Windows 8 is an operating system that’s a mix of the old and new: it cobbles together a very forward-facing touchscreen interface with the same old Windows we’ve loved (in its basic form) since before the internet was a thing. And computer manufacturers attempting to reconcile these two computing paradigms, have taken to the new OS in one of two ways: some have installed the new operating system on ultrabooks and other established laptop form factors, while others have gone crazy–two screens! Or, screens with hinges! Or, tablets with very well-designed keyboard such as Dell Inspiron 1764 Keyboard . Some of these devices may end up being excellent computers that change the way many of us interact with screens on a daily basis. But a lot of them will be mediocre also-rans, and that’s pretty crummy if it ends up being your primary machine.
While the Lenovo Yoga is advertised as being a hybrid machine with four different modes, it is very much a traditional laptop with one major trick: the laptop screen swivels almost 360 degrees to turn into a tablet. Most of the time you’ll be using the Yoga as a laptop–but that’s its biggest strength. The bottom line if you’re wondering about the Lenovo Yoga is that it’s a very good 13” computer. Essentially, it shares a build and the guts of the Ultrabooks (thin and light laptops) we’ve been seeing for the past year, but in a form factor that’s one generation more refined and takes advantage.
I used it for a month as my primary work machine and I found it always acceptable and often excellent–if you’re wondering, my normal computer is a 2011 Macbook Air, so I’m not judging processing power, I’m judging how useful it is as a laptop. The screen on the Yoga is actually superior to the Macbook screen. It has what is an elite trackpad among Windows laptops. It also turns into a somewhat clunky, mediocre, yet completely functional tablet. Using a dedicated tablet is nicer, sure, but when you consider it added functionality over an already solid laptop, the value is undeniable and the Lenovo Yoga becomes an easy recommendation. It’s a computer, with a nice bonus tablet mode. But the devil’s always in the details, isn’t it, so let’s take a look.
The Lenovo Yoga industrial design is really nice. There’s been a lot of care, and a lot of scrapped and improved previous iterations, to produce a computer this nice. The screen is mounted on two burly hinges reminicent of older Thinkpads. The palmrest is textured, which doesn’t seem like it’s that important, but it really makes using the computer feel nicer. And unlike our complaints with the chassis and flex present in Lenovo’s U310 with Compatible Parts , the Yoga’s magnesium-alloy chassis is solid.
Lenovo makes a big deal that the Yoga can go into four different “modes:” laptop, tablet, “tent,” and “stand.” This is pure marketingspeak. What it really can do is swivel the screen almost 360 degrees so it can become a tablet. The “tent” and “stand” modes are merely stops on the way to I can add another mode: pizza. As seen in the photo above, you can flatten the laptop to add a pizza-like mode no other laptop can manage.
When the Yoga is in tablet mode, the underside of the thick, oversized tablet is simply the laptop’s keyboard. When you’re using the Yoga as a tablet, you’re already making size and weight concessions as opposed to traditional tablets, but having your fingers run over they keys is a little weird.
The Lenovo Keyboard is matte black, features well-spaced island keys, and it feels pretty great. Like the U310, I’ question the decision to shrink the shift and enter keys to make room for PgUp and PgDn keys, and it’s a common design decision, but the Shift key feels a little extra small to me.
The trackpad is great. The surface is brushed metal, it supports clicks anywhere on the pad, and it’s pretty large. Gestures work great. Also, much of the touch interface for Windows 8 is handled by the Yoga’s tablet mode. It’s clearly an improvement over the previous generation Windows laptop trackpads and Lenovo Keyboard Cover . If there was one place where you’d expect the gesture support of Windows 8 to improve the physical design of laptops, it’s in the trackpad, and that certainly is true with the Yoga. It’s one of the best Windows trackpads I’ve used.