Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga review: A flexible hybrid tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga review: A flexible hybrid tablet

Summary: The ThinkPad Yoga is heavy and short of on-board connectors — an Ethernet port being the most glaring omission. Otherwise it's difficult to fault this ingeniously designed tablet.

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8
  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    6.5
  • RRP:
    £958.32

Pros

  • Solid chassis
  • Superb IPS touchscreen
  • Great multimodal use options
  • Excellent keyboard protection in tablet mode

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Unwieldy in tablet mode
  • No on-board Ethernet port

Lenovo's consumer-focused Yoga notebooks and tablets have been around for a while. The notebooks emphasise 'multimodal' use, which basically means that the screen can swivel to give you alternate viewing and working modes. The Yoga concept has now made its way to the ThinkPad range in the shape of the ThinkPad Yoga. With a range of smart features on offer, including pen-based input in the top-end model, Lenovo appears to have come up with a winner.

Design

The ThinkPad Yoga is a solid, extremely well-built notebook with a tough exterior and a magnesium alloy frame. The lid is more flexible than we'd like (but less flexible than many), while the base is barely flexible at all. There's a weight premium to be paid for all this system's features though, as it weighs in at 1.57kg (3.46lb).

thinkpad-yoga-modes
Yoga, ThinkPad-style (clockwise from top left): Stand, Tablet, Tent and Laptop. (Images: Lenovo)

Lenovo pushes the 'multimodal' concept by claiming no fewer than four usage modes. 'Laptop' speaks for itself. 'Tent' involves you swivelling the screen way past 180 degrees to stand the ThinkPad Yoga up in an 'A' configuration with the screen facing outwards. 'Stand' has the same effect of facing the screen outwards to the audience, but this time the keyboard sits face down on the desk. 'Tablet', of course, involves flipping the screen through a full 360 degrees and laying it flush to the back of device. You can then hold the whole unit in the crook of an arm, or leave it flat on a desk or on your lap, using only the screen as your working surface.

thinkpad-yoga-liftnlock
In Tablet mode, with the keyboard facing outwards, the keyboard surround rises up and the keys lock in position, presenting a flat, rigid surface. (Image: Lenovo)

When you're working in tablet mode, the keyboard ends up facing outwards and can be vulnerable, as well as making an uneven surface to hold onto. Lenovo's "Lift 'n' Lock" solution is smart and efficient, though: as you swivel the screen past 180 degrees, the keyboard surround rises up and the keys themselves lock in position. By the time you're in tablet mode you couldn't press a key if you wanted to, and the flat surface that's presented means the whole area is protected.

Lenovo caters for those who do a lot of work in tablet mode by providing two of its four preconfigured ThinkPad Yoga models with a digitizer stylus. This fits securely in a housing on the front right of the notebook; in a neat touch, Lenovo has also given the stylus a red tip that's visible when it's in situ.

The other potential issue with working in tablet mode — having swift access to the Windows 8 Start and desktop screens — is dealt with by putting a Windows button beneath the screen. All of which leaves us with just one tablet-mode issue: that 1.57kg of weight becomes noticeable if you need to hold the ThinkPad Yoga in the crook of an arm for very long.

The keyboard itself is up to Lenovo's usual high standard. The island-style keys have a slight outward curve along their bottom edge, making them marginally larger than standard and lending a distinctive look. The keys feel great under the fingers, and you should have no trouble reaching your maximum touch-typing speed.

Lenovo's distinctive red pointing stick sits between the G, H and B keys and mouse buttons are embedded into both the top and bottom of the trackpad, all of which depresses a reasonable distance. Unfortunately it doesn't lock out like the keyboard, so when you pick the ThinkPad Yoga up to use in tablet mode it's easy to put what might be undue pressure on the trackpad.

The ThinkPad Yoga's IPS touchscreen is larger than normal for a standalone tablet at 12.5 inches across the diagonal. The lower-end models have a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels, but our review sample — which at £1,149.99 (inc. VAT; £958.32 ex. VAT) was the most expensive in the range — came with a full-HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, plus a Gorilla Glass finish to help protect it against scratches. The screen's matte surface doesn't completely cut out reflections, but it's possible to work comfortably in a good variety of lighting conditions.

Touch sensitivity is very good, as is stylus responsiveness. Viewing angles are excellent in both the vertical and horizontal planes, making the ThinkPad Yoga a suitable platform for delivering presentations to small groups.

Features

This is a Haswell-based notebook with Core i3 and i5 options available preconfigured; you can also select a Core i7 processor if required. Our top-end (preconfigured) review sample had a 1.6-2.6GHz Core i5-4200U with 8GB of RAM. The entry-level Core i3 model has 4GB of RAM.

There are plenty of storage options, with up to 1TB available. Our review had a 500GB hard drive, but the upgrade to 1TB would add just £32 to the price. All of the HDD choices spin at a relatively sedate 5,400rpm. You can also opt for faster, lower-power SSD, with up to 500GB available. The default configuration includes a 16GB mSATA SSD cache to help boost performance.

NFC is not supported as standard, but you can add it for no extra charge. Perhaps Lenovo is trying to evaluate demand for NFC in notebooks, as offering it for free seems a little odd.

The ThinkPad Yoga doesn't support mobile broadband, and the standard 2.4GHz Intel Wireless-N 7260 module is probably better replaced with the £15.60 upgrade to the dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11ac version provided in our review sample. Both wi-fi options also support Bluetooth 4.0.

Gigabit Ethernet connectivity is available, but one of our few gripes about this notebook is that there's no on-board RJ-45 slot. You need to use a dongle or stump up for the OneLink dock which, for the better part of £100, adds RJ-45 plus video, USB and audio ports to a charging brick.

Overall, connectivity options are not great. There are just two USB 3.0 ports, one on each side of the chassis, only one of which is powered. There's also a Mini-HDMI port and a 4-in-1 media card reader on the right, plus a headset/microphone combo jack and the power connector on the left.

Finally, there's a 720p camera sitting above the screen for your video conferences.

Performance

The ThinkPad Yoga runs Windows 8.1 Professional, and the Windows Experience Index (WEI) benchmark is no longer readily available through the control panel. However it can be found and run, and as in previous incarnations of Windows delivers component scores (subscores, out of 7.9) and an overall rating corresponding to the lowest subscore. The numbers are as follows:

Processor 6.9
3D graphics 5.3
Hard disk 5.9
Graphics 5.8
Memory throughput 7.4

As usual, the CPU and memory subsystems lead the way, with the (integrated) graphics being the potential bottleneck. The GPU will only be an actual bottleneck if you expect to run graphically demanding workloads on this system, though. For mainstream business usage, it should be just fine.

Lenovo quotes up to 8 hours' life for the ThinkPad Yoga's 47Wh lithium-polymer battery, which — in true ultrabook fashion — is not removable. In our tests, we found it perfectly capable of keeping us going for a day's work away from mains power on fairly light use with some idle periods during the day.

The ThinkPad Yoga's multiple screen orientations make it suitable for delivering presentations or other data to small audiences. Its sound output has enough bass and undistorted volume to handle this use case.

Conclusion

There are only two things we dislike about the ThinkPad Yoga. It's heavy, which will be particularly noticeable if you need to carry it a lot and/or work standing up with the notebook in tablet mode. It's also short of on-board connectors — an Ethernet port being the most glaring omission.

Otherwise it's difficult to fault. The simplicity of switching to the various multimodal configurations is particularly praiseworthy, and the chassis feels sturdy enough to accommodate them for the product's lifetime.

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 31.66 x 1.94 x 22.1 cm
Case form factor convertible 'multimodal' clamshell
Weight 1.57 kg
OS & software
Operating system Windows 8.1 Professional
Chipset & memory
RAM installed 8096 MB
Video
GPU Intel HD Graphics 4400
GPU type integrated
Video connections Mini-HDMI
Display
Display technology active-matrix IPS 10-point touchscreen
Display size 12.5 in
Native resolution 1920x1080 pixels
Connections
USB 2 x USB 3.0 (1 powered)
Docking station port OneLink dock
Flash card SD-compatible media
Networking
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet (via dongle or OneLink dock)
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.0
Input
Pointing devices stylus, touchpad, pointing stick
Keyboard Lift 'n' Lock, backlit, spill-resistant
Camera
Main camera front
Main camera resolution 1 megapixels
Audio
Audio connectors microphone/headphone combo
Speakers stereo
Audio processor Dolby Home Theater v4
Microphone yes
Service & support
Standard warranty 1 year
Battery
Battery technology Li-polymer
Estimated battery life (mfr) 8 h
Removable battery No
Hard drive
Form factor 2.5in.
Rotation speed 5400 rpm
Hard drive interface SATA III
Hard drive type standard
Hard drive capacity 500 GB
Number of hard drives installed 1
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.6 GHz
Processor manufacturer Intel
Processor model Core i5-4200U
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 958.32

Topics: Tablets, Laptops, Lenovo, Reviews

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8 comments
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  • IdeaPad Yoga Pro 2

    I don't know about the ThinkPad Yoga, but I got the IdeaPad Yoga Pro 2 about a month ago and it is one sweet piece of hardware. Looks great, performs great as both tablet and laptop.
    FDanconia
  • I have the the same as the review model

    8.0

    I had to get a new notebook after my Samsung Ultrabook had to be returned.

    Just before Christmas I bought this model without seeing any review, took a chance and got it.

    So far I'm pleased, even though it is heavier than my Ultrabook. However that's an advantage as I need a robust notebook where I work in developing countries.

    My Ultrabook was supplied by Samsung with a Ethernet cable adapter, so I was disappointed not to have one with this Lenovo. However, I got a 'plugable' USB3 compatible one for when I need a cable connection, which is quite often with flaky wifi and broadband in my current location in Africa.

    It's my first Lenovo notebook or PC, so far so good.
    AN O'Nymous
  • Ideapad Yoga 13 (Original)

    I'm skeptical on these as the first thing was a disaster. The screen cracked in less than a month, the support was awful and costly. The keyboard isn't very ergonomic and the body is very flimsy and cheap. The whole thing has a very cheap finish with pain that is faded in areas and scratches easily. The fan also makes a really loud noise, which is started making right out of the box.
    Radomir Wojcik
    • Really?

      I have got the original yoga and I love it. I'm very satified with the Keyboard using it daily. Mine's not loud either. And the build quality is top compared to basically everything else on the market except for thinkpad and apple devices. Even apple fanboys fancy my device as it's so thin and gorgeous. And has touch.
      I must have used a different computer, then.
      domenuk
  • Lenovo Yoga and Yoga 2

    8.0

    I believe and "8" is fair, for our limited experience with the two we bought.
    I Bought one of each for my kids since their schools require a 1:1 environment. They are just about perfect for all of the different applications required for education. Typing long reports, to visual programming, to creating/editing/presentation of videos and of course playing games have been no problem at all.
    Watching them work between homework, social apps, switching to tablet mode to check games and then tenting for a quick catchup on a NetFlix series... I am impressed with the hardware and screen quality and ease of use with these systems.
    Connectivity was only a small issue until I picked up the USB-CAT5 adaptors.
    Weight is a barely more than the old model, but it actually takes up less space due to the reduced thickness so no issue there either.
    Bravo Lenovo for setting the bar higher and not just cheaper. The Yoga was obviously made with significant user input!
    webmanrod@...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 36795XU - 3G/4G 10.1-Inch 64 GB (Black) .

    8.0

    Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 36795XU - 3G/4G 10.1-Inch 64 GB (Black) .
    http://amzn.to/1ht4VVJ
    suheir nash
  • Mislabelled! It's Just an Ultrabook!

    Please, if you're doing an article, call the product what it is.
    There's no way I'm treating an uncovered laptop with a SPINNING HDD like it is a Tablet.

    I'm not a rabid fan of my Samsung PC500T, but it does deliver the definition of a hybrid. It's point- blank rugged in it's leatherette case, and it's a fully functional (albeit slightly underpowered) laptop with 11.6" screen and it's full keyboard in place. I am a bit rough with it in tablet trim and it takes it admirably. I'd probably kill an HDD after a couple months of bumping around in my bag up and ready for use at a moments notice.

    The ThinkPad Yoga sounds like an excellent Ultrabook, but don't call it a hybrid if it can't take the tough handling a table gets every day.
    It's just plain misrepresentation of the product.
    daves1646
  • Ghosting...ghosting...ghosting

    2.0

    This laptop uses a screen made by LG which has terrible ghosting. If you bought it google Marco retina test and you will find out it retains for 7-8 minutes the chessboard pattern. Now Lenovo is aware of this but there is no fix because there is no other screen manufactor for 12.5". There is a huge thread on this issues with hundreds of customers returning laptops on Lenovo forums -google Thinkpad Lenovo watermark and you will find it.
    aghory