Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga review

The 13-inch IdeaPad Yoga mixes the usability of a laptop with tablet swagger

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  • 3DMark 06: 3,517
  • Cinbench 10: 8,093
  • Battery Eater 05: 177

Okay, so the Yoga is certainly not a gaming beast. But Intel's 1.70 GHz Core i5-3317U, which has two cores capable of delivering four processing threads with bursts up to 2.6GHz, outputs a surprising amount of giddy-up.

Upgrading to the faster Core i7-3517U, which runs at 1.90GHz with bursts of up to 3.0GHz and has a 4MB cache vs. the Core i5-3317's 3MB cache, will give you even more CPU kick.

The presence of the solid state drive, in conjunction with Windows 8's renewed emphasis on fast boot times pretty much results in an instant-on effect when coming out of sleep mode. And booting up the system - something you probably won't do all that much - is equally gratifying, taking less than 10 seconds.

One of the nice things about the Ultrabook specification is that it creates a consistent graphics platform. This should help negate many of the driver-oriented problems that create problems for Windows systems coming out of sleep mode.

Our only real concern is that the battery life is squarely average. In our Battery Eater test, which maxes out the system until the battery dies, we only clocked 177 minutes, which is short of the 200-minute gold standard. This said, in normal day-to-day usage, we experienced closer to six to eight hours of life, depending on the screen brightness and CPU saturation.

In real world terms, the Yoga's performance bodes well for the tablet- and mobile-inspired emphasis Windows 8 brings to bear.

In all instances across all normal and hyper-normal usage (lots of apps open, multiple browser windows, large PPT decks, multiple videos), Windows 8 felt snappy and immediate, with no lags, stutters, or delays whatsoever.

The only real exception (of course) is gaming. While the Core i5's integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip makes for fast OS operations, you won't be playing anything but retro-style games (hello, FTL!) and basic MMOs and MOBAs here. This said, for a low-powered system, a 3D Mark score of 8,100 isn't too shabby.

For a consumer laptop, there's refreshingly little bloatware installed. Also refreshing: Lenovo provides some truly helpful first-party software as well, like the presentations app named Lenovo Transition. It allows you to pre-determine which applications automatically launch in full-screen and which do not when you tilt the device.

One of our only real significant problems with the Yoga is that the touch display feels inconsistently accurate. Pinpoint touches on web pages, menus, navigation, and windows felt precise and accurate. But swipe gestures within the Windows OS - particularly those origination off-screen - felt less precise. Most of the time, OS swipes work fine, but every now and then you'll have to repeat one.

Sound quality delivered from the stereo speakers is solid - particularly at lower volume levels - but not great. No surprise there, as very few mobile PCs can boast top-notch sound.

Lenovo's Motion Control is a simplified version of Kinect that uses the Yoga's webcam to detect simple gestures to cycle through music tracks, pages of text, and more. With it activated, all you have to do is slowly swipe your hand in the air left-to-right or right-to-left to make it happen. It's pretty cool, although having the webcam on all the time will make some people nervous.

How does Windows 8 do?

Because it's a new OS, any distillation of a Windows 8 system has to include some observations about the inner workings of the operating system, particularly in regards to how it works with, enhances, or impairs the hardware side of the equation.

Because of its versatility, the Yoga is a great way to show off the powers and capabilities of Windows 8. It is essentially capable of taking on the profile of an All-in-One PC; you can just swivel the lower half of the device into stand mode, for easy listening or viewing.

In a similar manner, when you're on the couch in front of the TV, the tablet form-factor allows you to take advantage of the redesigned Internet Explorer browsing experience as well as quickly navigating between apps in the Metro UI (aforementioned touch inconsistencies notwithstanding).

Also: This is a perfect second-screen device for Xbox 360 gaming, thanks to Microsoft's SmartGlass app.

However, this same versatility also accentuates a few of the operating system's flaws. The most obvious examples are the constant transitioning between the Metro shell and the Windows 8 desktop, or the inability to quickly access the Control Panel from the desktop. The lack of the Start button on the desktop really stands out here, as does the inability to quickly access the file manager.

At a deeper level, the Yoga's flexibility makes me want the ability to easily throw what's on it onto a bigger screen, like MacBooks and iPads can via Apple TV. Unfortunately, the OS isn't there yet, but it could be very soon.

We'll stop pining away because ultimately, Windows 8 makes the Yoga better, not worse. Once more apps starting coming through, it will function even better. Honestly, this device wouldn't even exist without it.