Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga X1 Gen3 Review

Lenovo’s X1 Yoga for 2018 is now available, and I have my hands on one to review – which I’m using to write this article (Lenovo sometimes provide me with a laptop for review purposes, but that’s not the case for this particular one.)

Initially it looks and feels rather similar to the Gen 2 which I reviewed not that long ago. There are differences, but the jump from Gen 2 > 3 isn’t as big as Gen 1 > 2 was. I’d like to think that’s because they got things pretty right with the Gen2, and there wasn’t as much to change.

First, let’s check out the ‘Tech Specs’ – I’ll bold the options this particular laptop has in the table below.

Processor
  • 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i5-8250U Processor (6M Cache, 1.6 GHz, 3.4 GHz max)
  • 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8350U Processor (6M Cache, 1.7 GHz, 3.6 GHz max), vPro™
  • 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U Processor (8M Cache, 1.8 GHz, 4.0 GHz max)
  • 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U Processor (8M Cache, 1.9 GHz, 4.2 GHz max), vPro
Operating System
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit – Lenovo recommends Windows 10 Pro.
Display
  • 14″ FHD IPS (1920 x 1080), 270 nits, Touch
  • 14″ WQHD IPS (2560 x 1440), 270 nits, Touch
  • 14″ HDR WQHD IPS with Dolby Vision™ (2560 x 1440), 500 nits, 100% colour gamut, Touch
Graphics
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620
Memory
  • 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3, memory soldered to system board
  • 16GB (max) / 2133MHz LPDDR3, memory soldered to system board
Webcam
  • Standard: 720p HD camera with ThinkShutter
  • Optional: IR camera – required for Windows Hello and facial recognition, but it does not have ThinkShutter
  • Both with dual array microphone
Storage
  • M.2 SSD / PCIe NVMe OPAL2: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Optical drive
  • None
Dimensions (W x D x H)
  • 333 x 229 x 17.05 mm
Weight
  • Starting from 1.4 kg
Case colour
  • Black
  • Silver
Battery
  • 4-cell (57 Wh), integrated
Battery life1
  • Up to 15 hours
AC adaptor
  • 65W 3-pin USB-C, supports RapidCharge
Keyboard
  • ThinkPad backlit rise& fall keyboard
Fingerprint reader
  • Match on Chip (MoC) touch fingerprint reader
Audio support
  • Stereo with Dolby® Audio™ Premium
Ethernet
  • Via native ethernet dongle
Wireless LAN
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265, Wi-Fi 2×2 802.11ac + Bluetooth® 4.2*
Wireless WAN
  • Integrated global mobile broadband LTE-A (optional)
NFC
  • None
Ports
  • 2 x USB 3.0 (1 x AlwaysOn)
  • 2 x Thunderbolt (x4 Gen3)
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x 4-in-1 micro SD card reader (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC)
  • 1 x Combo audio/microphone jack
  • 1 x native ethernet

Let’s go through some of the areas of interest:

CPU – Although often there’s little difference between each generation of CPU, there’s actually a big difference this time. If you look at the Intel spec sheet, the core count has doubled from 2 to 4, along with the thread count of 4 to 8. The single core clock speed is lower, down from 2.60Ghz to 1.90Ghz, but the Max Turbo Frequency is the slightly higher at 3.60Ghz rather than the older 3.50Ghz.

What does this all mean? It depends, but overall it’s probably a lot better. Single threaded programs might be a bit slower, but these days if it’s single threaded it’s probably old and anything modern is more than fast enough for it. Multi-threaded programs will go substantially faster. Here’s a benchmark comparison with some figures to demonstrate that. Of course, multitasking with many different programs should be a faster experience too.

Display – I would have loved to have seen that high end display, but the base level one is more than enough still. HDR, Dolby Vision and other high end settings – I need to see this!

RAM – If you want this laptop to last you years, go the 16GB. 8GB is still plenty, but we’re getting closer to 16GB being the standard. For general use, you still probably won’t hit the 8GB limit (unless you have a lot of Chrome tabs open!).

Webcam – I like the new little shutter that’s built in. You see a red dot when it’s closed, and the switch to open it is very small and unobtrusive.

Storage – As always, pick what you think you’ll need. It’s nice and fast!

Weight – Nothing’s changed here, same weight within a few grams as the last few models. It’s not a feather, but it’s light enough.

Case Colour – Yes this one is black, but it’s a bit different. The entire shell is a slightly glossier black than the matte black the last few models have had. The hinges are now black too, which fits in a bit nicer with the black body. There’s also the new X1 logo on the lid and the Lenovo branding on the bottom left of the display – all of which I think looks good. It’s branding without being in your face.

Battery – Same as the last generation, a big 15 hour claim and 12 hours just from an hour charge. I haven’t sat down and tested this, and another review I found claimed a bit under 8 hours which is slightly under the average, but of course it depends on what you do.

Other notes:

The fingerprint reader is a little smaller now, but works the same. Still USB-C charging which is great, but we seem to have lost one of the USB 3 ports on the left hand side. The device supports Microsoft AutoPilot which is good for anyone who wants to set this up on their Azure/Office 365 tenant and send devices out without needing to actually do anything to them.

There’s the new ‘Cortana Premium’ which makes the device pick up voice commands better and from a distance or different angles. The stylus is the same too, which is still a mid-size rapid charging pen that does the job well.

Let’s have a look at all the angles of the X1 Yoga Gen3:

Keyboard and Trackpad

As with most ThinkPads, the keyboard and trackpad are high quality. There’s not any wacky key changes in this model, and it’s very similar to the Gen2.

Lid

It was really hard to get a decent picture of the lid due to the new material they’ve used! We’ve now got the new X1 logo in the bottom right, the black hinges at the bottom and the standard ThinkPad logo in the top left, with the dot on the ‘i’ to indicate power on or off.

Front

Back

Front and Back – nothing exciting here, you can see the hinges again with the fan vent and panel for SIM and SD card.

Base

Again nothing exciting on the base, fingerprints already after I’d wiped it and moved it about which is the price you pay for having a nice black surface. You can see the dual speakers along with the stylus on the bottom left.

Left Side – USB-C In, USB-C Out, USB3 Right Side – Stylus, Power, 3.5mm Audio Jack, Mini Ethernet, USB3, HDMI Out, Kensington Lock

Summary – A small upgrade from the last Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Gen2, the Gen3’s better 4 core CPU is a reasonable selling point. The slight cosmetic changes are all nice, but there’s nothing too drastic that a Gen2 owner should consider upgrading to. However, it’s a big jump from the Gen1 which you can read my original review on too. I’ll do a seperate writeup comparing the three models soon, and it’s still my pick of the ThinkPad lineup that I can’t fault. I’m actually running a VM on it (Windows 10 VM on Windows 10!) to work from and it performs very well for those wondering if they can do the same. Feel free to ask any questions below!

Automate Backup Of Word AutoRecover Files For More Recovery Options

“I’ve lost a document and can’t find it!” is a common phrase that nobody likes to hear. Most people are working in Microsoft Word for their documents, and although it has a bunch of nice features for autorecovering lost work, it doesn’t cover all scenarios.

There’s even a new feature which autosaves your work as you go; as long as the document is in SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business.

However, it’s still easy for someone to accidentally close a document and say ‘no’ to saving changes, or other scenarios where documents get overwritten with the wrong information. A document management system (DMS) with versioning (such as SharePoint) can help, but I’ve yet to hear of a company that has 100% of their documents at all times in their DMS!

Anyway, after seeing many scenarios of lost work, I thought there might be another method I can implement to help capture lost data. Microsoft Word’s Autorecover function does work quite well, in keeping an ASD file updated at regular intervals (10 minutes by default) which are saved in C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\ (by default). I changed this to 5 minutes rather than 10:

Microsoft Word Options > Save screen

Autorecover will update an ASD file in this folder for each document you have open, on the frequency configured above. That file can get closed or lost depending what the user clicks (again, closing and not saving a document is a scenario that will lose the ASD).

My idea was to back up these ASD files also on a 5 minute interval, giving another avenue to restore lost documents. Because the AutoRecover starts at a random time, a script running every 5 minutes would also start at a random time, and together there’d be a 5 to 10 minute window on copying out the backup files, which isn’t a huge amount of work to lose if someone had been working for hours.

Here’s the PowerShell script I wrote.  It first sets a few variables that can be configured, then does a cleanup of previous backups. If they’re > 2 days old, backup folders are purged or we’d have an ever growing amount of backups. The 2 day value in (Get-Date).AddDays(-2) can be changed.

Then, it runs a filecheck to make sure there’s ASF files to back up. If not, the script breaks. If files exist though, it then creates the Backup folder, creates a sub folder based on the date/time and then copies the ASD files into that folder.

The format of the folders is set at the very start of the script, and again can be changed to a different format if you prefer.

#get-date format https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/microsoft.powershell.utility/get-date?view=powershell-6
 $date = get-date -uformat %Y%m%d%H%M

$SourceDir= "C:\Users\$env:username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\"
 $backupdir = "C:\Users\$env:username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\Backup\"
 $targetDir = "C:\Users\$env:username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\Backup\$date"

Get-ChildItem $backupdir -Recurse | Where CreationTime -lt (Get-Date).AddDays(-2) | Remove-Item -Force -recurse

$Filecheck = get-childitem $sourcedir -filter *.asd

If ($Filecheck -eq $null) {break}

md $targetDir

set-location -path $sourceDir

$files = Get-Childitem -File -filter *.asd

foreach ($file in $files)
 {
 $strippedFileName = $file.BaseName;
 $extension = $file.Extension;
 $sourceFilePath = $file.DirectoryName;
 $DestinationFile = $targetDir + $sourcefilepath.TrimStart($sourceDir) + "\" + $date + $strippedFileName + $extension;
 Copy-Item $file.FullName -Destination $DestinationFile -Recurse -force
 }

(note that the File copy section was taken from here). Save the above as a .PS1 script and you’re good to go.

That worked well after a lot of testing, but the next problem was getting it to run on everyone’s computer. Using a Scheduled Task means we can configure it to run however often we like and whenever we like, as well as being able to push out the task via Group Policy. However, you can’t run PowerShell scripts silently just by running a PS1 file when triggered from Scheduled Tasks.

Scheduled Task pushed out via Group Policy

There is a great workaround here which uses a VBS file to then trigger the above PS1 script. the VBS component itself runs silently which in turn runs the PS1 script silently. Here’s a copy of the script in case the link goes dead, but please read the original link for more details:

Set objShell = CreateObject("Wscript.Shell") 
Set args = Wscript.Arguments 
For Each arg In args 
 Dim PSRun
 PSRun = "powershell.exe -WindowStyle hidden -ExecutionPolicy bypass -NonInteractive -File " & arg
 objShell.Run(PSRun),0
Next

The final catch is then opening an ASD file when you want to recover something. To open a recovered file, in Word go to File > Info > Manage Document > Recover Unsaved Document (if the Info link is greyed out, open a new blank document first). If you had to navigate away from the default location it shows to open the ASD file, you will probably see this error:

Microsoft Word cannot open this file beacuse it is an unsupported file type

As pointed out here, for some reason Word doesn’t like opening the file unless it’s in the special ‘UnsavedFiles’ location. Luckily you can just copy the ASD file into this folder (which by default is C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\UnsavedFiles” ) and then open it as per the above method.

Keep in mind, both the PS1 and VBS files also need to be available to the user, which you may want to also push out by Group Policy. Just make sure the file called by the Scheduled Task exists, or the users will see an error saying the file can’t be found, every single time the script runs.

Exchange Online Service Account Options

Going from Exchange On-Premises to Exchange Online can be a bit of a learning curve. One of the changes is having to worry about licensing a lot more; on-prem you can have as many service accounts as you need (e.g. a ticketing application may need access to a mailbox to send and receive emails, or to create IT Helpdesk jobs from emails) and you’re good to go.

With Exchange Online however, every single account needs to be licensed. As per Microsoft’s FAQ on the topic:


Exchange Online is licensed via a subscription model in which each user needs a User Subscription License (USL). Three types of subscriptions are available: Exchange Online Kiosk, Exchange Online Plan 1, and Exchange Online Plan 2. These subscriptions can be purchased on their own or as part of an Office 365 plan that includes SharePoint Online, Skype for Business Online, and Office ProPlus.


Here’s a breakdown of all the license options for Exchange Online, and what features each license has.

Your normal users are probably going to have some sort of business package applied to each user – one of the most common is Office 365 Enterprise E3, but generally not value for money for a single purpose service account.

The Exchange Online Kiosk plan is the cheapest, but limited.  Also note that there’s the Office 365 F1 plan which includes Exchange Online Kiosk, but again is a more expensive package with features you probably don’t need. Although this license can also be used to access another mailbox, there are many limitations such as “Exchange Online Kiosk does not provide access rights for utilization with on-premises servers.” and the ability to access the mailbox using Microsoft Outlook. It also can’t use Exchange Web Services (EWS) which is one of the more modern ways that a developer will read or manipulate emails.

Exchange Online Kiosk has the brief description of “Basic messaging and calendaring plan with Web email and POP access.” If you purely want to send emails via SMTP using Office 365’s SMTP connector, then this is what you need.

For most other functions, you’ll need at least Exchange Online Plan 1. This is the next cheapest option, and gives you a standard fully working Exchange Online account with a fully functional mailbox.

There is another option around all this; if you’re happy to run Exchange Hybrid but have all your mailboxes in Exchange Online, you’re entitled to a free Exchange Server license. With that in place, you can use SMTP relays to allow your on-premises accounts to use that connecter without a license, and have that relay back to Office 365. It’s also possible to do ignoring  Exchange Hybrid if you build your own IIS server and SMTP Relay. Both of these options are great for devices like printers that may be sending emails anonymously, or to avoid changing configuration of all your devices with the new Office 365 SMTP server smtp.office365.com .

As you’ll need to do license management and probably be looking at month to month charges, it’s important to understand licensing and allocate in the most cost effective way. Of course, all this may change so please check official Microsoft documentation to ensure you’re getting what you need.

Null Dynamic Membership Rules in Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory has the ability to create Security Groups with Dynamic membership. This is great if you can apply logic to a group, as members will fall in and out of scope without any work required.

Microsoft have a great writeup on how it all works and how to create rules, however I’ve run into a scenario not covered in the documentation.

If you create a Dynamic membership rule and want to include only attributes that have no value, the term ‘null’ works fine. You can create your group or modify the rule without issue.
However, if your binary operator (the equals part in the example above) is set to ‘not’, it won’t work.
The use case I had for ‘not null’ was to have a group of users which only had employee numbers, which was an easy way of filtering out test accounts, service accounts and so on.

You’ll get this error:

Failed to create group

Failed to create group ‘groupname’. Dynamic membership rule validation error: Invalid operands found for operator.Invalid operands found for operator -not

The way to fix this is to go into the ‘Advanced Rule’ option and change the term ‘null’ to ‘$null’

Note that you can’t do this from the simple rule view, changing ‘null’ to ‘$null’ there results in the code looking like this:

(user.extensionAttribute1 -eq “$null”)

 

Where it should look like this, without the quotes:

(user.extensionAttribute1 -eq $null)

A simple fix, but something that’s not documented on the support page. Hope this helps anyone who runs into the same problem.

Update Microsoft’s Documentation Yourself

This might be a strange concept to many people out there. Microsoft is letting you help correct/update/add to their online documentation at https://docs.microsoft.com

I’m typing this from Microsoft’s Headquarters as part of the MVP Summit, and the session is one of the few not under NDA which is a good reason to blog it :) Here’s my summary of the presentation:

Docs.Microsoft.Com is the new platform for Microsoft’s technical documentation across their entire product line for IT Professionals and Developers.

Why contribute?

To share your knowledge, help others and for Microsoft MVPs it adds to your contributions to keep the badge next year. This isn’t to do Microsoft’s documentation for them.

Where to start?

Start small – clarifications, examples (e.g. SDK/PowerShell), guidance tips and translations. If you see something wrong, fix it.

How to do it

You’ll need a GitHub account – https://github.com/join (don’t worry, you won’t need a client – this is all browser based).

Once you’re signed up, you find the article you want to change and choose the ‘Edit’ link on the top right below ‘Feedback’:

Then, you’ll need to click the pen icon (highlighted in yellow) to edit the actual text:

Now you’re able to change the raw text. The documents themselves are in Markdown. This means you’ll need to use characters to modify your text. For example **test** will come out as test. There’s a great cheatsheet here on lots of examples, but for starters follow what you can already see in the documentation rather than trying to create new styles.

You can use the ‘Preview’ tab to see the document with your new changes too. Once you’re happy, at the bottom of the page give a brief description of the change, and click ‘Propose File Change’

After that, you’ll see the final page which shows your change, and the button to ‘Create Pull Request’

You’re done! (For the most part). Your change gets sent off to the document owner for review. You’ll get some emails back advising of the progress, any questions/clarification and in the end, the change approved and your request closed.

It’s a very simple process while making sure the documentation is still Microsoft controlled. Get updating today!