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Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 Convertible Notebook Review: The Power of Low Power

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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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:

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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?

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 Tegra 3 notebook!!

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Design

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

June 23, 2013 | 09:35 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Hard to believe you gave it a silver award. It hardly even measures up to the under-powered atom netbooks that died a quiet death.

June 23, 2013 | 11:33 PM - Posted by Terminashunator (not verified)

MY Atom kicks ass. Runs netflix no problem, the 2/4 core processor takes a modest overclock from 1.6 to 2ghz no problem. People complaining about it much more than they should. It's not a multimedia processor, anything it does is to be taken with a grain of salt. 4 hours of netflix is just fine.

June 24, 2013 | 01:08 AM - Posted by pdjblum

Interesting. Probably better than the tegra 3 with windows rt, do you think?

June 24, 2013 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A CloverTrail Atom kills the Tegra.

June 24, 2013 | 10:02 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It is just a matter of time before some OEM takes an 8 or more core ARM 64 based CPU and pairs it more powerfull Nvidia graphics solution to compete with ATOM or Core i3!
Nvidia does not have the funds to develop such a chip by itself, but through licensing of its GPU IP to other well funded entities, ATOM will be easily defeated, and at a much lower price! A device like this, with a little more power (maybe in an 8/4 extra big.little CPU) running chrome or Linux with the 8 big 64 bit cores, each individually power gated off when not needed, and 4 little cores for standby and powersaving mobile use, and the Nvidia GPU with GPGPU general purpose compute abilities, for the more taxing video decoding/gaming functions when the device is pluged in!

June 24, 2013 | 10:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Silvermont is going to change everything...WINTEL FTW !
Hold out until early 2014 !

June 29, 2013 | 05:09 PM - Posted by Steve Schardein

This truly was a weird product to have to review. Reason being, it really isn't meant to be powerful--just versatile, portable, and unplugged.  It succeeds wildly in that realm, even though its lack of power and the constraints of the Windows RT platform limit its appeal for many users (including probably most the readers of our site).

It was a tough decision on the final award. Ultimately, as I said in the conclusion, it comes down to what you're looking for. If battery life and basic functionality is it, this might be a wonderful choice--just so long as it isn't your only PC. Based on that criteria, the silver award seems appropriate. (Quoting from a previous article explaining how we review laptops):

"The Silver Award is given to products that have strengths and an obvious appeal to certain users, but also has some flaws that could seriously turn off others. The conclusion will let you know who we think will like the laptop."

Hope you guys enjoyed the review! I appreciate the feedback. :-)

August 5, 2013 | 10:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have owned a Yoga 11 for several months. It is a cool machine and love the battery life. I have noticed that the WiFi reception is not very good versus regular notebooks and smartphones. I despise the severely limited Windows RT environment and would love to switch it for an 11S.

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