Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Laptop Review
Interested in a hybrid without sacrificing power? Keep the Yoga 2 Pro on your radar.
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Lenovo is the world's largest vendor of personal computers by units sold, so of course it's going to sell at least one laptop/tablet hybrid. We have the company's latest, the Yoga 2 Pro (MSRP $1399.99), and it's loaded with top-notch specs: a fourth-gen Intel i7 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a gorgeous QHD+ (3200 x 1800) touchscreen that rotates 360°, turning this 13.3-inch laptop into a rather large tablet. Also, you can easily find this hybrid for $200 less than its MSRP.
Wait, all that for only $1199.99? You've gotta be kidding me!
Lenovo seems to have undercut many a laptop manufacturer with its relatively low asking price, but that doesn't mean anything unless it actually performs better. Well, the Yoga 2 Pro is speedy, lightweight, and displays an excellent picture. We do have a few minor issues, but overall, this hybrid is the real deal.
Design & Screen
Laptop, tablet, or computerized tent
The Yoga 2 Pro won't turn any heads with its design—that is, until you start transforming it. This metal-clad laptop is relatively thin (although not Sony thin) and... unremarkable. Really, when the Yoga 2 Pro is closed, it's quite boring. If you want "fun and exciting" in your Yoga, an orange model does exist. Sadly, we only have the silver gray model in house—first world problems.
Once opened, though, the Yoga is a different story. Let's start with the screen, because it's gorgeous. Lenovo utilizes a QHD+ touchscreen display for the Yoga 2 Pro, which means you get a staggering resolution of 3200 x 1800. Is this really necessary? It sure doesn't hurt, especially when editing a large picture in Photoshop or using the Kindle app in tablet mode.
Yes, tablet mode. In case you didn't know, the Yoga 2 Pro's claim to fame is its ability to flip the screen nearly 360° to form a 13.3-inch tablet. It's not the worst tablet experience either, although an iPad would be preferable due to its size and slim form factor.
Where many ultrabooks are constructed of metal in most areas, the Yoga 2 Pro is not: The area around the keyboard is a soft plastic. At first, this gives off a cheap feel, but when using this device as a tablet on your lap, you'll be thankful for the lighter and softer material. And yes, that means the keyboard is the bottom of the tablet. Since the keys are disabled in tablet mode, your experience won't be interrupted when your lap inadvertently presses "djkhfaiursdfs" while checking basketball scores.
In addition to laptop and tablet mode, Lenovo advertises two other ways to use the Yoga 2 Pro: tent mode and stand mode. Tent mode involves flipping the screen until the Yoga forms a tent shape. Stand mode is when the Yoga rests on the keyboard with the screen propped up. Maybe you'll find these forms useful to entertain the kids, but they won't add much to productivity.
At least Lenovo's touchscreen works very well, granted there isn't as much to do on a touchscreen Windows device than there is on an Android or iOS device. But since this is also a full-fledged Windows 8.1 laptop, the sky's the limit with the Yoga 2 Pro's usability.
Rounding out this hybrid's features are its keyboard and touchpad. The former is a pleasant experience thanks to Lenovo's slightly-curvy chiclet-style keys—I can't find any fault with the typing experience offered. The touchpad feels a bit cheap and is on the small side, though. While using it, I accidentally triggered a Windows 8 gesture too many times to count. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it would have been nice if Lenovo gave every aspect of the Yoga 2 Pro the luxe treatment, not just the screen and keyboard.
On paper, it looks great. In action, it still looks great.
Lenovo offers a super-charged ultrabook experience with the Yoga 2 Pro. Standard ultrabook fare comes in the form of an Intel i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. Sometimes, those base specs will set you back $1249, as is the case with Sony's VAIO Pro 13. For $50 less, Lenovo gives you a faster processor, double the RAM, and double the storage, not to mention tablet functionality.
The Yoga 2 Pro's processor performance bested many of the laptops we've previously reviewed. In fact, the only laptop we've tested with better processor performance is the Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-XB71, which costs double the Yoga's price. This boost in processor performance enables the Yoga to speed through complex spreadsheet formulas and intensive image filters.
Don't expect amazing graphics performance on this Lenovo just because of its processor, however. Cranking the settings up in Portal 2 gives you a barely playable game, but that's the case with most ultrabooks. Benchmarking software like 3DMark Vantage produced results similar to many other ultrabooks: nothing special. The bottom line on graphics is that you shouldn't expect much without a dedicated video card.
When it comes to battery life, the Yoga 2 Pro delivers solid numbers for a laptop this powerful. I clocked 7.5 hours of battery life for basic web browsing—bring that number down to 2 hours if you're playing a game. This isn't nearly as good as less powerful machines, but still impressive. Remember: With great power comes great... power usage.
One last bit on performance: I wouldn't expect a laptop that came out in 2013 to exclude support for the 5GHz WiFi spectrum. The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is one of the only recent laptops that doesn't have this feature. If you have no idea what the 5GHz WiFi spectrum is, then think nothing of this. If you rely on this spectrum for your home or work network, though, then this is a huge letdown.
Yoga this, Yoga that
Lenovo crammed plenty of Yoga-branded apps on the Yoga 2 Pro, and while not incredibly useful, at least they aren't terrible. Many of these apps make use of voice recognition technology, like the Yoga Chef app. This cookbook lets you load up a recipe and cycle through the various steps by saying "next" or "previous." This process actually works very well. Besides, you don't want pork-guts on your touchscreen or keyboard.
Similar to Yoga Chef is the Yoga Camera Man app. Yes, it's just your basic camera app, but by saying the magic phrase "1, 2, 3, cheese," the Yoga 2 Pro snaps a picture of you. Again, it's fun to use because it actually works, although the quality of any laptop front-facing camera is negligible at best.
If you want to edit your Camera Man photos, Lenovo has its proprietary photo editing app, Yoga Photo Touch. It's fun to play around with, and simple edits like auto tone and white balance are easy to apply, but don't expect anything like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.
The Yoga 2 Pro's pièce de résistance is arguably the Dragon Assistant software, which is like the iPhone's Siri for your computer. This software allows you to open other programs with your voice, as well as transcribe your speech into text. It accurately opened programs when I told it to, but going to specific websites never worked out as intended. Maybe if I played around with Dragon for a week I could master it, however most people can navigate their computer just fine without it. Still, the inclusion of a $99 program is a nice touch, especially on a laptop that already sells for way cheaper than the competition.
Flexibility and performance—on a budget
The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro has an MSRP of $1399.99, but is easily found for $1199.99. How is that possible? I'm still scratching my head on that one. For $100 more than a 13-inch MacBook Air, you get a 13-inch Windows 8.1 laptop that can transform into a tablet, not to mention a better processor, more RAM, and more storage space. This is the definition of bang for your buck.
There is the question of who should buy the Yoga 2 Pro. With a fast processor and an enormous screen resolution, certain graphic designers would definitely benefit from Lenovo's hybrid, although it would be nice if it had a stylus like the Sony VAIO Duo 13. Also, the Yoga 2 Pro makes a great family computer thanks to its different poses—I mean forms. Tent and tablet modes are perfect for entertaining young children.
Lenovo's latest hybrid isn't perfection personified, however. You can use it as a giant 13.3-inch tablet, and it works, but that isn't really ideal. Also, this laptop looks like a total Plain Jane if you don't have the orange version, and its touchpad is nothing special. If you can live with these minor setbacks, the Yoga 2 Pro is an incredibly powerful ultrabook for the money. It doesn't hurt that you can talk to it, either.