Bendy hinges attempt to make sense of Windows 8
Never before has a hinge seemed like such a big deal, but Windows 8 has done some strange things to laptop manufacturers. While the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 might look like most other laptops, it is actually a lithe, excitingly hinged transforming machine.
In one instance the Yoga is an ultrabook laptop, but as the name suggests it is flexible. Thanks to the double jointed hinge, the whole computer can be bent back on itself so that lid lies flat against the base. When used this way the the keyboard and touchpad end up behind the screen. They're turned off automatically in this orientation, but it felt odd to hold in our hands. This allows the Yoga to be used as a tablet.
The Yoga 13 weighs 1.5kg which is light for a laptop, but heavy for a tablet. The Yoga's design does have some tricks up its sleeve to compensate for this. The Yoga can be stood up on end like a tent or, less radically, the keyboard can be oriented like a stand. This flexibility makes using the touchscreen much more practical than simply holding the heavy Yoga like any other tablet. It's still large and chunky though so it's still not as pleasurable to use as other tablets.
Part of the reason for the Yoga's weight is the 13in screen which is standard for an ultrabook, but big for a tablet. There's plenty of room for using complex desktop apps thanks to the high resolution of 1,600x900 pixels. This isn't as cramped as some other Windows 8 devices which squeeze lots of pixels into a small space, such as a whopping 1,920x1,080 pixels into an 11in screen, which can be hard to read in laptop mode. The Yoga's screen is sharp with accurate-looking colours, but it looks very drim when brightness is reduced to 50% to conserve battery life - especially when compared to other laptops and tablets.
One annoying design quirk is that the power button is on the front edge of the laptop below the trackpad. While this prevents the button from being accidentally pressed when the Yoga is used as a tablet, it was also easier to press accidentally when carried around in a bag or case.
Elsewhere there is a button to lock the screen's orientation - useful for when the Yoga thinks it should display portrait when you want it to be landscape or vice versa. There are USB2 and USB3 ports for connecting memory keys and other peripherals. There's no Ethernet port though and no adaptor is provided, so if you want to use a wired connection you will have to fork out for a USB to Ethernet adaptor. As expected, there's no optical drive either.
As an ultrabook the Yoga is slim, speedy and sleek. The bright orange lid and underside won't suit everyone, but it is certainly striking and will also be available in silver grey. The plastic build isn't as rigid as the metal used in the HP Envy X2, but it still feels robust. The plastic surrounding the keyboard has a faux leather look and feel, but it's not as cheesy as it sounds.
The keyboard itself doesn't require as much pressure as other laptop keyboards to register a keystroke, but it's still comfortable and accurate to type on. The large touchpad successfully replicates the gestures used to control parts of the Windows 8 interface, such as the Charms bar, making it a usable alternative to the touchscreen. Overall the design of the Yoga as a laptop is excellent.
The Yoga whizzed along thanks to its 1.9GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory and SSD. Although the 256GB SSD won't be big enough for some, it did help keep this laptop quick and responsive. Battery life was generally impressive too. In our tests the Yoga lasted just over ten hours for standard use and almost five and a half hours when watching videos.
Lenovo has included some added extras that allegedly make using Windows 8 easier. One of these, Motion Control, meant we could wave at the laptop to get it to perform basic tasks. By using the webcam the laptop could skip music tracks or move between photos when we waved a hand at it. Clever, but it has limited uses at present. Lenovo Transition, which was meant to make certain applications full-screen when the Yoga was folded into tablet mode, didn't work.
This in itself provides a useful allegory for Windows 8 hardware so far - clever, but it in many respects it doesn't work.
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The Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 is a capable laptop, but Windows 8 is yet to find hardware that makes it sing
Clever flexible hinge design; Good as a laptop; Comfortable keyboard and touchpad; Striking appearance
Still awkward as a tablet; Keyboard is on the bottom of the laptop in tablet mode
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