There are many convertible laptops on the market, but there's only one Yoga. Lenovo's latest entry in the series, the IdeaPad Yoga 2 13 (starting at $899), offers extreme flexibility and functionality wrapped in an attractive black chassis. Throw in a vibrant 1080p display and an affordable price tag, and you've got a portable productivity device that can adapt to just about any situation.
In terms of design, the Yoga 2 13 feels a little bit like a downgrade. While the original Yoga was completely swathed in a luxurious, silver, soft-touch finish, the latest rendition sports a plastic, black-matte lid, which looks nice but isn't nearly as satisfying to hold. We recommend the clementine-orange version for those looking for a splash of color.
The Yoga 2 13's lid offers a raised, chrome, diamond-cut Lenovo logo for a bit of flourish. The edges of the emblem are a little rough, so you'll want to watch how you handle it. The laptop's pair of sturdy, silver, aluminum hinges inspire confidence.
The laptop's interior is coated with a black, soft-touch finish, which isn't visually exciting but felt good under our palms. The keyboard resides in a small recess at the top of the deck above the touchpad. There are no physical buttons on the deck; Lenovo placed them along the notebook's sides.
Weighing 3.6 pounds, the 13 x 8.71 x 0.68-inch Yoga 2 13 is a little on the heavy side compared to the HP Spectre 13t-3000 (3.3 pounds, 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.59 inches) and HP Dell XPS 12 (3.2 pounds, 12.48 x 8.46 x 0.59~0.79 inches).
If Yoga's in the name, it's a safe bet you're going to see some multimode action. Like the original, the Yoga 2 can fold into four modes: Notebook, Stand, Tablet and Tent. Notebook Mode is your traditional clamshell setup, whereas Tablet Mode folds the lid backward onto the lid.
Stand Mode places the keyboard under the display, which makes it usable in such tight spaces as an airplane tray. Lastly, there's Tent Mode, which turns the notebook into an upside-down V. This mode can come in handy for accessing recipes while cooking.
In practice, the screen has about a second of lag when switching between modes. That often left us waiting for the display to reorient itself after we'd already finished turning the device.
We continue to be fans of multimode, but we wish the Yoga 2 13 had an elevating keyboard base similar to the one on the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga. Because the Yoga 2 13's keys don't retract, they're somewhat of a distraction in Tablet Mode.
What good is a notebook that morphs if there are no good apps to take advantage of its versatility? Lenovo's Yoga Picks utility highlights apps that it thinks would be beneficial to users, and tailors its selections based on the Yoga 2's mode.
When you switch modes, a small notification appears in the top corner of the screen. Clicking the message opens the app, which offers a series of downloadable apps and games from the Pokki.com app store.
In Stand Mode, Yoga Picks recommended Music Maker Jam, "Einstein Brain Trainer," Book HD, SoundCloud and "Chimpact." When we switched to Tent Mode, the app offered RaRa, MTV, Vevo, Spotify, CNN and Vyclone.
In Tablet Mode, Yahoo Weather and StumbleUpon are recommended, as well as games featured on the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27 and the Lenovo IdeaCentre Flex 20, such as "Lenovo Roulette," "Chess," "Lenovo Air Hockey," and "Lenovo Tycoon."
Laptop Mode recommendations include Twitch, MapQuest, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Package Tracker and casual game "Duolingo."
While Yoga Picks is a good idea, we wish Lenovo would take the next step and allow you to launch apps instead of just downloading them. Once you've installed the apps that you want from Pokki's app store, Yoga Picks quickly loses its usefulness.
The Yoga 2's 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080-pixel panel delivers vibrant color with sharp details and wide viewing angles. We were mesmerized by the 1080p "Lucy" trailer; Scarlett Johansson's hazel eyes quickly cycled between eyes from the animal kingdom in a flash of red, amber and lime green. Details were sharp enough to show tousled, wavy strands of the actress's wavy blond hair as they framed her sweaty, blood-splattered face.
Viewing angles were excellent, and retained the screen's color and vibrancy in each of the four modes. The panel easily accommodated three people. Despite its vividness, the display registered a dim 239 lux on our light meter, failing to meet the 265-lux ultraportable category average. The HP Spectre 13t hit 254 lux, while the Dell XPS 12 averaged 259 lux.
We found the 10-point touch screen very responsive; it allowed us to quickly launch apps, pinch to zoom and swipe between apps.
Touch isn't the only way to control the IdeaPad Yoga. For those who want a more hands-off approach, the Lenovo Motion application uses the Yoga's webcam to interpret gestures.
Once the software had been enabled, the webcam switched on and followed our hand movements. According to Lenovo, the app operates from a distance of between 11.8 inches and 4 feet 11 inches. We found the software was most responsive when we were about 1.5 feet away.
The Lenovo Motion application works in tandem with software such as PowerPoint, Windows Photo Viewer and Yoga Chef. For example, we scrolled through photos and slides with a simple wave of the hand. We also made a thumbs-up gesture to pause and resume videos or slideshows.
When we viewed images, we held one fist up to zoom in or out. Once we became comfortable with the commands, we found that Lenovo Motion was quick and accurate. We preferred using the software in Stand Mode to flip through photos and watch movies. It is one of the better examples of motion-control software we've had the pleasure of using this year.
Despite the assist from Dolby's Home Theater v4 software, the small speakers on either side of the Yoga 2 13 could not fill our small testing space. Drake's vocal on "Hold On We're Going Home" sounded hollow and was nearly overwhelmed by the pronounced echo effect. The bass was practically nonexistent on Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle."
The notebook failed to impress on the Laptop Mag Audio Test, hitting a steady 77 decibels at a distance of 23 inches. That's well below the Spectre 13t and category average of 84 dB. The XPS 12 measured 83 dB.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Yoga 2 13 features Lenovo's AccuType keyboard, with its characteristic smile-shaped keys. The keys are well spaced, but some --such as the right Tab, Caps Lock, Backspace and right Shift keys -- are smaller than we would have liked. We took particular issue with the Backspace key, as we found ourselves constantly pressing the Home key instead. Still, the keyboard was fairly comfortable, and it provided snappy feedback.
The keyboard's vertical travel of 1 mm is less than the normal 1.5 to 2-mm range for notebooks. As a result, we had to exercise more force than usual as we typed. Still, when we took the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we achieved 55 words per minute, which is on a par with our usual score.
The 3.5 x 2.4-inch Synaptics touchpad delivered snappy feedback along the corners, with fluid multitouch gesture support.
After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the laptop's touchpad measured a cool 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys was warmer, at 84 degrees, but still well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. However, the notebook's undercarriage registered 103 degrees. Despite the high temperature, we comfortably used the device in our lap for over an hour.
Video and stills captured with the 720p webcam and the preinstalled Windows webcam software were grainy and dark. In natural and fluorescent light settings, our skin tone appeared darker than usual, as did our mustard-colored sweater.
We saw similar results when we switched to the Lenovo Camera Man software. However, we appreciated the various frames and effects to spruce up an otherwise forgettable shot. Our favorite feature of Camera Man is the ability to use Lenovo Voice Command to snap a shot with a simple "One, two, three -- cheese."
The webcam can also be used as a security measure with Lenovo's VeriFace Pro software. When enabled, VeriFace snaps your picture to be used for subsequent logins on the laptop. After registering your face, you can use facial recognition instead of a traditional password.
Befitting its role as a hybrid device, the Yoga 2 13's right side holds the buttons for power, volume, rotation lock and Novo, Lenovo's OneKey Recovery software. A USB 3.0 port and a mini-HDMI port are also located on the laptop's right. The left side contains a USB 2.0 port, an SD Card slot, a combination microphone/headphone jack and a proprietary power port.
The Yoga 2 12's 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor with 4GB of RAM offers solid performance for multitaskers. For instance, the system successfully streamed an episode of "Attack on Titan" on Netflix with eight open tabs in Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox -- all while running a system scan. However, the system fell flat in various benchmark tests.
When we ran PCMark 7, the notebook scored 2,939, well below the 4,112 ultraportable category average. The HP Spectre 13t, which also uses a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, hit 4,806. The Dell XPS Intel Core i5-4200U CPU has a 2.6-GHz clock speed, which helped it notch 5,011. To be fair, each of these competing systems have solid-state drives (SSDs), whereas the Yoga 2 has a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive and a 16GB SSD cache, which accounts for the notable difference in performance.
On the Boot Test, the Yoga 2 13 started Windows 8.1 in 15 seconds, which is a little slower than the 11-second average. The XPS 12 and Spectre 13t booted in 10 seconds.
The Yoga 2 13 duplicated 4.97GB of mixed media files in 2 minutes and 47 seconds. That translates into a 30.5 MBps transfer rate, which is nowhere near the 133 MBps average. The Spectre 13t and XPS 12 scored 159 MBps.
When we ran the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the Yoga 2 13 paired 20,000 names and addresses in 5 minutes and 14 seconds. That's much faster than the 7:19 category average, and on a par with the Spectre 13t (5:30), XPS 12 (5:12) and Surface Pro 2 (5:11).
With an Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU, the Yoga 2 13 has enough oomph for playing some mainstream games. When we ran the "World of Warcraft" benchmark, the Yoga 2 13's frame rate was 31 frames per second on Autodetect at 1920 x 1080p. That's just shy of the 34-fps category average, but enough to beat the Spectre 13t (28 fps) and XPS 12 (29 fps).
On maximum settings, the Yoga 2 13's frame rate dropped to 17 fps, which is just below the 18-fps average.
On the 3DMark Ice Storm benchmark, the Yoga 2 13 scored 38,973, topping the 20,333 ultraportable category average. It also beat the HP Spectre 13t's Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU score of 24,835.
If you're looking for a laptop-tablet hybrid that can last, you'll have to dial down the brightness. The Lenovo Yoga 2 13 lasted 5 hours and 31 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness).
The Yoga 2 was tested using the updated Battery Test, where the brightness is set to 100 nits. In the case of the Yoga 2, this was 80 percent brightness. On our previous version of the battery test, we set the brightness to 40 percent; at these settings, the HP Spectre 13t and Dell XPS 12 posted times of 9:04 and 9:24, respectively.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo Companion helps new users by including the Getting Started Guide, App Showcase and other helpful links. Lenovo Support provides links to a User Guide, Hints and Tips, Knowledge Base, and Discussion Forum. OneKey Recovery System allows you to create a backup image file of your hard drive in case of a crash.
The laptop also ships with a few Lenovo applications designed specifically for the Yoga line of laptops. Yoga Phone Companion syncs with your phone, and lets you text and place calls using your PC, share the contents of your PC via SMS and display your phone's files on your PC.
With Yoga Photo Touch, you can edit photos, add digital frames, create collages and insert text bubbles. Yoga Chef serves as a recipe repository and lets you use voice commands to navigate the cooking instructions if your hands are covered in food.
Third-party apps include AccuWeather, Zinio Reader, Evernote Touch, Kindle, Nitro 8 PDF reader, and 90-day trials of Absolute Data Protect and McAfee Central.
Our $899 configuration of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 13 is a Best Buy exclusive and comes equipped with a 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor with 4GB of RAM; a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 16GB SSD; and an Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU. For an additional $150, you can get 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Lenovo also has a $1,049 setup with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-4500U; 8GB of RAM; a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 16GB SSD; and an Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU.
With the $899 IdeaPad Yoga 2 13, Lenovo continues to evolve its winning hybrid. You get a vivid 1080p display and a host of preinstalled apps to enhance and complement each of the notebook's modes. However, below-average performance and somewhat short battery life keep the Yoga 2 13 from earning a higher rating.
Consumers looking for an equally portable convertible should check out the Dell XPS 12, which has a unique flip-display design and offers better performance -- albeit for $300 more. Overall, though, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 13 is a very good choice for consumers who want a mid-level machine that offers extreme flexibility.