Brief Review – Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, a business-class convertible Ultrabook

ThinkPad Yoga (open and on)

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last posted, but here I am again. At this time, I will be briefly reviewing Lenovo’s new ThinkPad Yoga business-class Ultrabook. First of all, I gotta say that receiving the unit took about an entire month. Isn’t that crazy? Let’s get started!

As you may already know, Lenovo’s Yoga line of notebooks/ultrabooks are notorious for their 360-degree flipping hinge to where you can use the device in laptop mode, stand mode, tent mode, and even tablet mode. With this device, Lenovo took this feature and buffed it up into a more durable device marketed specifically towards business users. However, anyone can use the ThinkPad Yoga.

I gotta say, the way this device was packaged was questionable. The customized build was shipped from China and took roughly a month to receive. If you are someone with immediate computer needs, rethink your decision and/or order your ThinkPad Yoga in advance.

In the box, the ThinkPad Yoga is held by cardboard inserts and on the top of the inserts, the charger is held there. Package-design engineers probably designed it to be stable without any threat to the device, but it still definitely seems like a risky way to package an almost $2000 device. There is no premium boxing or anything like that, but that’s probably because this is a business-class device — not a fancy consumer-oriented model.

ThinkPad Yoga, out of the box. Chassis is made of magnesium-alloy and features zinc-alloy hinges.

ThinkPad Yoga, out of the box. Chassis is made of magnesium-alloy and features zinc-alloy hinges.

Moving on from the packaging, let’s get to the specifications of this model. As I mentioned above, this is a customized build that features the best options that Lenovo offers for this build.

The ThinkPad Yoga uses the latest Intel Haswell ULV (ultra low voltage) processors — specifically, this model is equipped with an Intel Core i7 4600U. We have 8GB of RAM soldered on board as well, so make sure to future-proof your decision with the memory since you can’t change it.

TPY_7

This build features a Haswell Intel Core i7 4600U processor with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD.

One of the most important decisions (and coolest, in my opinion at least) was getting the digitizer option on this device. The ThinkPad Yoga has two display options: touchscreen with (1366×768 resolution) or touchscreen & Wacom Digtiizer (1920×1080 FHD resolution).

If you’re getting this device and whether you need the digitizer or not, I suggest that you still opt for the pen option mainly because it comes with the FHD resolution. It’s much better than the crammed resolution of 1366×768 — especially on a 12.5″ device like the ThinkPad Yoga. More about the digitizer, this device can be equipped with a Wacom digitizer, meaning that it will be capable of reading pressure sensitivity through your digitizer pen. This is an ideal choice for this device if you’re a college student, for example, who takes notes (definitely a paper saver), an artist, or someone who annotates documents often.

The storage, when ordering your build from Lenovo, is a SSD (Solid-state drive) and you can order up to 256GB on your build. That is also the storage capacity on the build I am reviewing. This is relatively small for a business-class Ultrabook — I don’t understand why Lenovo didn’t have 512GB as an option as they do on the consumer-oriented Yoga 2 Pro. It doesn’t quite make sense. However, hope is not lost because the nice thing about the storage is that you can swap it out for your own aftermarket SSD because the SSD used on this device is a 2.5″ drive — the most commonly available SSD size as opposed to an M.2 type, perhaps.

ThinkPad Yoga (tent mode)

The ThinkPad Yoga in “tent” mode, sporting the “Lift and Lock” feature on the keyboard.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, the ThinkPad Yoga’s chassis is constructed of magnesium-alloy for durability. Accompanying this structure are also zinc-alloy hinges that are built to withstand tens of thousands of 360-degree folds, according to Lenovo. As an Ultrabook, this device is not particularly “ultrabook-thin”. It is nearly 0.7″ thick. It is also quite heavy for an Ultrabook at 3.52 pounds (1.59 kg).

Folding it back into stand mode, tent mode, or even tablet mode, this device features a relatively exclusive feature which Lenovo calls the “Lift and Lock” keyboard where the keyboard frame lifts with the keyboard keys to make the entire keyboard flat so that buttons are not pressed against your fingers or lap when using the device in any of the other modes. This is a clever feature, and the best part of it all is that there are rubber feet along the corners for when you want to lay the device on a table or desk.

Let’s take a look at the ThinkPad Yoga, opened:

ThinkPad Yoga (open)

The ThinkPad Yoga (open) featuring the infamous Trackpoint and awesome tactile keyboard.

One of the first things you might notice is the well-known Trackpoint — no surprise that it’s on this device since it’s a ThinkPad. Aside from that, the keyboard on the ThinkPad Yoga is quite impressive for an Ultrabook. It is very tactile for an Ultrabook, but I am not surprised of it’s comfort for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s a ThinkPad — a great line of tactile keyboards, and 2. It’s a thicker-than-average Ultrabook, so there’s more space (depth-wise) for key travel. It’s not the absolute best, but it’s impressive for an Ultrabook. I enjoyed typing on this device and could type for long sessions without any irritation. You’ll notice on the bottom left — the Fn being on the left and the Ctrl button right next to it instead. You can always swap the functions of those two keys if that arrangement bothers you.

The trackpad on this ThinkPad is awesome, in my opinion. It’s a controversial part of a lot of new Lenovo devices mainly because Lenovo got rid of the button part of it all. Now, it’s an entire click when you press the trackpad. The trackpad on this device is glass, and I have to say that it is too loud. I found it kind of obnoxious given that this is an Ultrabook. If I were at a library with this, I’m sure I would annoy people around me with how loud this trackpad is. However, I found these new kinds of trackpads to be rather useful. I like them, but not the noise on the ThinkPad Yoga’s trackpad.

I thought that the ThinkPad Yoga was really lacking on the port-side of things. There are too little ports for what’s supposed to be a business Ultrabook. Even though Lenovo’s OneLink Dock is a useful tool for including all of one’s essential ports in one device, it’s expensive and not necessary for everyone. It would have been a little bit better if Lenovo included a few more ports on this system.

ThinkPad Yoga (ports and pen slot)

The ThinkPad Yoga’s ports and the slot for digitizer pen (right).

The placement of the power button is definitely not for everyone. I personally did not have a hard time using it, but there are those with thick fingers that may have a hard time trying to reach for it and press it efficiently enough for constant use. The nice part, however, is that it doesn’t intrude on the design of the device. The red dot that you see on the right is the end of the digitizer pen which is nicely tucked into the slot Lenovo made for the pen to be stored. Unfortunately, the pen itself is a bit too skinny and small for heavy use like drawing or constant note-taking, but it still works fine.

TPY_6

With the specifications of this configuration of the ThinkPad Yoga in mind, using it was definitely a breeze. The machine is almost silent but will definitely begin to make noise when putting any kind of processing to work such as gaming or rendering. However, keep in mind that this is not a gaming device. Writing with the digitizer is so fluid and smooth (especially given the matte coating on the screen for an even more realistic and comforting writing experience). Using this device in tablet mode can be a bit of a headache given it’s weight, but it is definitely bearable.

If I had to point out what bothered me the most about the ThinkPad Yoga, it is the screen. Don’t get me wrong, the viewing angles are phenomenal, and the brightness is amazing — and to top it off, we even get a matte coating for an anti-glare experience which is something we don’t find on most ultrabooks. What really “does” it for me, unfortunately, is the size of the screen. The average size of ultrabooks is a 13.3″ and this device is 12.5″. Lenovo could have definitely been more generous with the screen size. It’s a shame, really. What makes it even worse is the fact that the bezel is super thick which adds to a more crammed experienced when trying to focus on the screen during long sessions of work or gaming perhaps.

As far as battery life goes on the ThinkPad Yoga, I got a solid 5 hours with the brightness setting at three-quarters of the way brightest and did casual internet browsing, word processing, and even a small gaming session as well. I think getting Lenovo’s “8 hours” will require lighter usage such as only word processing or simple web browsing. Battery life is definitely not up to par with competitor ultrabooks such as Acer’s Aspire S7, or Samsung’s ATIV Book 9 Plus.

With this review being a brief one, I unfortunately do not have any benchmarks for everyone at this time, so forgive me on that part.

Let’s get down to what the pros and cons are of the ThinkPad Yoga, from my review of the device:

Pros (+):

  • Great keyboard for an Ultrabook: Super tactile and more than decent key travel for long sessions of typing.
  • Lift and Lock feature: Keyboard flattens when folding this device into tablet-mode or other modes. Good for keeping keys from pressing against your fingers or lap.
  • Rubber feet along edges for safely placing the device flat on a desk or other surface. Also great for keeping the device stable from sliding against a tablet or desk.
  • Great viewing angles and very bright screen.
  • Minimal design — sleek and professional (some may prefer this over the consumer-oriented premium looks)
  • Metal chassis and hinges for durability
  • Can be customized with a Wacom digitizer

Cons (-):

  • Smaller-than-average screen for an Ultrabook at 12.5″
  • Thick bezel around active screen area
  • Loud trackpad
  • Heavy for an Ultrabook
  • Thicker-than-average for an Ultrabook
  • Lacking ports for a business device
  • Expensive for what you get, although some may argue you get durability with its price. As a reference, a competitive example would be Asus’ Zenbook at nearly $2000 that can get you an i7 with Iris graphics and a super high resolution.

My overall rating for the ThinkPad Yoga is a 3/5.

If only the screen was bigger (and sleeker with a thinner bezel) and the device had more ports, this could possibly be an ultimate Ultrabook. In addition to this, the time to wait for a device like this is definitely going to take longer. Order ahead of time, if you are in need of a computer soon.

I wanted to lastly note that my unit slightly creaked while opening it to flips to tablet mode. That is definitely a no-no, and I wasn’t sure if this was a manufacturing mishap, so I am leaving it out of the main body of the review. Additionally, there were some odd lines on the metal chassis that looked sort of discolored as if it happened during manufacturing.

I hope you enjoyed my brief, and written review of Lenovo’s ThinkPad Yoga. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! Stay tuned for more reviews to come.

Until next time,

Waru

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