Last year at CES 2012, Lenovo got tons of attention when it first unveiled the IdeaPad Yoga. That is why there could be no more fitting place to test the new IdeaPad Yoga 13, then at this year’s show. The CES essentials list always comes down to just three electronics: a smartphone, a camera, and a laptop that can handle all of our posts/updates, photo management and editing, and a lot of travel. This year, Lenovo was gracious enough to set us up with a Lenovo Yoga 13″ Ultrabook Convertible running Windows 8. I used the Yoga exclusively at the show and put it up the vicious test of a blogger. Below is a list of my thoughts on my experience with the Yoga 13.
To preface my “review”, Helena Stone wrote a fabulous (bulleted) recap of Windows 8 loves and hates, which is perfectly inline with a lot of my first impressions. The most notable criticisms of Windows 8 is that while it’s a powerful successor to Windows 7, it does require a decent learning curve and it’s most definitely made better with a capable touch screen.
Ultrabook convertibles are now the the new trend; they’re essentially laptops that convert into tablets. There’s a number of ways it’s been done, turning screens, sliding screens, removable screens, you name it. We’ve played with a lot of convertibles already and the Yoga 13″ quickly became a personal favorite, even prior to review. Much like the design, the reason we love Yoga is because it’s simple: Yoga looks, feels, and acts like a regular laptop. You could inspect it all day long and would never guess that the screen can fold all the way back, and behind the screen. The hinge is stiff and strong. So aside from using Yoga in Laptop mode, you can use it in Tent mode, Stand mode, or Tablet mode.
Since Yoga is going to be used in so many different angles, Lenovo made sure that the viewing angle on the screen is perfect, and boy can we confirm. No matter the angle, the colors stay true, bright, and vivid. The screen as a whole is extremely impressive. The resolution is 1600×900, and while it’s not retina, pixels are barely noticeable. The details are nice and crisp and video playback is beautiful.
Of course, this beautiful screen is also a full fledge touch screen. Since touch gestures are more of a Windows 8 feature than a Yoga feature, we’ll just say it’s a real pleasure having the option of using touch. While we mainly stuck to the mouse and keyboard, there’s a lot of real use-cases that made the touch screen a treat to have. A few include swiping through pictures, moving windows, pinching to resize, and of course playing games in the little time we had.
As bloggers, there was a lot of collaboration between the Chip Chick team, that’s when all the different stand modes came in to play. The phenominal viewing angles and the touch capabilities were critical features for a productive and auspicious experience. Often times, I found it easier to flip the screen back, rather than turning the whole Yoga around, to show something to my colleagues. Though it takes a couple seconds to re-orient the screen, it’s always very accurate.
The chicklet keyboard is perfectly usable, but surprisingly it was one of the trickiest features to get used to. Along the right side of the full QWERTY keyboard is four buttons: Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down. This threw my hands off as I expect backspace to always be the right most button. I loved the trackpad; it’s extra-large with no physical buttons, a perfect transition from my MacBook. You can tap the right side for a right click and the left side for a left click. The trackpad has some Windows 8 gestures built in and the surface is silky smooth with the glass covering. Some Lenovo enthusiasts may be disappointed with the lack of the trackpoint (nub, pointing stick, or whatever you want to call it) but it didn’t bother me.
Now, onto some of the more important features: build, thickness, weight, and battery.
Lenovo Yoga deserves to be Lenovo’s flagship laptop convertible, the build quality is superb. It’s a very tough laptop, and Yoga’s prepared to handle all the different viewing mode and constant traveling. The .67 inch (17mm) thickness is one of its other most impressive features; it’s basically as thin as Apple’s Retina MacBook, plus it’s a convertible! At 3.4lbs it’s not ultralight, but it’s also not heavy by any means. It was certainly manageable enough for me to carry almost 30 miles (thanks FitBit!) throughout the week at CES.
Here at CES, the Yoga battery was by far the winning feature. It’s rated for 8 hours, but I was able to use it throughout the day for an hour or two here and there and it never seemed to die. For 5 days straight I brought the thin battery charger with me, and didn’t need it once.
The overall speed and performance of Yoga running Intel’s Core i5 at 1.7GHz is pretty peppy. Window 8’s eye candy and transitions all render perfectly. We had no problem running a ton of apps at once. If we did this again next year, we’d try to go for the Core i7 model as we felt that the performance while photoshopping our large 15+ Megapixel photographs could definitely be faster, which is also why we would always personally opt for 8GB of RAM over 4GB too.
We have a few other little quirky notes worth including before wrapping up. We love that when you insert an SD card into Yoga, it falls flush with the side. This is great for keeping the SD card safe or even using a high-capacity SD card as an extra built-in storage device. Strangely the USB (3.0) ports couldn’t fit our flat USB drives (we get a lot of these as press kits), the USB port is slightly too narrow. The Yoga’s instant-on feature only takes a couple seconds. Lastly, the Windows 8 built-in notification system really helped us keep on schedule. It synced perfectly with Gmail, and kept us on time for all of our appointments. Similarly, the news updates on the live tiles did a good job of keeping us connected to the non-tech world.
To sum up our busy week of work with the Lenovo Yoga 13″ Ultrabook Convertible, it was a great experience (and this is coming from the high standards of a MacBook snob!). On this specific trip, the Yoga’s amazing battery life (and standby time) coupled with it’s flexibility in viewing modes, amazing screen, durability, sleekness and lightness, and great build quality, made it a winning device in our book.
Pricing for the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 begins at $999.