With Windows 8, Microsoft brought over its new Metro interface to the desktop, and with it came many complaints about the lack of optimization and just how awkward it was to use with a mouse or trackpad. This then ushered in a new era of touchscreen capable laptops and desktops, as well as a handful oddly designed devices. One of them is the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13. This 13-inch laptop allows you to bend the screen backwards and use it as a tablet, or keep the screen forwards to use it as a full laptop. But, just how practical is this design? Read on to find out!
- Processor: Intel Core i5 @ 1.5GHz
- Operating System: Windows 8
- Display: 13.3″ HD+ IPS LED, 10-point capacitive multi-touch, 1600 x 900, 16:9 aspect ratio, 300 nits
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD 4000 Graphics
- Storage: 128GB SSD
- Sound: 2 dual-cell speakers x 1 watts, 1 x internal digital mic, Dolby® Home Theater v4
- Connections: 802.11 b,g,n WLAN, Bluetooth® 4.0
- Weight: 3.3lbs
- Dimensions: 13.1” x 8.9” x 0.67”
- Battery: Li-Polymer 4 cell, 3860mAh, up to 8 hrs
- Ports: 1 x USB 3.0 + 1 x USB 2.0, 2-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC), 1 stereo headphones output – mic input, combo jack, HDMI
From the outside, the IdeaPad Yoga 13 looks just like every other 13 inch laptop. It’s slim and sleek looking, coming in at just .67 inches thick. The outside of the laptop is made out of a rubber-type material that unfortunately attracts fingerprints very easily. The bezel surrounding the keyboard is also a magnet for fingerprints and other gunk, but those are rather minor complaints in the scope the entire laptop.
The port selection on the IdeaPad 13 is rather small. On the right hand side you’ll find just a charging port, SD card slot, and a USB 2.0 connection. The left hand side is not much better, housing just a USB 3.0 slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and HDMI connection. While that’s on par with what Apple offers with the Macbook Air, it would be nice to see at least one more USB port, but in the world of ultrabooks, the lack of ports is just something we’re going to have to deal with. As far as branding goes, there are quite a few stickers – thankfully all removable. The top houses a simply Lenovo logo, while there are Intel Ultrabook, Intel Core i5, and Energy Star stickers under the keyboard. Finally, on the bottom you’ll find a Windows 8 sticker, and two FCC stickers with all sorts of numbers and logos that mean nothing to the end user.
The IdeaPad 13 is a tad heavy for my liking, coming in at 3.3 pounds. It’s not too noticeable, but there’s definitely a difference between it and the 2013 Air. In general, however, the IdeaPad Yoga is quite easy to carry around for extended periods of time.
As far is the keyboard goes, there aren’t many complaints to be had. As someone who has used a Mac for the last few years, the layout definitely took some getting use to, but once you got going, there were no issues whatsoever. The keyboard design is very similar to the one found on the Macbook line, though the IdeaPad has an extra row on the far left. The keys are all spaced out very nicely and there is a good amount of move to them, as well.
The trackpad is good, but it still bothers me that PC manufacturers can’t make a trackpad as good as the all glass one found on all recent Macbooks. There are a variety of gestures, though, all centered around Windows 8 capabilities. This includes things like swiping in from various edges to perform certain tasks. For a Windows machine, however, the IdeaPad Yoga’s trackpad is good enough to get the job done. You can left click by tapping almost anywhere except for the lower right corner, which is obviously reserved for right clicking. You can also right click by pressing with two fingers anywhere.
Now, let’s get to the real selling point of the Yoga and the aspect that it gets its name from. As you notice when you pry the device open, it will just keep opening. Lenovo touts that the device can be used in four different modes.
- Notebook Mode – Use the classic notebook mode when the keyboard is needed for productivity tasks.
- Stand Mode – Choose the stand mode for viewing movies and video chatting in tight places, like airplanes.
- Tent Mode – Tent mode is good for touch-based tasks like browsing recipes while cooking, viewing photos, or playing touch games.
- Tablet Mode – Combined with Windows 8, turning the IdeaPad Yoga into a tablet is smooth and automatic. Use the notebook like you would any smart phone or tablet device.
When you move the display past the 180 degree angle, the keyboard deactivates, which keeps you from accidentally hitting any keys while using the device in tablet mode. I honestly didn’t see the use case of these modes. The Tent Mode is somewhat useful for propping the device up on a desk and watch a movie, but tablet mode felt really awkward. It was just…odd having a keyboard behind your display, whether it was activated or not.
Overall, as a general notebook, the IdeaPad’s design is quite nice. It feels nice to use and is relatively portable. I fail to see the point of the Yoga aspect, however. Maybe I’m simply not the right market for it, but it just doesn’t make a lot of practical sense to me.
In a world of high resolution and Retina laptop displays, it’s hard going back to a device that you can see the pixels on, but unfortunately, that’s a tradeoff that comes with most ultrabooks. The IdeaPad 13 is slightly better than most, however, offering a reasonably impressive 1,600×900 pixel resolution. As with a lot of newer Windows 8 laptops, the display is touchscreen.
The quality of the display is pretty good. Colors are nice and text is relatively crisp, but obviously it’s not going to be as good as a more expensive Retina Macbook Pro or Samsung laptop. For the average joe, however, it’s perfectly fine and should get the job done for just about anyone.
When I first got the IdeaPad 13 in, I was skeptical of how useful the touchscreen would be in normal laptop usage, but I have to admit, it’s quite nice to be able to scroll using your finger. It’s not all that useful while doing intensive work while sitting at a desk or table, but while relaxing on the couch, it definitely comes in handy. I even found myself reaching for my Macbook Air’s display a few times, as well. I also couldn’t see operating the Metro interface without a touchscreen. While the trackpad on the IdeaPad does support some gestures, Windows 8 is just not optimized for non-touch devices, which is pretty upsetting. It is worth noting that when using the touchscreen in normal laptop mode, there is a bit of wobbliness with the hinge, which for such a pricey piece of technology is pretty upsetting.
The Lenovo IdeaPad is no speed demon underneath the hood, but then again, what ultrabook is? The device I tested was powered by a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics. In the PCMark7 benchmark, the laptop was awarded a score of 4,474, in 3DMark06, the score was 4,465, and finally, in 3DMark11, it was E917 / P572. Now, benchmarks mean absolutely nothing in my opinion, and what matters is real world usage.
The IdeaPad 13 performed about average. It booted up in less than 10 seconds, like most Windows 8 devices do, and loaded up webpages pretty fast. Gaming performance was good but nowhere near great. I don’t game that much, but playing Eurotruck Simulator 2 at mid-settings caused quite a big of lag and stuttering at sometimes, while sometimes it would run pretty smooth. A word of warning here, if you want to game, then almost any ultrabook – especially with Intel HD 4000 graphics – is not for you. You’ll need something with dedicated graphics for sure.
As far as browsing the web goes, everything was pretty smooth. Scrolling though graphic intense sites like The Verge and Polygon did cause some lag and did take a little while for all the visual elements to load, but for less intensive sites, like BriefMobile, everything was as smooth as can be.
The battery life with the IdeaPad 13 was disappointing, though right on par with other Windows 8 convertibles. In moderate usage doing things such as web browsing and listing to Spotify, the device lasted just over 5 hours of usage. That’s with WiFi on and the screen brightness set at 65 percent.
I’m really looking forwards to Windows powered laptops with Haswell processors. We saw what it did to the Macbook Air’s battery life, and it could definitely help quite a bit with all Windows devices.
When we made the decision to start reviewing laptops on BriefMobile, I was skeptical of reviewing laptops running Windows, but I have to say, I was presently surprised with the IdeaPad Yoga 13. The major downside, however, is the price. With specs we reviewed it at, the device costs $920 from Amazon, which for just $80 more, you could get the new, Haswell-powered Macbook Airs for. Those pack an improved graphics card and all day battery life.
However, if you are in the market for a Windows 8 convertible right now, the IdeaPad Yoga 13 is certainly something to look at, and one of the most well-built machines out there, but for performance, I’d urge you to hold out for Haswell powered devices, as the benefits of those will be through the roof.