Lenovo recently announced a device we’ve been anticipating ever since we saw it at CES earlier this year -- the Ideapad Yoga Ultrabook -- along with 2 other Windows 8 devices. Thanks to Lenovo, we had a chance to lay our hands on it, and we must say, we walked away fairly impressed.
In terms of looks, the 16.9mm thick, 1.54kg Lenovo Ideapad Yoga has the same “Folio” design first seen in last year’s Lenovo Ideapad U300s Ultrabook. It still retains that contrast of colors between the exterior (orange or silver) and interior (black) of the machine.
This allows it to be distinguished easily from the sea of Ultrabooks in the market, something which we found increasingly difficult to do so these days. But of course, it’s not the Yoga’s good looks that will help it corner its own niche in today’s market crowded with Windows 8 convertible notebooks.
As the name “Yoga” would suggest, the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga is able to flip and bend into 4 different modes. This is due to specially designed hinges that allows the Yoga to flip 360 degrees. We’ve yet to come across a convertible Ultrabook that has this unique conversion technique, simply because it has been patented.
When we tried flipping the Yoga every which way we could, we found that not only does it sound convenient in theory, but it’s also quite practical. First of all, this means that you can’t accidentally break the Yoga’s screen off, like you would regular notebook, since it bends all the way back.
Secondly, because of the folding options, the notebook is able to adapt to almost any environment you’d want to use it in. But of course, like any other conversion techniques that manufacturers are using, there are drawbacks.
The most immediate one would be when the notebook is in “Stand” and “Tablet” modes. In these modes, the keyboard would be in contact with whatever surface you lay the notebook on. The problem here lies on the the rubbery surface of the wrist rest.
Although it provides friction to stop the notebook from moving about but -- because of its sticky texture -- might also pick up all kinds of nasty stuff it has contact with.
Lenovo recognises this little problem, and assured us that there is an optional faux leather sleeve that covers the keyboard. This would not only give the notebook more traction, but also prevent your keys from having their lettering rubbed off.
Lenovo hasn’t revealed just how much that sleeve would cost, but in we feel that it's a necessity that should be bundled together with the machine.
One thing we noticed about the new Ideapad Yoga notebooks, is that their build quality is excellent. They’re made mostly from plastic, but while flipping the notebooks around, we didn’t feel like the hinges were going to give way, nor was there any flex on the machine.
The exterior of the Yoga is coated with a kind of “soft touch” material that is highly resistant to scratches (don’t ask how we knew), even from coins and keys. It’s actually quite similar to that on the X1 Carbon, one of the toughest notebooks out in the market right now.
We haven’t had a chance to see if the heat dissipating qualities of this coating material is any good, but we feel that this is a better option compared to anodized aluminum. Anodized aluminum in any color may look instantly classier, but it also scratches very easily.
The only thing that consumers might have to live with, is the rubbery feel of the exterior when handling the notebooks. But then again you get to use and abuse your Yoga, and it will still look pretty for you.
As for the interior build quality, we didn’t encounter much issues during our short time with it. However consumers might want to take note that the chiclet keys aren’t protruding from under an unibody palmrest. The entire keyboard itself is a separate component.
This usually means that there is a very slight flex when you press on the middle of the keyboard, which we found on the Yoga. However, there is still that distinct premium tactile feel on the Yoga’s Accutype keyboard, not found on keyboards from other manufacturers.
The likely reason why Lenovo did this with the Yoga, is because the keyboard has a high chance of coming into contact with surfaces, making it prone to abrasion. If the keyboard is easily replaceable, then changing it would be a walk in the park for the service team.
Another aspect of the Yoga which we’re quite happy with, is the trackpad. It’s the typical large clickable glass trackpad (clickpad), previously seen on the Lenovo U300s, and a multitude of other competing convertible notebooks.
There had been some convertible Ultrabooks that have compromised on the size of the trackpad. But the Yoga’s unique conversion technique allows the interior of the machine to remain the same.
Using the trackpad is also quite a problem-free affair. Like the glass clickpad on the Lenovo U300s, you don’t need to press down very hard for the clickpad to register a click. All that is needed is a moderate amount of force anywhere on the clickpad and it will respond swiftly.
When the U300s arrived in our labs last year, we were generally impressed with the machine. Unfortunately, it’s puzzling as to why Lenovo would cripple such an impressive machine with a standard 1366 x 768 pixel resolution.
This time round however, the Yoga arrives on the scene with a higher 1600 x 900 pixel resolution display with 10-point multi-touch. It might be slightly lower than the displays found on other competing Ultrabooks, but in use, we found it more than adequate for the Yoga’s 13-inch display.
This time round, the display is also an In-Plane-Switching (IPS) panel that gives a larger viewing angle than regular displays. This is particularly useful since the Yoga folds to a many different modes, thus requiring many different viewing angles.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that it’s a touch screen, it has to be protected by Gorilla Glass, which means that it’s glossy, and extremely reflective. We’d prefer it Lenovo added an anti-reflective coat on the screen, so that the Yoga can be used in bright conditions.
So the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 has its own share of concerns. However we feel that none of them are major deal-breakers. If anything, you can look upon them as simply points to take note of. That's because the Yoga improves upon almost every issue we had with the U300s.
There are now no more sharp edges, no easily scratched aluminum body, higher resolution screen and even a card reader. To determine if it's really better, we'll need to run some benchmarks on the notebook to see if the Yoga has an equivalent or better battery life. We will get down to those details as soon as we can in an upcoming update.
If you took the time to consider all of the Windows 8 convertible Ultrabooks out in the market now, you’d find that the Ideapad Yoga 13, which will be retailing for S$1899, represents excellent value.
Setting aside the fact that it has a flexible and convertible form factor, for S$1899, you’d be getting a Core i7-3517U processor, a 128GB SSD and a 1600 x 900 pixels resolution IPS panel. It’s a price which regular Ultrabooks already in the market find hard to match.
Add in the fact that it transforms into 4 very different modes of usage, and you may very well be looking at your next Windows 8 device.
But if S$1899 is too much for you to fork out, you can still consider the 11-inch Yoga 11, which will be going for S$1199. However, do take note that the Yoga 11 is running on a Tegra 3 processor, found on high-end Android devices that cost much less.
This also means that the Yoga 11 is running Windows RT, so legacy apps are definitely out of the question. But of course, you're still free to use all of the Modern UI apps available in the Windows Store with no problems at all. You'd also have fairly robust control over your hardware thanks to the desktop interface which Windows RT has as well.