Design and Build Quality
Lenovo garners attention for its hybrids with an attractive burnt orange finish, and that continues with this Yoga. It helps this machine stand out amid a market full of aluminum slabs, and it looks eye-catching and classy.Ease open the lid and the high-quality aesthetics continue. The matte keys have black tops and white sides that light up, and the sunken keyboard is surrounded by mottled black material. Again, it stands out, and it feels luxurious under the finger.The metal hinges stand out from the orange chassis, and the Lenovo logo shines. The orange coloring slants up from the base to create two-toned edges, and orange is used on the Function keys. We don’t like the trio of stickers on the wrist-rest but that’s a common enough complaint on Windows laptops – if this was our laptop, they’d be removed immediately.The Lenovo doesn’t just impress with its looks. It’s 15.5mm thick, which means it’s slimmer than the latest MacBook Air and the Toshiba Kira. Many hybrids, too, are thicker: the Sony VAIO Duo is 19mm from top to bottom and Lenovo’s cheaper IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 is 17mm thick.The Yoga’s 1.39kg weight is in the same ballpark as many of its rivals, and only one recent machine has managed to undercut the Lenovo in both departments – Samsung’s Ativ Book 9 Plus, which weighed 1.3kg and was 13.6mm thick. Lenovo has built one of the slimmest, lightest and best-looking hybrids around – and it’s done it without sacrificing strength.
The dimensions mean there’s marginal flex in the corners of the wrist-rest and the center of the screen, but the keyboard and underside feel strong, and the desktop didn’t warp when the screen was flexed. The hinges, too, are sturdy.This is still a hybrid, and that raises familiar doubts. The 13.3in diagonal and 1.39kg weight make it difficult to use in one hand, which is the issue we’ve had with other hybrids. As usual, it’s best to use the Lenovo’s tablet mode in two hands, on a lap or a desk – and if you’re using it like that, it’s almost as easy to use this system as a laptop too. It’s lacking in connectivity, too. The 802.11n Wi-Fi chip is dual-band, but it doesn’t support the future-proofed 802.11ac standard, and it’s only a two-aerial card – so it won’t be as fast as a three-aerial unit. There’s Bluetooth 4.0, but no Gigabit Ethernet port or adapter. The Lenovo has single USB 2 and 3 ports, a headphone jack and a micro-HDMI connector, but there’s no full-size HDMI adapter included. The SD card slot isn’t SDXC or SDHC compatible either.
Keyboard and Touchpad
With the exception of backlighting, the keyboard hasn’t changed since the original Yoga came out. That’s mostly a good thing. Like pretty much every Lenovo laptop we’ve ever tested, the buttons here offer a healthy amount of travel, and are backed by a sturdy keyboard deck that doesn’t move or bend while you type. And though this technically isn’t the same layout you’ll find on one of Lenovo’s ThinkPad machines, the buttons are about as well-spaced, with the same easy-to-hit “U” shape. As ever, the keyboard is comfortable and easy to type on, though the Enter, Caps Lock and Tab keys are all still on the small side. It’s sort of puzzling that Lenovo’s been at this for so many years and still hasn’t figured out how to avoid cramping on a 13-inch laptop keyboard.The large glass trackpad here isn’t perfect, but it comes close. All the stock Windows 8 gestures (swiping for the Charms Bar, toggling through apps) work well, as does pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. We even had an easy time with single-finger tracking, which seems to be the Achilles’ heel for most other laptop trackpads. Occasionally, though, the pad went rogue.
Screen and Sound Quality
The Yoga comes with an almighty resolution of 3,200 x 1,800 – enough to match the Samsung at the top of the ultra-portable pile, and enough to outpace the displays inside the latest MacBook Air and Toshiba machines.That means a huge amount of space for working, and it means that content looks fantastic when it’s properly optimized. Windows 8.1’s text, Live tiles and icons look smooth and sharp as they’re all scaled to mimic a 1080p resolution. Internet Explorer is equally adept at handling the resolution, and third-party apps look just as good – if they’ve been properly optimized. That’s the big issue for Windows laptops with high-resolution screens, and it affects the Lenovo. Many third-party tools just aren’t able to cope with the pixels on offer, with squashed interfaces, incorrectly-displayed page furniture and low-resolution fonts and images all highlighted.Benchmark results were inconsistent, too. Its 362 nit brightness level is one of the best we’ve seen, improving on the MacBook and Samsung, but the Lenovo’s 646:1 contrast ratio is mediocre – the Toshiba Kira hit a mighty 2,326:1. The Lenovo’s result means its color palette lacks the subtlety of the best screens.The 0.56 nit black level is average, so it was tricky to tell apart dark shades right at the bottom of the spectrum. Color accuracy isn’t great, either: the Delta E of 4.86 is mediocre, and around a dozen shades in our test spectrum jumped up to a Delta E of around 15 – even worse. The Lenovo’s sRGB coverage level of 86.7% is good, and this screen excelled when rendering deep blue shades, but it’s still not top-tier.The speakers have enough volume to fill a room, but the audio lacks quality. There’s just enough bass to help the mid-range feel punchier, but those treble sounds are still hampered by a lack of nuance – and the high-end is too tinny.
Software and Warranty
If you’ve purchased a Yoga, it’s safe to assume you’re already sold on the versatile design. Still, once the novelty wears off, Lenovo wants to give you some ideas on how to make the most out of each usage mode. Included on the Yoga 2 Pro and upcoming ThinkPad Yoga is Yoga Picks, an app that automatically detects when you’ve flipped the screen into a different position, and gives you suggestions on which apps would be most appropriate. So, when you flip the screen back into Stand mode with the keyboard facing away from the screen, you’ll see a notification in the upper-right corner of the screen, the same way you’d see a brief pop-up if you were to insert a USB device. Click on that notification and you’ll see a list of apps that would make sense in that screen-only mode (think: Netflix and other lean-back programs). In addition to Netflix or Skype or whatever else you might have installed, Lenovo’s also thrown in a few new apps of its own, all of which were designed to be used in more than just regular, old laptop mode. Chief among them is Yoga Chef, which lets you use motion control to move through menus and recipe pages (Bing Food & Drink, the kitchen app built into Windows 8.1, works the same way).Yoga Photo Touch, meanwhile, is a photo editor that also lets you arrange pictures into collages or adorn them with text bubbles (yep, there’s an app for that). Moving on, Yoga Phone Companion allows you to share files between your Android phone and PC using either SMS or MMS messages. You can also call phone contacts or play media files on your PC, even if they’re actually stored on your mobile. It’s all very similar to Samsung’s SideSync app, except whereas Samsung’s app can only be used with a Samsung phone, Lenovo’s will work on any Android device. And whereas we had some trouble connecting Samsung’s ATIV Book laptops with our GS4, we had no problem getting up and running with Yoga Phone Companion. Just scan a QR code to download Lenovo’s app, and then make sure your PC and phone are on the same network. If for some reason your phone doesn’t detect your PC, the PC app will helpfully offer up the IP address for you to enter manually. As for warranty coverage, the Yoga 2 Pro comes with a one-year plan, including 24/7 phone support.
Performance, Heat and Noise
The Intel Core i5-4200U at the heart of this machine is a Haswell processor, but its two cores are clocked to just 1.6GHz – the hallmarks of a low-power part. Still, it’s got Hyper-Threading, a Turbo Boost top speed of 2.6GHz and 4GB of RAM. That’s enough for PC Mark 7 and GeekBench scores of 4,619 and 4,427: comparable speed to the Samsung and Apple, and enough to ensure that applications load and run smoothly – even if they’re more demanding work tools. In several other key areas, the Lenovo can’t match the MacBook. Both laptops have 128GB SSDs, but the Lenovo’s drive returned sequential read and write scores of 484MB/s and 129MB/s – a good first result undermined by a dreadful second score. The MacBook, conversely, uses PCI-powered storage to hit 709MB/s and 557MB/s. The Lenovo is faster than a hard disk, but hasn’t got the pace of the MacBook – so it lags behind across the board, from application loading to system booting.The Lenovo has an Intel HD Graphics 4400 chipset but, again, Apple is better thanks to its HD Graphics 5000 core. The Yoga scored 36,515 in the 3D Mark Ice Storm benchmark and then 574 in the tough Fire Strike test – but the GPU used by Apple has been clocked elsewhere as scoring 39,288 and 745 in the same benchmarks. Both chips are only good enough for casual gaming and light graphical work, but Apple undoubtedly leads the way in this department.When idling and running less intensive tasks we had no noise issues, but that’s not the case with more demanding software. During tougher benchmarks and stress-tests the fan was noticeable in our quiet office. It’s not as loud as the Kira, and temperatures never hit hazardous levels, but it’s still obvious noise.
There’s not much room for a battery inside the Lenovo’s svelte chassis, so it’s no surprise that its benchmark result was mediocre. We loaded Powermark and ran our benchmark – which involves video chat, web browsing and idling – with the screen at 40% brightness and Balanced power mode selected.The Yoga lasted for six hours and 30 minutes in our test. That’s better than fully-fledged work notebooks and it’s better than many budget hybrids, but it’s 90 minutes less than the Samsung, three hours behind the Toshiba Kira, and almost half the longevity of the MacBook Air and its bespoke test.That means that the Lenovo will only see its way through a full day of work if you’re careful with battery management. One glimmer of hope is the 41% battery yield after thirty minutes of charging – that’s good for a reasonable 2 hours and forty minutes of use.
Interestingly, the Yoga line is undergoing a split of sorts, with some features being added to the consumer IdeaPad version, and completely different features showing up in the new business-oriented ThinkPad Yoga. In this case, the IdeaPad Yoga 2 gets the ultrahigh-res screen, but the ThinkPad Yoga gets a clever new keyboard mechanism that hides the keyboard when the system is folded flat in tablet mode.The presence of the keyboard and touch pad under your fingers, even though they are deactivated, when holding the Yoga 2 as a tablet remains a design oddity, and the one thing many people disliked about the original Yoga. Perhaps if we all ask very nicely, we can get a future Yoga that combines the 3,200×1,800-pixel display and sleek design of the Yoga 2 with the brilliant hidden keyboard of the ThinkPad Yoga.But if you think of the Yoga 2 as primarily a laptop that can be called on to flip and fold into new shapes to serve specific purposes, it’s one of the best all-around ultrabook-style systems available, and one that adds new high-end features at a price that makes it almost irresistible.