Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 review

4 out of 5
£1000

For

Great design, IPS screen looks excellent, full Windows 8, good viewing angles, variety of positions is excellent

Against

Pricey, keyboard in tablet position feels strange, expensive, some competitors offer more for the cash

We're in the throes of the Windows 8 revolution and there are already all manner of twisty, folding, laptop-cum-tablet touchscreen devices out there. The Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13's tact is to opt for a single screen that, while it looks like a more conventional laptop straight out of the box, is able to fold the screen 360 degrees back on itself to become a tablet-like touchscreen device.

We were already impressed by the 11.6-inch Windows RT-only version of the Yoga from an aesthetic point of view alone, but, largely on account of the trimmed-back operating system, didn't feel there was enough on offer for the money.

READ: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 (Windows RT) review

The larger, 13.3-inch screen version reviewed here, on the other hand, is the more powerful version in the series as it comes complete with the full Windows 8 operating system shebang. But with a price tag a mere penny shy of £1,000 is the Yoga 13 too rigid in its asking price?

Design

Let's forget about specs for the moment, as there's certainly something to be said for the Lenovo Yoga 13's style. A bright, yet slick orange-coloured shell might sound like a bit of an eyesore, but this foldable laptop successfully carries it off.

But it's not all about the colour. The build quality not only looks good to the retinas, it also feels good in the hands too. Such visual and tactile aesthetics have worked for companies like Apple for a number of years, and without even a hint of trying to duplicate that company's image, Lenovo's managed to come up with something that hits all the right buttons here.

The distinctive feature of the Yoga is its screen or, more accurately, the way its screen is hinged. It's simple really: lift the laptop screen lid as you would with any similar device, but then keep on pushing it back so that the screen's position touches on to what was, at first, the base of the device.

This is achieved by some nifty double-folding hinges that don't really look like anything out of the ordinary. But that's the Yoga 13's beauty - it tucks away the mechanism to make for a seamless design that just works.

The hinges are stiff enough to hold the screen in any given position throughout its rotation too. We've taken the Yoga 13 with us on a long-haul flight which made an excellent replacement for the poor entertainment screens that were on offer. We used that time to not only write this review on the return trip while the Yoga was locked into its laptop-like position, but also the handheld device to play touchscreen games and folded it into a tent-like position ideal for watching movies. No clip-on docks or any faffing around with accessories required.

The Yoga 13's screen delivers top-notch visuals too. It's not down to the resolution as the less-than-Full-HD 1600 x 900 pixels on offer doesn't make it particularly staggering for the price point, but the bright visuals from the IPS display were consistent throughout a variety of viewing angles. That's essential for a device that can be adjusted into all manner of positions. Still, a higher resolution should have been squeezed in here as it would have made the price point all the more agreeable. As it stands though we're happy with the way it looks.

But the Yoga 13's design isn't faultless. When holding in the tablet-like position the exposed keyboard base just feels plain weird to wandering fingers, while the device's 1.5kg mass is a little more sumo than the Yoga title may suggest. Granted, this isn't a standalone tablet, but then it is a fair whack heavier than one.

Powerful, but could still have more pep

The Yoga 13 stands head and shoulders above the Yoga 11 on the power front. The Windows 8 version - capable of 64-bit installs - that landed in the Pocket-lint office came loaded with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, but only standard Intel Graphics 4000 rather than a hardened graphics card. We don't deny that there's kit out there with more bang for your buck, but with the variety of tests that we performed there was little to hold the Yoga 13 back. Not an ultimate power house, but not disappointing either, and there are RAM expansion options if you want to pay the extra.

The 128GB SSD drive is quick to load the machine, and speedy in operation too. Transferring files via the single USB 3 port - there's a second, USB 2.0 port also - works in a flash, and a discreet SD card slot to the opposite side also proved useful for temporary storage, importing camera pictures and swapping files between computers.

Battery life is said to last for up to eight hours. With the variety of Photoshoppery, browsing and movie viewing via VLC this isn't quite the case, but use the hotkeys to dim the screen's brightness and simple word processing will keep you going for many hours.

The variety of things that Windows 8 can do is far superior to Windows RT. Whether using the desktop in a usual manner with files and folders, or opting for the hands-on touch system it's a more intuitive experience than it otherwise may at first seem - though that's entirely on account of Microsoft and nothing to do with Lenovo in this instance.

Although we're impressed with the LCD screen's display the 10-point touch responsiveness did seem a little "stickier" than other Windows 8 devices that we've used. Often more than one drag from the side would be required to get the Windows 8 menu up, for example.

Verdict

In our review of the Yoga 11 we felt that too much cash was being asked for what amounted to too little in return. Enter the IdeaPad Yoga 13, however, and it tackles these issues head on: it's got more power and, importantly, runs the full version of Windows 8, so it can do much more.

But then the Yoga 13 is more expensive. £300 more expensive. And at a penny under £1,000 it's not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. We knew Yoga was about stretching, but this will be pushing it for many prospective purchasers.

We do think that it's worth it though. It's as much a visual treat as a well-made one and for the sake of owning a device that's as much about build quality as its innards, the Yoga 13 is a successful balance of, er, body and mind.

Our ideal IdeaPad Yoga would be a lightweight 11-inch version with full Windows 8 and all the trimmings - quite possibly the latest Yoga 11S addition, announced at CES 2013.

Still, for what the Yoga 13 puts on offer it's hard to find considerable fault with it. The exposed keyboard in the tablet folded position is a bit of a nuisance, and the 1.5kg weight isn't as trim as we'd like, but otherwise this is a quality machine with an equally quality IPS screen that's made extra special by its "flexible" fold-back nature.

Overall there are more-powerful options out there, but the Yoga 13 does succeed in delivering enough power in a striking and luxury body. It's the build element that elevates the score, despite the noted expense which may be enough to cause some prospective buyers to look elsewhere.