Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11: Review
The end of 2012 has brought the first great wave of convertible laptops inspired by Windows RT and its touchscreen promise. It was almost a year ago that the world first got a look at Lenovo’s unique take on the computer-come-tablet and we’ve managed to prise one out of the company’s hands to see how the idea of a fully foldable folio fares up against the alternative sliders and swivels with the same software; as well as the Android and iOS tablet incumbents.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11: Bending body
The minute you take the Yoga 11 from the box, you’ll want to bend it back on itself and, on that front, it doesn’t disappoint; so much so that the novelty still hasn’t worn off for us. It’s smooth, it’s wonderful; it will draw gasps from your friends and the jealous stares of onlookers. This thing is swish and just the ticket in its burnt orange chassis.
There’s not so much as a shonky sidewise slip nor betrayal of a click as it turns from laptop to tablet, and if you think this is the same as a tablet with a detachable keyboard, then think again. There’s a couple of positions in between that really bring the Yoga into a form factor class of its own. Sitting in inverse laptop position, if you will, i.e, planted face-down on the keyboard and with the fold nearest the viewer, it’s like a tablet with a perfectly adjustable stand.
The other important position for the Yoga is in an A-shape or tent with the fold at the top and the machine resting on its edges. Poised in that manner, Lenovo’s plan is to provide reading or reference and that really worked for us when following a recipe while cooking. Just a shame there’s nothing that could be done about us smearing the display with our floury fingers.
The keyboard of the Yoga 11 is the weak spot in Lenovo’s hardware solution, and that’s a shame because it would be physically perfect otherwise. While the rest of the body is reassuringly authentic and expensive, the keyboard is a flimsy plastic affair that feels like one of MSI’s early mistakes on the X-series laptops that it made a couple of years ago. There’s too much give under the keys and the keyboard bends slightly as well as making a bit of nasty boing noise when you use it. It feels cheap and that’s a shame, but it’s not something that we couldn’t forgive.
The real trick on the usability front is the fact that this machine runs on Windows RT rather than the full-fat version of Windows 8. For those unsure, what that essentially means is that you’re going to be using the front-end, tile-look, Modern UI app experience 90 per cent of the time. There’s still access to the traditional desktop but it’s highly limited. You can't download and use your, older, favourite PC applications and that means that you’re pretty much reduced to Office programs only on that front.
The result is that it ends up positioning the Yoga 11 as much more of a tablet than a laptop. There are photo and video editing apps available in the Windows Store but it’s not really the machine for that kind of activity.
Once you get your head around that one, and get used to the UI workings of Windows RT (not that easy), it’s actually quite a treat to play with this machine and, throughout our time with it, we never tired of picking it up and having a little explore to see what it could offer. Perhaps the only slight gripe we’d have is that it’s not all that comfortable to hold in tablet mode. It can dig into your palms after a while but there’s always another way to bend and rest it if you want to give your hands a break.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11: Performance
One almost forgets that the Yoga 11 is powered by an ARM-based chip but it is. Perhaps with only Windows apps to deal with, the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor is all that’s needed but it still copes with video playback admirably and there’s no screen lag issues when cruising the UI. The 2GB RAM complement certainly helps too.
One of the major advantages of the chip choice is that you get something of an epic battery life. Combined with a 64GB SSD, power drain is kept to a minimum. We wouldn’t say we got the quoted 13 hours of computing and we weren’t wildly impressed with the amount lost when in standby mode, but there’s easily enough in there to justify what is doubtless advertised as ‘all day computing’.
Likewise, the 11.6-inch screen and built-in stereo speakers are everything you would hope for from a top end tablet. The rotation lock switch on the side is particularly useful.
We definitely like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11. We like it a lot. There’s very little wrong with it. It’s got a bit of a nasty keyboard and the desktop experience is pretty limited but, weighed up against its pleasing and unique design and its otherwise quality build, the drawbacks are not too much of a problem. Unfortunately, it’s when you throw in the £699 price tag that things start to get tricky.
It would be absolutely worth it if the Yoga 11 was a true half and half experience but the fact that you can’t download your usual desktop applications means that it’s actually far more tablet than computer.
The upshot of that is that you can’t rely on it as your one and only machine. You’ll still need another laptop and, if that’s the case, all the Yoga 11 really becomes is a very expensive tablet with a nice little trick. For that money, you could buy yourself the top of the line iPad with the same storage and the bonus of mobile broadband connectivity and still have change for a better selection of apps to download - or a detachable keyboard, if you prefer.