Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga review: A flexible hybrid tablet

lenovo-thinkpad-yoga-review-a-flexible-hybrid-tablet.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $1,499.00
  • Average user rating

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.

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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
Packaged Quantity 1
Platform Technology Intel vPro Technology
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Operating System Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit Edition
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i5 (4th Gen) 4300U / 1.9 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 2.9 GHz
Number of Cores Dual-Core
Cache 3 MB
64-bit Computing Yes
Features Hyper-Threading Technology, Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, integrated memory controller
Cache Memory
Installed Size 3 MB
Memory
RAM 4 GB (provided memory is soldered)
Max Supported Size 4 GB
Technology DDR3L SDRAM
Speed 1600 MHz / PC3-12800
Storage
Interface Serial ATA-600
RAM
Memory Speed 1600 MHz
Memory Specification Compliance PC3-12800
Configuration Features provided memory is soldered
Technology DDR3L SDRAM
Installed Size 4.0 GB
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Widescreen Display Yes
Image Aspect Ratio 16:9
Monitor Features anti-glare
Type LED
Touchscreen yes (10-point multi-touch)
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 31.75 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation Full HD
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4400
Integrated Webcam Yes
Capture Resolutions 1280 x 720
Sound Stereo speakers, two microphones
Audio Codec CX20751
Hard Drive
Type SSD
Capacity 180 GB
Hard Drive Features TCG Opal Encryption
Input
Type TrackPoint, UltraNav, digital pen, digitizer, keyboard
Features multi-touch touchpad, spill-resistant, volume control
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Wireless Controller Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 - PCI Express Mini Card
Processor
Type Core i5
Processor Number i5-4300U
Generation 4
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.90 GHz
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Battery
Capacity 47 Wh
Cells 8-cell
Technology lithium polymer
Run Time (Up To) 7 sec
Card Reader
Type 4 in 1 card reader
Supported Flash Memory MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 45 Watt
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces 2 x USB 3.0
Mini-HDMI
Headphone/microphone combo jack
Memory Card Reader 4 in 1 (SD Card, MultiMediaCard, SDHC Card, SDXC Card)
Header
Brand Lenovo
Product Line Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
Model 20CD
Localization English
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Interface (Bus) Type PCI Express Mini Card
Wireless NIC Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
System
Platform Technology Intel vPro Technology
Notebook Type Ultrabook
Mechanical Design 360 degree flip design
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 180 GB
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Monitor
Diagonal Size 12.5 in.
Miscellaneous
Color black
Case Material magnesium-aluminum alloy, polyphenylene sul?de
Integrated Options Ambient light sensor
Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Features 1 USB 3.0 (powered), Intel Active Management Technology (iAMT), administrator password, hard drive password, power-on password, security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
Compliant Standards RoHS
Included Accessories power adapter
Manufacturer Selling Program TopSeller
Dimensions & Weight
Width 12.4 in
Depth 8.7 in
Height 0.8 in
Audio Output
Compliant Standards Dolby Home Theater v4, High Definition Audio
Manufacturer Warranty
Service & Support Limited warranty - 1 year - pick-up and return
Technical support - phone consulting - 1 year - availability: 24 hours a day / Monday-Sunday
Type 1 year warranty
Environmental Standards
EPEAT Level EPEAT Gold
ENERGY STAR Qualified Yes
Physical Characteristics
Weight 3.59 lbs
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Windows 8.1 Pro 64
Type Lenovo Cloud Storage, Lenovo Companion, Lenovo Support, Norton Internet Security (30 days subscription), Password Manager, Skype, ThinkVantage System Update
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel HD 4400
Notebook Camera
Integrated Webcam Yes
Input Device
Backlight Yes

Topics: Tablets, Laptops, Lenovo, Reviews

Where To Buy

Price
$1,499.00

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Where To Buy

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga - Intel Core i5-4300U ( 1.90GHz 3MB)

Part Number: 20CD00AVUS
Price
$1,499.00

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