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