Windows 8, Microsoft’s new and controversial operating system, calls out for a touch screen. If you’ve upgraded to the latest version of Windows, you must have noticed the new Start screen, the Charms, the task switcher, the hot corners – these are all built especially for touch screens, and are pretty much wasted on regular laptops and monitors.
The newer generation of Ultrabooks is equipped with a touch screen, blurring the difference between laptops and tablets, and making it possible to enjoy the Windows 8 experience as it should be. But if you think a touchscreen Ultrabook equals tablet specs – think again. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a laptop/tablet hybrid with a flexible screen which can be rotated 360 degrees, turning this seemingly regular-looking Ultrabook into a tablet. Don’t be confused by its appearance, though, this 13.3-inch Ultrabook comes with a Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB Solid State Drive, making it much more than your regular Windows 8 tablet PC.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Ultrabook looks like the perfect way to experience Windows 8, but how practical is it really? How much do you really get for the attractive $999 price tag? After using the Yoga for nearly a month, I have all the answers you’re looking for. And as always, we’re also giving away one brand new Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Ultrabook to one of you! Read on to find out how you can win it.
Windows 8 is almost 6 months old, and the laptop market is still re-orienting itself to this fairly new operating system. Although Windows 8 is built for touch screens (with touch gestures), we’re still not seeing the boom of touchscreen-enabled laptops we may have expected. Taking a good look at the market, it seems much easier to find a good Windows 8 tablet than a powerful Windows 8 touchscreen Ultrabook, and in that category, the IdeaPad Yoga 13 still doesn’t have many competitors.
At $999, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Ultrabook is attractively priced, but there are several other options to look at if you’re searching for a touchscreen Ultrabook. The Acer Aspire S7 is similar to the Yoga in size and specs, and at 2.9 pounds, is even lighter than the IdeaPad Yoga 13. It doesn’t, however, have the same screen flexibility as the Yoga, and at $1240, it’s also slightly pricier. HP also offers its own line of touchscreen laptops, from the economically priced 14-inch Envy 4 TouchSmart ($700) to the more expensive 15.6-inch Spectre XT TouchSmart ($1630), but none of them can be easily turned into a tablet like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 can.
If you’re looking for an even smaller screen, Lenovo’s 12.5-inch ThinkPad Twist offers an innovative experience, with a twist-around screen that folds over the keyboard for the perfect tablet experience. Without an SSD, it’s slightly weaker than the Yoga, and despite being smaller, it’s slightly heavier too. But at $750, it is very fairly priced. Other options such as Sony’s Duo 11 ($1250) and the Acer Iconia W700 ($1050) are easily converted from tablet to laptop and back, and have the specs to match the Yoga, but keep in mind that the Iconia is much more tablet than a PC, and comes with a separate Bluetooth keyboard — read our review of the Acer Iconia to find out more.
What’s In The Box?
Granted, I haven’t bought a new laptop in almost 4 years, but the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 packaging was the nicest I ever recall seeing. Upon opening the box, I found a sleek orange laptop, with the rest of the accessories each packaged into its own neat little box. Each box was marked with a wireframe drawing, leaving no doubts about its contents. This is what it looks like after removing the laptop from the box.
As you can see, the Yoga doesn’t come with too many extras. In fact, the fancy boxes only include a power supply and some documents, but the beautiful packaging makes it feel almost like unwrapping candy.
Design & Hardware
As you’ve probably noticed, my Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is orange. Don’t get your hopes up, though, as the giveaway unit is most likely going to be grey. Colors aside, the Yoga is lightweight (3.3 pounds) and thin, with a matte finish that doesn’t easily show fingerprints or smudges. It’s a little hard to open – I was having trouble at first and looked for some kind of latch I was missing – but you soon get used to the process.
The back is completely smooth, with four rubber nubs that help keep the laptop completely stable on any surface. As you can see, there’s no trace of a battery, which is hidden somewhere inside, so there’s no easy way to change the IdeaPad Yoga’s battery. When it’s dead, it’s dead.
On the inside, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is covered with a soft, almost rubbery material, and sports a large and sensitive Synaptics trackpad with no physical buttons, which depresses down on both sides for left and right click. Lenovo’s keyboard is excellent, as always, and eliminates any learning curve you may normally have with a new laptop. After about 2 minutes, I was already typing as if I’ve owned the Yoga for over a year.
The keyboard turns all F button but F5 into Function keys, replacing them with volume and brightness controls, an airplane mode button, an “alt-tab” button, and a screen on/off button, to name a few. This may take some getting used to, but soon enough you’ll discover that these options are far more useful than your F buttons ever were.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is less than generous when it comes to ports. Looking around the laptop, you’ll find only two USB ports, one of which is USB 3.0, an HDMI port, and a headphones jack. That’s it. No Ethernet port, no VGA, and definitely no optical drive, but this has all become standard fare for Ultrabooks. The laptop also includes an SD card slot, a screen rotate lock button, a physical volume button, and, naturally, a power jack, which looks surprisingly like USB.
On the front you’ll find the power button, a battery indicator, and the Novo button, which can be used to activate Lenovo’s OneKey Recovery system, the BIOS setup utility, and to enter the boot menu.
The back of the laptop hides two fairly good speakers, which are more than enough for watching movies and listening to music. They may not be enough for an audiophile, but I found them more than adequate for all of my audio needs.
The display is a beautiful 13.3-inch IPS panel with a native 1600 x 900 resolution. Colors are bright and sharp, but the resolution and IPS may take some getting used to if you’re transferring from an older computer. The display panel can rotate all the way to the back, and sports a Windows Home button for extra control when the laptop is in tablet mode, and a 720p HD webcam on top.
Panel & Touchscreen Capabilities
As I’ve already repeated several times, the IdeaPad Yoga’s screen can be rotated all the way back, leaving the keyboard exposed when in complete tablet mode. Worry not, though, the keyboard is automatically disabled when the panel exceeds a 180 degrees angle, so you won’t be pressing buttons by mistake when holding it in tablet mode.
The flexible screen allows for many possible positions, all of which make it easy to use the laptop’s touchscreen without having to hold it in your hands.
Although it’s slightly big to be held as a regular tablet, the screen’s relatively large bezel makes it possible to hold in your hands without triggering touch gestures by accident. The bezel does take away some valuable screen real-estate from the already smallish screen.
The screen’s flexibility is supported by incredible viewing angles – there’s literally no angle you can’t see the display from. This may be less the ideal for privacy in public places, but you’re definitely going to enjoy it in everyday use. The Yoga recognizes changes in orientation fairly quickly, but will only respond by rotating the display when the screen is past the 180 degrees mark, which makes complete sense.
To best demonstrate the laptop’s touch sensitivity, pinch-to-zoom capabilities, on-screen keyboard, etc., I’ve prepared a series of short videos. While it may seem like the touchscreen is missing some of my taps, this is mainly due to me looking at the screen through my camera, and mis-judging my finger’s distance from the screen and the right place to tap, so keep that in mind when watching the videos.
Here you can enjoy my amazing Cut The Rope skills, get an idea of what the Yoga’s speakers sound like, and get a glimpse at what your life will look like when you can play Cut The Rope on your laptop the way it’s meant to be.
The on-screen keyboard is roomy and comfortable, and can be triggered at any time through a tray icon in desktop mode. When the Yoga is in tablet mode, the on-screen keyboard is triggered by default whenever necessary.
Living With The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Despite the Yoga’s excellent touch capabilities and its convenient flexibility, at the end of the day, it’s a PC first and foremost. Ever since buying it, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 has been serving as my main work computer, and has been doing so brilliantly. It’s strong, durable, and lightweight, and performs any task I put it to with impressive speed.
While I haven’t managed to get the promised 8-hour battery life, the 5-6 hours I did manage to get are enough for a nice and long working session from a coffee shop, without having to worry about finding a power point.
It’s lightweight enough to make me want to carry it with me everywhere, and yet sturdy enough to feel like a real laptop, and not one that’s going to break in my hands any second.
During the first few days, I tried using the Yoga as a tablet on several occasions and thoroughly enjoyed myself, but after my initial excitement cooled down, I find that I barely use the laptop’s touch capabilities, except when triggering them by mistake when trying to get rid of dust on the screen. Having said that, it’s nice to be able to use Windows 8 as its meant to be, and I’m sure that with time, I will find more and more uses for the Yoga’s excellent touch screen.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13. My only minor gripes are the lack of more USB ports – a problem which can be easily solved with cheap accessories, and one that plagues almost all modern Ultrabooks – and the SD slot which requires a very specific pressure point, and is a little hard to use. At $999, the Yoga offers excellent value for money, and in my opinion, it’s the best touchscreen Windows 8 laptop you can currently get.
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