Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 (Chester Tan)

The new Windows 8 supports tablet-style touchscreen interaction, and laptop manufacturers are taking advantage of this with various new innovative designs.

One of them is the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13, a 13.3-inch ultrabook that literally bends over backwards to offer multiple ways of engaging the device.

Specs:
- Intel i5-3317 1.7GHz
- Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 
- 4GB DDR3 RAM
- 13.3 inch IPS LED touchscreen display with 10 touch points, 1600x900, 300 nits
- HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, SD Card, headphone-mic jack
- Power button, volume rocker, orientation lock button, recovery button.
- 128GB SSD
- Wifi (b/g/n). Bluetooth
- 1.0MP front camera
- Windows 8 64-bit
- 1.54kg
- 333.4 x 224.8 x 16.9mm

Ultrabook Experience

At 1.54kg and 16.9mm thin, the Yoga is pretty portable and lightweight for a full-feature ultrabook. In fact, it looks and works just like an ultrabook laptop, plus you can lift up the screen and fold it all the way 360 degrees to the back of the keyboard, hence the product name.

Lenovo has built up a reputation for durability with its classic ThinkPad laptop, and the new Yoga is similarly rugged. The outer shell is coated with a matte finish while the keyboard wrist rest is made of “leathery” rubber material.

The keyboard’s top row contains shortcut keys to control common functions like volume, brightness, flight mode, disable trackpad. The Function keys F1-12 are still available but you need to hold the "Fn" key in order to use them. The keyboard action is rather accurate, but I needed to get used to the keyboard layout. Sadly, there is no backlighting. The trackpad is large and has good sensitivity. It also can detect accidental palm touches and thus will not trigger unwanted mouse movement. While touching the screen seems like a more convenient option, the trackpad is just as sensitive and usable, allowing me to scroll across the screen without having to move my fingers up to the display.

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 (Chester Tan)

The Yoga’s battery life is similar to that of most ultrabooks out there. Running processor-intensive apps like games will warm up the unit a little and drain the battery a little faster. What I like is the ability to put the laptop into sleep instantaneously, just like a tablet. And you can keep it in sleep state for days without much battery drain. Giving it a full charge takes just over an hour, a key advantage for road warriors. Lenovo has also redesigned the AC adapter to make it lighter and more compact.

Interestingly, Windows 8 has a new power plan feature called "Fast Startup", and it's really useful. With fast startup disabled, booting the Yoga to the login screen takes about 15 seconds, which is already fast. With fast startup enabled, it only takes 5 seconds. That's mind-blowing!

Although the battery does not last as long as in low-powered tablets, I don't feel the threat of battery drain when using the Yoga for extended periods, even when leaving it on standby mode. I like the ability to turn off the screen display by pressing a key on the keyboard or lowering the brightness to the minimum. This offers me a quick way to disable the screen display without fussing over the power button or closing the lid.

Tablet Experience

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 (Chester Tan)

The Yoga feels big and heavy in handheld tablet mode. When using other hybrid tablet devices, you might be inclined to undock the tablet from the keyboard to have a more relaxed browsing experience. With the Yoga, I am more inclined to leave it in laptop mode because holding the Yoga in tablet mode does not feel relaxed at all. Besides the weight and bulk, your hands are pressing against the keyboard and so you would not want to grip the Yoga too hard. Nevertheless, the tablet mode has its uses, like placing it flat on the table to play games or sharing content, or for the strong-armed, use it handheld like a tablet, on the go. Lenovo offers a slot-on keyboard case accessory to protect the keyboard.

I also enjoy using the Yoga in stand mode, because the screen is positioned closer to the viewer. It's also a better mode to prevent unwanted access to the keyboard, especially for children. Plus, this mode gives the Yoga a rather unique display look, with the keyboard completely hidden from view. As for tent mode, it offers a good hold and does not waver when you exert pressure on the screen. 

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 (Chester Tan)

Interacting with the touch screen is a breeze. The sensitivity is well-calibrated and the visual quality is also excellent, with a wide viewing angle and no loss of contrast. Thanks to the large 13.3-inch screen, typing on the on-screen keyboard is comfortable, but nothing beats the physical keyboard. The Yoga comes with the Lenovo Motion Control app, and although it only supports a few apps and just two gestures - wave your hand to the left and to the right - the gestures work reliably and no doubt add convenience when you are not within arm's reach.

The speakers produce surprisingly clear audio sounds, although bass is expectedly absent, thanks to the placement of the two stereo speakers underneath the keyboard, facing the user. The volume controls on the keyboard as well as the side of the device allow quick access to volume adjustments.

Picky Areas

Generally, I enjoy using the Yoga, but there are some annoying areas that I'd like to pick on, areas that if fixed could make Yoga an even more desirable Windows 8 hybrid device.

1. Hard to open the lid held together by magnets. There is no groove to help me lift open the lid.
2. Exposed keyboard when flipped. Good thing Lenovo develops a slot-in case accessory to cover up the keyboard, so it's advisable to get one to protect your device.
3. Screen glass is too reflective. It is very uncomfortable to use when under strong lighting.

4. Battery charge indicator is not intuitive. There is no indication whether the Yoga is fully charged. The indicator remains lit even after the charge achieves 100%.
5. No keyboard backlight. A small feature goes a long way.

 

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 (Chester Tan)

Final Thoughts

The price of a Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 currently begins at S$1,899, which may sound pricey for a laptop. But if you were to compare it against ultrabooks with the same specs, then the Yoga is just about there, and gives you added functionality by being foldable into a tablet. Indeed, the Yoga is the most "normal-looking" hybrid ultrabook tablet in the market that focuses on the fundamental functions of a computing device: a large comfortable screen and keyboard and durable materials that can survive normal wear and tear. It is designed more as an ultrabook, yet provides usable options as a tablet, albeit a large and weighty one.

If you are looking for a tablet replacement device, then the Yoga might not be ideal. Though, in my opinion, Windows 8 is an operating system that cannot do without a proper keyboard and trackpad (or mouse) to achieve productivity and maximise its functionality. For my case, I find the Yoga design excellent for my kind of use. It never leaves the keyboard behind, and when you need it, the permanently attached full-size keyboard and trackpad get the job done without compromise.

Summary of my favourite features of the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13:
- Able to use it in any orientation and form
- Fast startup from power down, just 5 seconds
- Fast resume from standby, just 1 second!
- Fast charge from 0 to 100%, just over an hour
- Full-size keyboard and large sensitive trackpad
- Good viewing angle and screen resolution