The Yoga 13 is held within an orange shell that feels nice to the touch and is virtually impervious to smudging and dust. The wrist support and panel surrounding the keyboard are lined with a slightly rubbery matte plastic that is equally impervious to aforementioned imperfections. Visually speaking, the elegant and well-finished Yoga 13 breathes reliability.
The chiclet keys provide a somewhat flaccid keystroke, due to a lack of rebound and a bit too much travel. The keyboard isn't backlit, a pity for an ultrabook of such high calibre. For the shortcuts (volume, airplane mode, screen brightness...) you can simply hit the key; the Fn key is instead used for F1, F2, F3, etc.
The touchpad is well proportioned (10.7 x 7.3 cm) and clickable on roughly half the surface, while the lower section is dedicated to the left- and right-click. The Windows 8 touchpad gestures, as well as the standard scroll and zoom, are easily recognised.
Lenovo made better use of the touchscreen than most touchscreen ultrabooks. In fact, that's the standout feature: the Yoga 13 can rotate 360° around the axis of its hinges, allowing it to flip fairly easily into tablet position, at which point the keyboard shuts off automatically so as to prevent the keys from getting hit accidentally. The keyboard can also be used as a stand to tilt the screen and use it simply to view photos, movies, presentations and so on.
There's just one problem with this position: every time you tap the touchscreen, the screen bounces back and forth a bit, which makes double-clicking difficult. The touch response time is an excellent 100 ms, which is even better than many smartphones.
The connectivity is a little light, with just one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI out, a headphone/microphone combo jack, an SD card reader and... that's it. With no Ethernet, too few USB ports and no dedicated audio in, this is indeed very light for a high-end ultrabook.
Images captured using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera
Whereas the Yoga 11 had such skimpy components that the chassis never risked exceeding 25°C (77°F), the Yoga 13's heavier duty hardware makes it go as high as 50°C (122°F), so beware of burning knee hairs when you have it sitting on your lap!
The glossy 1600 x 900-pixel display may not have the best screen panel we've seen, but it's definitely no catastrophe. With 300 cd/m² brightness it's immune to glare, the 900:1 contrast ratio is satisfactory and it has decent viewing angles.
The colour fidelity is acceptable, with a Delta E of 5.5. The ideal Delta E being 3 and below, this is much better most competing ultrabooks, which tend to be closer to 8, or even 12. And the colour temperature is an excellent 6,475 K.
The sound quality is one of the Yoga 13's strong points, allowing it to spar on equal footing with the ultimate reference for laptop audio, the 13" Apple MacBook Air. The headphone/mic combo jack provides hi-fi reproduction with high volume and no distortion.
The speakers located beneath the keyboard have a lot of volume for such a small machine. They're completely lacking in bass, but the high-end of the spectrum is much better off with an intelligible vocal range. These are fine speakers to use if you don't have a proper sound system.
The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i7-3517U processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset and a 256 GB solid-state drive. Everything mentioned so far applies to all variations of the Yoga 13, whereas the Processor Power, Gaming and Battery Life sections below apply only to the configuration we tested.
The Intel Core i7-3517U processor is powerful enough to handle any task at more than reasonable speeds. However, here it gets slower speeds than it does on the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A. We exported a batch of photos in Lightroom and it took the Zenbook Prime 335 seconds and the Yoga 13 took 380 seconds. When we encoded HD video it took the Zenbook Prime 395 seconds while the Yoga 13 took 483 seconds. On average, our measurements showed that the Zenbook Prime is a full 25% faster than the Yoga 13, even though it has the same processor.
The 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD make the Yoga 13 a responsive machine that starts up and shuts down in just 8 seconds.
The Yoga 13's Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset may offer better gaming than the Yoga 11's Tegra, but that isn't saying much. It can do very little more than decode HD movies. Only older, less advanced video games will run correctly in the screen's native resolution (1600 x 900 pixels).
Mobility / Battery Life
The Yoga 13 lasts for five hours of video playback (in airplane mode with the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). That's just a tad shy of the 2013 MacBook Air's fourteen hours, but it's in the upper average for ultrabooks. And at 1.5 kg, it isn't too heavy for most people to carry around.
- Doubles as a tablet
- Processing power
- Battery life (5 hrs) and weight (1.5 kg)
- Decent screen
- Sound quality through headphone output and speakers
- Very little connectivity
- Overheating (up to 50°C)
It's official, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a completely different beast than the Yoga 11. This one has a great screen and sound quality of the type we'd like to see more often on ultrabooks. With good battery life and a lightweight body, the Yoga 13 is a prime choice for people on the go.