Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga – A Joy to Use

I recently requested a loaner unit of the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga.  We’re a mostly Dell shop on the desktop/laptop side of things, but I saw a Lenovo touchscreen convertible laptop/tablet at a conference a while back and wanted to test one to see if I could recommend it.  If you don’t want to read any further – the answer is I can.

I’ll keep this fairly quick, as I’m not a professional hardware reviewer.  If you’re looking for a more detailed review or all the specs on the device, either Google “Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga review” or follow one or more of these links:

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga
Engadget review
PC World review 

Before I provide my experience with and opinion of the ThinkPad Yoga, it may be good to mention I’m hard to please when it comes to computing devices – be they desktops, laptops, or tablets.  I’ve only recently returned to the PC side of things at work, having used nothing but Macs both at work and at home for the last 12 years.  We’re a nearly all PC shop at my new job, so I’ve adapted to that at the office, especially since part of my role is that of technology evangelist.  I’m still all Mac at home, and before using the ThinkPad Yoga for a few weeks, I assumed that would never change.  I have extremely high standards, and if I’m going to spend money on a device, it has to be well-made.

ThinkPad Yoga

That the ThinkPad Yoga is well-made is the first thing I noticed about it.  It’s solid.  The lid is made of magnesium, not cheap plastic.  The hinge is thick and requires just enough force to use that you can tell it isn’t going to end up too loose to be useful over time.  The ThinkPad Yoga weighs about 3.5 pounds, which may be a tad bit heavy for a 12.5” laptop, but it didn’t bother me.

One neat feature of the Yoga is its Lift ’n’ Lock keyboard.  The laptop converts to a tablet by folding the screen onto the bottom of the laptop, and as that happens, the partially keys retract into the body of the Yoga.  While you can still feel the keys, they’re disabled, so you don’t have to worry about random input in tablet mode.  I heard a Dell rep bashing this design at TechEd, and I have to say I don’t agree.  I have used a Dell XPS 12 and I was not impressed with the flip screen approach.  I also felt the XPS 12 was a much less well-made device than they Yoga.

Having said that, I’m not sure the whole convertible laptop/tablet concept works for me.  I flipped the XPS 12 into tablet mode exactly twice for actual work in the months I used it, and I did so once in the weeks I used the Yoga.  I demonstrated the feature plenty of times, and many of my colleagues ooo’ed and ahh’ed over it, but I wouldn’t use it.

One of the truly outstanding features of the ThinkPad Yoga is its trackpad.  PC trackpads are a constant reminder to me of how much better Apple’s trackpads are on its laptops, and I dislike using them so much I keep a Logitech notebook mouse in my bag for those times when I use my laptop on a table.  I’ve often wondered if PC manufacturers compete in making their trackpads feel like a gritty plastic sandpaper.  Luckily, IBM went with glass for the trackpad on the Toga, just like Apple uses on its laptops.  The quality difference between this and an average PC trackpad cannot be overstated.  I didn’t bother with the Logitech mouse when using the Yoga – enough said.

Speed-wise, I was pleased with the Yoga as well.  My review unit had an i5 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and an SSD.  So it was plenty fast, especially for the kinds of tasks I put it through it meetings and on the road.  I doubt I could use this all day every day as my primary PC at work (I am currently using a Dell Latitude E7440 for that), but I’m impressed enough with the Yoga that I will be looking at other ThinkPad models when it comes time for a refresh.

Speaking of the next time I refresh, I mentioned above that I assumed I would never change my mind about buying only Macs for use at home.  I’m writing this review on my Late 2013 13” Retina MacBook Pro and it is hands-down the best laptop I have ever used.  I won’t be replacing it anytime soon, but in a few years, who knows?  My gut tells me I’ll still prefer the flexibility of having a laptop that can (legitimately) dual-boot OS X and Windows, and that Apple will continue to make the best hardware on the market.  But I can at least say that this ThinkPad Yoga pleases me enough build-wise that my thoughts on the subject are no longer as one-sided as they were a month ago.

If you’re in the market for a small convertible laptop/tablet combo, give the ThinkPad Yoga a look.

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