Lenovo's enjoyed a great deal of success with their various Yoga Ultrabooks thanks to a very functional and innovative 360 degree hinge that allows you to use a Yoga as a laptop, tablet or presentation tool. The first Yoga, launched under the IdeaPad line more than a year ago is finally getting a refresh with Intel Haswell 4th generation CPUs and a display upgrade. The Lenovo Yoga 2 13 (what an awkward pairing of generational and size numbers) is the 13.3" refreshed Yoga. There's an 11" model as well with slower Intel Pentium and Celeron CPUs rather than Core CPUs, that we'll review separately.
The Yoga 2 is now the lower end product in the Yoga line, with the already released Yoga 2 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga covering the higher end. For those on a very tight budget, there's the IdeaPad Flex, which covers 270 degrees of motion rather than the Yoga's full 360. The 13" Yoga 2 starts at $899 for the 1.6GHz Core i5-4200U with 4 gigs of RAM and a spinning 500 gig HDD with small caching flash drive. For a few hundred dollars more you can upgrade to 8 gigs of RAM, an SSD drive and even a Core i7. All models have Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics.
The Yoga line may be saturated enough at this point to be confusing, but if you think of this as the budget model, you're good. Unlike other Yoga models that sported the usual Ultrabook SSD drive and a somewhat more stylish looking book cover design, the $899 Yoga 2 13 inch looks a little pedestrian in matte black plastic. For those who need a dose of style, Lenovo's inimitable Clementine Orange is still an option, and one we love.
Design and Ergonomics
Overall, the Yoga 2 looks and feels much like the first gen Yoga, but it's more obviously plastic and the edges have gentle curves rather than the angular sandwich/book cover look of the older model. The plastic casing is fairly rigid, and Lenovo does have a reputation for making durable products, particularly in the ThinkPad line. This is no squishy plasticky budget laptop; rather it's well made and put together nicely-- our comments about plastics apply to appearance rather than durability. That said, in black it's also unabashedly dull and it looks less unique than Lenovo's older U series IdeaPads and the old Yogas. To be fair, the Yoga 2 Pro isn't a looker either, and the change is more about Lenovo's streamlining of the chassis rather than cheapening things.
The 13 inch Yoga 3 is a trim 0.68" and it weighs 3.4 pounds. Though slim thanks to the redesign, that's not particularly light for a 13" Ultrabook, but convertibles do tend to weigh a bit more thanks to the beefier hinges and reinforced display area. The laptop has two USB ports, one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 (why couldn't they both be USB 3.0?). The machine has a micro HDMI port but no VGA or mini DisplayPort like some ThinkPad models. The machine has a full size SD card slot (half the card remains exposed when in the slot) and volume and power controls on the right side for convenient access in tablet, tent and presentation positions.
Like other Yoga models, the machine has two beefy hinges with 360 degree rotation so you can use the Yoga 2 as a laptop, tablet, presentation device or in tent mode. It's versatile and fairly simple with no complex hinges like some Sony models. The drawback is that the keyboard faces outward in tent, presentation and tablet modes, and the keys feel a little weird against your fingers in tablet mode. The keyboard and trackpad are automatically disabled when you rotate out of laptop mode, so you don't have to worry about spurious input. Unlike the ThinkPad Yoga, the keys don't retract and lock to ameliorate the weird feel of jiggly keys. Lenovo sells a sleeve for the keyboard section in case you hate the feeling of keys against your hands or are worried about the keyboard picking up crumbs and dust when laid on top of a table in presentation mode.
Lenovo's ThinkPad keyboards are best of breed and the IdeaPad line often isn't too far behind. The Yoga 2 13 inch AccuType keyboard is good but not superb due to limited key travel (the price we pay for the slim design). It's otherwise pleasant with smile-shaped keys that keep you in home position and nice dampening. The Synaptics buttonless trackpad is competent though not oversized as with many recent laptops.
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Lenovo Yoga 2 13 Inch Review
One of the significant changes is the display, which moves up from the original Yoga's 1600 x 900 to full HD 1920 x 1080. The old Yoga had a very good quality gloss IPS display and the new model improves things with higher color gamut. This is a PLS (an IPS-like technology with a different sub-pixel arrangement) and it has wide viewing angles and decent brightness. At 285 nits, it doesn't break any records for brightness, but it's adequate for use in well lit indoor environments. Contrast is very good at 770:1, and color gamut matches the best laptop displays on the market with 99% of sRGB and 77% of Adobe RGB. This is a multi-touch display and there is no digital pen option--for that, look at the ThinkPad Yoga.
For those wondering if they should purchase the Yoga 2 Pro instead simply for the higher resolution display, I'd say not necessarily unless you work with high resolution images in Photoshop frequently or watch 4k video. Windows programs still handle extremely high resolution display scaling unevenly, sometimes resulting in tiny menus and dialogs, while 1080p is manageable. Yes, you'll notice even finer text rendering on the Yoga 2 Pro's 3200 x 1800 display, but at 1080p and 13.3", the Yoga 2 (not Pro) also looks very sharp.
Performance and Wireless
The 5400 RPM, 500 gig standard issue drive makes the machine feel slow compared to other Ultrabooks, and unless you need gobs of internal storage, we suggest ordering it with an SSD drive. Boot times, application launch times and software installations and updates are lightning fast with SSDs. In contrast, the Yoga 2 13 inch seems to boot quickly with the help of a small on-drive solid-state cache, but though you might be greeted with the Windows 8.1 desktop/Metro UI, the machine is still loading drivers and other software and it's not ready to interact for another 20 seconds. There's another benefit to an SSD drive in a convertible that you're likely to flip from mode to mode and use as a tablet: it has no moving parts unlike an HDD that must park its heads to avoid damaging disc platters if the machine is jostled.
In terms of CPUs, the Yoga 2 13 inch offers the same range of ULV 15 watt Ultrabook Intel Core i5 and i7 4th generation CPUs with integrated Intel HD 4400 as do competitors from Lenovo and other manufacturers. Likewise it's available with the usual 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3 RAM, so the playing field and performance are even (at least when the Yoga 2 has an SSD drive). RAM is soldered on board, so you can't upgrade it yourself later. The machine has a 2.5" drive bay but the drive is an unusually slim 5mm model with a non-standard SATA connector, making do it yourself upgrades a bit challenging unless these drives become readily available from retailers. There's an M.2 slot where you can install your own SSD drive and the wireless card is socketed for upgrades (be warned that Lenovo whitelists only certain cards in BIOS, so you'll need to get an approved card if you wish to upgrade).
Lenovo uses single band WiFi 802.11n on their IdeaPad line, and it's sometimes the base option on ThinkPads. We'll continue to point out that even budget smartphones have dual band WiFi and it's time that Lenovo gets on board. The 2.4GHz single band Intel WiFi 7260N adapter is very competent, but we'd love to have 5GHz available to avoid Bluetooth and WiFi access point pollution on the 2.4Ghz band. We do however applaud Lenovo for using a 2 x 2 antenna configuration for stronger reception and greater possible max data transfer speeds. WiFi was solid in our tests on our Airport Extreme 802.11n network and range was better than average, beating out the Sony Vaio Flip 15 (also single band WiFi 802.11n) and HP Split x2. The Intel WiFi card has embedded Bluetooth 4.0. In the US, there are no NFC or 3G/4G options, but you can use a 3G/4G USB dongle, MiFi or your smartphone as a mobile hotspot.
As with most Ultrabooks, the Yoga 2's battery is sealed inside, though should it require service, removing the bottom cover isn't terribly hard. The 4060 mAh Lithium Ion battery averaged us 6 hours on a charge with moderate productivity use and 45 minutes of streaming Netflix thrown into the mix, all with brightness set to 50% (a little dim for our tastes). That's OK by Ultrabook standards and not wildly different from the Yoga 2 Pro, though it falls short of the longer running Ultrabooks with Haswell inside like the Dell XPS 12.
The $1,000 Ultrabook space is crowded, and Lenovo is tickling the underbelly with their $100 cheaper Yoga 2 13 inch model. The question is, is that enough of a price difference to make the Yoga 2 13 a slam-dunk? Probably not, but when you narrow it down to Windows 8.1 convertibles that can work both as a tablet and a laptop, it becomes more attractive because convertibles with a Core i5 generally cost more than laptops. That said, the Dell XPS 12 is often discounted at retailers to the same price and you get a sexier look, no keyboard against your fingers in tablet mode and dual band WiFi. For those who care less about the convertible nature, the HP Spectre 13 has a stunning metal casing, fast SSD drive and dual band WiFi for $999. But if you love that Yoga design and Lenovo's better than average keyboards, and the Yoga 2 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga are beyond your means, the Yoga 2 13 inch is certainly worth a serious look.
Display:13.3", full HD 1920 x 1080 PLS touch screen display (similar to IPS). Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics. Micro HDMI port.
Battery:6 cell, 50 watt hour, 4060 mAh Lithium
Performance: Intel Haswell 4th generation Core i5-4200U and i7-5400U ULV Ultrabook CPUs available. 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3 RAM (soldered on, not upgradable). 128 or 256 gig SSD or 500 gig 5400 RPM HDD with 8 or 16 gig cache.
Size:13 x 8.71 x 0.68 inches. Weight: 3.43 pounds with SSD, 3.65 lbs. with HDD.
Camera:720p webcam with mic.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
Networking:Integrated single band Intel N-7260
WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.
Expansion and Ports:1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port, micro HDMI, 3.5mm combo audio jack and
SD card slot.