Computing

Lenovo Yoga Review: This Is How You Build A PC/Tablet Freak Machine

I’ve got a bunch of Windows 8 PCs sitting around the office and my apartment. I use them all throughout the day, but when I need to actually get something done or test out a feature, I find myself using the Lenovo Yoga without a second thought. That’s probably a good sign.

What Is It?

A 13-inch Windows 8 convertible laptop/tablet that uses a 360-degree hinge to transform itself.

Who’s It For?

People who might want a convertible but mostly just want a regular touchscreen laptop.

Design

The Yoga was announced way back at CES in January of this year. It was one of the few holy crap moments of the show, since it was the first Windows 8 hybrid that didn’t make everyone want to puke in each other’s mouths and jump off a building. It’s a refreshingly simple design; colourful, soft touch exterior, black interior, standard Lenovo keyboard, and a hinge that lets you bend the display all the way back so you can use it as a tablet.

Using It

Like the Aspire S7, the Yoga is primarily a laptop, one with a pretty nice screen and capacitive touch.

As a laptop, the Yoga is extremely usable. Its screen is bright and displays colour well, though it’s not as sharp as the 1080p screens out there (this is more noticeable in tablet mode); the keyboard is as comfortable to type on as you’ll find on any laptop; and the trackpad is very responsive (which is notable, since a lot of Windows 8 trackpads have seemed to actually get worse in the time between pre-production models and release).

As a tablet, the Yoga isn’t ideal; 13 inches is still too big, no matter what anyone tells you. But as far as convertibles go, it’s a decent experience, not as bulky or unwieldy as some other form factors out there. Still, go in knowing that the weight, size and the way content is displayed are not ideal on any of these machines. Even at its best — and the Yoga might just be that — the tablet mode of these convertibles should just be seen as a side benefit. One that you won’t use very often.

The Best Part

How unobtrusive the hinge is. You look at other Windows 8 convertible bulk and think, “That thing better do something else”, but the Yoga just looks and feels like a nicely designed, well-made laptop. And it happens to double as a tablet if you sort of need one. That’s how it should be.

Tragic Flaw

The touchscreen isn’t as receptive as the ones found on the other Windows 8 machines. This is the first time we’ve had gestures missing at the edges of a touchscreen made-for-Windows-8 device. It’s not a super pronounced problem — it doesn’t hit circa-2009 Android phone depths of numbness — but it’s noticeable when compared to its competitors. It may sound like a small point, but a lot of Windows 8 gestures you would want to do on-screen are tiny movements, so it can be frustrating.

This Is Weird

Holding the Yoga while it’s in tablet mode feels strange, because your hands grip the keys on the opposite side. The keyboard switches off automatically to avoid accidental key input, and Lenovo sells a ($US40!) sleeve to put over the it if you really hate feeling them, but that’s probably more inconvenience than it’s worth.

Test Notes

  • Unlike some other IdeaPad models from Lenovo lately, the Yoga’s keyboard enclosure is super solid. That means it won’t squish down in the middle when you press on it, which is a bigger deal than you’d think while typing.
  • As a tablet, the main issue isn’t the physical size (though that’s certainly unwieldy). It’s that text in apps and on the browser is generally too small and extends too far horizontally. This is a problem common to convertibles, since laptop screens are meant to be viewed from farther away than tablets.
  • The accelerometer is pretty good for the convertibles we tested, but not on the level of premium tablets like the iPad or Nexus 7.
  • Lenovo trumped up the different stand modes (laptop, tablet, “stand” and “tent”) that the Yoga can use, and those work, functionally. But in everyday use, I only actually used laptop and tablet. Stand might be good for an aeroplane, but overall, there isn’t too much need for these, though they don’t hurt to have available.
  • Lenovo’s third-party software like, Lenovo Transfer, which transfers settings across modes (not quiiiite bloatware, but pretty bloaty), is more useful than most, but you would still probably rather just run a clean install, which is easy on Windows 8.
  • We couldn’t run PCMark Vantage on the Windows 8 machines (returns a score of 0), but it passed our performance tests (10 Metro apps, 20 tabs in Chrome) without any hitches.
  • The IPS 1600×900 display looks a lot better than the comparable matte, anti-glare 1600×900 screen on the Lenovo X1. That’s expected — it’s how anti-glare matte works — but colour performance stands out even more than it used to on Windows 8.
  • Small issue, but it took me almost a full minute of searching to find the power button in a poorly lit room (it’s on the front edge, right side). It’s become an issue on most Windows 8 machines, and this placement keeps you from accidentally hitting it, but it’s still a bit of a pain.

Should You Buy This?

Probably! The Yoga is a great laptop in its own right. Having a touchscreen and tablet mode is nice, but having a machine that actually works well is most important. From what we’ve seen, the Yoga pulls that off the best of the new Windows 8 machines. Lenovo isn’t bringing it officially to Australia, but you can import it.

Lenovo Yoga (specs as reviewed)

Display: 13.3-inch IPS 1600×900 capacitive touch
Processor: Intel Core i5 1.7GHz Ivy Bridge
Storage: 128GB SSD
Memory: 4GB
Dimensions: 13.1 inches x 8.9 inches x 0.67 inches
Weight: 1.5kg
Price: $US1099