The launch of Windows 8 was considered by many as a new era of personal computing, especially for laptop devices. The new operating system (OS) has been completely redesigned for touch input (though it did retain some familiar elements such as the desktop environment), and with it came new and interesting ways of interacting with your PC. After all, with general consensus now being we're in a post-PC era and embracing the era of cloud computing, there's a greater need for devices and interfaces that are adept at handling touch inputs in an intuitive manner.
Having said that, most of the flagship Windows 8 machines now include multi-touch displays to take advantage of the touch-friendly user interface. And if that wasn’t enough, manufacturers have also introduced a new variant of Ultrabooks, known as the convertible Ultrabooks. These notebooks are still very much Ultrabooks in nature, but they are able to 'transform' and function as tablets when the need arises. One of the hallmarks of a good convertible Ultrabook is to transform themselves from notebook to tablet mode seamlessly.
We've already reviewed two such convertible notebooks in great detail - the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and the Toshiba Satellite U920t - but one of the simplest and intuitive methods of transformation we’ve seen so far belongs to the 13-inch Lenovo Ideapad Yoga that we've for detailed review today. For those who recall, we’ve already had a rather in-depth hands-on article that describes the Yoga in detail. In that article, we mentioned that it looks almost exactly the same as last year’s Ideapad U300s Ultrabook, but uses different build materials and has a couple of useful upgrades.
What we didn’t go through in detail however, was how the patented hinges enable the Lenovo Yoga’s simple but very functional 'bending' abilities. We'll cover that in greater detail in the following section, as well as a thorough review of its performance capabilities to give you a verdict.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the Yoga is first and foremost an Ultrabook, that is able to flip its screen 360 degrees backwards to become a touchscreen tablet. This transformation method isn’t seen anywhere else in the market, with other manufacturers opting for the sliding, swivelling or docking form factors. As we mentioned in our earlier article, this is due to the fact that the hinge design has been patented.
That’s not to say the Yoga’s hinge design is overly complex (such as those found in other convertible Ultrabooks). In fact the hinge design is so simple, it’s almost a genius. All the user has to do is simply flip the screen to the angle needed, and start using the machine.
Take a closer look at the hinges, and you will find that they aren’t 'anchored down' like in conventional notebooks. At 0 to 180 degrees, the hinges sit upright. From 180 degrees onwards, the screen locks into place, and the bottom part of the hinge starts to move. This innovative hinge design allows the screen to move fluidly from a closed position, to the fully opened tablet mode.
According to Lenovo, the tight hinges employed will last 25000 cycles. That means if you open and close the notebook twice a day, 365 days a year, the hinges will last you for more than 30 years. That’s about 10 times more than the average lifespan of a typical notebook.
Of the Yoga’s four usable modes, we’re pretty sure no further explanation is needed for the laptop and tablet modes. It’s worth mentioning however, that when the notebook is closed or in "tablet" mode, it is locked into place with magnets. This gives it quite a premium feel, and keeps the notebook closed when it should be.
Premium feel aside (which the Yoga has in spades), what’s more interesting are the two remaining "stand" and "tent" modes. At first glance, they look quite similar as they both allow you to prop the screen up to almost any angle, and yet they’re vastly different.
In "stand" mode (as seen in the top right tile of the above photo), the keyboard of the Yoga faces down, with the palm rest in contact with whatever surface it’s on. In this mode, it’s easier to prop the notebook up on uneven surfaces like your lap, or a pile of uneven magazines. This mode is better for consuming media (such as watching movies), because it hides the keyboard, while bringing the screen closer to you. This is useful when you need a tablet's usage mode, but having it prop itself.
Unfortunately, the problem here is that the chiclet keys would be in contact with whatever surface you put the machine on, so there’s a risk of the lettering coming off due to abrasion and wear and tear over time. Lenovo’s fix for this would be to provide a faux leather slot-in case (sold separately) that protects the keys, while keeping dirt and grime away from the leather-like palm rest.
As for the "tent" mode, it also brings the screen closer to you, but this time it’s more ideal for interaction. In "stand" mode, the force generated from prodding the screen will eventually push it backwards. "Tent" mode has the keyboard edge acting as resistance so the screen won’t wobble when you touch it.
The resistance from the edges on which the notebook stands on, mostly comes from the leathery coating that covers most of the machine’s exterior. We found it to be highly scratch resistant, so you don’t have to worry about your Yoga’s good looks when the machine is in “tent” mode.