As they migrate to Windows 8/Windows RT, computer companies are taking different approaches to their ultralight notebooks and tablets.
Lenovo has been particularly creative, with clever hardware designs and helpful software.
IdeaPad Yoga 11: An adept Windows RT convertible
Like its predecessor, the Yoga 13 (reviewed in the Nov. 21, 2012, Best Hardware column), Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 11 (more info) is both a conventional-looking laptop and, with the turn of its contortionist hinge, a touchscreen tablet. With an 11.6-inch display, the Yoga 11 is a bit smaller than the Yoga 13 (13.3-inch display), But what truly sets it apart is its Windows RT operating system.
As you should know by now, Windows RT is not Windows 8. Although both OSes use the new tiled interface, Windows RT will not run legacy Windows apps — it runs only native RT software downloaded from the Windows Store. (For more on the differences between Win8 and Windows RT, see the Oct. 25, 2012, Top Story, “Win8 vs. Windows RT: What to know before you buy.”) You’ll find Windows RT especially problematic if you have favorite — or critical — third-party apps you’re currently using with Windows XP or Win7.
All that said, the Yoga 11 has some distinct advantages, especially when compared to the Yoga 11s, a similar device that runs Windows 8. For example, the Yoga 11 is rated for up to 13 hours of operation per charge; the 11s is rated for six hours. And while the 11s weighs in at 3.10 pounds, the Yoga 11 tips the scales at a mere 2.8 pounds. Currently, there’s also a distinct difference in price: the Win8-based Yoga starts at U.S. $800; the Windows RT model starts at $850 but is currently offered for $549.
The primary attraction of all three Yoga versions is their flexiblity. You can open it up like a typical notebook with keyboard and screen — or flip the screen around and turn the device into a tablet. This move puts the keyboard on the bottom, but it’s automatically disabled to prevent inadvertent keystrokes. As you might expect in an ultrathin notebook — the Yoga 11 is just .61 inches thick — the keyboard has relatively small, flat keys, but they’re still comfortable to use.
For navigating Windows, the Yoga 11 comes with a bright, 1366-by-768-pixel, landscape touchscreen on which to swipe away. However, I preferred using the the trackpad placed in front of the keyboard; it was quite responsive to all Windows RT/8 gestures and less of a reach than swiping the screen. For longtime Windows users, the trackpad should also help smooth the transition to a more touch-centric environment. Lenovo also hedged its bets by including a proprietary version of the infamously missing Start menu. Thank you, Lenovo.