|Introduction & Specifications|
|It’s a ThinkPad. No, it’s a Yoga! No, it’s...a ThinkPad Yoga. Lenovo has melded two of its popular laptop design approaches together to create a sort of hybrid ultrabook, bringing together elements of its workhorse ThinkPad lineup and multi-mode capable Yoga notebooks. It has the work-friendly keyboard design of the new generation of Lenovo ThinkPads, yet it also has that innovative hinge flexibility and multimode configurations of the Yoga series.
The result is a laptop that’s either a more utilitarian, thicker version of the Yoga or a much cooler version of the ThinkPad. It sort of depends on if you’re a glass-is-half-full or glass-is-half-empty type. So which is it? We gave the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga a close look and put it through the paces to see whether this machine offers the best of two worlds or something else all together.
Like a lot of ultrabooks we’ve seen lately, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga sports an Intel Core i5-4200U chip, clocked at 1.6 - 2.6GHz (max turbo) with 3MB cache. The machine offers Intel HD Graphics 4400 with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 128GB SSD. The 12.5-inch display boasts a resolution of 1920x1080 with support for 10-point multitouch, and some models (including this one) come packing a stylus for pen input, too.
There’s a 720p HD webcam and Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7260 plus Bluetooth 4.0 for connectivity, and ports include a pair of USB 3.0, mini-HDMI, 4-in-1 card slot, headphone/mic jack, and a DC-in and Lenovo OneLink port. There’s also a power button on the side along with a volume and display lock and a tablet-style volume rocker.
One port that’s noticeably absent is an Ethernet jack. That’s right, you’re flying with wireless only with the ThinkPad Yoga - which, frankly is pretty common these days for ultrabooks and not a deal breaker by any stretch.
For audio, the machine has Dolby Home Theater v4 with enhanced VoIP audio. Finally, the machine weighs 3.52 lbs with a battery that purports to last up to 8 hours. The ThinkPad Yoga is 0.74-0.76 inches thick and runs Windows 8.1 Pro.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga ultrabook retails for $999 as configured, currently. Let’s take a close gander at the design and build quality of this new breed of ThinkPad.
|As we mentioned earlier, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga offers the flexibility of a Yoga with some of the desirable, rugged functionality of a ThinkPad. In the case of the latter, this ultrabook has the same keyboard and touchpad as the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s we recently reviewed--only this one is the slightest bit smaller.
The keyboard area has many of the same layout choices as the previous generation of ThinkPads, but key caps are designed a little better, more shaped to your fingertips. The trackpad is glass and incorporates five clickable buttons, including the middle scroll button that’s been replaced by subtle bumps, and the TrackPoint buttons are now simply indicated by red stripes instead of being separate buttons entirely.
This keyboard has a neat trick that other ThinkPads don’t have, though--the Lift ‘n’ Lock feature. When you use the ThinkPad Yoga in its various modes, sometimes the keyboard is facing down on a surface. That’s both awkward and not ideal for the machine, especially if there’s moisture or a lot of dirt. The Lift ‘n’ Lock keyboard raises up the area around the keyboard so that the whole thing sits flush.
The various modes include the standard laptop configuration, as well as a tent mode that’s ideal for presentations or simply browsing the web or watching a movie; stand mode, which is good for many of the same applications as tent mode in addition to conducting video calls; and a tablet mode, which is self-explanatory.
Regardless of which mode you’re in, the necessary buttons and ports are all distributed along the edges of the device. On the left side you’ll find the headphone/mic jack, one of the USB 3.0 ports, and the DC-in and Lenovo OneLink ports. (The OneLink port is for connecting an optional Lenovo OneLink Dock, a $99 accessory that offers HDMI video, USB 3.0, Ethernet, and notebook charging capabilities.)
The right side of the chassis houses the other USB 3.0 port as well as the mini HDMI port, lock port, 4-in-1 card slot, volume and display lock button, the power button, and the tablet-style volume rocker.
That display lock button is a great little feature. There’s often a bit of awkwardness if you’re using a tablet or other device to show something to someone and the screen orientation flips when you don’t want it to. If you engage the lock button on the ThinkPad Yoga, that won’t happen.
The multimode functionality is of course a desirable feature, and the Lift ‘n’ Lock keyboard (despite its arguably hokey name) is a smart way to cut down on the problems associated with resting the ThinkPad Yoga on its keyboard and touchpad, but even so we couldn’t help but feel as though we might damage the notebook, or at least get the device dirty, when it's used in those orientations. Further, the front and bottom edges don’t have any scratch protection or bumpers, so in tent mode, so you might worry about marring them as well. In short, the utility is great with these design features but treading lightly in use is advised.
That said, as always it seems, the overall build quality feels very solid with this ThinkPad. Lenovo made a point to mention the Thinkpad Yoga’s durability--it was built with a magnesium-alloy frame with zinc alloy hinges that the company says can handle 30,000 open and close cycles, and the display is made from Corning Gorilla Glass.
As part of its business dress, if you will, the ThinkPad Yoga comes sporting a digital stylus that slips into the chassis on the right front corner. With pen input plus a clickable button on the shaft of the stylus, it’s useful for a number of applications from taking notes to making drawings to web browsing to guiding colleagues through a PowerPoint. We found it to be comfortably responsive when jotting down text, although it feel quite small in our fingers. After a while, that grip got wearisome, and the clickable button is in an awkward location; you have to hold the stylus just so or else you won’t be able to easily reach the button without changing your hand position.
The chassis as a whole is rather thin, and appropriately, it falls somewhere between the Yoga 2 Pro and ThinkPad T440s in terms of thickness. The ThinkPad Yoga is 0.74-0.76 inches thick, whereas the Yoga 2 Pro is 0.61 inches and the ThinkPad T440s is 0.8 inches.
In terms of weight, again the ThinkPad Yoga is a tweener at 3.52 lbs, as the Yoga 2 Pro weighs in at a more svelte 3.06 lbs while the heftier ThinkPad T440s is 3.99 lbs.
The ThinkPad Yoga’s speakers deliver average notebook audio. The balance was adequate and reasonably clear, and the volume was acceptable in that the system easily produces enough audio to fill a conference room during a presentation. Of course, there’s no bass response to speak of, and we found that there was some crackling. It wasn’t noticeable in louder rock music, surprisingly but it stuck out in quieter pieces such as a string quartet.
|The ThinkPad Yoga came loaded with a lot of software. We’ll parrot what we said when we reviewed the ThinkPad T440s, which is that some of the applications that ship on board this machine are programs that you’ll be glad to have, while others are just bloat. You can decide for yourself which is which.
The complete list of bundled apps is rather lengthy and includes some familiar ones including a free trial of Microsoft Office and Norton, as well as Reading List, Nitro Pro 8, eBay, Hightail, Zinio, and rara music.
There’s also a heavy dose of Lenovo apps, including Lenovo Companion, QuickCast, and a special Lenovo area of the Control Panel (that you can reach via a direct link in the desktop toolbar, just like we saw on the ThinkPad T440s).
There’s a Lenovo Transition tool that makes it easy for you to set your preferences for how applications act when you switch modes. It's simple tool with a clean and simple GUI, and you really can’t ask for more than that from this sort of application.
And of course, just for reference, above are some shots of the Desktop and Start screen - just so you can see the wealth of apps on the machine and Lenovo's standard setup for it.
|Cinebench & SiSoft SANDRA|
|In order to get a feel for how the ThinkPad Yoga compares to other ultrabooks on the market, we ran a few established benchmarks. We began our benchmark testing with Cinebench and SiSoft SANDRA.
Cinebench R11.5 is a 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation suite used by animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others. It's very demanding of processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.
There’s nothing too surprising here. The CPU score is right where we expected it to be, and with Intel HD 4400 graphics and a reasonable amount of DDR3 RAM, the ThinkPad Yoga delivered one of the best OpenGL scores of the group.
We continued our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth, File System).
The Thinkpad Yoga’s SANDRA scores are strong, and they’re actually slightly better than the ThinkPad T440s, incidentally.
|PCMark 7 & 8|
|Futuremark’s PCMark 7 is a well-known benchmark tool that runs the system through ordinary computing tasks, including word processing and multimedia playback and editing. Graphics and processor power figure prominently in this benchmark, but graphics power doesn’t play as big a role here as it does in another Futuremark benchmark, 3DMark (which is designed for testing the system’s gaming capabilities). This test also weights heavily on the performance of the storage subsystem of a given device.
In PCMark 7, the ThinkPad Yoga did brisk work, coming in second only to the Toshiba KIRAbook, which has a lesser IGP but a faster Core i7 processor. The ThinkPad Yoga notably put some distance between itself and a cluster of other systems with the same (or similar) processor and graphics.
Futuremark recently launched PCMark 8, which has several built-in benchmark tests. The Home test measures a system's ability to handle basic tasks such as web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The Creative test offers similar types of tasks, but has more demanding requirements than the Home benchmark and is meant for mid-range and higher-end PCs. The Work test measures the performance of typical office PC systems that lack media capabilities. Finally, the Storage benchmark tests the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games.
Again, the ThinkPad Yoga showed off its hardware by delivering strong scores in PCMark 8 v.2. Its Storage test score was right on par with all the other systems in our test bank, while the Work score was tops and the Home score was second to just the more powerfully-appointed Dell XPS 15 configured with a Core i7 processor and discrete NVIDIA 750M graphics.
|Ultrabooks such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga aren’t designed to be serious gaming machines. However, even though these systems don’t have discrete graphics engines, Intel's latest iteration of IGP can still handle casual gaming. To see how the ThinkPad Yoga fares, we fired up 3DMark11, Cloud Gate, and Far Cry 2.
As a synthetic gaming benchmark, 3DMark 11 puts extra emphasis on your system’s handling of DirectX 11. However, 3DMark 11 measures more than just the graphics card’s performance; the processor has a definite influence on the score. As a result, this benchmark is a good way to get a feel for how well the system can handle gaming and general computing tasks.
In 3DMark 11, the ThinkPad Yoga wasn’t quite as impressive, falling to the similarly-spec’d Yoga 2 Pro, but considering the other systems that posted better scores all have higher-end specs, it’s not a bad score.
3DMark is the flagship benchmark in Futuremark’s catalog. As a result, it is a popular choice for testing all types of computers. Recognizing the technology differences between different types of PCs are significant, 3DMark has a separate test suite for each device category. The Cloud Gate test is aimed at entry-level PCs and laptops. It has two subtests: a processor-intensive physics test and two graphics tests. Cloud Gate uses a DirectX 11 engine but the graphics are designed to be compatible with DirectX 10 systems. We ran the test suite at its default 1280 x 720 resolution and at default rendering quality settings. It’s important to remember that 3DMark Cloud Gate scores aren’t comparable to scores from other categories such as 3DMark Fire Strike (gaming PCs) or Ice Storm (smartphones and tablets).
The scores in 3DMark Cloud Gate are mostly tightly clustered, but--wouldn’t you know it--our ThinkPad Yoga nudged out the whole field by a nose.
Far Cry 2 uses high-quality texture, complex shaders, and dynamic lighting to create a realistic environment. Using the game’s built-in benchmark, we can get a better look at a system’s performance with DirectX 10 level gaming graphics.
Like most ultrabooks, the ThinkPad Yoga can only achieve playable framerates, in even older titles with serious game engines, as long as resolution is dialed back a bit, but at least the system posted one of the better scores at 25.7 FPS. It lost out to the Yoga 2 Pro by a step or two, as well as the Core i7-equipped Dell Inspiron 14z.
|And now we'll take a look at how much battery life you can expect from the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga under real-world circumstances.
In an attempt to quantitatively measure the ThinkPad Yoga's battery life in a controlled benchmark environment, we ran Battery Eater Pro. This test is designed to tax a laptop’s resources to give a feel for how long the laptop’s battery will last under heavy use. For the test, we set the ThinkPad Yoga's display to 50% brightness and enabled Wi-Fi.
In BatteryEater Pro, the ThinkPad Yoga offered a middling score, right in the middle of the pack. It was quite close to the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, though, which makes sense.
In the web browsing test the ThinkPad Yoga fared much better, landing close to the Dell Latitude E7440 and near the top of the heap overall with over 7.5 hours of up-time.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga performed well throughout testing, posting top (or close to the top) scores in nearly every test against similarly configured ultrabooks we’ve recently evaluated. Most notably, the ThinkPad Yoga out-performed the similarly-spec’d Yoga 2 Pro and ThinkPad T440s in some tests.
The ThinkPad Yoga is essentially an interesting product; it represents an effort to give business users a prettier and (literally) more flexible notebook--or to give average users a slightly more robust version of the Yoga experience, we suppose. As the former, it succeeds. You get the great multimode options to accommodate travel and presentation situations and the slightly more svelte chassis of a Yoga. But Lenovo slapped on the excellent business-class, spill-proof keyboard of a ThinkPad and included the very handy stylus. It’s also built to withstand a lot of abuse. Altogether, the above makes the ThinkPad Yoga very well suited for business environments.