Design and Ergonomics
When closed, the IdeaPad Yoga 13 looks much like other IdeaPad Ultrabooks like the U310 and U410, and that's a good thing because those are attractive and unique looking laptops. From the slim 0.66" thickness to the journal or book design with metal casing, this is a good looking machine that's well put together. It's available in matte gray or Lenovo's signature orange (no word on when that color will ship) with contrasting black inset sides. The interior is black with a leather-like keyboard deck that feels great under your palms. The Yoga 13 looks and feels like a premium product, as it should for the $999 starting price.
The power button and OneKey Recovery button are on the front edge rather than on the keyboard deck. Lenovo didn't do this simply to annoy you, rather this way you can access them when the Yoga is in slate mode. There's a small volume rocker on the left side near the front along with standard multimedia controls on the Fn row of the keyboard. There's a rotation lock button on the right side.
The Yoga 13 has one USB 3.0 port on the left side and one USB 2.0 port on the right side. It has a full size HDMI port, 3.5mm combo audio jack and a SD card slot. There's no wired Ethernet jack, so you'll have to use a USB Ethernet adapter if you need wired networking. The Ultrabook/tablet has a 720p webcam centered above the display and a built-in mic.
One word of caution for those of you who are looking for a convertible tablet that you'll be using frequently in slate mode: 13.3" machines that weigh 3.4 lbs. will feel bulky on the arm and heavy. You'll do better to rest it on your lap or prop it against a bent knee.
Lenovo wisely is using high quality displays with their new touchscreen Windows 8 machines. The Yoga 13 has an excellent 13.3" IPS display running at 1600 x 900. It supports 10 point multi-touch and capacitive styli like the iPad but not an active digital pen like the ThinkPad X230t, Samsung ATIV 500T or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. The resolution feels like a good match for the screen size with sharp text and images that don't look the least bit pixelated. Yes, full HD would be even sharper, but my average eyes aren't feeling the loss. The display has excellent contrast and 300 nits of brightness, which add to the pleasure.
Thanks to the sturdy and stiff dual hinges, the display doesn't wobble too much when you poke at it with a finger. Given the design you can use the computer in standard notebook position, as a slate, in tent position (neat looking but we're not sure how useful this is) or in stand mode (I personally use this frequently since I can use it as a touch screen PC with adjustable angles).
Keyboard and Trackpad
The 360 degree hinge allows for a full size keyboard, unlike slider designs. That means the Yoga 13 is great for those who spend a lot of time writing. The keyboard is typical Lenovo IdeaPad: excellent. It has great tactile feel, good key spacing and a roomy island design. Key travel is respectable given the thinness of the machine, though it can't match Lenovo's own ThinkPad keyboards for key travel and tactile feel. The only thing we miss? Backlighting. I'm not thrilled having the home, end, page up and page down keys on the right edge where they're easy to hit by accident when reaching for the enter key, but that may be a matter of personal preference.
The large glass Synaptics trackpad performs well and supports Windows 8's multi-touch gestures. Two finger scrolling is smooth and reliable, and we're thrilled that with Windows 8 and Synaptics touchpads, we're approaching MacBook levels of usability. We did note that multi-touch gestures disappeared on occasion when using Windows 7 apps in desktop mode, and we assume a driver update will fix the issue. In the meantime, a reboot revived the MIA trackpad features and the driver reconnected with the trackpad. Of course, you can simply touch the screen rather than using the trackpad. Nice to have the choice.
Performance and Horsepower
Inside, it's all classic Ultrabook with Intel third generation Ivy Bridge Core i ULV CPUs, a 128 gig SSD drive (ours has a fast Samsung PM830 drive) and Windows 8 64 bit. You can order it with 4 or 8 gigs of RAM, and our Best Buy model has 4 gigs of RAM. Like most Ultrabooks, it has capable Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics that can handle moderate Photoshop work, HD video playback and light 3D gaming (Crysis 2 not so much, but older 3D games and those that scale well for slower graphics cards are fine). In our video review, we put Left4Dead 2 through its paces and it played well. While the IdeaPad Yoga 13 lacks the computational power of the Lenovo X230 and X230t with full mobile rather than ultra low voltage CPUs, the Yoga is more than capable for MS Office, web, video playback, image editing and more.
The notebook runs fairly cool, as do most Ultrabooks. You'll feel some warmth on the bottom but nothing that surpasses human body temperature. The fan is audible when it kicks in, but it doesn't roar, and it isn't on with annoying frequency. It's by no means silent like a fan-less iPad or Android tablet or the remarkably quiet Sony Vaio Duo 11, but it's not noisy by Ultrabook standards.
PCMark07: 4417 (1.7GHz Core i5, 4 gigs RAM and 128 gig SSD)
Windows Experience Index (scale of 1.0 - 9.9):
Desktop Graphics: 4.7
Gaming Graphics: 6.2
The Yoga 13 has stereo 1 watt speakers with Dolby Home Theater v4 sound enhancement software. Sound through the speakers is loud enough by Ultrabook standards, though it sounds a bit thin and harsh at higher volumes. Sound through the headphone jack is very pleasing. The built-in mic worked well for voice dictation (a standard Windows 8 feature) in a quiet room.
Benchmark Comparison Table, Windows 8 ULV Notebooks and Tablets:
So far we haven’t seen great runtimes from Windows 8 Intel Core i CPUs with touch screens. Though Lenovo claims the 4 cell, 3860 mAh Lithium Ion battery in the Yoga 13 can go for up to 8 hours, we averaged a so-so 5 hours in a mix of moderate use that included MS Office, email, web browsing and playing a few short YouTube videos.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is one of the more eye-catching convertible tablets to commemorate Windows 8's launch. It has all the features we like from the IdeaPad U line (slimness, a classy chassis and very good keyboard) paired with a sharp and bright 1600 x 900 IPS touch screen. The Yoga is quick and responsive thanks to the SSD drive and Windows 8's spritely performance. The only thing we don't like about the novel design is that they keyboard faces out in all but standard laptop position. Lenovo does sell a $40 Slot-in cover that protects the keyboard, but it really should be included.
Price: Starting at $999
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