- Solid performance
- Great display
- Nice fit and finish
- "Exposed" keyboard in tablet and stand modes
- Potentially frustrating power button location
- Limited to no more than 8GB of RAM
The principal feature mentioned in sales materials for the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is the 360-degree pivoting screen which allows this 13-inch Ultrabook to transform into a tablet or one of two other presentation modes for displaying content. While the ability to filp into different positions makes the Yoga pretty special, is it more of a warrior pose or downward facing dog?
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is one of the most unique 13-inch Ultrabooks we’ve seen to date. At first glance this might look like a traditional laptop with a touchscreen that allows direct control over the Windows 8 tile interface, but simply push the screen back and you’ll find that it flips around to function as a tablet or presentation tool.
Yoga 13 in “Notebook Mode”
Yoga 13 in “Tent Mode”
The team at Lenovo breaks down these various screen positions into four categories:
- Notebook Mode: Use the classic notebook mode when the keyboard is needed for productivity tasks.
- Stand Mode: Choose the stand mode for viewing movies and video chatting in tight places, like airplanes.
- Tent Mode: Tent mode is good for touch-based tasks like browsing recipes while cooking, viewing photos, or playing touch games.
- Tablet Mode: Combined with Windows 8, turning the IdeaPad Yoga into a tablet is smooth and automatic. Use the notebook like you would any smart phone or tablet device.
Yoga 13 in “Stand Mode”
Yoga 13 in “Tablet Mode”
Build and Design
Lenovo calls the IdeaPad Yoga 13 “the world’s first multi-mode Ultrabook” and while some might debate the particulars of that claim, we can say this is a very well-built, premium laptop.
Like most Ultrabooks, the IdeaPad Yoga 13 strikes an impressive balance between speedy performance, good battery life and a thin-and-light design. This 13-inch notebook is just 0.67 inches thin with the screen closed and weighs only 3.3 lbs so it’s close to the size and weight of a previous generation 12-inch laptop. We were particularly impressed that Lenovo managed to deliver a relatively affordable touch screen convertible laptop without adding more thickness. Lenovo uses what they call “direct bonding technology” to create the 10-point multi-touch display without the added touch-senative layers used by thicker convertible notebooks. Still, even with the thin profile the Yoga 13 feels solid in our hands.
The screen lid is strong and we didn’t see any screen distortions or “ripples” when we applied pressure to the back of the screen. While we don’t recommend trying to stand on this laptop, it should survive the typical use and abuse that most notebooks endure around the house, at work, or at school.
While we’re talking about the ability to flip the Yoga 13 into a number of different positions, we should probably draw your attention to the location of the power button. The power button — which is a typical pressure-activated switch — is located on the front edge of the notebook beneath the left palm rest. The problem with this location is that it is possible to unintentionally press the power button with your lap just by pulling the notebook close to you or by pressing down on the notebook when the Yoga 13 is in the Tent mode and resting on a rough surface.
If you take a quick look at the bottom of the IdeaPad Yoga 13, you’ll see it’s pretty standard for an Ultrabook. The bottom half of the notebook looks clean with no quick access panel for removing the storage drive, RAM, or other components. This Ultrabook uses a single standard RAM slots so the maximum RAM available at this time is 8GB. Most users won’t try to remove the torx screws on the lower half of the chassis to upgrade the RAM themselves.
Ports and Features
The 13-inch Yoga 13 includes a modest array of ports since this laptop is also designed to be a tablet and Lenovo wanted to keep it thin and light. You’ll see a 4-in-1 media card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC, and MMC), headset jack, HDMI and two USB ports (one US 2.0 and one USB 3.0) but that’s about it. There’s no Ethernet jack, no built-in DVD drive and no VGA port for connecting to old external monitors and projectors. All the port descriptions below are listed from left to right.
Left: HDMI, USB 3.0, headset jack
Right: Screen rotation on/off button, 4-in-1 media card slot, USB 2.0 port, AC power jack
The 13.3-inch glossy screen on the Yoga 13 is above average in a number of ways. For starters, Lenovo used an IPS display panel rather than a cheaper TN-style panel. This means the colors and screen brightness remain consistent regardless of your viewing angle. An IPS display is a feature that’s “nice to have” on a laptop but it’s virtually “essential” on a tablet because of the variety of positions and viewing angles.
The second premium feature to this screen is the resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. Most 13-inch laptops have a 1366 x 768 resolution and that’s just not enough for multitasking with several windows on a single screen. Combine that increased resolution with the 10-point multi-touch dispaly surface and you’ve got the foundation for a great Windows 8 user experience.
Speaker quality is good for a thin business notebook and the maximum volume output is loud enough to fill a large meeting room with clear sound. The audio performance is more than good enough for a basic video conference or webcast and also works fine for watching a Netflix Watch Instantly movie. Lenovo once again teamed up with Dolby to include Dolby Home Theater v4 audio (tuned stereo speakers, headphone output and audio processing software) to deliver a better multimedia experience.
The Yoga 13 features a standard Chiclet-style (“island style”) keyboard with good spacing between each key. Lenovo calls this an “AccuType” keyboard thanks to the clean layout and rounded keys designed with ergonomics in mind and to give users improved typing accuracy compared to keyboards with flat keys and a different layout.
On that note, I’m happy to see Lenovo placed the Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End keys in a single row on the right side of the keyboard rather than being spread apart in various locations. The palm rests are also extremely comfortable thanks to the leather texture covering the palm rests and the keyboard surround.
The Synaptics touchpad has a smart sensor that implements palm rejection to prevent users from accidentally moving the cursor while typing. Additionally, it incorporates practical features like scroll, zoom, rotate, and Windows 8 specific navigation actions. The touchpad also has a freeze/unfreeze screen feature that can be used while in the Windows desktop.
We found the touchpad worked fine for navigating the live tiles with Windows 8 gestures but was sometimes frustrating to use in the traditional Windows desktop. The lack of dedicated left and right mouse buttons isn’t the end of the world but several of our testers had trouble getting left or right clicks to register with a single press.