Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 hands on: Flexible laptop for flexible Windows 8

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 hands on: Flexible laptop for flexible Windows 8

Summary: The Lenovo Yoga 13 is a hybrid Ultrabook that runs both sides of Windows 8. It attempts to take full advantage of both the Metro side and the desktop side of Windows 8 with a flip of the 13-inch screen.

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Yoga 13 Win 8 (600x551)

Lenovo caught the attention of a lot of folks with the introduction of the Yoga laptop for Windows 8. The Yoga is a full laptop that has a screen you can flip all the way behind the base, turning it into a touch tablet. The Yoga 13 runs full Windows 8 and not the tablet-oriented Windows RT.

See related: Windows 8 hardware: x86 tablets and hybrids

Using the Yoga is hard to describe, as it can function as a standard Windows laptop with a large touch screen. It couples a great keyboard and trackpad with the Windows 8 touch screen elements to yield a unique user experience.

Yoga 13 side view

I spent the first few hours with the Yoga strictly in laptop mode. I wanted to get a feel for how well it worked as a laptop, as I suspect most buyers will end up using it this way. As a laptop the Yoga is a typical Lenovo offering, good build quality and excellent hardware components.

Hardware specifications as reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 1.7 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Display: 13-inch IPS, 1600 x 900, 10-point multitouch
  • OS: Windows 8
  • Storage: 128 GB SSD
  • Camera: 1 MP webcam
  • Ports: 1-USB 3.0, 1-USB 2.0, audio combo, HDMI, 1-in-1 SD/MMC card reader
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • Battery: 8 hours
  • Dimensions: 333.4 x 224.8 x 16.9 mm (13.1 x 8.9 x 0.67")
  • Weight: 1.5 kg (3.3 lb)

Yoga 13 as a laptop

The Yoga 13 is an outstanding Ultrabook with the attention to detail Lenovo is famous for. The keyboard and large buttonless trackpad are quite good and coupled with the bright, vivid screen turn the Yoga into a great laptop.

The build quality of the device is quite good. It feels very solid yet very light. The special hinge on the display is very durable and allows flipping the lid all the way behind the keyboard base for use as a tablet. The keyboard is turned off when used as a tablet, a good thing as you actually push keys when holding the tablet.

Lenovo is quoting 8 hours of battery life and this feels accurate based on my limited use. The power cord has the special Lenovo connector used on recent laptops, roughly the size of a USB connector. 

I am having some trouble with the trackpad, that otherwise is very sensitive and works mostly as expected. It took some deep digging to find the two-finger scrolling option for the trackpad, but once I enabled it I was a happy camper. I do find that in Windows 8 the individual apps must support such scrolling.

The trackpad is also prone to accidental activation when my hands are typing. There isn't an easy way to turn the trackpad off when typing which would make things much easier.

Yoga as tablet

Tablet portrait (215x300)

To take advantage of the dual nature of Windows 8, the Yoga 13 can be turned into a full tablet. The screen is flipped all the way back behind the keyboard which deactivates the keyboard. It is disconcerting to constantly mash the keys when gripping the Yoga as a tablet, and I can't help feeling it will eventually break the keys.

As a tablet the Yoga 13 is not quite as good as it is a laptop. This is due to the sheer size of the device, which is too heavy for use in the hands for very long. It is a good touch tablet, just really big with that 13-inch screen.

The resolution of 1600 x 900 makes it really narrow in portrait mode, so I end up using it mostly in landscape. This makes it a pretty unwieldy tablet.

I also find that the edge swipe gestures used to invoke the Windows 8 charms, activate app settings, and switch among running apps are hard to perform. They rarely work with the first swipe, requiring a second attempt to execute the desired action. It is also common to accidentally execute an action on whatever tile is near the edge of the screen when trying to do a swipe gesture. This results in lots of apps running I don't want.

Yoga as hybrid

Tablet landscape (202x300)

The ability to flip the display all the way behind the base adds the benefit of also moving the display anywhere in between closed and full tablet mode. This hybrid mode is touted by Lenovo as allowing propping up the unit like a tent for watching video or using in presentation mode. The Yoga 13 works well in either mode, although it's not likely to be used often in such modes.

The schizophrenic nature of the Yoga 13 goes hand in hand with the schizo nature of Windows 8. As a full version of Windows 8, legacy apps can be installed and run as desired. This is a powerful augmentation of the standard Metro desktop.

I find the new style Metro apps to be quite good, and the Yoga 13 runs them well on the large display. It is possible to also snap two apps side-by-side in Windows 8, a feature the wide display of the Yoga performs to advantage. I try to keep in Metro mode all the time, but Windows 8 makes this hard to do.

You never know when you tap a tile in Windows 8 if it is going to run in the preferred Metro mode or if you're going to get kicked into the desktop mode. It is jarring when that happens, as the windowed environment on such a high-resolution screen results in constant windows adjustment and font size increasing. Everything on the desktop is just so darn small on this great screen. It's like going from a modern operating environment (Metro) to an old-school Windows 7 desktop randomly.

Conclusion

The Yoga 13 is available now from Lenovo starting at $999. It is a great laptop with a unique bending screen that can be used in a number of positions for different functions. It's a large touch tablet that can be used much the same as any tablet, yet one that runs all Windows apps.

This laptop is primarily for those who need a laptop most of the time, with light duty as a tablet. The touchscreen works well in the laptop mode due to the Metro interface in Windows 8.

Topics: Reviews, Laptops, Lenovo, Tablets, Windows

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Talkback

25 comments
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  • Love the Lenovo Sham about it's not Windows 8 Pro

    I am not one for small screen laptop/tablets but got to say i really like this and liked the look of it at the Windows 8 event (i watched event online), biggest gripe is it has Windows RT and not Windows 8 Pro, more than likely and hopefully, consumers will get an option soon to choose between Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro. I would love to own this!
    Mathew Russell
    • Not Windows RT

      Please read the review. This does NOT have Windows RT, it is full Windows 8. The smaller Yoga 11 does run Windows RT but not this one.
      JamesKendrick
  • Yoga as a tablet

    From the article:
    "It is disconcerting to constantly mash the keys when gripping the Yoga as a tablet, and I can't help feeling it will eventually break the keys.

    At 13 inches, it's probably meant to be placed on a hard surface for tablet use. For example, at a meeting (assuming that one is sitting at a table).

    Aside from the issues with the devices' keys, edge swiping gesture and portrait mode, did you find that the larger display size was beneficial in any way? Say, relative to a 10-inch tablet?
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Prefer them smaller

      It depends on the individual but I prefer a smaller tablet. I like to use them in my hand and am looking forward to trying the smaller Surface RT.
      JamesKendrick
  • It wasn't what I expected

    From online reviews I could not understand how the yoga would be a decent design. It just did not look very appealing.

    After getting one to test for a little bit, I have to say I was surprised at how usable it was. When flipped into a tablet position it was rather light even for being 3 pounds. It may not make a good ereader for laying down in bed, but the keyboard can be used to prop the tablet up on its own as well. This allows it to be used "hands free" in a lot of situations.

    I don't think it is exactly what I am looking for, but I can see where it could do extremely well for others.
    Emacho
  • Pretty cool

    I have hated Windows 8 trying it out on my desktop, but have to admit, this idea sounds cool. I would make me have serious debate between that and a MacBook Air I suppose.
    D.J. 43
  • Getting closer

    When Microsoft surface was announced in June it seemed like what I had been waiting for. The Surface hardware is right, Compact and light.

    Windows RT does not support enough legacy apps (just Office sorta)

    I would go for Yoga if I had a desperate need for an Ultrabook today.

    I will keep using my Lenovo S-10 with XP until Surface Pro is available with Windows 8 next year.

    I am glad that the industry is introducing some nice devices that can do real work.
    larrybacker
  • This Author does not do the Yoga 13 Justice....

    Sorry, but I’ve read many past articles by this author and he is pretty Anti-Microsoft, so I was not surprised to see a very lackluster write-up of such an amazing device. First let’s start by filling in the gaps of missing information in this article.
    1) IT HAS A LEATHER PALM REST! This palm rest feels amazingly luxurious. It even bezels up slightly higher than the keyboard so that way while in “Stand mode” with the keyboard facedown, the keys never touch the table allowing you to smoothly twist the Yoga in different angles without smudging your keys, nor your table for that matter.

    2) Regarding touching the keyboard keys while in “Tablet Mode.” Let me just say that I suspect 100% of Yoga 13 buyers will or should by the custom made sleeve made for the Yoga 13. It’s super nice! While it covers the entire device protecting it from scratches it also doubly serves as covering the bottom keyboard half of the device while in tablet mode. Videos are much better than words… to see the sleeve in action checkout: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVRt5KhRh_M&feature=related

    3) You have three (4) pictures of the Yoga 13 in your article showing only three of the four modes available—that’s pretty lame. I’ll detail each mode here:

    1. Laptop mode – we all know what this is, it’s like your 2nd picture
    2. Stand Mode – this is where they keyboard keys face down at the table (again the keys don’t actually touch the surface)
    3. Tent Mode – You show this in the very first picture. Windows 8 does a great job auto-orientating itself bottom-up giving the accurate viewing angle.
    4. Tablet Mode – you have two pics of tablet mode, both portrait and landscape mode. Also note that in Windows 8 when using the virtual keyboard, you can make the virtual keyboard split apart making half the keys accessible your left thumb and the other half accessible to your right thumb with ease.

    4) You mention it has a 1-in-1 SD/MMC card reader while it’s actullay a 2-in-1 SD/MMC card reader. No big deal, I’m sure it was just a typo. By the way why would you tell users it has a 1.0 MP camera but leave out the fact that it’s a HD 720p camera?

    5) You fail to point out that the Yoga will have options for buyers to purchase an i7 cpu instead of the i5 version in your review. And an option to purchase the Yoga 13 with 256GB and not just the 128GB like your demo machine. You can also purchase with 8GB instead of 4GB like on your demo machine. People need to know this stuff. In fact here are the list of 3 processor options:
    3rd generation Intel® Core™ i7-3517U
    3rd generation Intel® Core™ i5-3317U
    3rd generation Intel® Core™ i3-3217U
    Okay, this comment is turning into an article itself. I’ll leave you with one final thing. The BEST Yoga 13 review/demo in my opinion was actually a video I found in Russian. Even though you cannot understand what he’s saying he does a fantastic job at demonstrating the Yoga 13; you forget he’s speaking Russian. Check it out!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD_jJCelejU&feature=fvwp
    lmoxiel
    • anti-Microsoft???

      This review was positively glowing for a device that reminds me of nothing but recycled 1990s era Windows slate/convertible junk that always ended up shoved in a drawer.

      I love Lenovo but the lengths these manufacturers are trying to go to to make this win8 hardware seem like something dramatically new is absolutely laughable. 6 months from now 99 percent of the public will have the Metro-cum-not-Metro interface shoved aside working in the desktop mode (an the RT models never should have had the desktop underneath to begin with).

      A curious contraption that lacks polish.
      Playdrv4me
    • nice

      Much better review than the lame one from ZDNet. Bravo!
      MOFO-Bro
    • Thank you.

      Thank you very much for enlighening us on this Lenovo Ipad. You were very informative. For me, who is very computer illiterate, well, I have basic skills to get around, I throughly enjoyed reading ALL I can about it, so thank you, Imoxiel. I, myself, am pretty excited about getting one. My only concern was the author's comment on being too heavy to handle like a tablet.
      katlvr99
  • Yoga 13-69

    ♪ don't cha wish your girlfriend could bend like mee ♫
    ♫ don't cha wish your girlfriend could spread like mee ♪
    ♪ don't cha ♫ (pause)
    ♫ don't cha ♪
    TedGambel
  • Cellular connection?

    I haven't seen any mention of a cellular carrier? Please tell me that this critical feature is built in, otherwise how will this compete with iPad?
    Technigogo
    • Compete with the iPad?!

      Are you SERIOUS?! The IPAD Can't compete with THIS!! It has WAY more apps than the entire Apple ECOSYSTEM because it is a TRUE PC!
      Lee Walton
  • True memory size is less than 60 gb

    I plan to buy Lenovo yoga 13 for my daughter and I went to Best Buy to check it out today. Although the spec says it has 128 gb memory, the real memory is only 63 gb on drive c and 30 gb on drive d. After install some applications, the free size is only 5 gb on drive c and 23 gb on drive d on the demo yoga at Best Buy. Is it still a good one to buy?

    Can I downgrade it to Windows 7. (my daughter is quadriplegic and needs a software which runs only on Win 7 to operate her tablet)
    Mikehung
    • Hmm...

      I wouldn't think they would have drivers for Windows 7 for this device. I would actually check to see if the software will in fact run in Windows 8. Since this tablet isn't an RT device, it will run most all software that will run on Win7 with few exceptions. There is always the 256gb model. You have to remember, the OS takes a certain amount of space itself and drives never quite add up to what the size on the box says due to technical reasons I'll leave Bing/Google to answer. I would also fathom to guess that being a demo unit, random people have stuck random stuff on the machine.
      Michael Moore
    • Storage

      If you are still on the fence on this. I think you can add a second hard drive to the laptop or you could purchase a large SD card to add additional storage. I am fairly sure you can also expand the ram if needed.
      kabuso
  • Really great review!

    Very helpful. This one is high on my list..

    I've been worried about the default resolution of the LCD at 1600x900. The horizontal is fine, but the vertical resolution seems to be missing about 300 pixles of resolution relative to the horizontal. My Lenovo TX201 has a default native resolution of 1280x800, for comparison - and it can be difficult to work with. Oddly enough, I'd think this would be a bigger challenge in Landscape than in portrait mode.

    I had not thought about the orientation of the keys being exposed when it is flipped into a tablet. That does sound awkward. I suppose a hard shell case accessory could help alleviate that problem.
    dcolbert@...
  • Yoga/Win8 confusion

    Sorry if this is really dumb, but lets say I want to access my Bank of America account and I am using a Yoga w Win 8 (full version). Do I go to Explorer or another browser to access it, which I would probably do if I were in Laptop mode, or do I access via a Win8 App if I were in Tablet mode, like I would do on my iPad??? Guess I'm not sure what the difference is between a Program and an App???
    Also, I use Office 2007, Is that usable on the Yoga, or do I need a Win 8 version of Office.
    Again, I apologize, but this stuff is getting very confusing.
    Thx.
    Frank
    fjs0808
    • HA HA

      Theres actually an app for that!
      Lee Walton