The hybrid device appears to be taking over from the Ultrabook as the focus of manufacturer attention, particularly in the corporate market. Lenovo's Yoga concept has been available in consumer-oriented IdeaPad form for over a year now – but businesses might not want the colourful exteriors and entertainment-oriented features of the IdeaPad Yoga. So Lenovo has reworked the idea for its professionally focused ThinkPad range instead. Could this be the perfect corporate hybrid?
The Yoga concept revolves around a special hinge that allows the display to fold completely through 360 degrees. This means that instead of closing against the keyboard for protection, the Yoga becomes a tubby tablet with a keyboard on its back when the screen is folded over. It's a clever concept, although compared to Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix, it's more of an Ultrabook that can double as a tablet rather than being equally at home with both functions. As you fold the screen over, the surround for the chiclet keyboard rises to become flush with the keys, protecting them and preventing you from accidentally depressing them. But this still makes for quite a heavy tablet at nearly 1.6kg.
The ThinkPad Yoga sports a slightly unorthodox 12.5in screen. There are two options here, and two different screen sizes associated with them. You have to spend an extra £200 or so for the Wacom digitiser pen system, but this also comes with a 1,920 x 1,080 anti-glare screen, instead of the 1,366 x 768 resolution that is available with the basic non-pen option. We had the premium display, and very nice it is too, with rich colours, excellent viewing angles, good detail and no distracting reflections. As touchscreens go, it's one of the best we have used.
The internal specification is pretty close to the Helix. There are Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 versions. Our sample included the Intel Core i5-4200U option. This is nominally a 15W processor running at 1.6GHz, but it can step down to 11.5W and 800MHz or up to 25W and 2.3GHz, with a 2.6GHz Turbo Boost mode also available for a single core. The Core i5-4200U is a dual-core processor with Hyper-Threading, so it presents four virtual cores for improved performance with parallel tasks.
Whilst the Core i3 versions come with 4GB of PC3-12800 DDR3 memory as standard, the Core i5 versions sport a healthier 8GB, which should keep the system usable for some years to come. As the Core i5-4200U is from Intel's Haswell range, it sports the latest HD 4400 graphics. This includes slightly more execution units than the previous HD 4000 from Ivy Bridge (20 versus 16), and we have already seen noticeably better results from the new integrated graphics.
The ThinkPad Yoga opts for the increasingly popular hybrid strategy for storage. The main capacity comes from a 1TB Western Digital Blue 5400rpm hard disk, but it is augmented by a 16GB Sandisk U110 solid state disk, which you can't store data on directly. Instead, this operates as a large, fast cache for the mechanical hard disk, allowing faster boot and software load times (for your most commonly used programs). It also means the hard disk can spin down more frequently to conserve power.
One area of slight concern is the range of ports available. There are two USB 3.0 ports, one on each side, with combo microphone and headphone on the left and the SD card reader alongside the mini-HDMI port on the right. But the notebook itself doesn't have wired LAN or VGA built in. Admittedly, both are proving increasingly non-essential, but to get a wired network port you will need to make use of the novel extended power port on the left, which is called OneLink. This connects to a special dock sporting two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, LAN, plus combined microphone and headphone audio. There is also a Pro version with an additional pair of USB 3.0 ports and DVI-I plus VGA adapter. With the latter costing over £100, some users might have preferred the simple adapters already bundled with the Helix.
However, the Yoga matches the Helix when it comes to notebook usability. The keyboard is equally brilliant, and you are provided with the same options for pointing devices. Aside from the touchscreen that comes as standard for a tablet, Lenovo provides the usual choice of trackpad or trackpoint. The trackpad is accurate and perfectly placed directly beneath the spacebar. It offers buttons inside the top edge as well as the bottom, so these can be used with the trackpoint joystick in the middle of the keyboard. Trackpoints are always a matter of taste, but we find them very handy when using a notebook in confined spaces with little elbow room.
The ThinkPad Yoga's Intel Haswell processor has some clear superiorities over its Ivy Bridge predecessors when it comes to performance. In the Cinebench R11.5 render test, the Yoga managed a healthy 2.47, which is decidedly decent for an Ultrabook, although the Asus Zenbook UX302L goes even better. The Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL result of 18.5 and 3DMark11 score of 915 at the Performance setting also shows off the improved graphics abilities, although here again the Asus Zenbook's quicker CPU is even more capable. We also ran the PCMark 8 general application benchmark. The Yoga achieved 2926 in the Home test and 3841 in the Work test, which are very respectable results. The fan does get a bit noisy under load, though.
The Yoga's 47Wh battery promises up to seven hours of life, according to Lenovo. In our gruelling 100 per cent usage test with Battery Eater, the system lasted 126 minutes, which is fairly mediocre. In the less intensive PCMark 8 battery test, running the Work loop, this translated into six hours and three minutes of everyday application usage. So you can expect most of a working day away from the power socket, but not as much as Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix is capable of with both the tablet and keyboard unit combined.
As a jack of all trades, Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga doesn't do quite as good a job as the ThinkPad Helix with its sleeker, fully detachable tablet portion. However, the Helix is also considerably more expensive. The Yoga is still priced within the general territory of an Ultrabook, even with the premium model we had for review, making its secondary tablet abilities a welcome bonus.
Overall, the ThinkPad Yoga is another high quality hybrid tablet-Ultrabook from Lenovo, but this time a little more affordable. It's still not exactly a cheap option, but it has better application and much better 3D graphics performance, making it a superior choice if your needs are skewed towards more demanding software. There are also versions starting at under £800 with a slower processor, less RAM and the lower resolution screen. So the Yoga looks like a very viable option for deploying hybrid devices across your organisation.
Manufacturer and Product
Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Intel HD 4400
16GB SandDisk U110 solid state disk and 1TB Western Digital Blue 5,400rpm hard disk
12.5in FlexView IPS TFT with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and Wacom pen digitiser
Gigabit Ethernet (via OneLink dock), 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
2 x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, combo headphone / microphone, SD card reader, OneLink dock
Width x Depth x Height
316.6 x 221 x 18.8-19.4mm
1 year RTB warranty