Lenovo has recently presented the IdeaPad Yoga notebooks, in two versions: one with x86 architecture and a display size of 13”, and one with ARM architecture and a display size of 11”. Having seen the larger version “in person”, we got the chance to toy around with the smaller one, more akin to a tablet than a notebook, with the exact physical appearance of its bigger brother. At first glance, besides the physical size, no other differences exist between the two models. The lid system, keyboard, touchpad, display, everything’s bit-matched, only reduced in size. Even the model’s colour is the same – orange, which caused a few funny looks around the office and the question of why we got the same model for testing again. The reduction in size has its perks, with the keyboard being the most problematic one. A lot of the keys had to be scaled down, with Enter and Backspace keys reduced to criminally tiny proportions, which is a big deal if you do a lot of typing.
As an 11” notebook, Yoga ticks all the prerequisites. Production quality hasn’t decreased a single bit, and every component is just as good as in its larger rendition. The display is fairly good, with an expected resolution of 1366x768 and average display quality, discounting the very good viewing angles for its class. The digitiser has been implemented properly, so you won’t have any trouble “pinpointing” the pixel you need, however small it may appear. The rotation principle has remained the same – the multi-position hinges remain one of the best solutions we’ve ever seen, while the materials used give confidence in terms of reliability and robustness. The connectors have been shuffled around a bit, with the most glaring omission being that of the USB 3.0 port, as it isn’t supported by the chipset. Otherwise, two USBs, HDMI, card reader and audio jacks are all present. The latest-gen charging connector is there as well, as are the volume rocker, rotation and power buttons.
The major peculiarity of this model is located under the hood. Instead of the new Intel platform and a Core i3/i5/i7 CPU, we were greeted by ARM architecture in the form of NVIDIA’s Tegra 3. It’s not a new product, and we’ve written about it countless times, so we’ll just briefly go through the motions once again. Tegra 3 works in synergy with 2 GB of DDR3L RAM, while data storage is handled by a 64 GB SSD (plus the SD slot). As far as wireless connections go, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are making an appearance, while the 4-cell battery will allegedly provide you with some 13 hours of autonomy as per the spec sheet.
|Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11|
|Memory||2 GB RAM, 64 GB SSD|
|Display||11", 1366x768 pix, capacitive, 350 NIT|
|Interfaces||WiFi n, Bluetooth 3.0, 3.5 mm audio, 2x USB, SD, HDMI|
|Camera||Front: 1 Mpix|
|Dimensions||298 x 204 x 15.6 mm|
|Price||US $ 600|
The preinstalled Windows 8 RT is the ARM-optimised version of the latest operating system, and as such, comes along with all of Eight’s pros and cons. Like its desktop version, Windows 8 RT still lacks optimisation to the level of full usability. Hitches, halts and bugs continue to occur from time to time. Some features one would naturally expect from a tablet are very badly handled. For instance, when you’re using Yoga as a tablet and click on the text field, you’d expect the on-screen keyboard to pop up, but this won’t happen, at least not automatically – you have to summon it yourself manually. That’s less of a problem than the fact that the freshly summoned keyboard will take up 50% of the display and frequently hamper you from seeing what you’re typing at all. Instead of the entire work surface moving upwards, as is the case in Android, for example, or at least the keyboard going transparent (or any other possible solution, many of which already exist in the market), you get the crudest imaginable text input. Simply enough, optimisation for touchscreens outside the Metro/Modern/whatever-it’s-called UI is horrendous and takes a lot of work before the OS can be called a finished product.
After a while spent with the notebook, feelings about everyday activities are mixed. While everything works properly most of the time, certain banal situations, such as web browsing in Internet Explorer, will cause the browser to become non-responsive, tabs could go awry or crash entirely and so on. If you try to address Microsoft concerning these issues, they’ll blame Tegra; if you do the same to NVIDIA, they’ll blame the ill-optimised OS. We believe that Lenovo’s engineers have their own view of the situation as well, but it’s pointless to speculate. Suffice to say that everyday work shows signs of being done on a mobile platform rather than a thoroughbred x86 CPU.
One of the essentials when buying a small notebook is battery autonomy. We’ve been able to establish first-hand that the declared 13 hours of autonomy isn’t just a marketing statement; even more shockingly, this number seems to have been achieved in Balanced mode, since we’ve been able to get even more while watching video material, which is just amazing with a display of this size. Of course, the ambient light sensor that regulates display brightness automatically does its job very well in saving the battery. Still, even with all those things taken into account, this result is beyond the wildest imagination of any x86 notebook.
Reaching a definite verdict on this model is difficult for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a niche device that ends up as severely limited in some regards and exceptionally flexible and functional in others. If you’re in its target market, this notebook’s usability is undeniable, with the simple transformation from tablet to notebook (and a few intermediary steps) of particular interest. Compared to the larger, 13” version, advantages consist in stellar battery autonomy and significantly lower price. On the other hand, these gains were made on account of worsened performance and questionable compatibility. The Windows Store ecosystem is being gradually developed, with most “important” apps on Play Store available here as well. The addition of a preinstalled Office suite raises usability to an even higher level, but ultimately, you’ll have to replace all your usual desktop apps with mobile alternatives. In short: excellent idea, excellent design and a clumsy OS.