Dell XPS 12 vs. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

by Reads (73,811)

We recently reviewed two Windows 8 computers that convert from notebooks to tablets in seconds. See which one of the two is our favorite.

The full NotebookReview.com reviews are found here:

Dell XPS 12 Review

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Review

Hybrid Design

The top decision factor between these two computers is how well the conversion from notebook to tablet mode works; Lenovo and Dell approach this very differently. The XPS 12′s screen rotates inside its bezel / frame to fold flat on top of the keyboard while the Yoga 13′s screen folds backwards 360 degrees to sit flush with the bottom of the chassis, exposing the keyboard as the base of the notebook.

Dell did a fantastic job with the XPS 12′s mechanism; it’s rock solid and converts the notebook into a true tablet. My only issue with this setup is that the mechanism adds extra weight into the lid and makes it lid-heavy; while in notebook mode it has a tendency to tip backward if the screen is touched. The XPS 12 is seamless in tablet mode; anyone that hasn’t seen the TV commercials wouldn’t know it is not just a tablet.

The Yoga 13 accomplishes the same feat of turning into a tablet but having the keyboard exposed as the base of the notebook (it’s deactivated, of course) simply doesn’t feel natural. Additionally it introduces some usability issues; particles and dirt can get into the keyboard while exposed. Furthermore while using it as a tablet, the exposed keys can get caught on things like clothes and bracelets. At the same time this hinge design offers some other usages; the Yoga 13 can be half opened and used in “tent” mode for presentations. This hinge design will either appeal to you or it won’t; it didn’t tickle our fancy. We certainly give Lenovo credit for being different though.

Screen

Almost as important as the hybrid design is the screen quality. Both of these computers employ an IPS-type panel which translates into almost unlimited viewing angles; this is essential on a tablet device where the screen will be viewed from many different angles. The XPS 12 uses the better panel — it has 30% more working space thanks to its higher resolution (1920×1080 vs. 1600×900). It’s worth noting the XPS 12 has a 12.5″ display whereas the Yoga 13 has a 13.3″ panel. The difference is relatively small but noticeable.

Putting the screen quality into perspective, the XPS 12 and the Yoga 13 have far better quality screens than found on most consumer notebooks.

Build Quality

Both notebooks feel solid in the hand and have no quality issues. That said the XPS 12 takes the prize here as it feels more solid thanks to Dell’s use of aluminum and carbon fiber to construct the XPS 12. The carbon fiber weave is just beautiful up close. Both computers weigh 3.3 lbs though the Yoga 13 is wider and longer by about a half inch in each direction.

Keyboard

Buying one of these hybrid devices means you’re probably interested in using the keyboard too. This section is a tie. The tactile feedback from both keyboards is fantastic. The Yoga 13 has the better layout of the two; it has dedicated home, end, pgup and pgdn keys; the XPS 12 has them integrated as secondary functions into the arrow keys. The XPS 12 has a feature the Yoga 13 doesn’t though — keyboard backlighting. We wouldn’t have a problem using either of these keyboards on a daily basis.

Input and Output Ports

Neither of these machines offers much in terms of port selection; the award goes to the Yoga 13 because it at least includes a media card reader. A notable difference is the Yoga 13 includes a full-sized HDMI port whereas the XPS 12 has a mini-DisplayPort (you’ll need an adapter to get video out).

Battery Life

Battery life is of course a concern when buying a notebook. This section is a tie because there’s a less than three percent difference in battery life between the XPS 12 and the Yoga 13; that’s attributable to benchmark variation. Both machines ran for three and a half hours using our new Powermark battery life benchmark; that’s some of the best battery life we’ve seen from Windows 8 notebooks. That three and a half hours converts to about seven hours of life while casually surfing the Internet.

Conclusion

The XPS 12 is the overall winner of this week’s roundup; it includes the best of both the notebook and tablet worlds. The primary reason the XPS 12 wins is because it has a superior hinge mechanism; the 360 degree fold of the Yoga 13 just doesn’t do it for us. The exposed keyboard doesn’t feel natural in tablet mode and catches things like clothes and bracelets while open. The XPS 12 also wins in screen quality as it has a significantly higher resolution (1920×1080 vs. 1600×900).

At the time of writing the XPS 12 is just $100 more than the Yoga 13 as reviewed; $1,199.99 buys a great Windows 8 hybrid tablet/notebook experience.

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