August 05, 2013, 2:05 PM — Lenovo's IdeaPad series soldiers on with this latest version of the Yoga, an Ultrabook designed to appeal to users who want both conventional notebook and tablet form factors in one package. The Yoga 11S doesn't have quite as many convolutions as, say, the ThinkPad Twist, but it's another example of how an Ultrabook can have more modes than open and shut.
The Yoga might be the most aptly named convertible of the year, barring the aforementioned Twist. Its hinges rotate a full 360 degrees to allow the display to be put in one of four basic positions: conventional notebook mode, "tent" mode (a V shape with the hinges facing up), "stand" mode (display facing out, keyboard down), and tablet mode. At only 0.67 inch thick and weighing less than 3 pounds, it doesn't drag down or fill up a laptop bag, and heat vents to the rear of the unit keep your lap from getting roasted.
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The whole unit is swathed in Lenovo's familiar soft-touch cladding, which encloses the Yoga's edges touching the table when the Ultrabook's in stand or tent mode. The Yoga's keyboard isn't illuminated, but the keys are large and widely spaced. Typing is decently comfortable, barring the slightly undersized Backspace key and the relatively shallow key travel. The touchpad is multitouch and gesture-enabled, a nice complement to the 10-point-touch-enabled screen.
The Yoga survives a good long time without power, lasting a solid 5 hours, 5 minutes in my Netflix rundown test. As with some of the other Lenovo models I've looked at, the Yoga's power connector has the same dimensions as a USB plug, although it's not an actual USB plug. Like the power connector on the new iPhone and iPad, it doesn't need to be plugged in with any particular side up.
I normally ignore most of the preloaded software in a PC because they tend to be cut from the same cloth, but Lenovo has inserted a few Yoga-specific apps worth mentioning. Lenovo Motion Control jumps on the motion-control bandwagon and lets you wave your hands across the screen to perform actions in a small set of programs -- turning pages, skipping to the next music track, that sort of thing. It works reasonably well, but hardly seems groundbreaking.
Lenovo Transition lets you control which applications go to full-screen mode when the Yoga is used in anything but its default display mode. However, the list of applications it controls is very small, and it doesn't appear that users can add to it.
One thing about the Yoga's design that may cause concern: When it's folded all the way back in tablet mode, the keyboard and touchpad are exposed on the bottom. I worried about accidentally pressing the keys (that is, against my knees). Nevertheless, because the keyboard is recessed fairly deeply, if you place the Yoga keyboard down on a smooth surface -- a table, for instance -- it shouldn't cause problems.
To partly alleviate concerns about the exposed keys, Lenovo sells a slot-in carrying sleeve that can cover either the whole unit or just the keyboard when it's in tablet mode. It's not a perfect solution, but it helps. Unfortunately, if you use the sleeve to cover the entire unit, the friction against the cladding on the outside of the Ultrabook makes it a little difficult to get the sleeve back off again.
At its core, the ThinkPad Yoga is a good machine with an appealing consumer-class feature set. Its rough-and-tumble approach to tablet and presentation modes might give some users pause. If you're looking for a convertible that doesn't sit on its keyboard, or more business/security features, check out the Dell XPS 12, the Samsung 700T, and the HP Revolve.
This article, "Review: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S has some odd moves," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in computer hardware and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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