The specs are identical to the Microsoft Surface, but what makes the Yoga 11 stand out is that it comes with a non-detachable keyboard (that's why we grouped it with our laptop reviews, not tablets—see inset). The sturdy hinges allow the screen to fold into several different positions: as a full-on tablet by flipping the keyboard back behind the screen, in display mode with the keyboard flat on the table acting as a stand for the screen, or upright like a book.
In part, this review is us asking the question: where do you draw the line between a tablet and a laptop?
DESIGN & HANDLING
Right out of the box, the IdeaPad Yoga 11 looks much more like a laptop than a tablet. The thin body (2 cm at the hinges) makes a good first impression and the material used on the rust-coloured lid feels nice to the touch and doesn't smudge. The display is bordered with glossy black and the keyboard by matte black plastic.
Lenovo obviously put a lot of thought into the keyboard. To fit all the keys into a 29.7-cm-wide chassis, they made some of the keys that people use less often (Fn, Alt Gr, Right Ctrl and F1 through F12) smaller. That way the more important keys (the letters and numbers) stay at a comfortable size. The keyboard offers better typing for word processing than any virtual tablet keyboard ever could. Conveniently, when you flip the keyboard behind the screen to use the Yoga 11 as a tablet the keyboard automatically shuts off.
If you haven't used a Lenovo keyboard before, one feature that may be new for you is that you don't need to hold down the Fn key while hitting the screen brightness, volume, etc. It may take a little getting used to, but once you get it down it's much more practical that way.
Just below the keyboard, the touchpad provides fluid and precise finger movements. The entire surface is clickable and it supports the Windows 7 gestures for scrolling and zooming, as well as the Windows 8 and RT Modern UI gestures. In other words, the touchpad recognises all the same gestures the touchscreen recognises.
Gliding your finger from the top of the screen or touchpad towards the centre launches the Windows RT search function. Gliding your finger from left to centre changes apps. Gliding from left to right brings up the most commonly used settings in the control panel: Wi-Fi, screen brightness...
All these commands work perfectly, although Lenovo doesn't seem to have found it necessary to include any demonstrations or instructions for the gestures. New users will therefore have to learn them the hard way.
To use the Yoga 11 as a traditional tablet, you flip the keyboard back behind the screen. It's a fairly easy movement to do. Unfortunately, 1.145 kg is on the heavy side for a tablet. And while it's comfortable and convenient to hold as a tablet, there's always those keys on the back side... It feels a little weird holding a tablet with keys on the back. Even though they shut off, one still tends to treat the Yoga 11 as a more fragile object than it is, out of fear of damaging them somehow. And when in it's tablet form you lose that nice feel of the lid. What's nice, however, is that when you're holding the tablet in your hands the little strip below the screen near the hinges—where the Windows button is—provides the perfect place for your thumbs to rest and support the tablet (though not for long).
The touchscreen is highly responsive, whether you're typing on the virtual keyboard or navigating through the OS. The image rotates quickly between landscape and portrait mode. If you ignore the weight, one thing that differentiates the IdeaPad Yoga 11 from 'true' Windows RT tablets, this hybrid device functions quite well as a touchscreen tablet.
Using the Yoga 11 as a laptop can be confusing at first. The Windows 8 and RT interfaces are similar in terms of design and organisation, but the apps aren't compatible from one system to the other. So don't bother trying to install apps with installation files you got from Vista or Windows 8, because they won't install. Instead, you have to choose from the apps available at the Windows Store. While the Windows Store catalogue continues to grow, it isn't as extensive as the Apple Store, Android Market or the 'regular' Windows 8 catalogue.
One thing that's nice with the Yoga 11 is that it comes with an RT version of the Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). To use it, you have to log in to your Microsoft account or create a new one. Your files are then stored online (SkyDrive), where you can get to them anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can also save them on your hard drive or share them with friends and colleagues.
The IdeaPad Yoga 11 has two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, an HDMI out and a headphone/microphone combo jack. There's no RJ45 port, so it's either Wi-Fi or No-Fi. The USB ports are handy for plugging in a keyboard, mouse or storage device.
For a laptop, that isn't a whole lot of connectivity. But for a tablet, it is. (See inset.) Also worth noting, no adapters are required.
On the left edge of the body are two physical buttons for the volume. These may seem redundant with the keyboard shortcuts, but in tablet mode the keyboard shuts off, so it's actually pretty handy. The Start button is on the front edge and there's a physical button for turning the portrait/landscape screen rotation on and off.
Heat readings with the components under stress.
Images captured using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.
The fanless Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and solid-state drive allow the Yoga 11 to be perfectly silent at all times. And the heat stays in check at maximum 25° C (77° F).
The glossy 1366 x 768-resolution display gives off more glare than a Christmas tree in a discotheque. Even with 270 cd/m² brightness, you will likely get glare anytime you're outside in the sunlight. (But keep in mind, that's the case with the crushing majority of tablet, smartphone and laptop touchscreens.)
However, it does have two things going for it: wide viewing angles and a good contrast ratio. Since it's an IPS screen, you can turn the Yoga 11 at any angle to your eyes and the image won't go dark (as opposed to TN panels, where the screen gets darker as you turn it away from you). We found a contrast ratio of 950:1 on this screen, no matter how high or low we set the brightness. The rather approximate colours (Delta E = 6.1) are the only real weakness here. If it weren't for that, the screen could almost satisfy the most demanding users.
What's much less impressive is the Yoga 11's processing power, which is just below the Samsung Ativ Smart PC XE500T1C's Intel Atom Z2760 (the Atom Z2760 has three times less raw processing power than the Intel Core i3-2367M Lenovo puts in its IdeaPad U310 ultrabook).
Then again, unlike the Ativ Smart PC or the Acer Iconia W510, all the apps available for the Yoga 11 necessarily come from the Windows Store and are therefore optimised for its CPU. As a result, it only takes about 15 seconds to start up and shut down, and it comes out of standby instantly.
As tablets go, SunSpider rates the Yoga 11 as just below the iPad 4 and above the Microsoft Surface RT in terms of CPU capability.
Like CPU, like GPU. The Yoga 11 is miles away from the performance you could get with a dedicated graphics card. That said, all the games available for it are designed for the Tegra 3. TegraZone, Nvidia's platform for downloading Tegra 3-optimised games, is now available at the Windows Store.
As of today, TegraZone carries 15 compatible games (fewer than for Android. These include classics such as Horn, Riptide, Shadowgun, Sprinkle and Dead Trigger. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 plays Full HD 1080p movies with no hiccups and no worries.
As convertible laptop/tablets go, the Yoga 11 has some of the best audio out there. The headphone output is high fidelity with good volume, all without distortion. The speakers, however, are less accurate and have lower volume, but the sound doesn't saturate.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 has far superior sound to most tablets, but it's just average for a laptop, hence only three stars.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
Weighing just under 1.2 kg, the Yoga 11 travels easily in a backpack, but could get tiresome to hold as a tablet for more than 10 or 15 minutes. Its 12-hour battery life (during continuous video playback with Wi-Fi turned off, headphones in and the screen brightness at 100 cd/m²) will surely win over users who move around a lot.