Lenovo can be quite playful with its computers, and has come up with some good designs before, but in the Yoga 2 Pro, it’s showing us that laptops can act like more computers than just the lunch box variety we’re all used to.
Not sure if you want a tablet, a laptop, or an entertainment system? Lenovo might have something for you, coming in the form of the Yoga 2 Pro, a model in the Yoga range that we once saw launched by celebrity Ashton Kutcher, who is apparently an engineer at Lenovo, or so we’re led to believe.
Unlike that computer which ran Android, the Yoga 2 Pro is a Windows machine, with Intel’s fourth-generation Core technology working away, running an Intel Core i7 4500U processor clocked at 1.8GHz and paired with 8GB RAM.
A 256GB drive works alongside this, too, and there’s an SD card slot if you’d like to read memory cards or expand the storage slightly.
Connections on Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Pro are relatively ordinary, with 802.11b/g/n catered here — no 802.11ac, we’re afraid — as well as Bluetooth 4.0, one 3.5mm headset slot, a lone microHDMI, and two USB ports, one of which is a USB 3.0 while the other is a USB 2.0 supplying charge for devices that are running out of battery life.
This is paired with a 13.3 inch screen running a resolution far greater than Full HD’s 1920×1080, with Quad HD+ (QHD+) used here, displaying 3200×1800, with several points of touch found here, too.
Speakers can be found in the laptop, as can a 720p HD webcam, with Windows 8.1 64-bit found installed, and a few programs as well.
Buttons can also be found too, with the power button sitting next to a recovery button if something goes wrong, and a rotation lock button towards the middle and sitting next to a volume rocker. And of course, there’s a keyboard — the obvious buttons on a laptop — with backlighting behind them, sitting just above a wide touchpad that is also a big button.
A power pack is found in the box, utilising Lenovo’s proprietary yet reversible plug.
With a name like Yoga, you have to expect a machine that likes to move, shifting position and adapting to different form-factors, and in this day and age, that sort of thing is now possible
These days, we want our laptops to be tablets and our tablets to be laptops, and that is precisely what the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro has been designed to act like, with a special hinge for the screen to make the computer work like a regular conventional laptop (screen perpendicular to the keyboard), screen back at an angle and standing on a desk like a tent, and even flat reproducing the usability of a tablet.
That’s the idea of the Yoga, bundling these positions into on very thin package, with a pleather finish around the keyboard and a look that exudes professionalism, though not quite to the extent of Lenovo’s IBM-inherited ThinkPad line of computers.
The aesthetics are still good here, though, with a simple black interior for the keyboard, touchpad, and the frame around it, with a silver look on the lid and undercarriage of the machine, both of which retain an almost rubberised finish that is easy to grip, so you don’t have to worry about the computer falling from your hands any time soon.
Open the machine up and switch it on, with the power button on the right edge, next to a screen lock button and a few centimetres away from a volume rocker, all of which will help when you’re using the Yoga 2 Pro like a tablet.
Within a few seconds of powering the computer on, you’ll see the 13 inch screen come to life, showing crisp colours from nearly every angle, and some excellent clarity thanks to the high DPI display, sharper than the Apple MacBook Pro 13 Retina’s display, with 276 pixels per inch for Lenovo and only 226 for Apple.
That clarity helps on this display, with the strong fuller-than-full HD res showing up in text in Windows 8.1, and helping to make things pop off the screen. Indeed, it’s even better than Toshiba’s Kirabook from last year, which was the first PC to show PC makers how it’s done, so we’re pleased to see there’s been some progress here.
On the performance side, the Yoga 2 Pro’s reliance on Intel Core i7 processors means it can handle most of what you can throw its way, with some image and video processing, regular office work, web surfing, and even the odd game here and there. At one point, we even found we could run the first “Bioshock” title, which didn’t provide the best graphics under the sun, but did manage to show the Core i7 and Intel HD4400 graphics grunt.
Performance is one part of the equation, though, because while the Yoga packs a reasonable amount of power into its fairly thin body — and it is pretty thin at 15.5mm closed — it’s also a combination device, become a hybrid tablet computer because of what the hinge can do.
We’ve seen this before in a few products, with one from HP and one from Asus, and this appears to be Lenovo’s take, with a multi-angle hinge allowing you to use the screen at various angles.
For instance, there’s the traditional lunchbox form-factor, where the screen sits perpendicular to the keyboard, and this will be what most laptop users rely on, but there’s more that you can do.
There’s also stand mode (above), where the display folds back and the underside of the machine sits where the keyboard normally would, facing up and projecting the screen out at the back.
While this mode won’t be ideal for typing, it will be useful for entertainment, such as watching a movie or letting the kids play Fruit Ninja.
Tent mode (above) is another entertainment mode, and is named because your computer sits like a tent, forming an “A” on your desk, with the screen facing you and the other side of the computer — the keyboard and undercarriage — acting as the other part of the stand and facing the keyboard out to the world.
Finally, there’s tablet mode (below), which pretty much folds the screen around to the other side and packs the machine flat, with the tablet display on one side and the keyboard on the other, which switches off and lets you use the Windows 8.1 machine as a tablet.
We’re sure there are plenty of uses here, and the modes will even be detected by an accelerometer in the machine when you set them up in each mode, chiming in with an icon and sound to tell you that yes, you are in that mode you intended to put it in.
If you don’t know about the modes, however, Lenovo bundles in a Windows 8 app to inform you about them called “Yoga Picks” which doesn’t only show you what the modes are, but offers suggestions for downloadable apps to make the best use of these modes.
A few others apps are included, too, which some will label bloatware and want to remove almost immediately, though one of them — “Yoga Chef” — held our attention for a little longer due to it being a chef app that you could talk to, saying “next page” or “previous page” to move a recipe along when it was in tent or stand mode. Likewise, the photo app “Camera Man” could let your kids have fun taking photos of themselves with different effects by saying “one, two, three, cheese” and letting the laptop fire the photo. It’s a shame the camera used here is one of such a low quality, with 720p not even registering as one megapixel — just under, in fact — making the images taken on this laptop mostly useless, even when uploaded to a social network.
As we noted before, this form factor isn’t entirely new, but Lenovo’s implementation of it feels stronger and better than versions we’ve seen prior, and the tablet mode actually feels like a tablet due to the thin edges. While it’s not a light tablet at 1.3 kilograms, it’s also a 13 inch tablet with an Intel Core i7 underneath, and that could prove useful to some people, even some of the gamers (Defense Grid, anyone?).
Over to battery life, and as usual, it’s totally dependent on what you do with the laptop, but we found an average life of 6-7 hours for regular writing, web surfing, emails, and the like, which isn’t bad for a machine this size, which seems to be about par for the course for the good Ultrabooks of the world.
Put the machine to work, and you’ll see closer to two or three hours, once again in line with typical Ultrabook performance.
Interestingly, the screen and battery work together far better than we expected, with the 3200×1800 display offering a reasonable amount of brightness and clarity, but not sucking anywhere near as much life from the system as we had anticipated, which tells us that Lenovo has done some things right in regards to building the Yoga 2 Pro.
But it hasn’t quite nailed it in all areas, and we do have a niggle with the keyboard, because while the travel is a little softer than we’re used to, the right side can be a little cramped.
While Lenovo are practically the kings of keyboard design with the ThinkPad models — technically, it’s a tie with Apple, if we’re being fair — the Lenovo Yoga doesn’t have a ThinkPad keyboard. No, it has a Lenovo keyboard, and it’s softer, smaller, cramped, with keys that have been shrunk in position and generally make your fingers feel as if you’re typing on a less impressive input device.
Maybe it’s just us: this reviewer is a lefty, and so we’re right shift reliant, but while the right shift key is normally the same size as its left-side sibling, in the Lenovo Yoga, it’s so much smaller and sits next to the up key, making you inadvertently press that up arrow more often than you’d like.
Not helping the keyboard is the shallowness of the whole thing, with 98 percent of our keystrokes going through, but the remaining two percent missing altogether, just enough to bug us.
But really, it’s that cramped keyboard size that really gets to us, and since the Yoga 11 doesn’t seem to be affected here, we’re a little bit flummoxed.
The touchpad also gets to us, because while the inclusion of a trackpad is a fantastic addition to such a high-resolution touchscreen, the one provided is so shallow, it’s often hard to register a click. It’s great if you just tap lightly, touching the pad every time instead of pushing down for the full click, but if you’re used to making that hard click, the trackpad won’t like you all that much.
One other issue you might have is the port choice, with only one of the two USB ports supporting USB 3.0, and there’s really no good reason for this. Both of these should support the faster USB 3.0 technology, with USB 2.0 now old enough to be something that a two-grand machine just doesn’t bother with.
Lenovo has some interesting ideas, and we’ve certainly seen its Yoga concept before in the form of the Ashton Kutcher released tablet, but it’s here in the Pro 2 Windows machine that the idea feels cemented and pulled off, executed better with an emphasis on usability across Windows 8.1.
If only the keyboard wasn’t cramped and shallow, because other than that, the machine is excellent, offering something thin, relatively light, and with a screen that we wish would appear on more 13 inch computers. After this display, there really is no excuse for HD only (1366×768) panels on 13 inch machines, because this is so much better quality in the same space.
We like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, but it will be one of those computers that you should really go in store and try.
Seriously, if you’re thinking about this machine, go to a store that has one, open up Notepad, and try typing a few paragraphs. If the keyboard doesn’t bother you, chances are you’ll fall in love with the rest of the machine, but if it does, we can say it’s something that does grow on you in time, but we’d still prefer to see a better version in a subsequent release. Perhaps in the next Yoga Pro, we’ll see Lenovo nail the formula altogether.