Update: We have partnered with Lenovo to raffle off 1 Lenovo tablet! We have either a Yoga or a Miix to ship to the winner. The raffle may be found at the bottom of this review. Good luck!
The rumors are true: I do yoga. Not the hot, Bickram yoga - that’s too intense for me. I like traditional yoga - warrior pose, downward dog, etc. It’s breathed flexibility into my body without compromising strength. So why did Lenovo name their flexible tablet/laptop the Yoga? I think the folks in product development and marketing have spent some time on a yoga mat. More importantly, I understand what they’re trying to accomplish. The Lenovo Yoga is an 11″ laptop with a screen that folds onto the bottom of the laptop and converts the device into a tablet. Whether you’re a student or a working professional, lugging around a laptop and a tablet can be uncomfortable. So to have 1 device that serves the needs of a laptop and a tablet is something to truly consider. I haven’t seen a device take advantage of Windows 8 better than the Yoga. These are referred to as Laptop and Tablet Mode. There is also a Stand Mode that I haven’t found some use for in small presentations. It runs full Windows 8.1 and is lightweight and offers good performance for the money. The model I have was under $500 yet serves the purposes of a $500 laptop and $300 tablet. At the end of the day, the Yoga was built to explore endless options for both students and working professionals.
My wife is not a technology junkie. She’s never used the touchscreen on her laptop and sometimes forgets she has her own iPad. But when the Yoga 2 was sitting on the counter she actually perked up and asked about it. No doubt due to the crisp angular design of the Yoga. In laptop, it looks portable and stylish. The top is made with a black satin finish and hides fingerprints well, but not entirely. It has the same professional appearance Lenovo are known for. I can comfortably take the Yoga 2 to a client meeting. While I’ve been using this device for 2 weeks, there are long-term concerns about the hinges used to rotate the display from laptop to tablet mode. At this point I’ve experiences zero degradation. In fact, I’m 99% confident this will last several years - both hinges are very sturdy. When stacked up against a MacBook Air or a Sony Vaio, the Yoga competes for beauty and portability. It may not be as small as the MacBook Air, but it strength as a multi-functional device gives it an advantage. And being half the price helps too.
The idea of a laptop converting to a tablet is not exactly new. But it has never been done extremely well. The original Yoga shares much with the Yoga 2. Something I had hoped to see from Lenovo is someway to mask the keyboard when in tablet mode. You can actually feel the keys on the underside of the Yoga while you’re in tablet mode. I can’t think of anything creative that would fix this. It would help if the keys could lock into position somehow so you feel them but you can’t actually press them. In laptop mode, the keyboard is sufficient. It’s not too small but could feel tight after long sessions. I do wish Lenovo had added backlighting. That would make late night editing at a hotel much easier. Back-lighting is a small effect that goes a long way. So is this design choice: a Windows button just below the display. When you’re in tablet mode, this is very convenient.
Windows 8.1 64
Integrated Intel® HD graphics
4GB DDR3L (on board)
720p HD webcam
11.6″ (1366 x 768) HD IPS display with 10-point multitouch and 178o wide-viewing angle
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||
11.7″ x 8.12″ x 0.67″
Dual-layer AccuType keyboard for comfortable and accurate typing
Integrated Bluetooth® 4.0 and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi connectivity
1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, Audio Combo Jack (headphone and mic), micro HDMI-out, 2-in-1 (SD / MMC) card reader
I took the Yoga 2 for a 2 week adventure at work; just as I did with the ASUS Transformer Book. While similar in concept to the Transformer Book, there are differences which yielded a preference towards the Yoga 2. I prefer the Yoga primarily for its more professional appearance and the Tent Mode (the ASUS is built with a plastic chassis. It’s not a particularly good looking laptop or tablet). From a performance standpoint, the Yoga 2 is surprising responsive. It boots quickly from standby (less than 3 seconds) and more processor intensive functions like MP3 ripping are comparable to past Core i5 laptops I’ve tested. But don’t only take my word on the subject –> Laptop Magazine ran a comparison between the Yoga and other devices in its class. With the exception of gaming, the Yoga stood out ahead of the pack. They also wrote up a solid review.
My typical travel routine is 3 nights at home, 2 nights in a hotel every other week. I need a lightweight device that has the power to process Microsoft Office and also have a good battery life. And yes, I may take a tablet down to the hotel restaurant and watch Netflix while I eat. I may also write emails in bed as I drift off to sleep. For some reason, I don’t flip those two activities…Regardless, the Yoga fits well with my work life. As runtime is critical, I ran personal tests that yielded a 4.5 hour battery life on average of 3 tests. My favorite experience with the Yoga is with the Tent Mode. I spent 5 hours in a conference room with a series of folks I had to interview. I used a PowerPoint presentation as the foundation of the discussion and placed the Yoga in Stand Mode at full brightness with screen sleeping turned off. I had more than 20% battery life remaining after the event - very impressive!
The last time I took a class was grad school in 2009. I was always looking for a new device that would help me take notes quickly so I could continue to follow along with the professors. I tried the iPod Touch and the first generation ASUS EEE PC. Technology has come a long way since then. I wish I had the Yoga back then. Using Tilt Mode, or traditional Laptop Mode, I could use apps such as Evernote and AAC Voice Recorder to be more efficient. These apps are recommended whenever you switch modes - a feature you can disable. As a professor at The University of Portland, I maintain a pulse on how students use technology and hold an opinion as to the gaps. I’ll be recommending this device to all of my students.
While not designed for gaming, Valve have stepped up to assist similar devices with Steam In-Home Streaming. This may be an under-powered machine for gaming purposes, but the wifi works just fine. I was able to play Civilization V for hours using In-Home Streaming combined with the game’s inherent touch-mode. For games such as Batman: Arkham City or Far Cry 3, a USB-powered XBOX 360 controller works flawlessly. Certainly one can play the games that are designed for Windows 8 and tablets, but those aren’t nearly as interesting to write about. I did try playing some recent releases locally on the Yoga 2. Civilization V was actually playable but load times were really long (2-3 minutes to load the map). Once loaded, the game played well at medium to high settings with 2x anti-aliasing at 1366×768 resolution using DirectX 11. It would be great to play it on the road or from a hotel, but the best way to experience most console or desktop-quality games will be with Steam’s In-Home Streaming. Halo: Spartan Assault, on the other hand, plays wonderfully. Load times are under 20 seconds and it’s gorgeous. It was built with touch controls in mind, so navigation is a breeze.
Attack of the Clones
When a good design is created, it’s naturally copied. ASUS, Dell, HP and others have already began production of hybrids that do a good job copying Lenovo’s design. But the images I’ve seen and specs I’ve read tell me these are not perfect clones. For example the thickness of the ASUS clone and the weight of the HP clone. At this point I can’t tell you to avoid them. But I can tell you if you like the design, you may as well get the original Yoga that I personally use and recommend.
Lenovo believes the Yoga was “built to explore.” They’re absolutely right. This hybrid has applications in many of life’s passions: journalism, education, photography and entertainment. In interests such as design, a user can draw and paint with the Tablet Mode, and easily switch to Laptop Mode for layout changes before switching to Stand Mode to browse design blogs to find inspiration. I even used the Yoga’s Stand Mode to keep recipes handy while cooking meals for my family. This is the most versatile device I’ve ever used. As always, let me know what questions you have!