Lenovo’s been no stranger to experimentation with Windows 8, putting out lots of touchscreen devices that bridge the gap between laptop and tablet. But none have been as conventional, or as practical, as the Yoga.
At a glance, the Yoga looks like a regular laptop. The difference is that you can fold the screen all the way around until it becomes a tablet. It’s still a notebook PC above all, but at least you can get the keyboard out of the way when you just want to use the touchscreen.
The Yoga 2 Pro is an evolution of last year’s IdeaPad Yoga 13. It has a thinner and lighter chassis, measuring 0.61 inches thick and weighing just over 3 pounds, and the screen resolution has ballooned to 3200-by-1800. The Yoga 2 Pro also uses Intel‘s fourth-generation Core processors, which are more power-efficient than last year’s chips. The basic configuration, which has a Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of solid state storage, lists for $1,050, though Lenovo is currently offering a $100 discount through its website.
The original Yoga 13 was a great laptop, with a couple drawbacks: The battery life was too weak, and the design felt a little too bulky, especially for tablet use. Unfortunately, the Yoga 2 Pro introduces some new frustrations while failing to fix the shortcomings of its predecessor. It’s still a fine laptop, but it could have been so much better.
Let’s start with that 3200-by-1800 display. It’s incredible on paper, but the real-world benefit of having quadruple the pixels is hard to notice at normal viewing distances. I was never put off by the original Yoga’s resolution, and a mere boost to 1080p probably would have been enough to soothe any videophiles.
Instead, Lenovo went way overboard with screen resolution, and paid a dear price: Battery life in the Yoga 2 Pro isn’t significantly improved over last year’s model. In a typical work routine of writing, reading and researching on the web, I got about six hours of battery life at 50-percent brightness. That’s not bad for a laptop, and it’s not drastically worse than what I get from Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2, but lower screen resolutions tend to require less power. It’s sad to think about what might have been had Lenovo practiced some restraint.
The reduced weight and thickness are more obvious improvements. The new Yoga is better for toting around in a laptop bag, and the thinner design carries itself quite well. There’s a slight taper around the edges of the base, so in laptop mode the Yoga looks even svelter than it actually is.
But as a tablet, the Yoga 2 Pro still feels burdensome. Without the benefit of tapered edges, the actual thickness of the hardware reveals itself when the screen is folded all the way around, and even though it’s thinner and lighter, 13 inches is still a lot of screen for comfortable tablet use. On occasion I used the Yoga 2 Pro in “Stand” mode, with the keyboard face-down on my lap and the screen propped up at an angle, but the large screen creates a lot of ground for hands to cover. I’d love to a see a proper revamp of Lenovo’s 11-inch Yoga, but so far Lenovo has only upgraded the processor for a Best Buy-exclusive model. It’s just as heavy as the 13-inch Yoga Pro 2.
Even with negligible changes to battery life and tablet usability, the Yoga 2 Pro would still feel like a significant upgrade, if not for a few backward steps on Lenovo’s part.
Most frustrating of all is the behavior of the Yoga 2 Pro’s trackpad. It’s large enough, and smooth to the touch, but it doesn’t include any way to invert the direction of two-finger scrolling. If you hate the way some laptops scroll down the page when you slide your fingers up, you’re simply out of luck with the Yoga 2 Pro. There’s also no way to invoke a right mouse click by tapping with two fingers on the trackpad. You must physically click on the trackpad with both fingers, or click in the lower-right corner. The Yoga 2 Pro’s keyboard also doesn’t feel as solid as the original, with mushy, shallow keys that caused a lot of mistakes in my experience.
Like most Windows laptops, the Yoga 2 Pro comes with a lot of bloatware. I’m not going to single Lenovo out for what is an embarrassing industry-standard practice, but I do question Lenovo’s inclusion of an app that creates a notification and a noise every time you fold the screen into tablet or stand mode. The idea is to suggest apps for the current screen setting, but it creates a Clippy-like situation where the assistance is more obnoxious than useful. One other software niggle: The screen’s auto-brightness feature is way too aggressive, and Lenovo’s instructions for disabling it don’t appear to work.
Despite these flaws, the Yoga 2 Pro still doesn’t feel severely compromised as a laptop like some other hybrids and convertibles do. And as with last year’s model, the acrobatic touchscreen is more comfortable to use than a straight-up touch laptop. I’d still recommend it if you’re considering a laptop with a touchscreen, but it’s not the great leap forward that it should have been. With the original IdeaPad Yoga 13 selling for $849, you wouldn’t be much worse off with year-old hardware if you’re looking to save some cash.