ThinkPad Yoga: Serious work laptop, decent work tablet (hands on)

ThinkPad Yoga: Serious work laptop, decent work tablet (hands on)

Summary: Lenovo brings its twisted talent to this ThinkPad laptop, including a keyboard that sinks on demand.

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  • ThinkPad Yoga: Serious work laptop, serious work tablet (hands on)

    ThinkPad has come to mean work laptop, and with the new ThinkPad Yoga it also means work tablet. Lenovo built a good laptop and put a swivel screen on it that turns it into a reasonable tablet for work. It does that with a flare, as the keys recede into the unit in tablet mode.

    Hardware specifications as reviewed:

    • Processor: Intel Core i5 1.6 GHz (Haswell)

    • Memory: 4 GB

    • Display: 12.5-inch IPS, 1920x1080, touch screen, pen support

    • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro

    • Storage: 128GB SSD

    • Camera: 720p webcam

    • Keyboard: Lift ‘n’ Lock in tablet mode, backlit

    • Ports: 2-USB 3.0, audio combo, miniHDMI, VGA, 4-in-1 SD/MMC card reader, proprietary dock connector

    • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0

    • Battery: Up to 8 hours

    • Dimensions: 12.46" x 8.70" x 0.74"

    • Weight: 3.52 lbs 

    • Price as configured: $1,299

    Flexible laptop

    Lenovo jumped on board with the flexibility of Windows 8 early on with its unique Yoga laptops. These have a screen that can be rotated all the way back until the keyboard is facing out under the flat display. This turns the Yoga laptop into a tablet, taking full advantage of Windows 8.

    The screen can be stopped midway in the rotation, allowing both a stand mode (screen facing backwards, keyboard down) and a tent mode (unit forming an upside-down “V” for viewing). The four modes — laptop, tent, stand, and tablet — are the source of the Yoga name brand.

    The chiclet keys on the Yoga have key travel that feels like traditional keys. The keyboard is comfortable and feels just right.

    The ThinkPad Yoga is a true business-class laptop, and the first ThinkPad from Lenovo carrying the Yoga brand. It is well-constructed and should stand up to the rigors of the mobile professional.

    The 12.5-inch screen is bright (400 nits) and has 10-finger touch control. In addition to standard touch, it also supports pen control via the included stylus. The stylus is stored in a convenient silo in the unit when not being used, a nice touch.

    No review of a ThinkPad would be complete without addressing the keyboard. As a fan of ThinkPad keyboards, I can attest that the one on the Yoga is superb. It has chiclet keys, but similar to those of the ThinkPad X240 (ZDNet review here). The keys on the Yoga have key travel that feels like traditional keys. The keyboard is comfortable, feels just right, and supports rapid touch typing handily.

    As similar as the Yoga keyboard is to that of the X240, it has one feature that is unique that comes into play when pressed into tablet duty. That will be explained in the tablet section.

    Speaking of the ThinkPad X240, the Yoga has a similar trackpad, too. It is not overly large but operates smoothly and is a buttonless model. Pressing down on the trackpad gives a distinct mouse click. It is a good trackpad for a Windows laptop.

    Fans of the red ThinkPad Trackstick will not be disappointed as the Yoga has one in the middle of the keyboard. In lieu of the standard three mouse buttons, the top edge of the trackpad serves as the buttons which are clearly marked.

    The Core i5 in the review unit has great performance and handles even a heavy system load with ease. Apps load quickly and run very fast. The graphics scroll smoothly and without lag in most Windows Metro apps.

    Lenovo quotes a battery life of up to 8 hours and that seems accurate in testing. The Haswell processor is doing its job in extending the battery life while not requiring a huge heavy power brick inside the ThinkPad Yoga. The battery is sealed and Lenovo did not use the two battery Power Bridge technology as it did on the X240.

    Reasonable tablet

    The ThinkPad Yoga can step in and perform as a tablet when desired and it’s a pretty decent one. I’m not a big fan of Windows tablets that are always attached to the keyboard due to the extra weight. The Yoga is definitely heavy at 3.5 pounds when used as a tablet but resting on a conference table, that disadvantage is mitigated somewhat.

    The 12.5-inch screen works well as a tablet and touch operation is very nicely implemented. It works well in both portrait and landscape orientations.

    As well as touch operation works on the Yoga, pen support works just as nicely. The included stylus can be slipped out of the silo on the device and in use in seconds. Writing on the screen in either Windows Journal or OneNote is as smooth as can be and feels natural. Fans of inking know how important that is, and not all tablets have pen support this nice.

    Like other Yoga tablets, the ThinkPad Yoga has the keyboard exposed on the bottom of the display when in tablet mode. This is not optimal and it can be hard to get used to feeling the keys when using the tablet. To minimize this, Lenovo has applied some unique engineering to the Yoga.

    As the screen is pushed back into tablet mode, the keys recede into the device. They are level with the “back” when the display is fully rotated into tablet mode. It’s not the perfect solution but far preferable to other tablets that leave the keys fully extended.

    Conclusion

    The ThinkPad Yoga is a great work laptop that can be pressed into tablet duty when desired. Its heavy-duty ThinkPad construction will stand up to the rigors of a road warrior. The battery life is reasonable and the beautiful screen works well in both laptop and tablet modes.

    The laptop is available from Lenovo for $1,299 as reviewed, and as is typical for Lenovo products is configurable to meet the exact needs of the buyer.

    Pros:

    • Not expensive for a ThinkPad

    • Great keyboard

    • Good performance

    • Battery life is acceptable

    Cons:

    • Heavy in tablet mode
  • ThinkPad Yoga laptop mode

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Lenovo, Tablets

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14 comments
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  • Yoga

    The Stand mode is pretty much the "Surface+stool" mode and the tent mode is useless. On the other end the screen resolution, color precision and sharpness is just out of this world. It's probably the very best Windows ultra-portable device out there.
    gbouchard99@...
    • Really only 2 modes

      I think there are really only 2 modes tablet and laptop. I expect these will be used 99.999% of the time. The other 2 are marketing fluff. They other modes just how you get between the two most used modes.

      The Sony Flip accomplishes all the same things plus it is available in 13.3", 14" and 15.5" sizes. I am really looking forward to seeing the 2 compared. What is most interesting is that the 15.5" has a 2880 x 1620 version. I preordered one of these and anxiously await it.

      Buy next Christmas I expect many of these specs will be common place. I will probably be disappointed then in what I will get shortly. The normal ups and downs of new toys.
      MichaelInMA
      • Frustating typos

        The other modes just show how you get between the two most used modes.

        I really wish you could edit your posts in this forum.
        MichaelInMA
      • I haven't played with the Sony Flip, but I do have a Vaio Duo

        Other than the cramped touchpad and the weirdness of having a "laptop" whose screen is always pointing up, it's a pretty good "laptop+tablet". I began a graduate degree this year and bought it right before the school year started (it was about the only Haswell + stylus + tablet + laptop solution at the time).

        One advantage of it's oddball geometry is that transitioning from "tablet mode" to "laptop mode" is very subtle (whether you are using it's "tablet" as a "touch" device or an inking device - a mode in which I use it *a lot*). That kind of subtly is useful in a classroom or a meeting. When I "open my laptop" it isn't quite as obvious as anyone else.

        In any case, the Sony ended up being an ideal solution for me. I expect the Flip will be a great device.
        Flydog57
      • Sony Flips

        You may want to check the Sony forums. I really wanted a flip also, but after reading how bad the fan noise is I ended up going for the thinkpad. Also, if you are interested in the stylus, the thinkpad has is a wacom digitizer which is supported in Photoshop, whereas n-trig is not.
        tvanfleet
    • Tent mode

      It's funny, I don't own one of these things yet, I've just played with them in stores, and I feel like I would use tent mode. For example, using the tablet in a kitchen, following a recipe. Stand mode is the one that seems like a stretch. I guess we'll see what happens if I end up with one.
      FDanconia
    • disagree about tent mode

      When presenting, browsing the internet or watching movies tent mode is fabulous. The screen doesn't give when touched and you can place at perfect angle.
      rwaggy
  • No, all the modes are useful

    I bought the first Yoga laptop, and now I own the Yoga 2. All four modes are very useful for different things.

    The stand mode is particularly good for watching videos (for example, on the tray table on a plane). If you're sitting in a business class seat and the seat in front of you has a high seat pocket, you can actually slip the keyboard side into the seat pocket, so it's like having a big screen right in front of you.

    I decided to go with the Yoga 2 and not the Thinkpad Yoga because the Yoga 2 is much thinner and lighter, has a better screen, and is basically a year ahead of the Thinkpad in terms of it's refinement. I have a 512GB SSD on my Yoga 2 -- I'm not sure if the Thinkpad evens offers this.

    I still wonder why Lenovo insists on making one of the USB ports a USB 2 port, but it's a small nit to pick.
    Speednet
    • Yoga 2 screen is definitely not better

      The Yoga 2 screen - whilst being higher resolution has some serious issues. The colour accuracy is way out for yellows (they come out more beige / orange than yellow) - this has been widely reported on various forums - but not generally mentioned in reviews. I checked out the yoga 2 in a local store before I ordered my thinkpad yoga, and I have to say that I prefer the screen on the thinkpad - colour accuracy is not a problem (although not as good as a pro high end monitor).
      Julian Phillips
  • Fail

    It will be awhile but my suspicion is all these floppy notebooks will fall apart under a couple years of regular use. I guess thats good for PC makers who want them to be disposable. If Apple does something I'll get it because it will be meant to last. Still don't see a good reason for touch on a notebook though.

    Thanks for the review
    jfosterusa
    • I don't think these devices will just "fall apart"...

      ...for two reasons:
      1. As dahayden said, it's a ThinkPad. These are built to mil spec, which menas they are quite ruggedized, and certainly the hinges will NT be a point of failure.
      2. My own personal experience with a Lenovo ThinkPad tablet (the X220 to be specific) was fantastic - heavy, rough sustained everyday use over 3 years for 10+ hours per day, in both laptop and tablet modes (mostly with the stylus), wiothout a single breakdown or fault.
      jaykayess
    • I agree with jaykayess

      My daughter's Lenovo ThinkPad "Tablet PC" lasted her through 4 years of engineering school, getting toted from class to class, and getting used both as an inking tablet (she took *all* of her notes on it) and as a laptop (the combination means that typical Tablet PC rotating hinge thing got a lot of work). It looks pretty beat up now, and there are three pieces of duct tape on the outside, but it still works like a charm.
      Flydog57
  • It's a ThinkPad

    Thinkpads are built to last and to take an incredible amount of abuse. Rugged, business class machines with magnesium roll cages and carbon fiber. The hinges on a Thinkpad will far outlast those on a Macbook. Now if we're talking Acer or Dell ... That's different. And, by the way, I'm a Mac user currently. I just appreciate the Thinkpad toughness.
    dahayden
  • Chnaged my latest replacement . . . .

    . . . . . influenced in part by this review.

    I work in Africa, home for Christmas and New Year in the UK. My Samsung Series 9 ultrabook is to be returned under warranty for a refund due to dead pixels. At first I ordered another Samsung Series 5 which was waiting for me when i got home. It is being returned unopened today.

    After reading this review, I started to hunt down models available in the UK, not easy even though we in the UK pay a premium on IT kit.

    I eventually got the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 12.5", i5, 8 GB RAM, 500GB HDD, touch screen, Windows 8.1 Pro.

    It is not as light as my outgoing Samsung, but it's not that heavy, much lighter than my previous Toshiba M200/M400 convertibles.

    Now I have a robust notebook/tablet for work and travel, just getting used to Windows 8.1.

    BTW I'm looking forward to watching movies in tent mode on my long haul flight back next month.
    AN O'Nymous