For many of us (myself included), we tend to carry multiple devices to fulfill a particular need. I carry a Blackberry for my emails, a laptop to do most of my work on, and an iPad to casually surf through websites or play the occasional game when I’m out and about. But unless you’ve got a fancy (and rather large) bag, lugging around all of these various devices can be a complete pain. Wouldn’t it be amazing for instance, if you were able to combine your laptop and tablet into one fully-functional device? Well, Lenovo seems to think so, and have come out with the very inspiring and aptly named, Lenovo Yoga.
Build quality & Design
The Yoga is indeed hard to describe at first. At first glance it looks like any other run-of-the-mill Ultrabook, complete with Lenovo’s signature design aesthetics. But the Yoga hides a clever little secret – it also doubles as a fully functional Windows 8 tablet, thanks to its sturdy central hinge that lets the display fold all the way back, hiding the keyboard out of sight. This kind of laptop/tablet hybrid isn’t a new concept – other manufacturers have tried to emulate this to some success, either with a detachable display or one that can rotate on a hinge and then fold down. But the Lenovo Yoga is simply something else, something we haven’t ever seen on the market before, and it’s this that makes it a remarkable and curious device to explore.
You’ll find a bare minimum of ports on the Yoga – a USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI port and Card reader are present, but there’s no Ethernet port which is a bit strange to see. There’s a volume rocker and power button hidden along the edge, as well as the Yoga’s power connector. The device is finished off in a sleek silver coating, while the inside has a black rubbery feel to it to make prolonged typing more comfortable. Lastly of course is the somewhat industrial-strength hinge that connects the two halves of the device, and it’s safe to say that this hinge looks and feels like it can take a serious beating (or years of swiveling the display back and forth). Though one point to note is that because the hinge is so tough, it makes opening the Yoga a bit of a challenge – you literally need to pry the thing apart with both hands.
As mentioned before, the Yoga is a hybrid laptop/tablet device, so when you’re not using it in the traditional clamshell laptop setup, you can quickly switch over to one of the three other available modes. The tablet mode will let you bend the keyboard all the way back, and use the Yoga as a traditional tablet. The stand mode lets you prop the Yoga up and is good for presenting things on screen without having to hold the device up. The last mode is known as the ‘tent’ mode, and turns the Yoga into an upside-down ‘V’; this mode seems to be the most peculiar one to use, so I’m not too sure under what circumstances you’d use the Yoga in this way.
Overall the build quality is impressive, as expected by Lenovo, and at first glance the Yoga passes with flying colors.
At its heart, the Yoga is indeed an Ultrabook, and as such comes with familiar specifications. You’ve got enough juice here to get through most apps and multitask in Windows 8 without any issues, but as with other Ultrabooks don’t look to use any taxing applications or games on this unit.
Benchmarks & Performance
The Yoga passed our benchmarks without any issues, and performed on par with other Ultrabooks we’ve recently looked at.
Getting around Windows 8 was a breeze on the Yoga, with applications swiftly loading up and disappearing from view as I cycled through my open apps. Everything from Skype to doing some basic Photoshop ran well, and I had zero hiccups with any of my open apps. As mentioned before though, you won’t be able to use the Yoga as a gaming laptop or to do anything very processor-intensive. The onboard Intel graphics are best to handle medium to low detailed games, which of course does tend to harm your enjoyment of the game.
Probably one of the defining aspects of the Yoga is its screen. The 13” display rocks a resolution of 1,600x900 which is a pleasant upgrade from other Ultrabooks I’ve tried out. In both laptop and tablet mode the Yoga was able to vividly display HD content, and was suitable for viewing from a fairly wide variety of angles.
But as amazing as the screen is, it does have a few flaws. For one thing, it’s sometimes not as responsive as you’d like it to be. I had to occasionally re-swipe from the edges to bring up the Charms menu or look at my running apps, and even though the display supports up to ten touch points, I did have some issues when scrolling through too quickly when in tablet mode. Having said that, the screen was again comfortable to look at when watching videos in the Yoga’s stand mode.
Keyboard & Trackpad
The keyboard on the Yoga is not one of Lenovo’s standard layouts, but still holds its own against speed typists such as myself. I did have a slight grip with the right shift key being smaller than the left one, so I would occasionally tap the Up arrow instead of Shift. But this aside, the keyboard does work well, and the rubberized base makes long hours of typing quite bearable. The Function keys double as shortcuts for volume control, brightness, as well as for quickly closing apps or cycling through open ones.
The trackpad on the other hand tends to be a bit of a hit and miss. Swiping the right or left edge of the trackpad performs the same Windows functions as when you would do the same on the screen, however if you swipe too quickly on the trackpad, the gesture doesn’t register and you have to do it again. I also found the trackpad magically switching off all functions every so often, so that I could not zoom, scroll, or invoke the Charms menu like before without a complete system reboot. I’m putting this down as a software glitch that hopefully isn’t present on retail models.
When the Yoga is folded back to be used as a tablet, the keyboard and trackpad are still exposed – they’re disabled to avoid accidental key presses, but it feels quite awkward to hold the Yoga and feel the keys and trackpad at the back. Lenovo does sell an optional ‘sleeve’ that you can put over the keyboard, but that’s one extra unnecessary thing to carry around. My other issue with the keyboard being exposed is that when you set the Yoga down, the keys might be prone to picking up dust or liquids that are on the surface – again this might just be a small observation on my part that you won’t have to worry about during regular use.
Software & Battery life
Lenovo want you to get the most of the Yoga, and as such have bundled what they hope to be useful apps. First up there’s Motion Control, which uses the Yoga’s webcam to register hand waves – you can wave at the Yoga to flip through slides in a presentation, skip music tracks, or scroll through your music library. The application runs in the background and automatically turns on your camera when it detects a compatible app that supports it. It’s like a very primitive Kinect, so I don’t know what other people would think if they saw you waving at your laptop.
You also have Lenovo’s Intelligent Touchpad application, which lets you ‘freeze’ your display by swiping up or down on the trackpad with four fingers. It’s like an instant screensaver at best, just with more soap bubble effects. Then there are dedicated apps for technical support as well as shortcuts to Lenovo’s recommended apps in the Windows Store.
Battery life is always a priority, and the Yoga was able to run just over 5 hours on a full battery with the screen set to medium brightness and wireless on. While other tablets can last much longer, it’s important to remember that the Yoga is both tablet and laptop, so the 5 hour mark isn’t too shabby, though it’s wise to carry the Yoga’s compact charger with you. The Yoga does bundle with a variety of power-saving modes that you can tweak to suit your usage, so it’s worth having a poke around to see what works best, or just remembering to put the device to sleep when you don’t need it.
Heat and Noise levels
While using the Yoga I hardly noticed the fans kicking in at all, and the base of the unit barely touched lukewarm at times - even during my marathon usage of the device. Whatever Lenovo did to keep this device cool and quiet, it’s certainly worked and you can merrily use the Yoga without fear of setting your lap on fire.
The Lenovo Yoga is a very smart move for the company, and is a device that certainly gives us a preview of the hybrid laptop/tablet devices that are going to invade the market in the coming months. As a laptop the Yoga performs well, but as a tablet the device just seems a bit too big to use comfortably. The responsiveness of the screen could also be fine-tuned a bit to make the Windows 8 experience absolutely perfect. While the Yoga does have a few strikes against it, it’s nevertheless a sturdy and capable device that is perfect for anyone who wants the best of both the laptop and tablet world.