Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 Convertible Notebook Review: The Power of Low Power
Introduction and Design
As headlines mount championing the supposed shift toward tablets for the average consumer, PC manufacturers continue to devise clever hybrid solutions to try and lure those who are on the fence toward more traditional machines. Along with last year’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 and ThinkPad Twist, Lenovo shortly thereafter launched the smallest of the bunch, an 11.6” convertible tablet PC with a 5-point touch 720p IPS display.
Unlike its newer, more powerful counterpart, the Yoga 11S, it runs Windows RT and features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core system on a chip (SoC). There are pros and cons to this configuration in contrast to the 11S. For starters, the lower-voltage, fanless design of the 11 guarantees superior battery life (something which we’ll cover in detail in just a bit). It’s also consequently (slightly) smaller and lighter than the 11S, which gains a hair on height and weighs around a quarter pound more. But, as you’re probably aware, Windows RT also doesn’t qualify as a fully-functional version of Windows—and, in fact, the Yoga 11’s versatility is constrained by the relatively meager selection of apps available on the Windows Store. The other obvious difference is architecture and chipset, where the Yoga 11’s phone- and tablet-grade ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 is replaced on the 11S by Intel Core Ivy Bridge ULV processors.
But let’s forget about that for a moment. What it all boils down to is that these two machines, while similar in terms of design, are different enough (both in terms of specs and price) to warrant a choice between them based on your intended use. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 configuration we reviewed can currently be found for around $570 at retailers such as Amazon and Newegg. In terms of its innards:
If it looks an awful lot like the specs of your latest smartphone, that’s probably because it is. The Yoga 11 banks on the fact that such ARM-based SoCs have become powerful enough to run a modern personal computer comfortably—and by combining the strengths of an efficient, low-power chipset with the body of a notebook, it reaps benefits from both categories. Of course, there are trade-offs involved, starting with the 2 GB memory ceiling of the chipset and extending to the aforementioned limitations of Windows RT. So the ultimate question is, once those trade-offs are considered, is the Yoga 11 still worth the investment?
The IdeaPad Yoga 11’s exterior is smooth and sleek. It’s available in multiple colors, but our matte silver model looks great. Unlike the bright orange option, its exterior is quite plain and understated, with merely a shiny Lenovo logo in the corner of the lid breaking up the soft-touch rubberized coating.
The Yoga earns its name from its ability to rotate the screen backwards and underneath 360-degrees to convert seamlessly between notebook and tablet. Once the screen breaches the 180-degree mark, the keyboard and touchpad are automatically deactivated so that erroneous input does not become a problem. Meanwhile, strategically-placed magnets keep the screen in place so that it doesn’t dislodge in the midst of tablet mode.
To be clear, this means that the upper part of the base unit (including the keyboard and touchpad) actually faces outward on the back of the unit while it’s being operated as a tablet. In order to accommodate this, the keys are recessed beneath a shelf that surrounds the keyboard with a rubbery textured coating. This coating also serves to hold the tablet in place while resting on a surface, which is nice.
To keep the price and weight reasonable, some concessions had to be made in terms of construction materials—so practically the entire body is comprised of plastic. That’s excluding the large, reassuring metal hinges, which fortunately seem well-equipped to handle countless conversions between tablet and notebook mode. Regardless, even in spite of the plastic construction, the Yoga 11 feels surprisingly solid and comes off as high-quality—perhaps even moreso than its ThinkPad Edge-branded brother, the ThinkPad Twist. The only point of concern is the display lid, which yields to pressure and twisting relatively easily. Well, and perhaps the display coating, which is an unspecified plastic.
Finally, as far as port selection and spacing is concerned: the notebook’s two USB 2.0 ports, headset port, HDMI out, and SD card reader trump that of most tablets, but thanks primarily to the slim casing, there isn’t any room for other conventional laptop ports, such as VGA or Ethernet.
The ports are also located a mere 1/8” from the base of the notebook, which means some larger USB devices end up lifting it off the surface.