If you were waiting for a full Windows 8 convertible tablet/laptop combo, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S has potential. Its innovative design gives you a full-time laptop that you can use as a tablet part-time. It's an interesting leap of faith by Lenovo, but internal components and battery life in particular prevent this device from being great.
Design and features
The IdeaPad Yoga 11S is the little brother to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 we reviewed last year. The Yoga 11S looks a lot like the Windows RT-powered IdeaPad Yoga 11 which we tested at the start of this year, although the Yoga 11S is a smidge thicker and heavier.
The Yoga 11S measures 305 x 200 x 17mm (WxDxH), and weighs in at 1.4kg. Like the other IdeaPad Yoga systems, the Yoga 11S is a convertible tablet that acts like a laptop. When you first open the system, it looks very much like a normal clamshell laptop. Once you swing the lid past 180 degrees, however, you'll be able to use the system's tent mode (like an A-frame), stand mode (screen out, but keyboard facing the table), and tablet mode (which is just what it sounds like).
The tent mode and stand mode are innovative, though limited to specific uses (mainly to present videos or presentations on a table without needing the keyboard). When in tablet mode, the Yoga 11S works like a somewhat heavy slate tablet PC. Compared to the Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro or the Dell Latitude 10, the Yoga 11S is a little heavier and a little more awkward on account of its larger chassis. The Surface Pro and Latitude 10 have smaller 10in screens, and hence are easier to carry.
On the other hand, the Yoga 11S has a very comfortable and sturdy keyboard that is a joy to use in laptop mode. The keyboard isn't backlit, but the trackpad is multi-touch. The screen also has 10-point touch, so you have quite a few ways to interact with the bright IPS display. The screen sports a 1,366 x 768 resolution, which is short of the Microsoft Surface Pro's 1080p screen, but the Yoga’s screen is bright and quite clear. You may not miss the extra screen space unless you're working on large spreadsheets or with big images.
When you swing the lid over past 180 degrees, the keyboard and touchpad automatically deactivate, but they are still tactile, i.e. they are not a smooth surface like on the back of a true slate tablet. If you think this will bother you, you may want to try the Yoga 11S out in a store first.
That said, the slate tablets mentioned above are a lot less comfortable to type on, even the Surface Pro with the Microsoft Type Cover. If there's any real downside to tablet mode, it's that the system vents warm to hot air right onto the arm that's holding the tablet, or on your supporting palm, depending on how you have the tablet oriented. This is a consequence of using an Ultrabook-class Intel Core i5-3339Y processor instead of a lower powered Tegra 3 processor as seen in the Windows RT-equipped Yoga 11.
The Yoga 11S comes with a capacious 256GB SSD in this configuration, along with 8GB of system memory. This means you'll have plenty of space for files before you have to resort to using the SD card slot for additional storage space. The system comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port for connecting a mouse and external hard drive respectively. The system also comes with a full-size HDMI port for connecting an external display. Finally, the Yoga 11S boasts a 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter for connecting to your home router.
Lenovo’s creation also has an ambient light sensor to control the screen's brightness, but it's a little overly aggressive. The screen dimming and brightening frequently while in use distracted and annoyed us, often when we were reaching for the touchscreen. The room itself was brightly lit, so it was the process of using the laptop that made the screen dim. Also, you may need to get used to the screen rotating due to the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer. Lenovo added its motion control interface to Windows 8, and while novel it's more of a gimmick than a useful interface, especially since the touchscreen and touchpad are so responsive.
Essentially, you can interact with the Yoga 11S in a plethora of ways, so if you're looking to develop an innovative software package, interface, or use for the PC, this is the system to get.
The Yoga 11S comes with a one year base warranty.
The Intel Core i5-3339Y CPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB SSD combine to give the Yoga 11S decent, though not stellar, performance. The Yoga 11S got a passable 3,829 point score on the day-to-day PCMark 7 test, far ahead of Intel Atom-powered systems, but behind the Surface Pro and other Core i5-powered systems. The Yoga 11S did boot up and wake from sleep in seconds, as you would expect from an SSD-powered system.
The major disappointment on the performance front was the machine’s poor longevity, only lasting 3 hours and 31 minutes on our standard battery rundown test. This is short of other Ultrabooks and tablets in this price range. The low battery life is probably due to the smallish 42WHr sealed battery, so if longevity is a factor, you may well want to look elsewhere.
As an innovative next-generation form factor, the Lenovo Yoga 11S is a cool experiment and shows potential. As a usable laptop and convertible tablet, the Yoga 11S isn't quite all there yet. It is usable, yes, and innovative, true enough, but the 11S has far too short a battery life to replace both the laptop and tablet in your life. Maybe the next generation of Lenovo Yoga machines will turn out to be an irresistible combo, but right now, while the Yoga 11S is solid enough, it’s held back a bit by what it can deliver.