The ThinkPad Yoga didn't blow the doors off of any synthetic tests, but certainly met their demands like any laptop with these specs should. Here's how it fared:
- Cinebench 11.5: Graphics: 16.74 FPS; CPU: 2.49 pts
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 40,541; Cloud Gate: 4215; Fire Strike: 574
- PCMark 8 Battery life: 3 hours and 6 minutes
Based on those numbers, this is more than a capable hybrid laptop, especially for this being a base configuration (aside from 802.11ac). While these results are on par with other Haswell-equipped ultrabooks, don't expect to play any serious 3D games on this machine.
As far as multitasking is concerned, I had a hard time slowing the ThinkPad Yoga down, running more than 10 Google Chrome tabs, a PDF viewer, a GIF-ridden chat app and Spotify streaming high bitrate music all at once with no noticeable sluggishness. Now that 4GB of RAM is the accepted minimum and solid state drives are growing more common every year, multitasking hangups are all but disappearing.
The ThinkPad Yoga, like most SSD-packing notebooks, boots up and launches apps almost instantaneously. And while you can leave that round of Battlefield 4 to the gaming PC or Xbox One in your den, casual games like Angry Birds will run without a hitch. Not to mention that they play like a dream on that 1080p multi-touch display.
The ThinkPad Yoga marginally outperformed the Yoga 2 Pro in the graphics department, but is specced almost identically. Expect comparable performance to what you would find on that laptop, as well as the latest MacBook Air. (However, Apple's laptops come packing Intel HD Graphics 5000.)
The ThinkPad Yoga's battery life is respectable, but nothing to write home about. The synthetic test PCMark 8 pegged this ultrabook at just 3 hours and 6 minutes, but I squeezed a more respectable 4 hours and 19 minutes of constant use in my own testing. This test involved more than 10 Google Chrome tabs, streaming high bitrate tunes from Spotify, using a chat app with plenty of GIFs flying around and manipulating several PDFs.
These times may seem short, but keep in mind that both tests were conducted at maximum brightness and on the "High performance" setting. PCMark 8 runs the notebook through a series of tasks, one at a time, including web browsing, image editing, video chatting and more with the volume muted and keyboard backlight off. My anecdotal test had the keyboard lit and the speakers set at a medium volume.
The ThinkPad Yoga should last for at least another hour or two with its screen dimmer, the keyboard backlight turned off and on a more battery-friendly power setting. Still, that's not quite up to snuff with the Yoga 2 Pro and MacBook Air, which lasted for 5 hours and 9 hours, respectively.
ThinkPad's classic mouse and keyboard
Lenovo's signature, "Lift 'n' Lock" backlit keyboard houses smooth plastic keys that offer snappy travel and zero flex. I had no issue adapting to the ThinkPad Yoga keyboard and using it for a whole day's work, which involves an obscene amount of typing. However, the backlighting was somewhat uneven on my model, especially toward the Esc key.
I've never fully appreciated the ThinkPad touchpad. Like all ThinkPad laptops, the classic amount of give is too much give for my liking, often moving the cursor as the touchpad pops back from a click. That said, the tracking on this touchpad is so smooth and accurate that it's tough to see need for that TrackPoint mouse outside of pleasing ThinkPad veterans. In comparison, the TrackPoint is clunky and inelegant.
A gorgeous, glaring display
An FHD resolution seems to be the sweet spot for Windows 8.1. Anything sharper and you start to run into problems, the Yoga 2 Pro can tell you. The 1080p panel shines at 400 nits and offers terrific viewing angles, with zero distortion even at 180 degrees. And thanks in part to font smoothing, reading text on the ThinkPad Yoga is a delight.
Unfortunately, this display doesn't do much for glare, and it's tough to look past on any kind of content that isn't on a white or yellow background. This issue is especially rough under fluorescent lighting, found in most office environments.
To the ThinkPad Yoga's benefit is how responsive and quick its display is to touch input. It was a breeze to summon the Charms menu and scrolling through web pages suffered only a few hiccups when navigating web pages, which was likely due to those pages lacking touch optimization.
Lenovo's software offering on the ThinkPad Yoga is thankfully light, but also confusing, with just a few business-focused apps and the rest seemingly aimed at consumers. (The laptop comes with a few extra third-party apps, like Kindle, AccuWeather, eBay, Skitch Touch, trials for Norton Internet Security and Nitro Pro 8, and more.) Here's a quick look at each:
- Lenovo Companion: This is a collection of suggested apps and guides either created or curated by Lenovo to get you started on your new Windows 8 laptop. It's clearly a consumer-focused experience, but on a professional laptop–odd.
- Solution Center: This desktop Windows 8 app has all sorts of diagnostic and management tools, or provides easy access to existing ones, to keep your system in good shape.
- Lenovo Settings: Here you can find access to settings for your laptop's battery, location access, camera and audio.
- QuickCast: You can broadcast the content on your device's screen to other machines running QuickCast with this app. Also, it supports file transfers, messaging and a whiteboard utility, though I see few use cases here.
- QuickControl: This beta app allows users to control their ThinkPad Yoga's cursor, projection settings and applications using a free companion Android app. Now, this definitely interesting, like feature-rich presentation pointer.
- ActiveProtection System: Always on unless you disable it, this app offers shock detection and can protect your hard drive against sudden falls. The app also detects when the device is in tablet mode, allowing for easy interaction without stopping the hard drive. A welcome feature for sure, but its utility is suspect with a largely motionless SSD.
- Lenovo Reach: This is a cloud storage service (5GB free) and file manager, password handler and app recommendation engine all in one. It could come in handy for the password handler alone.
Is it all just party around back?
Returning to the ThinkPad Yoga's three tablet-like modes, it's hard not to question their utility in the professional world. Watching videos, playing touch-controlled games, video chatting and casual web surfing all make sense in a home setting. But this is supposed to be a hybrid laptop for enterprise users. What about professional-level interactions?
With a stylus neatly tucked into the chassis, the ThinkPad Yoga seems as if it were meant for the creative professional seeking freedom from the Wacom tablet at the desk. While the stylus is accurate, it feels too light and lacks the features such a user might want, like an eraser or more inputs. More importantly, the device doesn't come with much in way of art creation or editing software, nor does it offer a dedicated GPU for such tasks.
So, outside of the occasional video meeting and presentation, what enterprise-level tasks do these modes allow for that standard laptops can't? Besides, standard ultrabooks handle these jobs just fine. Is the ThinkPad Yoga is to be a professional's sole machine, as if s/he doesn't already own a personal laptop?