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Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Convertible Review: Business Flexibility

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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The next candidate in our barrage of ThinkPad reviews is the ThinkPad Yoga, which, at first glance, might seem a little bit redundant.  After all, we’ve already got three current-gen Yoga models to choose from between the Yoga 2 11- and 13-inch iterations and the Yoga 2 Pro top-end selection.  What could possibly be missing?

Well, in fact, as is often the case when choosing between well-conceived notebook models, it isn’t so much about what’s missing as it is priorities.  Whereas the consumer-grade Yoga models all place portability, slimness, and aesthetics in the highest regard, the ThinkPad Yoga subscribes to a much more practical business-oriented approach, which (nearly) always instead favors function over form.  It’s a conversation we’ve had here at PC Perspective a thousand times before, but yet again, it is the core ThinkPad philosophy which separates the ThinkPad Yoga from other notebooks of its type.  Suffice it to say, in fact, that really the only reason to think of it as a Yoga at all is the unique hinge design and affiliated notebook/tablet convertibility; excepting that, this seems much closer to an X240 than anything in Lenovo’s current consumer-grade lineup.  And carrying a currently-configurable street price of around $1,595 currently, it’s positioned as such, too.

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But it isn’t beyond reproach.  Some of the same questionable decisions regarding design changes which we’ve covered in our recent ThinkPad reviews still apply to the Yoga.  For instance, the much-maligned clickpad is back, bringing with it vivid nightmares of pointer jumpiness and click fatigue that were easily the biggest complaint about the T440s and X240 we recently reviewed.  The big question today is whether these criticisms are impactful enough to disqualify the ThinkPad Yoga as a rational alternative to other ThinkPad convertibles and the consumer-grade Yoga models.  It’s a tall order, so let’s tackle it.

First up, the specs:

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While most of this list is pretty conventional, the astute might have already picked out one particular item which tops the X240 we recently reviewed: a possible 16 GB of dual-channel RAM.  The X240 was limited to just 8 GB of single-channel memory thanks to a mere single SODIMM slot.  The ThinkPad Yoga also boasts a 1080p screen with a Wacom digitizer pen—something which is clearly superior to our X240 review unit.  Sadly missing, however, are the integrated Gigabit Ethernet port and the VGA port—and the mini DisplayPort has been replaced by a mini-HDMI, which ultimately is decidedly inferior.

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Continue reading our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga!!!

Design and Portability

For starters, the Yoga’s case feels a lot closer to the X240’s than anything in the Yoga lineup, and that’s thanks to the predominantly metal hybrid construction (Magnesium and Aluminum + Polyphenylene sulfide to be specific); in contrast, previous Yoga models have all been almost entirely comprised of plastic.  The weight is also quite a bit higher, at 3.55 lbs. versus the Yoga 2 Pro’s 3.06 lbs (nearly a half pound heavier).  But that heft feels warranted when faced with the thicker display, larger hinges, and—again—the aforementioned metal.  In fact, the ThinkPad Yoga feels even sturdier overall than our X240 ever did.

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From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the philosophical differences are immediately clear: the textured palmrest has been replaced by a rigid, matte black metal that is cool to the touch—the same material which also lines the display lid—and various other functional additions have found their way into the design, such as four rubber pads around the perimeter of the top of the base unit to help stabilize the unit while it’s resting in Stand Mode or flat on a table as a tablet.  Meanwhile, the display is notably less reflective, but the bezel overall looks huge in context with the screen size (though you’ll get used to this quickly).  It’s ultimately just a lot less svelte and a whole lot more business-like, which is a plus in our book, as we’d always prefer form to follow function.

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Torsion resistance on the display lid is good, with heavy twisting required to produce any sort of LCD aberrations.  Although the hinges are enormous, they still allow the display to wobble a bit when tapped near the top, but thankfully, this is less of a concern than it was with previous Yoga models due to the semi-matte panel coating.  There’s very little flex overall in the casing, and the weaknesses we found on our X240 review unit near the touchpad and at the top of the keyboard are less pronounced on the ThinkPad Yoga.

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As for ports, the ThinkPad Yoga is almost identical to the Yoga 2 Pro; it simply exchanges one USB 2.0 port for USB 3.0, and adds OneLink docking station compatibility alongside the charging port.  As compared to the X240, on the other hand, it’s patently inferior, lacking the X240’s VGA port and Ethernet (a pretty critical omission for some business users), as well as swapping the mini-DisplayPort for a mini-HDMI.  That’s a bummer also considering the versatility of DisplayPort as compared to HDMI, the latter of which can only be converted to DVI and which can only power a single external screen.  It’s too bad, because a machine with all of these items in this size range would be a killer offering for business users.

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Lastly, maintenance is mostly in line with that of the X240, with nearly every major part accessible behind the rear panel with the exception of the keyboard (which unfortunately requires removal of the system board to access).  The Yoga 2 Pro, meanwhile, is nearly as easy to maintain, with the single caveat being Lenovo’s use of Torx screws in contrast with the ThinkPad Yoga’s standard Phillips-head.

July 29, 2014 | 06:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I've been using a TPY as my daily driver since January (CTO, 1920x1080 + digitser, i7-4500U, 8GB, 256GB sSD). The only complaints I have with it so far are:
- The pen silo is sharp-edged, so unless you insert the pen with robotic precision every time, it will inevitably become heavily scratched. Merely a cosmetic issue
- Mini-HDMI. Fuck mini-HDMI, I'd much rather have DP. It's usually docked when I'm using an external display anyway, but it means carting around an extra couple of adapters if I'm expecting to use an external display on the go
- The middle-click section of the trackpoint 'button' area CANNOT be set as a middle-click! It can be used as a 'universal scroll' button, but not to send the middle-button click command. This is frankly moronic. You can still three-finger-click with the touchpad, so I generally just use the touchpad (which I've had no issues with).
- If you leave orientation unlocked, and lift up the laptop by the side immediately after closing it, it will re-orient before it goes to sleep. this means that the next time you wake it, it will awaken in the wrong orientation, flip to the opposite orientation, then flip the the correct orientation. There's an orientation-lock button on the outside, so this is rarely an issue.
- The matte finish on the display is applied over the gorilla glass, so can scratch easily.

Other than that, it's a great laptop.

July 29, 2014 | 06:50 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I would love a 2015 version with the following alternations:
- Ditch HDMI in favor of DP
- Add Broadwell or preferably (if available) Skylake processor
- Replace the 2.5" SATA with a M.2 slot => gained room could be used for beefier cooling solution and / or battery
- Replace touchpad with a standard ThinkPad one
- If the hinges are as distracting as stated in this review: rework them ;)

I guess that would result in an almost perfect device for myself!

July 29, 2014 | 04:31 PM - Posted by Brian Hoyt (not verified)

I got a dozen or so of these and are prepping to deploy them. Some notes:
The Onelink Doc can't be used to boot from network (PXE).
You can ONLY use the Thinkpad branded USB / Ethernet to PXE.

I wish I could swap the Mini-HDMI (WHY?) with Mini-DP and / or VGA. Built in Ethernet would also be awesome.

All of the new Thinkpads have horrible touchpad. Not sure what Lenovo is thinking with them?

July 30, 2014 | 12:09 AM - Posted by Billy Buerger (not verified)

Seems like most reviews of the newer Thinkpads don't like the click pad. Where as it's not perfect, I much prefer it to the physical buttons. The physical buttons require a lot of two handed work to do click and drag and such. Where as the click pad can single hand click drag and release for either left or right click. And three finger click for middle works better than a left+right click or other options with physical buttons. I agree that the click itself feels loose and could use some tweaking. That might help with repeated clicking which is harder than with the physical buttons. But I think it's move in the right direction.

And I haven't really noticed any issues with accidental clicking or moving while typing. I think I did when I rebuilt a T431S and didn't have the most recent drivers installed. But after update it seemed fine.

Or course I understand a lot of the complaints for people who liked things the way they are. I have my things that I don't like when they are changed.

July 30, 2014 | 11:17 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yes the business will reimage this with windows 7, so why should any enterprise spend money for touch when any enterprise will use their IT department's approved system Image and Productivity software. And, there are plenty of last year's model Core i7 quad core business laptops available from the resellers, at bargain prices(New in a sealed Box), that outperform this laptop, and last year's model business laptop usually comes with discrete graphics, that OpenCL really accelerates those spreadsheets! There is nothing like Intel's last year's model core i series CPUs, that can compete with Intel's this years overpriced and under-improved "New" offerings, that is in the CPU category, graphics, and OpenCL acceleration, is better left to AMD or Nvidia.

July 31, 2014 | 07:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

enterprise
resellers

There's your answer. In an enterprise environment, it'll always be cheaper to buy new hardware and use the manufacturers warranty services, than to buy from resellers and handle repair in-house.

Besides, this isn't a mobile workstation. Comparing it to a (e.g. Wxxx series) powerhouse with a discrete GPU is apples-to-oranges. I've seen plenty of X-1 Carbons and X2xx series without discrete GPUs used for regular office work.

July 31, 2014 | 09:06 AM - Posted by Steve Schardein

All very good points guys and I wholeheartedly appreciate the dialogue.  I take all of these things into account for future reviews.

In regards to the new clickpad, I have tried hard to adjust to its use and appreciate what it brings to the table.  But, in an even worse turn than HP Elitebook's ForcePad, I just feel like it makes operation unnecessarily difficult.  I'm not sure why all three of the ThinkPads I've reviewed have exhibited the pointer jumpiness, but I do know that the drivers on the Yoga were the latest release and I was still experiencing that problem.  It is especially frustrating as it really doesn't buy that much additional room, and even a conventional clickpad could have been much better in my opinion (such as even that which was found on the X220 and X230).

August 5, 2014 | 11:56 PM - Posted by William E (not verified)

Under "Pros" you stated RAM is upgradeable but I've read elsewhere that says the RAM is soldered in. Can you clarify this point?

Great review BTW.

August 7, 2014 | 10:38 PM - Posted by Steve Schardein

@William:

Whoops, not really sure where that came from, heh.  Thanks for pointing that out!  Corrected.

Also, glad you liked the review!  These things take a lot of time to assemble :-)

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