Slates, sliders, convertibles…. The jury’s out on exactly what type of Windows 8 tablets the market is going to embrace (if any). Lenovo figured this out early, and it’s releasing Windows 8 portables in no fewer than four different form factors.
The most promising of these is arguably the IdeaPad Yoga. At first blush, this laptop looks like any old 13-inch ultrabook (and its core specs follow suit – 1.7GHz Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and a scant 18mm of thickness). But bend the Yoga’s screen back and it goes completely flat. Now keep going. The screen goes past 180 degrees to 270, then 360, until the back of the screen is resting against the underside of the laptop. Now flip it over and you’ve got a slate tablet in your hands. It’s a neat trick and one you can have added fun with by “breaking” the laptop over your knee in a mock show of frustration while in the presence of your fellow gadget fiends.
The screen goes past 180 degrees to 270, then 360, until the back of the screen is resting against the underside of the laptop.
While the Yoga offers no surprises on its benchmarks — integrated graphics mean Angry Birds is about as fancy as you’ll want to get — it does feel surprisingly spry, fast, and agile in regular use. The keyboard works well (though a row of keys to the right of the normal end of the keyboard make some buttons, like backspace, difficult to find without a bit of a hunt), and the touchpad is a knockout. The 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 pixel touchscreen is reasonably bright and responsive, though sharp-eyed readers will note that, unlike most of the Windows 8 tablets coming out, the Yoga does not quite have a 1920 x 1080 HD screen. I’m still on the fence about how serious a flaw this is. On one hand, it’s a bummer not to have full 1080p resolution, but on the other hand it’s difficult enough to navigate the Windows desktop as it is on a 1600 x 900 screen. Higher resolution would make those icons even smaller and tougher to tap accurately. In the end, most of the time the resolution difference didn’t impact me at all.
What is more problematic is the sheer size of the Yoga. At 3.4 pounds, the Yoga 13 is well over twice the heft of an iPad and it feels truly gargantuan when in slate mode, making you feel a bit like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai when you wield it with the appropriate gravitas. It is really pushing the limits of comfort and usability for a slate. (Note that a 2.8-pound 11-inch Yoga is also available.)