Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 260 Review: Business-class Flexibility

by Reads (18,203)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 9
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 5
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 7
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 7.71
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Business class build quality
    • Impressively thin and light for its specs
    • Great keyboard and TrackPoint controls
  • Cons

    • Battery life could be better
    • Pen is a little small for adult hands
    • Wide bezel around the screen

The word ThinkPad might conjure memories of bulky business laptops designed to handle whatever a mobile workforce can throw at it, but Lenovo’s ThinkPad Yoga 260 is a thin and light convertible Ultrabook will just about every bell and whistle you need for work. Think of this notebook as Lenovo’s answer to Apple’s 12-inch MacBook.

Many consumers will likely dismiss the new ThinkPad Yoga 260 as just another convertible business trying to bridge the gap between a work laptop and a tablet, but the 260 actually manages to fit that role surprisingly well. For basically the same starting price as a MacBook, the 12.5-inch ThinkPad Yoga 260 gives you a full Windows 10 notebook that can flip into a tablet and includes an active pen for taking notes or drawing directly into CAD software or image editing applications.

In short, the ThinkPad Yoga 260 manages to deliver the durability and ports that businesses need while also keeping the travel weight as light as possible for employees. Keep reading to find out if this convertible Ultrabook is as good as it looks.

The ThinkPad Yoga 260 is more than just a business Ultrabook.

The ThinkPad Yoga 260 is more than just a business Ultrabook.

Build and Design

The ThinkPad Yoga 260 clearly takes several design elements from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. As we’ve come to expect from any Lenovo product with the ThinkPad branding, this Ultrabook retains the same “all business” design and road-tested dependability that is synonymous with ThinkPad.

Unlike the larger X1 Carbon, the 260 measures just 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches and weighs a mere 2.9 lbs (1.3kg). This 2-in-1 is wrapped in a matte black chassis made from satellite-grade carbon fiber that is not only more shock absorbent than aluminum alloy but tips the scales at just 30% of the weight of aluminum with a similar thickness.

The screen lid is supported by an internal roll cage and square pin stainless steel hinges that anchor the screen lid to the chassis. The keyboard also has a drain to help it survive spills or a brief amount of time outdoors in the rain.

The Yoga-style hinges let you flip the 260 into tablet or stand modes.

The Yoga-style hinges let you flip the 260 into tablet, tent, or stand modes.

As with many ThinkPads, the Yoga 260 is Mil-SPEC 810G tested for a wide range of environmental hazards from humidity and extreme temperatures to exposure to sand, high vibration, mechanical shock, and even fungus (for users with poor hygiene). The solid ThinkPad is reinforced by Lenovo’s proprietary honeycomb pattern internal roll cage.

Ports and Features

While most thin-and-light laptops in the “Ultrabook” category sacrifice ports for a thin design, the ThinkPad Yoga 260 has a better-than-average array of ports … even by old-fashioned thick laptop standards.

On the left side you’ll find the jack for the AC power adapter, Lenovo’s OneLink docking station connector, one mini-DisplayPort, one USB 3.0 port, and a SmartCard reader. On the right side you’ll find the power button, volume rocker switch, the storage/charging silo for the included ThinkPad Pen Pro (more on that in the screen section below), headset audio jack, microSD card slot, SIM card slot, a second USB 3.0 port, full-size HDMI port and a Kensington lock slot. The only obvious omission is an Ethernet port, but Lenovo has thicker, heavier notebooks if you’re looking for one of those.

DSC03385DSC03388

Screen and Speakers

The 12.5-inch full HD multitouch display in our review unit provides a nice 1920 x 1080 resolution with sharp details, good color accuracy and plenty of contrast. The touchscreen surface is accurate and supports 10-point multitouch gestures. The FHD touchscreen option shown here is an IPS display panel that delivers wide viewing angles but the biggest visual eyesore is the wide bezel around the screen. True, most people need at least some bezel surrounding the display in order to hold the device in tablet mode without activating the touchscreen … but Lenovo could have fit a larger 13.3-inch screen in the same space and still left enough room for our thumbs.

DSC03420The included ThinkPad Pen Pro active pen delivers 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity and we found it works quite well with the included WRITEit software, which converts handwriting to data that immediately moves into standard text fields in documents or on website forms. The pen also features onboard quick charging and works perfectly in Photoshop Creative Suite. Our only minor complaint about the ThinkPad Pen Pro is that the pen is a little too thin and short for extended use … our hands started to cramp after more than 30 minutes.

The stereo speakers inside the ThinkPad Yoga 260 produce adequate sound that is relatively free of distortions and loud enough to fill a large office. Lenovo uses Dolby Digital Plus audio processing software to improve audio playback and it works; if you disable the Dolby software while streaming Netflix you’ll notice an immediate difference in the sound quality.

DSC03382Keyboard and Touchpad (and TrackPoint)

The keys that make up the keyboard on the ThinkPad Yoga 260 are a modified “Chiclet” or island-style design with a curved surface designed to replicate the feel of a desktop keyboard. The main keys measure 15mm x 15mm with a curved bottom edge and between 3 and 4mm between each key. The depth of key travel is pretty shallow at only about 2mm, but feedback is strong and a full press requires slightly more pressure than what it takes on a typical budget laptop keyboard. The end result is a keyboard that is not only extremely comfortable to use but is less prone to typos.

The keyboard features LED backlighting with a dual brightness setting. Most users will find the lowest brightness setting adequate for typing in a dark room but there is an even brighter setting for anyone who wants to spot the keys from across the room.

DSC03397The most notable feature of this keyboard is the mechanical structure supporting the deck that surrounds the keyboard. As you rotate the screen into tablet mode the keyboard surround rises up to rest flush against the top edge of the keyboard keys. This prevents you from accidentally pressing the keys while you’re holding the device in tablet mode.

As with almost all ThinkPads, the Yoga 260 includes both a standard touchpad and a classic red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard. While many first-time users are thrown off by using a TrackPoint, most people discover that they prefer it after a few weeks of use. In fact, we’ve found the precision of the TrackPoint on ThinkPads even more enjoyable since the release of Windows 8. Gesture-enabled touchpads are more likely to accidentally trigger an unintended action in Windows 8 and 8.1 like opening the charms bar or switching between apps when all you want to do is move the cursor or highlight some text.

DSC03379The buttonless ClickPad on the 260 isn’t the worst touchpad surface we’ve tested, but it certainly isn’t the best. When we pressed the ClickPad surface for a left click the ClickPad would sometimes register a right click. Similarly, sometimes we would try to make a right click and the ClickPad thought it was a left click. You can minimize this problem somewhat by adjusting the default Synaptic driver settings so the ClickPad does a better job of recognizing left clicks and right clicks, but we never “completely” eliminated the problem.

Performance

The base configuration of the ThinkPad Yoga 260 starts at $989 and our review unit is a more expensive configuration priced at roughly $1,362. Our test configuration was more than powerful enough to handle typical workplace productivity tasks … but so is the base configuration. That being said, even our “high-end” configuration of the Yoga 260 is still using a power-friendly i7-6500U processor.

DSC03364The saving grace of our review unit is the reasonably quick 256 GB M.2 SSD which helps improve Windows boot time while also allowing you to install and launch applications faster.

As you know by now, the ThinkPad Yoga 260 is a business laptop and not a gaming notebook. That said, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 520 is good enough for casual gaming and the kind of general video transcoding you might need to do when uploading a promotional video to a corporate YouTube account. If you want better graphics performance in a business laptop you’ll typically need to move to a mobile workstation.

Our review unit of the ThinkPad Yoga 260 came with the following hardware specifications:

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 12.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS display with multi-touch
  • 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U (4MB cache, Turbo Boost up to 3.10GHz)
  • Intel HD Graphics 520
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB M.2 SSD (SATA3)
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC (2×2) 8260, Bluetooth 4.1
  • 720p HD webcam with Dual-array microphone
  • 4-cell Li-Polymer battery (44Wh)

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
wchart

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
pc8homechart

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
pc8workchart

3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3d11chart

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3dfirestrikechart

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Untitled

Heat and Noise

DSC03352The ThinkPad Yoga 260 runs remarkably cool and quiet thanks to the combination of low-voltage Intel processor and a silent SSD. Even after running multiple performance benchmarks (pushing the hardware to the limits) the keyboard and ClickPad measured only 82 degrees and 83 degrees Fahrenheit respectively. The bottom of the chassis never exceeded 92 degrees Fahrenheit during benchmarks. For those who aren’t familiar with Fahrenheit temperatures, rest assured you won’t feel any heat under normal use unless you block the heat vent on the left side of the notebook.

Battery Life

PowerMark “Balanced” battery life test results using the standard 3-cell battery (higher scores mean better life):
powerchart

Conclusion

Editors ChoiceThe ThinkPad Yoga 260 is a solid 2-in-1 notebook that does indeed fill an important role in the world of business by combining a standard ultraportable Windows notebook with the convenience of a tablet.

IT professionals will have a hard time finding a better 2-in-1 priced at less than $1000 that offers all the business-essential features in the ThinkPad Yoga 260. Our biggest complaints are mediocre battery life, a stunningly wide bezel and a pen that’s too small for adult hands.

If you purchase the entry-level configuration then you’ll probably be disappointed by the weak 1366 x 768 screen resolution, but the 1080p multitouch display in our review unit is quite good. Higher performance configurations of the Yoga 260 with an Intel Core i7 processor and SSD storage make this notebook more expensive, but any business that spends the extra cash on those upgrades will earn back the added cost thanks to improved productivity.

In short, the ThinkPad Yoga 260 is arguably the best business 2-in-1 currently on the market when you consider cost, portability, durability, security, active pen input and port selection. We would have liked to see better battery life out of this 2-in-1, but it’s hard to build everything into a convertible notebook with a starting price below $1000.

DSC03355Pros:

  • Business class build quality
  • Impressively thin and light for its specs
  • Great keyboard and TrackPoint controls

Cons:

  • Battery life could be better
  • Pen is a little small for adult hands
  • Wide bezel around the screen


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