The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 comes close to ticking the majority of boxes in terms of what we want in a hybrid Ultrabook. As an Ultrabook, the Yoga 13 offers an uncompromised computing experience, while wedding Windows 8 with the touchscreen it deserves, and delivering performance that will keep you satisfied at work and play.
As a dual function device, it transitions elegantly and intuitively, standing out from the rest of the competition with the best hinge mechanism we've seen on a hybrid. But sadly, as a tablet, it falters. It's too big in that respect, and for a device that’s built around convenience and mobility, that's a significant drawback.
Thanks to Lenovo's "multi-mode" hinge, the Yoga 13 opens like a regular clamshell laptop, but can then open further, folding back around to close behind the screen so the Yoga can be used as a mobile tablet on the go. The 13in capacitive touch display offers 10-finger tracking and a 1,600 x 900 resolution. Smaller hybrids we've reviewed offer 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, but the Yoga 13's display still looks good.
The palmrest is also extra luxurious with an imitation leather surface – imitation so that it won't scuff and gouge like real leather – but it's still comfortable whether you're resting your palms on it to type, or holding around the back of the tablet. The outside finish is just as luxurious as the faux-leather palmrest, with a sandblasted aluminium surface that is so pleasant to touch that I briefly wondered whether it might be coated with some sort of soft-touch paint.
After using hybrids that utilise sliding hinges and rotating screens, the stability and simplicity of Lenovo's hinge design is a revelation. Manufacturers take note: This is how you negotiate the combination of laptop and tablet. The hinge design also allows the Yoga to bend and twist in other new ways, allowing for not only laptop and tablet modes, but also a stand mode, with the touchscreen standing up from the base, and tent mode, with the Ultrabook propped hinge-up. When folded behind the screen in tablet mode, the keyboard and mouse automatically deactivate, letting you touch and swipe unhindered. These extra modes are especially handy when kicking back with a movie.
Despite the excellence of the hinge design, the Yoga 13 does have one design flaw. Because it uses the same 16:9 aspect ratio that is common on Windows PCs, the 13in screen becomes awkwardly long when held in portrait mode. If it was an 11in system, like the Sony Vaio Duo 11, the size would be just right.
Measuring 344 x 225 x 17mm (WxDxH), the Yoga 13 is well-sized as an Ultrabook, but it's too big for comfortable tablet use. It's also a bit heavy (1.54kg), and about the same weight as the Dell XPS 12. This is one time that I wish Lenovo had opted for lighter plastics instead of aluminium, because the elongated dimensions of the device draw attention to the weight, making it more noticeable than with the Dell XPS 12.
The keyboard utilises the same AccuType keys seen on the Lenovo IdeaPad U310, with each keycap curved ever so slightly for a more comfortable typing feel than you'll get with the usual chiclet keyboard, and a scalloped key shape instead of the usual square keys. It's one of the best keyboards found on an Ultrabook – convertible or otherwise – and it's matched by Lenovo's IntelliPad multi-touch mouse. With a smooth glass clickable surface, it's responsive enough that you may just forget about the touchscreen.
Ports include USB 3.0 and 2.0, a full-size card reader (SD/SDHC/MMC), and HDMI output. Lenovo also offers its OneKey Recovery feature, though it has changed the name of the "OneKey" button to the awkward sounding "Novo Button." Wireless offerings include 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, but also notable is what you won't find on the Yoga 13, like WiDi (offered on the Dell XPS 12) and NFC (which is on board the Sony Vaio Duo 11). While NFC may not be missed, the lack of WiDi feels like a gap in the feature set.
The Yoga 13 comes with a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), the same capacity seen in the Vaio Duo 11, but half that of the Dell XPS 12’s 256GB SSD. Lenovo's plain vanilla Ultrabook, the IdeaPad U310 offers considerably more storage space (500GB) thanks to a spinning hard drive, but spinning drives don't work well unless kept stationary, which would limit the Yoga 13's mobility. There's no optical drive, but we didn’t expect one on a device as thin as this.
Fire up the Yoga 13, and you'll find a few programs already featured on the Windows 8 Start screen, like a 30-day trial of McAfee Security Advisor and McAfee AntiVirus Plus, along with a starter version of Microsoft Office 2010 (though we wish it were Office 2013, which was made with Windows 8 in mind). Windows 8 apps like Amazon's Kindle and the Ebay app make an appearance, as does SugarSync Manager. There are a few other programs you'll find if you look hard enough in desktop mode, like Nitro Pro 7 (a PDF reader) and YouCam (for use with the webcam), but nothing too intrusive. Lenovo covers the Yoga 13 with a one year warranty.
The Yoga 13 resembles other Ultrabooks in more than mere appearance. It's outfitted with an Intel Core i7-3517U dual-core processor and 4GB of RAM – a setup identical to the Dell XPS 12 (although that offers 8GB of RAM instead of 4GB). In our PCMark 7 benchmark, the Yoga 13 scored 4,417 points, performing pretty much neck and neck with both the Dell XPS 12 (4,638) and the Sony Vaio Duo 11 (4,648).
Though the Yoga 13 did return higher frame rates in high resolution gaming tests, this difference is not due to any superior hardware, but the fact that the display resolution on the Yoga 13 maxes out at 1600 x 900, instead of the 1,920 x 1,080 seen on the lower scoring XPS 12 and Duo 11. Regardless, all of the gaming results, while similar, were well below the threshold needed for serious gaming. You'll still be able to enjoy basic games like Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja, and perhaps some basic 3D gaming, like Team Fortress 2, but you won't be playing Skyrim in HD on the Yoga 13.
While gaming may be off the table, battery longevity is obviously still a chief concern. While we couldn't test the Yoga 13 with our usual MobileMark benchmark test, we did perform a simple video rundown test, as we did with both the Dell XPS 12 and Sony Duo 11. The Yoga 13 lasted five hours bang on, while the Dell XPS 12 edged slightly ahead (5 hours and 9 minutes) and the Sony Duo 11 fell two hours behind (3 hours and 9 minutes).
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a very good Ultrabook, which offers a reasonable feature set, touchscreen, and an impressive design. That said, if you just want an Ultrabook, you can pick up something good for a fair bit less than £999.
As a hybrid Ultrabook, however, the Yoga 13 has the best laptop-to-tablet transition mechanics we've seen in a hybrid device. It's good enough that we hope other manufacturers adopt similar designs, but at a better size – the Yoga 13 is just a little too big for comfortable use as a tablet.
If you’re shopping for a Windows 8 Ultrabook laptop with touch capability and plan on only using the tablet mode occasionally, then the Yoga 13 is a smart choice. The Dell XPS 12 is better as a tablet, but then it does cost £300 more.
Manufacturer and Device
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Microsoft Windows 8
Intel Core i7-3517U
Intel HD Graphics 4000
Ultraportable, Hybrid, Tablet
Screen Size Type
Primary Optical Drive
Storage Capacity (as Tested)