Last year, we watched as two-in-one convertible laptops battled for dominance, making 2013 the first round of the Windows hybrid wars. Laptop makers trotted out machines that twisted, turned, and bent over backwards to switch to tablet mode. Some were highly inventive and useful, while others (Acer’s Iconia W700Â comes to mind) were well-intentioned but awkwardly implemented.
Over the past months, few convertibles have impressed us as much as Lenovo’s Yoga series, whose screens fold a full 360 degrees to bring the display and keyboard back to back, turning the laptop into a tablet, with handy “tent” and “stand” modes in between. Since testing theÂ Yoga 13Â in November 2012, we’ve reviewed several Yoga models, most recently giving an Editors’ Choice to theÂ Yoga 2 Pro, with its fourth-generation “Haswell” processor and ultra-high-resolution 3,200×1,800 screen, in December 2013.
A Lenovo illustration of the Yoga series’ four operating modes.
One complaint those reviews have had in common, however, is that we haven’t been thrilled with the way the downward-facing keyboard hangs out in the breeze while using the Yoga in tablet mode. Although the keyboard’s disabled as the screen swings past 180 degrees, feeling the keys give way beneath your fingers as you hold the tablet is distracting and awkward.
Dell’s Yoga-like convertible, theÂ XPS 11, addresses the exposed-keys issue by making the keyboard a flat surface, similar to the touch-sensitive slabs Microsoft sells for theSurface Pro. We found holding the XPS 11 in tablet mode less awkward than Lenovo’s approach, but when it came to comfortable typing, Dell’s hybrid was far from ideal.
Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which is not only the first Yoga to bear the Chinese computer giant’s famous business brand but the first with a so-called “lift ‘n’ lock” keyboard that elevates the keyboard deck as you open the lid past 180 degrees. The deck slowly rises until it’s flush with the (disabled) key tops, making the bottom of the tablet a flat surfaceâ€”and, in our opinion, successfully and cleverly addressing the distraction caused by the keys protruding and giving way beneath our fingertips while using the device as a tablet or in stand mode.
So the question now becomes, how well does this ThinkPad hold up to the competition as a business-centric PC? In addition to the signature ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint and touch pad pointing devices, this Yoga is built around a powerful fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, making it one of the better-performing ThinkPads to date. We also liked our review unit’s great-looking 1080p HD screen. Then, too, there’s the exceptional ThinkPad build and materials quality.
Our bottom line? We loved last year’s Yoga 2 Pro, except for the exposed keys in tablet and stand modes. The ThinkPad Yoga resolves that issue, but at a price. To get one configured similarly to our review unit, with a 1,920×1,080 display and stylus support, you’re likely to spend upwards of $1,500. Our test model rang up at $1,669, which is frankly a lot for a 12.5-inch notebook.
Still, this is one well-performing, well-built laptop. That it seconds as a tablet, with a couple of other useful positions between that and laptop mode, provides significant additional value, making this not only our new favorite ThinkPad, but also one of the better business-oriented convertible notebooks of early 2014.
Read the entire review atÂ Computer Shopper.