Of all the 2-in-1 PCs in the market today, the one I'm most interested in is Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga Pro 2, a super-high-resolution wonder that makes for both a svelte and credible Ultrabook and a credible big-screen tablet. Indeed, the Yoga 2 could make for a relatively affordable alternative to the new version of the ThinkPad Carbon X1, if it holds up in day-to-day use.
That latter bit is of particular interest to me because I'll be replacing my regular-use Ultrabook, a 2012-era Samsung Series 9, sometime this year. I've gotten used to the large, 15-inch screen on that device, so moving down to the 14-inch X1 is an uncertainty and of course the even smaller 13-inch Yoga Pro 2 is a huge question mark in that regard.
Except for one thing: The Yoga 2 display is an absolute delight, a stunningly bright and clear 3200 x 1800 IPS panel that shames my Samsung and, frankly, every PC I've ever used. And oddly enough, this is a bigger deal on the desktop side of the Windows 8.1 fence than it is on the Modern side, since that latter environment automatically handles screen scaling wonderfully. Text on the desktop, whether its icon or window labels, or text in a word processing document—whatever—is so crisp and clear, it reminds me of when I saw HD video for the first time. It's like my eyes have suddenly gotten stronger.
So I'll be looking into that aspect of the Yoga 2 very carefully. But what else is going on here?
At a high level, what we see here is a much-improved version of the original IdeaPad Yoga 13, which debuted in late 2012 as a Windows 8.0 launch device. The original Yoga 13 was highly-anticipated, as it appeared to be one of the more innovative "transforming" hybrid PCs to ship alongside Microsoft's controversial new OS. (Thanks to its design, one might call it a "4-in-1" rather than a 2-in-1.) It was originally called the Yoga Flip.
You can read my Review: Lenovo IdeaPad YOGA 13 for the complete rundown of the first-generation Yoga. (I also received, but ultimately didn't review, the Windows RT-based Yoga 11; Lenovo replaced with a more prudent Windows 8-based version that I've not evaluated.) Long story short: For all the hype, the Yoga was just an IdeaPad U-series laptop with a special hinge, a "solid entry," as I put it, one that works best as a traditional Ultrabook but could be used as a tablet when needed.
Today, Lenovo sells a next-generation version of that original Yoga 13 that features a Haswell processor, of course, and starts at $799. It's still a good value, but I'm far more interested in the Yoga version I received for review: The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. This device differentiates itself from the standard Yoga 13 primarily via that crazy 3200 x 1800 IPS display, plus you can bump up some of the many options further than is possible with the Yoga 13. It starts at $999, well worth the added cost.
(By comparison, a ThinkPad Carbon X1 with a not-quite-Yoga 2 Pro-resolution 2560 x 1440 IPS display starts at $1399 and goes up from there. The X1 has a larger screen, a trackpoint "nubbin" controller and other things that differentiate it, of course. Plus it's a real ThinkPad.)
As with the first round of Yoga devices, the Yoga 2 Pro offers a multi-use screen which, thanks to its hinge, can orient the device in a variety of ways, including:
Standard laptop mode. Look, it's a (multi-touch) Ultrabook.
Stand mode, where the keyboard is under the device and the screen is positioned for movie playback (say, on a plane) or presentation.
Tent mode, which works like stand mode but provide more support. This is good for playing touch-based games, in particular, since your screen taps won't cause the screen to wobble.
Tablet mode. Fold the screen all the way back and the Yoga 2 Pro is a largish tablet.
From a style perspective, the Yoga 2 Pro is actually pretty gorgeous. The review unit comes in a nice organgey "tangerine" color (outside surfaces only) that I'd absolutely pick if I were paying, and the top side of bottom of the device around the keyboard has a pleasant, tacky texture. It cuts a svelte and pretty figure that weighs exactly 3 pounds and is only .6 inches thick. (By comparison, the industry benchmark MacBook Air is also 3 pounds heavy and .68 inches thick, but it packs a pathetic, non-Retina screen with 1440 by 900 native resolution. In other words, the Yoga 2 Pro rates.)
Like most IdeaPads, the Yoga 2 Pro can be heavily configured and that $999 model can quickly hit $1600 or more if you're not prudent. You have a range of processor options (Intel Core i5 through i7), RAM (4 GB or 8 GB, which I like seeing as an option) and storage (256 GB SSD to 512 GB SSD; this is the first time I've personally used an Ultrabook-class machine with a 256 GB SSD). All models ship with Intel HD Graphics 4400, Intel Wireless-N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a smallish (which I like) multi-touch trackpad, and a 4-cell battery Lenovo says is rated at 9 hours of life. I'll test that claim.
From a ports perspective, the Yoga 2 Pro offers 1 USB 3.0 port and 1 USB 2.0 port; the latter provides device charging when the PC is off. There's also micro-HDMI for video-out, a 2-in-1 (SD/MMC) card reader (rather than microSD) and a combo mic/headphone jack, which is standard these days.
The keyboard is backlit, of course, and I'll need to spend some time with it to get used to the key throw, but Lenovo keyboards are generally excellent, so I'm hopeful.
The power button for this device is found on the side, near the front right in laptop mode, which seems like an odd placement until you realize that this makes the button accessible in all usage modes. As with anything else in life, if you actually use this device regularly, you'll simply get used to it, so it's not worth complaining about.
One thing I really like is the new power connector type found on newer IdeaPad and ThinkPad portable PCs. It's a solid even thick plug, and it can go in either way, so there's no worries about positioning it correctly. And because it's not one of those tiny connectors you'll never inadvertently jam it into a mic/headphone jack by mistake (or vice versa), a common problem on many Ultrabooks.
I can ding the Yoga 2 Pro in two areas immediately. First, Lenovo bundles a lot of first- and third-party software on the device, which I don't like, and it's going to take a while to sort through it all to determine which is useful and which is clearly crapware. My initial couple of experiments point to the latter—Iolo System Checkup, seriously?—which is disappointing. And this device is actually configured to display an IdeaPad-branded screen saver. Guys, it's not 1996.
But overall, my initial impressions are quite positive. I'm looking forward to using this regularly and seeing how it works in the real world.