The explosion of Windows 8 devices has seen manufacturers delivering all kinds of laptops with plenty of different takes on touchscreen integration. We've seen dual screens, tablets with removable keyboard docks, rotating screens and - in the case of the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11 - a single screen wich, as its flexy name suggests, can bend right back over itself through a full 360-degree rotation into a flat, tablet-like position.
This means the Yoga 11 can be arranged like a standard laptop, a tablet - albeit with a temporarily defunct keyboard to the rear - or any other functional position in between. It avoids the "floppy" screen of a keyboard dock, and doesn't require a separate stand to hold into any given position.
Of all the options out there, we think the Lenovo Yoga 11 makes a lot of sense in practice, but with a £700 price tag for a Windows RT-only machine, is it worth bending over backwards to buy one, or is that price point just too much of a back-breaker?
Windows RT only
If you're in the market for a new laptop then a variety of Windows 8 devices will inevitably have made their way to your shortlist. But with Windows 8 you'll need to do a little extra research to ensure you're getting exactly what you want,. The latest Microsoft operating system comes in multiple forms, and in the case of the Yoga 11 it's the simpler, "Modern" app store only version, known as Windows RT, that comes loaded on the machine. In short that means no legacy apps - things like Adobe Photoshop, for example - can be installed, nor does the machine have the premium power to deliver truly top-spec performance.
However, the Ideapad Yoga family does include the larger and more powerful 13-inch Ideapad Yoga 13 which comes loaded with the full version of Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. It costs more, but it might be the more appropriate purchase for you and delivers a more thorough laptop experience.
Still, the Yoga 11 sits in its own camp. Think of it as a Microsoft Surface competitor in many respects, lent more firmly towards the laptop angle, and you're on the right track.
The orange-shelled Yoga 11 that landed in the Pocket-lint offices for review sure does look striking. Orange might sound a bit of an over-the-top colour, but we think it's a bright shade that's on the right side of smart; it's sharp but not over-vibrant.
But the Ideapad Yoga 11's main point of interest is its 360-degree tilting screen. Out of the box and it may look like any standard laptop: the screen folds flat, screen-down, or looks normal when opened into the regular laptop position too. But push the Yoga 11's screen back that bit further and it will keep on going… and going. It folds right around so that the rear of the screen touches the base of the machine; the keyboard area then becomes the new base, and, voila, the Yoga 11 takes on its tablet-like position.
This is all achieved by some nifty double-folding hinges that don't really look like anything unusual from the outside. But that's part of the Yoga 11's beauty - it hides away the apparent wizardry to make for a seamless, integrated user experience that just works. No mess, no nonsense.
The Yoga 11's touchscreen control needn't be used when in its laptop-like positions, but obviously can be if that's the preferred method of control. Unlike tablets with added keyboard docks that can't sit comfortably in the lap at unusual angles, the Yoga 11's firm hinges will hold in any given position. It's ideal for use at a desk, on the go, or pretty much anywhere.
But we do have a couple of clear qualms with the Yoga 11's design: the keyboard on the base feels very strange in the hand when using the device handheld as a tablet. The keys still depress and, even though they don't function from this folded position, it's still an odd sensation. It's just plain weird.
Furthermore the weight of the keyboard component makes it thicker and heavier than equivalent tablet rivals with docks. Okay, so the Yoga 11 is a mere 1.24kgs, but that's about double that of the slightly smaller Microsoft Surface RT.
As we've mentioned, Windows RT means no legacy software can be installed on the Yoga 11. That'll suit some, less others.
As per other RT devices, which run the "light" 32-bit rather than a full-on 64-bit operating system, the power is reasonable, but limited. It suits its purpose, which serves well for the included suite of Microsoft Office programs that come included, as well as the variety of tile-based app centres from the face of the software.
As much as Windows 8 RT depends on these colourful tiles to dive into programs/apps, it does also operate a desktop-like experience, similar to Windows 7. So if Windows RT sounds a little, well, "scary", then fear not - it is still accessible.
On the specs front the Yoga 11's includes an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of eMMC (embedded multimedia card) storage. This particular review sample, for £700, has the larger drive. It's faster and less power-hungry than a traditional hard disk drive, plus the inclusion of an SD card slot to the side of the machine, as well as a pair of USB 2.0 slots and an HDMI out slot, makes the Yoga fit for expansion via cards or drives as needed.
Battery life is said to last for 10 hours or up to two weeks when sitting in standby. We've been using the Yoga 11 on trains and around relatives' houses over the Christmas period and it's not been recharged once during that period. That's included light gaming, word processing, browsing, movie watching and the like. Realistically 10 hours is pushing it, as we've not achieved that measure. Go easy on the applications being run and adjust the screen's brightness though and the battery life holds up well enough.
Whether dimmed down or bust-out bright, the screen is one of the Yoga 11's highlights. The 11.6-inch size is spot on for all kinds of work, as it offers up enough real estate without too much detriment to the device's overall weight. It makes for a sensible, slimline size - again, apt for its "Yoga" namesake.
Although the 1366x768 pixel resolution may not sound staggeringly high, it is a better-than 720p HD resolution and, although we're sure it could be yet higher like that of the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, our retinas were most pleased with the detail, brightness, and viewing angle. It's that last point that's particularly important in the economic system of laptops - skimp on the cash and don't expect a decent screen, and while the Yoga 11 is a heftier wedge of cash, it delivers well on the visuals.
Lenovo's been true to the Ideapad series' name: the Yoga 11 sure does deliver plenty of successful ideas within its well-built, "magic-hinged" laptop-meets-tablet design. It looks grand from the outside, and the quality screen keeps up the pace on the inside. Overall it looks like a top-form machine.
In many respects it is. But this is just a Windows RT machine, which carries inevitable limitations and feels more tablet than fully-formed laptop. That's not necessarily a problem in itself - we've already raved about the Microsoft Surface RT tablet and love the likes of the Asus TransformerPad Infinity - but the Yoga 11's price is the sticking point. And all £700 of it makes for a very sticky situation.
If money were no object then we'd be fairly smitten by the Yoga 11. The price does buy a quality construction and a decent HD screen, but it's still a little too wallet-stretching for it to score better overall.
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