The Lenovo IdeaPad Z400 Touch is a general purpose 14" Windows 8 laptop with a touch screen. It has a full mobile 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 CPU rather than a ULV Ultrabook CPU, and thus it offers more processing power. That's great for video editors, software development, huge spreadsheet number crunches and it even offers a boost for gaming, though this is no gaming laptop. The Z400 Touch is most commonly available with 8 gigs of DDR3 RAM, a terabyte hard drive and a DVD burner. This configuration sells for $699, and there's a Core i3 with 4 gigs of RAM for a bit less (we suggest you stick with the Core i5 since it offers a lot more bang for the buck) and there are dual and quad core Intel Core i7 options.
The Z400 Touch has one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm combo audio and an Ethernet jack. It has an SD card slot and a Kensington lock slot. Since this is meant to be an affordable rather than high end multimedia notebook, Blu-ray isn't an option, and there's no dedicated graphics option on the Touch model. The laptop is available with a glossy 1366 x 768 touch screen, and a 1600 x 900 touch screen is optional.
The marketplace is crowded with mainstream notebooks with mid-tier pricing, and Lenovo faces competition here from the sleek Asus VivoBook SC400CA, HP Envy TouchSmart 4, Sony Vaio Fit and the Toshiba Satellite P845t, but it offers a full mobile CPU vs. the ULV Ultrabook CPUs used in those notebooks. For those who need the processing power, that's an important feature, but folks who do everyday work with web browsers, email, MS Office and the video player don't need that kind of performance boost.
This isn't one of Lenovo's sleekest designs. The IdeaPad Z400 Touch features a plastic matte casing that hints at the manufacturer's signature "book" design with contrasting side vs. top/bottom color, and it's on the thick side at 1.15 inches. We have to wonder why the less expensive IdeaPad U310 Touch has a metal casing and much more stylish look overall. The Z400 wasn't hit by the ugly stick by any means, but we've been spoiled with Lenovo's excellent design language and materials, so we feel a little let down here. At 5.3 lbs., it's not particularly light either, and given the size and weight, we're surprised that the laptop doesn't have a removable battery or easier access to internals for upgrades.
Horsepower and Performance
But looks aren't everything and the machine has everything you'll need to survive 4 years of college (unless you're a gamer) and it's a great small business companion. Thanks to the fast CPU, ample RAM, large spinning HDD and optical drive, it's a solid all-around laptop that's well suited to be a primary machine. We did note that the terabyte hard drive, though capacious, was slower than average for a 5400 rpm HDD. It made an otherwise fast machine seem a little dim witted at times. Boot times were slow at over 20 seconds and even after the Windows 8 Metro UI appeared after boot, when we switched to the standard desktop, we literally had to wait 8 seconds and watch the desktop icons get drawn one by one. That's a slow hard drive.
Once the machine is fully booted, things get better. The CPU and Intel HD 4000 graphics are fast enough to handle 1080p video playback and it can even handle 4K video playback, should you have a 4K TV handy. For the rest of us, there's a full size HDMI port as well as a VGA port. The IdeaPad Z400 Touch managed decent benchmark scores, though it didn't pull far away from slower ULV competitors, due to the slow hard drive. Multi-tasking works well thanks to the ample RAM and powerful CPU, and the machine managed 37 fps when playing World of Warcraft on auto-detect settings and 1366 x 768 resolution. Using higher settings made the game unplayable, and it doesn't have the power to play cutting edge games like BioShock Infinite since there's no dedicated graphics option. It can handle older games like Rise of Nations and newer but not very graphically demanding games like Civ 5 and Left for Dead 2 well. Business tasks including programming, number crunching and editing 1080p video are a breeze.
Our machine shipped with the 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-3230M, but you can order it with the 2.5GHz Core i3-3120M, the 2.9GHz dual core Intel Core i7-3520M or the 2.2GHz quad core i7-3632QM. Most configurations ship with 8 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM (16 gigs is max addressable, but Lenovo sells it with 8 gigs max). The Core i5 and Core i7 models have Turbo Boost but the Core i3 does not.
Note that the SSD drive in competing models greatly improves benchmark scores vs. the HDD on the Z400 Touch.
Lenovo has pleasantly surprised us with good quality displays on their Windows 8 machines. The display is your window to the computing world, and you'll be staring at it all day (unless you use an external monitor), so it's an important feature. Thus we were a bit disappointed with the glossy TN panel on the IdeaPad Z400 Touch. Viewing angles are poor and blacks quickly inverted if the display wasn't positioned just right. It's not a very bright display and colors don't pop. For a $500 we'd find it acceptable, but not on a $700 laptop. The resolution is 1366 x 768, and there's a 1600 x 900 option that we didn't have the pleasure of testing. The display with 10 point multi-touch is responsive to touch and we always enjoy Windows 8 more with a touch screen.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Lenovo's AccuType keyboard is here, and the company is famous for their excellent keyboards. The IdeaPad Z400 Touch has a bit more keyboard flex than we're accustomed to on a Lenovo keyboard, but it still beats many other brands for tactile feel, key travel and ergonomic "smile" shaped keys. We're thrilled that the keyboard has backlighting, since this feature is more often reserved for $1,000 laptops. The white backlighting surrounds the keys and is even. You can manually turn it on and off using the Fn + spacebar, which we always appreciate since ambient light sensors can be flakey.
The trackpad hasn't matched the keyboard for usability: it's not very large given the available space and it sometimes simply stopped noticing my finger (the cursor failed to move when I moved my finger). I had to pick up my finger and place it firmly elsewhere on the trackpad to get it moving again. I'm sure a driver update could improve single finger tracking. Multi-touch gestures and swipes to bring up Windows 8's charms were much more reliable and I do like the lip and chrome ring around the trackpad that lets you know when you've wandered off.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Z400 Touch has Intel Centrino N-2230 802.11n single band WiFi. We can't wait until Lenovo graces the IdeaPad line with dual band WiFi! These days even budget smartphones and tablets have dual band WiFi, and it's unforgivable to not have it on a laptop. That adapter supports WiDi wireless display, though the software isn't pre-loaded. It has 10/100 wired Realtek Ethernet (we'd like to see 10/100/1000 at this price) and Intel Bluetooth 4.0 (a part of the N-2230 package).
Given the full mobile CPU, battery life isn't going to compete with Ultrabooks. We average 4.25 hours of mixed productivity use (web, MS Office, email, streaming a 45 minute episode of House of Cards on Netflix) with WiFi on and brightness set to 60%. Lenovo doesn't state battery capacity, but we assume it's not a very large battery given runtimes. The battery is sealed inside, which is surprising for a machine this heavy and thick. It ships with a compact world charger and uses a round barrel pin connector.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Z400 Touch is a competent but uninspiring laptop-- it happens, even to the brightest of manufacturers. And right now, Lenovo is on top of their game with growing PC sales while other manufacturers are faltering. Still, the Lenovo IdeaPad Z400 Touch strikes us as a solid but unmemorable 14" mainstream notebook. Yes, it has a touchscreen and a backlit keyboard, but the rest of the features are ho-hum. We like the full mobile Intel CPUs with more power for those who need it, and that is a stand-out feature in a world where even 15.6" laptops ship with Ultrabook ULV low power CPUs. But for average users whose daily dose of computing doesn't involve more than the web, email and video playback, this isn't a selling feature; were it paired with dedicated graphics to enthuse gamers and graphics professionals, it would have made more of a splash.
Price: $699 for Core i5, 8 gigs RAM and 1 terabyte HDD
Display:14", 1366 x 768 LED backlit TN touch screen (1600 x 900 is optional). Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. HDMI and VGA ports.
Ion rechargeable, sealed inside. Claimed runtime: 5 hours. Comes with compact world charger with barrel connector.
Performance:Intel Core i5-3230M 2.6GHz CPU (Turbo Boost to 3.2GHz). Also available with Intel Core i3 and Core i7 CPUs. 4 to 8 gigs of DDR3 1600MHz RAM. 1 terabyte HDD (5400 rpm). Lower HDD capacities available, all are 5400 rpm, no SSD option.
x 9.6 x 1.15 inches. Weight: 5.3 pounds.
Camera:1.0MP 720p webcam with mic.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
Networking:Integrated single band
Intel 2230-N WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Intel Bluetooth 4.0. 10/100 Ethernet (Realtek).
Software:Windows 8 64 bit. Lenovo OneKey Recovery, trial version of MS Office, trial anti-virus software.
Expansion and Ports:Two USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, 3.5mm combo audio Ethernet RJ45 and 1
SD card slot.