Design, Ergonomics and Audio
It's hard to argue with Lenovo build quality and design for their ThinkPad and IdeaPad products. ThinkPads are understated and built like tanks, while IdeaPads are stylish and also use very good quality materials and attractive industrial designs that set them apart from budget products. The Yoga has rubber paint finish over its metal casing, and that makes it easy to hold onto and it resists fingerprints. As with the Yoga 13, Lenovo offers two colors: silver gray and clementine orange, though we've yet to see the cool looking orange model on sale in the US. The inside surfaces are black and the keyboard deck has a soft touch textured finish. The island style keyboard is inset so the keys don't contact the display and the trackpad is roomy for an 11.6" notebook computer.
Like the Yoga 13, the Yoga 11 has a unique 360 degree hinge. It doesn't just open flat, the display bends over backwards until it rests against the bottom section, turning the Yoga into a tablet. There's also tent mode where you open it to an upside down V with the hinge up in the air and the edges of the display and keyboard dock resting on a desk or table. When in tablet or tent mode, the keyboard faces out. That means if you're using it like a tablet, the keyboard surface rests against your hands or desk. Lenovo claims to have designed the inset keyboard to take the abuse, but just in case it feels too weird, you can buy their sleeve that covers the keyboard deck. The hinges are very sturdy and stiff, and the display doesn't bounce when you touch it.
The charging port, full size SD card slot and a USB 2.0 port are on the right, as is the rotation lock button. The full size HDMI port, another USB 2.0 port and 3.5mm combo mic-stereo headphone audio jack are on the left. There's a volume rocker on the left as well so you can change volume when the Yoga is in tablet mode with the keyboard disabled. The power button is on the front left edge and stereo speakers flank the left and right sides toward the front. Volume is sufficient to fill a small room and quality is decent, though it certainly can't compete with big notebooks with high end audio. Sound through the headphone jack is very good and the tablet works with Bluetooth headphones and speakers. Since this is a single band 2.4GHz only tablet, we noted that WiFi can interfere with Bluetooth, sometimes resulting in audio delay when watching streaming video over WiFi with Bluetooth speakers connected.
Sharp IPS Display
The Gorilla Glass, 1366 x 768 IPS gloss display is a highpoint. It's very sharp, has very good color balance and factory calibration and good contrast. It's a great tablet for viewing photos and watching movies since flesh tones look natural and colors pop. Viewing angles are very wide since this is an IPS display. Though I truly appreciate the portability of 10.1" tablets like the MS Surface, the move to 11.6" surprisingly makes for a more enjoyable and immersive experience when viewing photos and videos. The Yoga 11 works well with YouTube, Netflix and Hulu streaming video and it can play Adobe Flash.
Since this is a Tegra 3 tablet with an ARM9 mobile CPU, we can't provide our usual army of synthetic benchmarks like the Windows Experience Index or PCMark scores (those run only on Intel and AMD x86 family CPUs). The 1.4GHz Tegra 3 with 12 core GeForce graphics is certainly up to the task of running Windows RT (Microsoft chose that CPU and optimized RT for it). We have no complaints about performance and it feels very responsive in the Live Tile interface. Desktop mode is surprisingly more spritely than Intel Atom Windows 8 machines, and we suspect the GeForce is better suited to the job and the drivers may be better for the Tegra 3 vs. Intel's licensed Imagination Technologies graphics used in Atom tablets.
Games we downloaded from the Windows store, including 3D games, actually played at higher frame rates on the Tegra 3-equipped Yoga 11 than on Atom tablets like the Acer Iconia Tab W510 and Samsung ATIV 500T. The included MS Office 2013 RT (the machine ships with the preview version but Windows will update it to the full version automatically) runs quickly and smoothly, though we noted a bit of keyboard lag when typing in MS Word that becomes more noticeable as the document gets longer. This is an issue with all Tegra 3 Windows RT tablets, and we assume Microsoft will eventually offer an update that fixes the issue. MS Excel and PowerPoint don't have keyboard lag.
Windows RT vs. Windows 8
While Windows RT looks and feels exactly like Windows 8 on a laptop or desktop, it has one limitation: it only runs apps from the new Windows Store. Why? Like mobile OS tablets, RT runs on an ARM family CPU rather than the x86 CPU used in traditional Windows machines. Your Windows apps that come on CDs like Adobe Creative Suite and Autocad are compiled for Intel compatible CPUs (Intel and AMD traditional processors), so you can't install them and run them on the Yoga 11 (the bigger Yoga 13 runs on an Intel Core i5, so you can run Windows x86 apps on it). Instead you'll use the included music and video players with XBOX Live integration, the capable photo viewer and various news-centric apps for weather, sports, news and travel. There's an email client that works with MS Exchange, Google (including push), POP3 and IMAP email, a good calendar app that can sync with Google, Live and Exchange and a People app that's your contacts plus Twitter, Live and Facebook social networking rolled into one. You can download more apps including Skype, Netflix, Kindle and Nook for the Windows app store on the laptop. Currently the store has 35,000 apps available for download (both free and paid) and that number is growing very quickly.
There are two versions of IE 10 here: the Modern UI IE runs in full screen mode and offers Adobe Flash for a list of Microsoft whitelisted sites. IE 10 on the desktop looks, feels and acts like the browser you're familiar with and allows Flash on all sites. There's no QuickTime or Evernote browser plugin at this point because they'd have to be re-written to run on ARM CPUs. And there's currently no Chrome web browser for Windows RT, but as a consolation, you can change your default search engine from Bing to Google in browser add-on settings under desktop IE 10. And no, iTunes isn't available for Windows RT.
Like Windows 8 Pro machines, the tablet has both the Modern UI with Live Tiles and the Windows desktop view (very similar to Windows 7, minus the Aero Glass visual effects). Thus you can use Windows Explorer to manage files, use the same control panel you're accustomed to on PCs and use IE 10 in desktop mode (windowed rather than full screen) and access the command prompt. Some long time Windows staples are here like MS Journal and calculator but not Windows Media Player. The standard USB 2.0 port has Windows drivers for keyboards, mice, hard drives, flash drives, optical drives and game controllers like Microsoft's own wired XBOX controller for Windows. It also has printer drivers for popular printers but no drivers for USB 3G/4G dongles. Since it's Windows, support for NTFS drives is included, along with FAT32 and ExFAT.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 has a relatively beefy 4 cell Lithium Ion battery that Lenovo claims is good for up to 13 hours of actual use time. We've averaged 11.5 to 12 hours use with brightness set to 60% and WiFi active. Standby times are superb, just as with mobile OS tablets like the iPad and Android tablets. Leave it sleeping for a few days and you've still got plenty of juice with little drain over time. There's no need to shut down the Yoga 11 given the excellent standby times and we found it the perfect instant-on companion for email, web, social networking and MS Office use.
The laptop comes with a small notebook style charger rather than a compact wall wart charger and it charges very quickly. The Yoga uses Lenovo's newer style rectangular charging connector rather than the old barrel connector.
We love most everything about the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 except the price. It's a brilliantly portable, high class convertible Windows 8 tablet with the best keyboard you'll find on an 11.6" machine. The display is top notch and we don't wish for 1080p on a screen this small. The Yoga 11 is responsive and has superb battery life and standby among Windows machines. The only drawbacks? The nice bits cost money and this isn't cheap compared to mainstream laptops. Windows RT can't run Windows 7 apps, so this won't be a main computer for those who need Windows 7 apps like Adobe Photoshop or iTunes. On the bright side, it requires fewer Windows updates and is less prone to viruses and is an excellent mobile companion and second machine. Oh, it has more than twice the battery life of the Yoga 13, Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Dell XPS 12 convertible Intel Core i5 Windows 8 Ultrabooks.
List Price: starting at $699
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
MS Surface RT
Acer Iconia Tab W510
Samsung ATIV 500T
Sony Vaio Duo 11
Asus VivoBook X202