LG’s second attempt at an Ultrabook sports a clear screen, a refined look, and a mouse that looks usable. Has LG nailed it, or will the next time be the one?
Intel’s fourth generation Core processors have been out for over half a year, so now it’s time to see what LG can do with its laptops, updating last year’s machines that just missed out on the chip updates.
Here in the new model of LG thin and light laptop, the company hasn’t just splashed out on a new chip, refreshing the design and screen considerably.
We’ll check out those later, but for now, the specifications are important, with LG opting to use an Intel Core i5 4200U processor clocked at 1.60GHz, a chip right out of Intel’s Haswell generation launched mid-last year, and running the Intel HD 4400 graphics chipset.
Memory is set to 4GB RAM, while storage is all solid-state in this machine, and while our review model was a 128GB model, LG has told us 256GB versions will be made available. Adding to this is a microSD slot on the Z940, making it easy to expand the storage, though there is one less microSD slot than on last year’s model.
The screen sits at 13.3 inches on the Z940, running a Full HD resolution of 1920×1080, with an In-Plane Switching panel providing the underlying technology here.
As is normal with other ultra-portable machines, there is no optical drive, though your ports are reasonably plentiful for the 13 inch form-factor, with two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI, one headset jack, and a microUSB port for the microUSB to wired LAN adaptor that comes in the box.
Wireless is, of course, supported here, running 802.11a/b/g/n/ac connectivity and Bluetooth 4.0.
And of course there’s the operating system, which out of the box is Windows 8.1.
The second generation of LG’s return to notebook computers, the Z940 strays away from Intel’s conventional naming scheme of an “Ultrabook,” even though the design and specifications of LG’s new ultra-light machine are close.
But the keyword here is “close,” which it is, but with no touchscreen, there is also no cigar, as that is one of the requirements for a 2014 Ultrabook-designed machine to be called an “Ultrabook,” which is an Intel controlled name and specification.
In its place, however, is the name “Ultra PC” which is a neat way of saying “not quite an Ultrabook thanks to the omission of a touchscreen.”
Once you get over the name, you can get right to the computer, which has been built to be small, light, and very slick.
From a design point of view, our white 13 inch Z940 feels almost like it’s taking a page from art’s “White on White” by Kazimir Malevich.
There are three other colours to choose from, but in the white version we reviewed, LG has gone with lots and lots of white, with different shades throughout the design. There’s a warm white chassis, with cold white keys and mouse, and a lid that goes with a matte finish that also gets dirty easily.
Only after three days with us, we could already see some black marks on the edge, so make sure to keep this thing clean, or go with a different colour option.
In the hands, the plastic design is actually very easy to hold, with a soft feeling that is comfortable and easy to carry.
Part of the reason the Z940 is so comfortable, though, is the weight, which is barely noticeable. We’ve felt heavier iPad keyboard cases with the iPad in place, and at 0.94 kilograms, LG’s Z940 is easily one of the lightest Intel Core-based computers out there.
In fact, the LG Z940 is so light, you might even forget it’s there.
You can hold it one hand without any problems, and it will barely make a dent when left on your lap. It’s so wonderful seeing a computer drop to this barely noticeable weight, especially since we’re still seeing heavy laptops make their way out from various manufacturers.
Start using it and you’ll fall in love with the screen, which lacks touch, but makes up for with sharpness. While it’s not the same sort of higher-than-Full HD panel Toshiba graced us with on the Kirabook, the Z940 easily has one of the sharpest screens we’ve seen on any laptop.
The 13.3 inch display is almost bezel-less too, with 2mm edges on each side, which help to make the screen just pop out from the frame.
Next up is the keyboard and mouse, and yay, LG has fixed what was easily the most irritating part of last year’s model of Ultrabook from the company.
Yes, rather than come with a plastic mouse that has no button and awkwardly integrates with the chassis, LG has made the bold move of reintroducing the touchpad mouse in a logical way, which I basically one big button as a touchpad, with left and right click mapped to each side, and multitouch gestures supported by the touchpad and its driver.
It’s a huge improvement on the original mouse, which was hard to get your head around, and made us yearn for a wireless mouse to be plugged in at all times.
The keyboard is also better, and while the island keys are shallow to press down, there’s a firm click as you do so, and we had no problems typing not just emails and articles, but also this very review on the keys.
Performance-wise, the Z940 is basically run of the mill performance for an Intel Core i5, with speedy switch on times, one second returns from standby, and most pieces of software able to run with no problems whatsoever.
The Intel fourth-gen processors are certainly doing their part, but we noticed some speed issues around loading apps and bringing up the menus. It’s not a huge issue, and you’re not likely to notice it all the time, but we can’t imagine the only 4GB of RAM is helping here, especially when most other competing Ultrabooks seem to be equipped with 8GB.
Then there’s the battery, which dents an otherwise top package.
We generally don’t think too highly of batteries that don’t offer much bang for your buck, and unfortunately that’s a statement that is true of the Z940.
In testing, we found that with WiFi switched on, and doing the things you might buy a laptop for — you know, like web surfing, emails, editing photos, and playing the odd game — there was just barely four hours of battery life.
Another day with the laptop, and we could spy as much as five hours possible from our tester, though real world usage once again came closer to a little over four hours. A third and fourth day brought the expected battery life up to around six, though real world usage didn’t quite hit that life, again weighing in at between four and five.
Making matters a little more curious, our review model was the Core i5 version, which no doubt has less performance and potentially more battery life than the more expensive i7 equivalent, so we’re really curious how many hours you will (or won’t) get out of the higher spec’d Z940.
It’s likely that the overall lack of weight of the LG Z940 is helped by not having a big battery inside, but your experience will also be cramped by this weak amount of juice.
Further testing found that as much as six hours could be found, provided you stuck on LG’s “silent mode,” which slows the computer down, reducing performance, but delivering better battery life.
Battery charge time is around an hour and a half for this to be fully charged, mind you, so it’s not too bad for the charge time, but the return isn’t the all-day life you might expect out of a modern ultra-light machine.
Also a negative is the screen, which desperately needs to be a touchscreen.
There’s really no excuse anymore, LG. We got it last year when the first LG Ultrabook arrived with Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips, but with fourth-generation processors supporting touchscreens, and Windows 8 being easier to use when a touchscreen is employed, there isn’t an excuse for not having one.
Outside of the lack of touch interactivity, the screen is beautiful, sharp, clear, and easy to read, but Windows 8 was built for touch, and lesser priced machines arrive with support for your fingers, so this certainly should too.
There is certainly a lot to like about the LG Z940, and for the most part, it’s an excellent effort. The screen is razor sharp and looks amazing, the build is solid and extremely light, the keyboard is decent, and hooray, LG has this time understood what it means to include a usable mouse.
But the battery could be better, because four to five hours doesn’t cut it as a mobile computer, especially when the point of Intel’s most recent generation of processors was to bring about higher battery life. It’s a good thing that power points are usually within reach for most people, but you shouldn’t have to rely on this.
That said, if you want the lightest Windows 8 performer you can bring with you, LG’s Z940 Ultra PC is certainly it, but make sure to carry around the power cord, because you’ll need it.