Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 gives a whole new meaning to the phrase flexible budget. Priced at $499, this Best Buy exclusive offers the 360-degree, bendable hinge of the Yoga series without killing your wallet. While its Intel Celeron processor and integrated graphics aren't the most powerful, the Yoga 2 11 has everything you need for surfing the Web, watching video and keeping up with Facebook and Twitter. Not bad for a system this affordable.
The Yoga 2 11 retains most of the elegance of the previous Yoga 11 models. However, in an effort to keep costs down, the Yoga 2 11's black chassis lacks the soft-touch finish we loved on other Yogas. Consumers looking for a splash of color can also get the laptop in Clementine Orange or Light Silver.
The plastic exterior is highly susceptible to fingerprints and smudges, so you'll want to keep a cleaning rag handy. The chrome Lenovo logo in the top right corner looks somewhat cheap, making the overall presentation appear chintzy. Fortunately, Lenovo kept the strong aluminum 360 hinges that are the Yoga series claim to fame.
Although they both weigh 2.8 pounds, the 11.7 x 8.12 x 0.67-inch Yoga 2 11 is slimmer than the 11.2 x 8.2 x 0.9-inch Toshiba Satellite NB15t. The ASUS Transformer Book T100 (1.2 pounds, 10.4 x 6.7 x 0.41 inches) is a featherweight by comparison, but its dimensions grow to 2.4 pounds, 10.4 x 6.7 x 0.93 inches when combined with its keyboard dock.
Click to EnlargeIf Yoga's in the name, it's safe to assume 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 11 had an elevating keyboard base similar to the one on the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga. Because the Yoga 2 11's keys don't retract, they were somewhat of a distraction when we held the device in Tablet Mode.
Click to EnlargeWhat 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 modes.
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.
When we switched to Stand Mode, Yoga Picks recommended Music Maker Jam, Outlook, IMDB, SoundCloud and "Chimpact." When we switched to Tent Mode, the app offered RaRa, MTV, Vevo, Spotify, CNN and Vyclone.
In Tablet Mode, the software recommended Yahoo Weather and StumbleUpon, 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.
Click to EnlargeThe Yoga 2 11 delivers vivid color with crisp detail on its 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 touch screen. The 1080p trailer of "Cuban Fury" was alive with color as dancers in bold blues, yellows and purples twisted and shimmied across the dance floor. Details were sharp enough to catch the sparkle of red rhinestones and the gentle sheen of the main character's rose sateen dress shirt.
Viewing angles were excellent and retained the screen's color and vibrancy in each of the four modes and easily accommodated two people. The display registered a bright 348 lux (342 nits) on our light meter, beating the 265 lux ultraportable category average. The T100 and NB15t hit 204 and 135 lux, respectively.
We found the 10-point touch screen very responsive; it allowed us to quickly launch apps, pinch to zoom and swipe between apps.
The Yoga 2 11 displayed only 68 percent of the sRGB gamut on our color test, which is better than the 67 percent ultraportable average and the NB15t's 61 percent. Color reproduction wasn't as accurate as we would have liked; the Yoga 2 11's Delta-E score of 6.6 is lower than the category average of 7 (lower scores are better, with 0 being perfectly accurate). The NB15t was somewhat more accurate with a score of 5.
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 we enabled the software, 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 slide shows.
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.
This petite laptop has an even smaller voice. The Yoga 2 11's bottom-mounted speakers failed to 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."
On the Laptop Mag Audio Test, the laptop hit 83 decibels at a distance of 23 inches. That's just below the NB15t and category average of 84 dB.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeThe Yoga 2 11's keyboard might be AccuType in name, but not in practice. The island-style keyboard has the well-spaced, smile-shaped keys we've come to associate with Lenovo keyboards. But with only 1mm of vertical travel, as opposed to the typical 1.5-2mm for notebooks, typing on the keys was like repeatedly pressing down on a rock.
To make matters worse, there's considerable flex in the keyboard deck, making the keyboard more uncomfortable when used. We scored 50 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, which is below our 55 wpm average.
We had a better time with the 3.5 x 2.4-inch Synaptics touchpad, which delivered quick, fluid action as we performed multitouch gestures such as pinch-zoom, three-finger swipe and summoning the Charms menu. The bottom corners of the pad were a little mushy but ably did their duty as right and left mouse buttons.
Click to EnlargeThe Yoga 2 11's touchpad measured 84 degrees Fahrenheit after streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes. The space between the G and H keys registered 92 degrees, a few degrees shy of our 95-degree comfort threshold. The bottom of the laptop posted a temperature of 101 degrees, but we still used the notebook comfortably in our lap for more than an hour.
Click to EnlargeVideo and stills captured with the 720p webcam and the preinstalled Windows webcam had good color, but lacked definition. Our chocolate skin tone looked nice and warm in both natural and fluorescent lighting. The camera also did a good job capturing the red stripes in our co-worker's plaid shirt.
Our test shots were grainy almost to the point where it appeared we had on a photo effect. Our co-worker's hair was reduced to a brownish blob, while our locks were reduced to long, stringy blurs.
We saw similar results when we switched to the Lenovo Camera Man software. However, the software incorporates various frames and effects to add a little pizzazz to your photos. 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.
Click to EnlargeButtons for power, volume, rotation lock and Novo, Lenovo's OneKey Recovery software can be found on the Yoga 2 11's right. 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.
Click to EnlargeIt's not the most powerful notebook on the block, but it gets the job done. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 is equipped with a 2.16-GHz Intel Pentium N3520 CPU with 4GB of RAM, which can handle moderate to light productivity tasks with relative ease. The notebook streamed an episode of "Young Justice" with six open tabs in Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome while running a full system scan.
The Yoga 2 11 got 1,865 on the PCMark7 benchmark, which is far short of the 4,112 ultraportable category average--which, to be fair, is mainly comprised of notebooks that cost upward of $1,000, and have SSDs and faster processors. The ASUS Transformer Book T100 and its 1.3-GHz Intel Atom Z3740 CPU notched 2,338, while the Toshiba Satellite NB15t (2.0-GHz Intel Celeron N2810 CPU) posted 1,458.
On the File Transfer Test, the Yoga 2 11's 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive duplicated 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 2 minutes and 14 seconds, a transfer rate of 38MBps. That's far below the 133MBps average, but better than the T100 (64GB Flash Memory) and NB15t (500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive), which gave us 25 and 24MBps, respectively.
We booted Windows 8.1 on the Yoga in 17, seconds matching the T100, but missing the 15-second ultraportable average. The NB15t was only a couple seconds behind at 19 seconds.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Yoga 2 11 matched 20,000 names and addresses in 16 minutes and 19 seconds, noticeably slower than the 14:07 average. That's better, however, than either the NB15t or T100, which posted times of 18:57 and 20:48, respectively.
Click to EnlargeLike its processor, the IdeaPad Yoga 2 11's Intel HD Graphics GPU isn't built for heavy lifting. You won't have the oomph needed to play "World of Warcraft," but you can definitely play "Angry Birds," "Duolingo" or "Lenovo Air Hockey" to your heart's content.
When we ran the 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme test, the Yoga 2 11 scored 12,745. That's below the 20,333 ultraportable average, but much better than the Toshiba Satellite NB15t and the ASUS Transformer Book T100, which notched scores of 6,141 and 9,710, respectively.
During the "World of Warcraft" benchmark, the IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 achieved 20 fps at 1366 x 768 on autodetect. That's lower than the 34 fps average, as well as our 30 fps playability threshold, but it's better than the NB15t and T100, which hit 12 and 19 fps.
After continuously surfing the Web over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 lasted 5 hours and 19 minutes. That's well below the 7:54 ultraportable average.
We evaluated the Yoga 2 11 using the updated Laptop Mag Battery Test, in which we surf the Web continuously over Wi-Fi with the screen brightness set to 100 nits. In this case, it was a brightness of 28 percent.
On our previous version of the battery test, we set the brightness to 40 percent across the board; at these settings, the Toshiba Satellite NB15t and the ASUS Transformer Book T100 posted times of 4:07 and 9:19, respectively.
Software and Warranty
Click to EnlargeLenovo 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 with 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.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 comes with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty. See how Lenovo fared in our Best & Worst Brands Report and Tech Support Showdown.
Our $499 review unit is exclusive to Best Buy and features a 2.16-GHz Intel Pentium N3520 CPU with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive and an Intel HD Graphics GPU.
Lenovo also offers a $599 version has a 2.42-GHz Intel Pentium N3520 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive, a 16GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics. A $649 configuration has a 2-GHz Intel Celeron processor N2920, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5,400-rpm hard drive.
The $749 model has a 2.42-GHz Intel Pentium N3520 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB SSHD and a 16GB SSD.
Click to EnlargeThey say you can't have it all, but the sub-$500 Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 comes close. For $499, you get a laptop with a bright, vibrant display and the Yoga line's extreme versatility and portability. Consumers looking for even more versatility should check out the ASUS Transformer Book T100, which has a detachable keyboard. While we wish the Yoga 2 11 offered a better typing experience and greater endurance, it's a good choice for budget-conscious shoppers interested in a 2-in-1 laptop-tablet hybrid.