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Yoga

Laptop Week Review: Lenovo Yoga 13

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Features:

  • Convertible laptop
  • 13-inch touchscreen
  • Up To 128 GB SSD
  • Intel Core i5 Processor
  • MSRP: $999

Pros:

  • Slim form factor works as a tablet and a laptop
  • Nice design
  • 10-finger multi-touch

Cons:

  • Mushy keys
  • Accelerator sensing can be frustrating
  • Underpowered for the price point

Twist And Shout

Convertibles were all the rage back in the 1950s (thanks to tailfins and the Corvette) and in the early 2000s (thanks to Microsoft and Sony). In the 2000s, however, we saw convertibles in the form of laptops that could twist and turn themselves into tablets. The result, usually, was a not-very-good-laptop folded into a not-very-good tablet.

That’s what makes the Yoga special. This 13-inch laptop is as plain as can be – it has just two USB ports and an SD card slot – but becomes much more usable when you realize the various configurations you can bend it into. For example, as a laptop the screen stays straight up and there is a small central Windows button that you can either press or ignore under the screen bezel. You can also fold the laptop in half along one edge, essentially tuning off the keyboard and making the screen one big tablet. Finally, you can fold the Yoga into a tent, allowing you some modicum of control over the laptop via the keyboard or allowing you and another user to view the screen head-on.

To be fair, the “folding” features are more of a gimmick than anything else. The vast majority of the time you’ll be using this in either standard laptop mode or tablet mode. However, unlike the Microsoft Surface, you don’t have to worry about the screen flopping over at inopportune moments, which is a huge plus.
The Yoga can be rightly termed the perfect Windows 8 machine. Touchscreen access was surprisingly smooth and responsive but it wasn’t mandatory. This is a handsome, cleverly designed laptop that works as both a keyboard-based and touch device. Performance-wise, however, you’re going to take a bit of a hit on this device when compared to similar i5 devices.

They Yoga 13 hit a Geekbench score of 4,664, which is low. The i5 MacBook Air, for example, gets about 5,000 other Core i5 laptops can hover at about 8,000 depending on the machine. The laptop lasted for 5 hours of standard use. The Core i5 in this model was enough for most work thrown at it but it’s still considerably underpowered. Other users I talked to mentioned some latency issues with the trackpad although I didn’t experience them during use.

That said, I’m loath to ding the laptop on performance simply because Lenovo did something very unique with their laptop and made something that I’d actually carry. The goal of these reviews is to show some of the most unique and usable laptops available now, not the latest and greatest in terms of chipsets and processors. In terms of speeds and feeds the Yoga 13 does not shine. However, when it comes down to usability and class, the Yoga 13 is a real contender.

Who is it for?

artist

Designers

Yes. Photographers, artists, and media types will love the big, bright screen and the unique “bendable” spine makes it easy to share the screen with multiple users or flip it over to show off a snapshot or sketch. While it’s not exactly a Wacom digitizer – you basically get a capacitive touchscreen that will respond to simpler, passive styli – this laptop is definitely something you can get a little work done on.

I would worry, however, about the limitations of the i5 processor and the on-board graphics. I wouldn’t recommend, say, rendering video or handling massive RAW files. Think of this as a showcase machine, designed to display your work after it is complete.

entrepreneur

Founders

Yes. The Yoga is almost custom-built for salesmen and business folk. Want to get a point across? Fold this puppy up and treat it like a mini-whiteboard. Want to give a presentation? Lay it out flat like a tablet and swipe through the slides. Finally, when you have a bit of alone time and need a laptop, it’s right there and ready to go. If you’re running a Windows shop and need something that can act as both a tablet and a PC, this is probably your best bet right now. As an exploration of the Windows 8 form, this thing is great.

programmer

Programmers

No. I’m not certain that this is the right laptop for a coder. It’s definitely a cool idea but the value intrinsic in the folding hinge is lost on folks who probably need the machine to act as a primary typing device. I’d recommend looking at this thing in terms of whether or not you’d use the touch features on a daily basis and make your decision that way.

Bottom Line

The Yoga is a gimmick, to be sure. However, I think it does a good enough job at being a laptop and a tablet that the interstitial positions don’t matter as much. The Yoga 13 is everything the Surface was supposed to be and, although I do enjoy the Surface Pro, the Yoga is a superior experience.

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