Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga review
Another winner from Lenovo, with great battery life, a top screen and plenty of innovative features
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.
|Price ex VAT||£916|
|Price inc VAT||£1,100|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||6|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||316 x 220 x 21mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4200U|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|Internal disk interface||SATA 600|
|Hard disk||WD Blue|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad, trackpoint, touchscreen, stylus|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.9mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||9hr 15min|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.62|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|