Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 13 showed its face late last year, delighting us all with its unique ability to bend backwards onto itself, transforming from a regular laptop into a tablet.
The Yoga 11 is the smaller, 11-inch brother of the Yoga 13. It's a Windows RT device, meaning it runs on mobile processors. Lenovo is asking for a whopping £700 for it -- but is the transforming feature enough to justify the cash?
Should I buy the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11?
With its ability to take several shapes, the Yoga 11 is a very handy way of enjoying the delights of Windows 8 on a touchscreen, switching to the keyboard when you have to type out those long emails.
It's a Windows RT laptop meaning it runs on the low-powered Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, typically found in tablets like the Google Nexus 7. You won't be able to install your own software so you'll be relying solely on what you can find in the still rather sparse Windows 8 app store.
It provides enough power for the essentials, but you won't be able to push it far. As a portable, touch-enabled Windows 8 device the Yoga 11 is a good option, but it's sadly let down hugely in one key area: the price.
It costs a whopping £700, putting it right alongside the Asus VivoBook S400E -- a touchscreen full-fat Windows 8 laptop that runs on a super-charged Intel Core i7 processor. If power is your concern then the Asus is the way to go. If you just need a lightweight device then take a look at Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet. It has the same processor as the Yoga 11 and can be used like a keyboard with the keyboard cover.
With a starting price of £400, the Surface tablet, which also runs Windows RT, is considerably cheaper than the Yoga. The cheaper Surface offers the same power as the Yoga -- or for the price of the Yoga, you can get a much more powerful Surface. This shows there's little reason to buy the Yoga 11 unless you're really hankering after that convertible design.
Design and build quality
The Yoga 11 is immediately recognisable as the little brother to the Yoga 13. Its design is identical, albeit a little smaller. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. The even thickness across the chassis, together with the silver edging make the Yoga look rather like a lovely hard-back book.
The illusion would be complete if Lenovo were to clad a model in leather. And I really think it should consider it, as my review model looked extremely dull. The lid and base are entirely covered in a yawn-inducing matte grey colour -- a shade I decided to call 'Basingstoke paving slab grey' -- with only the small Lenovo logo on the top breaking the monotony.
If you like bright colours and fancy patterns it's certainly not for you. Mercifully, it's available in a bright orange colour too. This retains the smart, professional aesthetic required for the boardroom while injecting enough colour to remind you that life does exist outside of accounts presentations.
It measures 298mm wide, 204mm deep and 15.6mm thick, making it small enough to slide into the most diminutive of briefcases or backpacks without any pushing and shoving. Weighing in at a meagre 1.27kg, you won't need to employ a host of burly companions to haul it around town for you.
Around the edges you'll spy two USB 2.0 ports, a combined headphone and microphone jack, an HDMI out port and an SD card reader. There's no Ethernet port so you'll have to rely on wireless networks for your Internet and you only get 64GB of storage. SSD drives might not be cheap but I'd have liked to have seen 128GB of storage for the price.
The Yoga gets its name from its flexibility and talent for bending itself into various poses. In normal laptop mode, you can swipe around the live tiles of Windows 8, using the keyboard to type when you need to. The screen is stiff enough not to fold back under your touch.
Fold the screen back and you can prop it up in 'tent mode', or have the keyboard keys facing down and the screen pointing up. Both these modes serve the same basic function -- propping the screen up to let you watch videos or give presentations more easily -- so it's up to you which you prefer to do. Alternatively, flick the screen all the way around and hold it like a tablet.
It's chubbier than a normal tablet and you do of course have the keyboard on the underside, which isn't at all pleasant to hold. Thankfully though the keys themselves are deactivated, so you can't accidentally type a string of nonsense letters into your company-wide emails.
The 11-inch display has a resolution of 1,366x768-pixels which is fairly standard for a device of this size. It would certainly have been nice of Lenovo to cram in 1,600x900-pixels, or even Full HD -- as you get on Dell's 12-inch XPS 12. It's easy to forgive lower resolutions on cheaper machines, but with such a large price tag I'm surprised we're not being offered something more exciting.
It does at least make up for it by being rather bold. Its colours are rich, making images look good and you won't be disappointed with how your videos appear -- although you'll rightly be let down by the lack of pixels. It's fairly bright which helps counter some reflections but the glossy coating does mean you'll be staring back at your own face quite a lot of the time.
Windows RT software
Unlike its bigger brother, the Yoga 11 is running on Windows RT -- the version of Windows 8 designed to run on mobile devices. You can't install your own regular desktop apps on RT, as you can with the full-fat version of the software. Instead, you'll have to rely on getting all your software through the Windows 8 app store.
That's likely to cause some problems if you want to get anything vaguely complex done. Although you can get a few gems like Skype in the store, it's nowhere near as well stocked as the iOS or Android app stores. If you're an app addict and love adding nifty new software features to your slate, then you should seriously consider whether Windows RT will suffice.
It does come with Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications though, so you can at least get on with work right out of the box. The Windows 8 app store is still fresh though, and new apps and services are arriving day by day so it hopefully won't take too long before more treats appear.
Operating Windows RT is done in the same way you would with the full version. Your homescreen is full of live tiles to swipe around, and bringing up your settings, charms and open apps requires the same swipes in from the right and left. In terms of its overall look, you won't notice any difference.
Sadly, the software on the Yoga 11 had a couple of annoying bugs. Most annoyingly was its habit of disabling the touchscreen when it came out of sleep mode, requiring a full restart to get it going again. It didn't happen all the time -- only in three incidents during my week of testing -- but even once is too often. If you're in a rush to quickly fire off an email then having to restart your computer is going to be a problem.
I also found it to have an odd disagreement with Netflix. The app installed and loaded fine, but all videos were plagued with pixellation to the point that they were totally unwatchable. I found it to be the case on both my home fibre-optic connection as well as the fast connection in the CNET UK office. The Netflix app works fine on my other Windows 8 devices suggesting that this is a compatability issue with the Yoga. Fingers crossed Lenovo can sort this out -- for me at least, Netflix is an essential.
Power and performance
Packed into the grey shell you'll find an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor clocked at 1.3GHz, along with 2GB of RAM. That's the same processor you'll find inside tablets like the Google Nexus 7. I found it to give excellent performance on the Nexus 7 when it ran the majority of Android applications. Crucially though, the Nexus 7 is only £160 so I was really hoping for some good power from the Yoga to justify the £700 price.
In general, I wasn't too disappointed. Navigating around the Windows 8 interface was swift and opening menus was free of any annoying delay. Even with the comparatively low amount of RAM, it was able to cope fairly well with multi-tabbed Web browsing. I loaded up numerous tabs and was able to switch between them without much in the way of lag. Only when I made those pages stream high-definition video from YouTube did it start to fall down, resulting in very choppy video and delays in switching between the tabs themselves.
Still, for light Web-work with up to ten tabs it'll cope perfectly well. I also found it was able to do some basic photo editing in Fhotoroom. Applying filters and changing light balance was handled well, even with my high-resolution photos. It won't cope as well with intense photo and video editing, but seeing as there's very little you can do with your snaps without having desktop programs like Adobe Photoshop installed, that's a bit of a moot point.
Windows RT devices with their mobile processors are only designed for the essentials and for that, the Yoga 11 puts in a good effort. For the money you're expected to pay however, you'd be right to ask for significantly more. For the same money, you can get Asus' S400 Vivobook. It's a touchscreen laptop and its Intel Core i7 processor will seem blisteringly powerful compared to the Tegra chip of the Yoga.
Microsoft's own Surface RT tablet packs similar components, providing a similar amount of speed. Crucially though, the surface is £300 less than the Yoga 11.
That low-powered mobile processor has, however, resulted in great battery life. Lenovo quotes around 13 hours from it which I think is probably quite close to the mark. The battery only dropped to 75 per cent after several hours of moderate use.
If you constantly stream video over Wi-Fi then you won't get a good time from it, but if you keep the wireless turned off and just work in some Office documents then you'll be able to keep chugging all day.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 has a lot going for it: it's slim, helpfully transforms into a tablet for watching video more comfortably and has enough juice under the hood for most of the everyday essentials. Sadly, it's just far too expensive.
For the same money you can get a very powerful Windows 8 touchscreen laptop in the form of the Asus S400E Vivobook or save yourself £300 and buy Microsoft's Surface tablet.