Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga review
Another winner from Lenovo, with great battery life, a top screen and plenty of innovative features
Review Date: 14 Jan 2014
Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray
Price when reviewed: £916 (£1,100 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Lenovo's Yogas have been the pick of the hybrid bunch since they first appeared, and the ThinkPad Yoga brings the design to the firm's famed business-laptop range. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?
The result looks and feels exactly as you'd hope from a marriage of two such successful designs. The build is sturdy and superbly rigid: the matte-black plastics feel high-quality throughout, and there's barely a hint of creak or flex.
The keyboard is, as usual, superb, with a sensible layout and keys that boast a light-yet-positive action, allowing for quick, accurate touch-typing from the moment you pull the laptop from its box. Lenovo's trademark red trackpoint – set into the keyboard between the G, H and B keys – remains in place for touch-typists who prefer to control the cursor without their fingers leaving the keyboard.
The hybrid mechanism works in the same way as previous Yoga devices. A fully articulated hinge allows the 12.5in touchscreen to be pushed back and around a full 360 degrees, so the laptop can be used in a variety of configurations.
With the display folded flat against the base, it can serve as a Windows 8.1 tablet. With it folded almost all the way back, it can be used in "stand" mode, with the keyboard planted face down on the desk. And you can flip it around and prop it up in "tent" mode – ideal for cramped spaces.
The ThinkPad Yoga isn't simply a me-too design. A number of key differences separate it from consumer-focused devices such as the recent IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro. The most ingenious is the "lift-and-lock" keyboard. We aren't fond of the name, but we love what it does: as you push the screen back into tablet or stand mode, the plastic plate surrounding the keys rises until it's flush with the tops of the keys, while another mechanism locks the keys so they don't depress.
This may sound like a gimmick, but it makes the device feel more like a bona fide tablet than previous Yogas: when you grip it, there are no disconcertingly squishy keys on the rear. There's also less likelihood of damage to the keys from catching on the seam of a pocket, for example. It's just a shame that it's such a lump: at 1.6kg, tablet mode isn't particularly comfortable unless you rest it on something.
Another difference is the pressure-sensitive passive stylus, which stows away in the front-right corner of the wristrest when not in use. It's a boon for creative tasks, such as digital painting and photo editing, and it adds the possibility of using Windows 8.1's excellent handwriting recognition to your text-entry toolbox.
Alas, stylus support isn't standard across the full ThinkPad Yoga Range: it's included in our upper-end review model, and the Core i3 model just below it, but the two cheaper configurations, priced at £780 and £930 respectively, support finger-touch only.
One updated feature is the touchpad: instead of hinging from the top as before, the whole surface of the pad now depresses with a solid thunk. This has its advantages: trackpoint users no longer need a second set of buttons just below the keyboard, since it's now possible to simply click the top edge of the pad. It also means the pad can be larger, making multi-finger gestures easier to perform.
We're not entirely convinced by the implementation, though. It's heavily sprung, which isn't a problem in casual use, but with jobs that involve a lot of clicking around – updating a website CMS, for instance, or photo editing – you're going to get tired fingers very quickly. If you choose to tap rather than click, the whole pad rattles slightly.
The final novelty is Lenovo's OneLink connector, which takes the form of an extended power socket on the left-hand edge of the laptop. It's Lenovo's take on the old-style docking port found on the bottom of many business laptops, and it supports charging, data and video across a single cable. The forthcoming Lenovo OneLink Dock will use this port to add three USB 3 ports, a pair of USB 2 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DVI and full-size DisplayPort.
What about the guarantee period?
With many companies the business range tend to have a longer guarantee period than the consumer range.
When comparing the IdeaPad Yoga2 and the ThinkPad Yoga I was surprised to find that (here in Finland at least) the IdeaPad version had a two year guarantee but the ThinkPad version had only (probably - see below) a one year guarantee only. What's the situation in the UK?
[I found the (Lenovo sites (Finnish and English language) less than useful in providing guarantee information. They seem to indicate there that all models in all ranges have a one year guarantee. The two years for the IdeaPad version I found in the product description in the website of the largest local seller.]
By MikeW2 on 14 Jan 2014
I have looked at buying this as well as the Dell XPS 12. Your comparison to the Dell does not point out that the Dell does not support pen input (in the form of an active stylus), which is a critical factor for many.
By mypointis on 14 Jan 2014
Lovely bit of kit
We bought an Ideapad to use in our business about 6 months ago and it is truly a fantastic bit of kit. Start up speed is blinding, to the point where I use it instead of the iPad and it is lovely and responsive in use. I think the ultimate accolade is that our MD who sees PCs as white goods rather than fun toys (surely not?!) tells me regularly how much she loves it.
My only concern is longevity as it is a consumer grade machine, so the Thinkpad version will be ideal as our next purchase.
By benbackhouse on 16 Jan 2014
"forthcoming Lenovo OneLink Dock"
Forthcoming? I've got one sat on my desk which I ordered last week!
By drcarrera on 16 Jan 2014
Windows 7 Support
Although Windows 7 is not listed as supported, I managed to piece it together.
Some things to note, Intel has the Intel Wifi N 7260 driver. Despite it being listed as Kona Intel Wireless on Lenovo's website. The Lenovo Transitions software and other items, you will want to dig for and find true installers for those. In Windows 7 Ultimate, the transitions software does not auto rotate. Using the ctrl+alt+direction key combination from windows will change the orientation manually. There is a utility called Double Driver, that will back up all of the drivers to an external source. I would suggest doing this before trying to install Windows 7 to the Yoga. You will want those drivers in total later.
Next thing to get around is the UEFI boot, and using the Novo button, next to the power button on boot will get you into the BIOS. I used a combination of external DVD-ROM, USB Boot agent, and mounted an .iso version of the Windows installer to my own partition on the SSD. I then loaded up a backup .wim image of Windows, the original install disk, a copy of HBCD, and made a bootable Windows PE for the partition. All of this to ensure every possible outcome should I need to recover in the future. Once Windows 7 Ultimate was up and going, then used double driver again to backup all the drivers to my now visible backup, bootable partition.
To get this all done proper will take about 3 hours, including all the downloads for HBCD and the creation of the backup windows image (.wim file).
By ClintonKnight on 16 Jan 2014
Watermark Screen Issue
Anyone contemplating the purchase of the ThinkPad Yoga should be aware of the issue highlighted in this: http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-Edge-S-series
Lenovo is yet to acknowledge that the issue exists although they say they are investigating it.
By rmbaron on 12 Feb 2014
Surely a 360 degree flip would bring it back full cirle...
By 959ARN on 20 May 2014
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