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Microsoft Surface Pro 2 vs. Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Comparison Smackdown


Posted December 13, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

So different, yet so alike. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga are Windows 8.1 Intel Haswell Core machines with smaller than average form factors and an active Wacom digitizer. The Wacom pen is standard on the Surface Pro 2 and optional on the ThinkPad Yoga. Both run clean software builds with little (Yoga) to no (Surface Pro 2) bloat and are fast. The big differences? Size and form factor. The Surface Pro 2 is a 10.6" tablet and the ThinkPad Yoga is a 12.5" Ultrabook. But both have the power of an Ultrabook and run on the same Intel Core i5-4200U CPU with 4 or 8 gigs of RAM and Intel HD 4400 graphics. Both are available with manufacturer brand docks to make desktop use easy. So how do you choose?

Lenovo Thinkpad yoga and ms surface pro 2

Do you Want a Tablet First, or an Ultrabook?

The ThinkPad Yoga with its 360 degree hinge can morph into a tablet, but it's a 3.5 lb. tablet. That's too heavy to hold for long and it's best used on a desk or resting on your legs. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is first and foremost a tablet that's significantly smaller and lighter at 2 pounds. Yes, Surface Pro 2 is heavy compared to the iPad Air, but among full Windows machines, especially 10" and bigger Intel Core i5 machines, it's a featherweight. It's great for note taking and digital drawing as a result. Now some might like the Yoga's larger canvas for drawing and painting, and that's a matter of personal preference. Personally, I'd rather hold my digital canvas comfortably on my lap or in the crook of my arm, so I pick the Surface Pro 2 for digital artwork.

The Surface Pro 2's best friends are the Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2. These $120/$130 optional backlit keyboards also act as screen covers, and they're surprisingly decent to type on. Lenovo's excellent ThinkPad Yoga shows up the Type Cover 2 with its moving keys as well as the Touch Cover 2. The Yoga's keyboard is larger and more tactile. Sure, you can use a USB or Bluetooth keyboard with Surface Pro 2, but that means more things to carry with you.

If you type buckets of words each week, you'll likely be more enchanted by the ThinkPad Yoga, unless you do most of that typing at your desk with a full size USB or Bluetooth keyboard. If you want something supremely portable yet powerful, then MS Surface Pro 2 is your machine.

Winner: this depends on your needs

Wacom Pen

Not all ThinkPad Yoga models have the Wacom digitizer and pen. Currently you can only get the pen-equipped model direct from Lenovo's website. Other retailers sell the pen-less version that lacks the required active digitizer. All Surface Pro 2 (and original Surface Pro) models have a Wacom digitizer and pen. They both use the same Wacom tablet PC technology and you can download Wacom Feel drivers for pressure sensitivity in WinTab programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Modern Window Ink API programs like OneNote 2013 and ArtRage require no additional drivers for pressure sensitivity.

The pen works equally well on these machines with good corner tracking (after calibration), little pen latency and reasonable accuracy in tip location relative to the glass. The Surface Pro 2 comes with a larger and nicer pen, while the ThinkPad Yoga has a small, skinny pen that lives in a silo. Surface Pro 2's pen attaches to the outside via the magnetic charging connector. You can interchange pens between these models.

Winner: Tie


Deals and Shopping:


Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Comparison Smackdown Video


Horsepower, Upgrade and Options

You're looking at the same 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U dual core 4th generation Haswell CPU with Intel HD 4400 graphics on both machines. Both are available with 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM that's soldered to the motherboard and is not upgradable. Both are available with 128, 256 and even 512 gig SSDs. (only Surface Pro 2 has the 512 gig option right now). Depending on your region, a 500 gig HDD with small caching SSD is optional on the ThinkPad Yoga. The drive is much easier to upgrade on the ThinkPad Yoga since it's a standard 2.5", 7mm height SATA3 drive. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 uses an mSATA SSD, but Surface Pro 2 is nearly impossible to open for upgrades. The wireless card is also easy to upgrade on the Lenovo.

Lenovo offers several CPU choices (2 Core i5 and 2 Core i7 options), so for those of you who crave maximum CPU specs, Lenovo has an advantage.

Winner: Lenovo for better upgradability and more CPU options (base model Yoga performs the same as the Surface Pro 2).

Lenovo Thinkpad yoga and ms surface pro 2

Battery Life

These two Windows 8.1 portables have similar battery capacity, and the battery is sealed inside on each. You can actually access the Lenovo battery simply by unscrewing several Phillips head screws on the bottom cover, while it involves major surgery on the MS Surface Pro 2. Battery life is similar on the Yoga and Surface Pro 2, with the Yoga giving a bit more stamina if you use energy miser power settings and drop brightness way down (7.5- 8 hours). The Surface Pro 2 typically runs 6 hours on a charge, while the ThinkPad Yoga provides 6.5 hours (both set to default balanced power management and brightness set to 60% with WiFi on). The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 can stretch to 7 hours with brightness dropped to 20% and power management set to its most aggressive setting.

Winner: close enough to call a tie with factory power management settings.


Both have full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS displays with Gorilla Glass. Obviously, pixel density will be higher on the Surface Pro 2 since it packs those pixels into a smaller space. Both have around 50% of Adobe RGB color gamut, high contrast and high brightness (390 nits for MS Surface Pro 2 and 404 for the ThinkPad Yoga). The ThinkPad Yoga touch-only model has a glossy display, as does MS Surface Pro 2. The Wacom Yoga has an anti-glare (almost matte) anti-reflective coating that produces significantly less glare.

Winner: tie.


Pricing: Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with Intel Core i5, 4 gigs RAM and 128 gig SSD is $999 + $120 to $130 additional for the Touch Cover 2 or Type Cover 2, total= $1,120 to $1,130. Versions with 8 gigs of RAM and larger SSDs available.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga with Intel Core i5, 4 gigs RAM and 128 gig SSD is $1,299 for Wacom model ($1,199 without Wacom digitizer). Core i7, 8 gigs RAM and larger SSDs available at a higher price.


Related Reviews:

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Review

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Review



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Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Specs:

Display: 12.5" full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS screen with 10 point multi-touch and 400 nits brightness. Wacom active digitizer with reduced glare finish available direct from Lenovo's website. Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics. Has a mini HDMI port.

Battery: 4 cell, 47 Wh Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside (can be serviced if you remove the bottom panel, affixed with Phillips head screws).

Performance: 4th generation Intel Haswell ULV CPUs. Available with Intel Core i5-4200U, Core i5-4300U, Core i7-4500U and Core i7-4600U, all dual core with Turbo Boost. 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM (soldered to motherboard) and 128 or 256 gig SSD (2.5", 7mm high SATA3).

Size: 12.46 x 8.70 x 0.75 inches. Weight: 3.5 pounds.

Camera: 720p webcam and mic.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with Dolby audio, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated single band 2 x 2 Intel N-7260 WiFi 802.11b/g/n or dual band Intel 7260 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows 8.1 with the usual Lenovo device management software.

Expansion and Ports: 2 USB 3.0 ports, mini HDMI, 3.5mm combo audio, OneLink Dock port and SDXC card slot.


Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Specs:

Display: 10.6" IPS display with 10 points of multi-touch and Gorilla Glass. Resolution: 1920 x 1080. Wacom digitizer and included pen. Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics. Mini DisplayPort. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer for automatic screen rotation, magnetometer and gyroscope.

Battery: 42 Wh Lithium Ion rechargeable (sealed inside). Compact power brick with USB charging port for phones and tablets.

Performance: 1.6GHz dual core Intel Core i5-4200U (4th gen Haswell). 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM (soldered on board). 64, 128, 256 and 512 gig mSATA SSD drive.

Size: 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.53 inches. Weight: 2 pounds.

Camera: 720p webcams front and back.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with Dolby sound, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band Marvell 350N WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit. 200 gigs of Skydrive storage for two years bundled and 1 year of Skype unlimited world calling.

Expansion and Ports: 1 USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm combo audio jack and micro SDXC card slot.



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