerous boffins have inserted a miraculously miniaturized portable wind tunnel in there—this thing makes a mighty whoosh through its large base-mounted ventilation port when it’s under load.
Just as impressive a feat is the gorgeous full HD IPS screen, a slim-bezel number that trims the side and top edges to a minimum, giving more screen real estate in a smaller 13.3-inch shell. It’s no Dell InfinityEdge, of course (that’s a whole other level of scientific engineering), but Lenovo has at least had the good sense to put the webcam at the top of the panel, rather than Dell’s odd off-center screen-base position. Nobody really wants to spend a Skype conversation staring at your neck, after all.
We’d say the crushed keyboard—which has standard-sized backlit keys, with regular spacing, but squashes the arrow keys and all other peripheral buttons into an oddly compacted layout—is a compromise of the unit’s size, but Lenovo has replicated that on larger laptops. It must be a Lenovo “thing,” just like the ridiculous decision to put the power key—a keyboard key, like any other—right next to Delete and Backspace. Yes, it’s almost impossible to accidentally power off your machine, but come on— that’s not great design. POWER GAMES While Lenovo has definitely filled the aluminum shell of the 720s—and it’s a dense little thing, at 3.4lb—it hasn’t reserved a lot of that space for the battery. Go calm and you can, as we did, tease out just over five hours from its cells (the company claims 14, which is nonsense), but a decent load, and making the most of discrete graphics rather than the switchable Intel 620 chipset, drops this down to a shade above three hours. These aren’t gaming laptop numbers, but it doesn’t have gaming laptop power to offer either. That GeForce 940X is a nice extra to have, but it was outclassed upon release, let alone now, over a year later. The 720s is adequate for older games at low to medium settings, but you’re completely out of luck with today’s AAA titles.
But, then, this really isn’t supposed to be a gaming machine. It’s about working, and working in relative luxury—the 720s absolutely looks and feels like a premium machine, one that defies its upper-midrange price point. We could (and, indeed, did) stare at that panel for days on end. We wouldn’t be ashamed to whip this out in public, and it’s compact enough for airline tables or your lap in the back of a cab. The rhythm section of the machine is a great match; while a little extra SSD space would have been appreciated, 256GB is enough to get by on, and despite slightly slow read times, it’s quick enough. Combined with the dual-core i5-7200U and a perfectly adequate RAM supply, this machine doesn’t let up on desktop performance.
So, forgive it some sketchy benchmark figures, because raw power isn’t everything. Put its little compromises and that cacophonous fan to the back of your mind. The 720s is a remarkable white-coat combination that works for business or everyday pleasure, with enough squeezed inside that you can push it just a little further if you really need to.
Lenovo ThinkPad 720S
LENOVO! Beautiful, solid chassis; great low-bezel screen; strong desktop performance.
LEN.. OH NO! Middling-to-low power; silly keyboard; noisy fan.