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

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Cooling, Portability, and Software

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Cooling

The Yoga 11 features no cooling fans (in fact, no moving parts at all throughout), so it relies entirely on passive heat dissipation through the casing for cooling.  Luckily, it never even gets all that warm (with the warmest point being the back of the notebook near the center), so it’s not a problem at all.  Keep in mind that this also means the device is completely silent under all scenarios—and yet it still manages to stay cool.  Again, an obvious benefit of the ultra-low-voltage ARM chipset.

Portability

At under 3 pounds (roughly 2.7 to be exact) and less than an inch thick, the Yoga 11 is one of the most portable laptops around.  For most people, 11.6” will still prove to be a comfortable size for everyday usage, too.  Large-screened laptops are nice under some circumstances, but I find that many people overestimate their needs in terms of screen size.  If the screen you choose is too small, you can usually pull it closer to yourself—so there’s a lot more flexibility than with the average desktop setup.  On the flip side, it’s a bit large for a tablet, and holding it up eventually gets to be pretty tiresome—so you’ll likely find yourself leveraging the touch functionality either in standard laptop form or while resting it on a surface (where tent mode comes in handy).

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But that’s only half the story with the Yoga.  Thanks yet again to its low-power ARM architecture and fanless design, the Yoga 11’s battery life is phenomenal, even eclipsing that of most tablets.  In fact, it lasts longer on a single charge than any notebook or tablet we’ve reviewed to date, enduring an excellent 10 hours and 4 minutes under typical web browsing usage (with brightness at 7/10) and an almost unfathomable 22 hours and 12 minutes with wireless off and brightness at minimum.  In short, this device is great for someone looking to take notes in class or create documents—and it works very well for general web browsing, too.

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Software

The Yoga 11’s most significant shortcoming is its lack of compatible software.  Since Windows RT limits you to apps downloaded from the Windows Store, most of what you’re looking for probably will not be available.  As such, beyond the very basic functionality (as mentioned above), the Yoga 11 can’t really compete with the likes of a standard PC.  It likely wouldn’t suffice as the primary machine for a household, but it’s a great companion.

A nice perk is the inclusion of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview out of the box.  Don’t mistake this to be a trial version of the suite; it’s actually the full RT Office version—but since the software has not yet completed final testing, until the production version is available, it carries the Preview label.  Once the final version is released, any Windows RT devices that have the preview version installed will be automatically updated (via Windows Update) to the full version.

While it’s mostly fully-featured, the RT version still has its limitations, however.  For starters, there are no email features (and in fact Outlook RT does not exist), so you can’t choose “Send as…” or use any sort of mail merge options.  There’s also no support for Macros, Add-Ins, Forms, or Custom Programs.  For the full list of limitations and plenty of other info regarding Office RT, check out Microsoft’s page on the subject.

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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