First look: Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review

It was going to be light. Of course it was. The Lenovo LaVie Z is the world’s lightest full-blown laptop, after all, that’s its whole raison d’être. And yet, on holding it for the first time, it still felt too light to be real. Read more: Latest news and reviews from CES 2015

First look: Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review

CES 2015 best laptop lenovo LaVie Z

It actually feels like you’re holding the shell of a laptop, not a working machine. But that isn’t the case. Inside this 16.9mm-thick chassis sits a Core i5 processor and, matched with a 13.3in screen, it’s more than enough to do some serious work on the move.

Plenty of clever R&D has gone into making this happen, and to be fair it isn’t all Lenovo’s work: the LaVie Z builds upon an NEC design already available in Japan, and Lenovo is bringing it to market as part of the joint venture between the companies (which started way back in 2011).

The main cleverness is the use of magnesium-lithium to build the chassis. This offers both strength and light weight: to be precise, this laptop weighs 777g. And certainly it resisted my prodding and poking, with no obvious showthrough on the back of the screen for instance.

Hands on: Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review – IGZO screen

There will be two options for the screen for launch, including both Full HD and WQHD resolutions, and it’s notable that both will use IGZO technology (rumoured, to the point of near-certainty, to be the screen technology used by the MacBook Air).

Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review

For those unfamiliar with the properties of IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide), the main benefit it offers over conventional transistors is the amount of backlight necessary to produce certain levels of screen brightness. Whether that compromises other areas of the LaVie’s performance – such as the colour gamut – will remain to be seen until we get the LaVie into our lab.

Notably, IGZO technology is also used in the all-new Dell XPS 13 – but where Dell’s machine promises over 15 hours of battery life, it’s disappointing to note that the Lavie Z HZ550 could only keep going for around 5hrs 50mins in Lenovo’s tests. Whether that’s enough for you is a question I couldn’t possibly answer, but it does give a reason to think twice about buying this machine.

Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review

There are two other criticisms you could direct towards the LaVie. First, it’s no looker. There are no smooth contours here, just a square-jawed grey finish reminiscent of ThinkPads of old. Second, there’s the limited storage: it will only be available with an 128GB SSD, at least initially.

Not that you’ll be able to buy it in the UK for a while anyway. If at all. Lenovo is testing the popularity of the LaVie Z by putting it on sale in the US alone for now, with prices starting from $1,299 when it hits the shelves in May.

Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review

Interestingly, it will also have a sister product: the LaVie HZ750. This adds a 360-degree hinge so you can twist the laptop into a tablet position, with the inevitable side effect that it’s slightly heavier: 0.93kg to be precise.

But in return you get support for Core i7 processors (the HZ550 only goes up to Core i5), and slightly longer battery life: 9hrs 36mins according to my source at Lenovo. Plus, it retains the 16.9mm thickness of its sister product.

Hands on: Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550 review – initial verdict

The LaVie Z is a remarkable piece of engineering by the Lenovo/NEC partnership, and it feels like a genuine step change in terms of lightness: you could slip the HZ550 into a case or rucksack and have to triple-check that it’s actually there.

I do understand Lenovo’s hesitation in making it a global product, however. That battery life of the HZ550 in particular could be a stumbling block, as much as its 128GB SSD, and it’s questionable just how many people would pay the premium over slightly heavier laptops.

If the LaVie Z does make it over to these shores, though, I’ll be first in line to give it a real-world test on my daily commute.

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