In many ways, a laptop is a far more personal machine than a traditional desktop computer. While my desktop is the machine I use 90% of the time, my laptop can and often goes with me everywhere, riding along on planes and in cars, staying with me on the couch and following me to bed, all the while bearing the brunt of my snacking and spills.
In the end, when it comes down to picking one machine to write my way through the best and worst of times, it’s my laptop (currently an aging Thinkpad X60) that has pulled me through. So, while a desktop is mutable and easily upgradable, the laptop I choose next, whether it’s for 3 or 13 years, has to be a good fit.
The Yoga 2 Pro represents Lenovo’s effort to take full advantage of Windows 8’s touch-centric Metro interface. It is a far cry from the chunky, black Thinkpads Lenovo has typically produced. The Yoga 2 Pro is svelte and silver (or orange) with a very high resolution display and a strong features-set.
The Yoga 2 Pro is thusly named because it does “poses” (modes). These modes all have uses, though the value of all but laptop mode, is fairly specific.
Poses (in order of preference)
The Yoga series’ biggest selling point is its “360-Degree Flip-and-Fold Design”. It’s a pragmatic approach considering Windows 8 is trying to be everything to all devices. In other words, it makes sense that you can at least use your laptop as a tablet if you really wanted to. Whether or not you actually want to, is another thing altogether.
If you’re buying a laptop then you’re going to use it as such the majority of the time. That said, as a laptop, the Yoga 2 Pro is beautiful, practical, and very easy to get used to.
This is no knock against the Yoga 2 Pro’s flexibility but all told, if you want to get work done, you need a keyboard and pointing device. And to that end, the Yoga 2 Pro fits the bill perfectly.
Stand mode was my second favorite mode if for no other reason than it allowed me to lay on my back and “sit” close to the screen instead of having the keyboard in the way. Whether this is actually good for my poor, aging eyes is debatable.
Stand mode has intrinsic value in that you can adjust the viewing angle either up or down. This makes it useful for table/desk or couch/bed use.
When placed in stand, tent, or tablet modes, the Yoga 2 Pro’s keyboard turns off. There is the matter of the keyboard being exposed in these modes so care must be taken wherever you lay it.
Tent mode is useful if you have something you want to present, such as on a desk or at a table. The angle of tent mode is upward-facing so it has little value using it on the couch or in bed, nor does it feel natural propped on my lap or stomach.
Still, I found tent mode most useful such as when cooking. I could quickly do a Google search for a recipe, fold it back into tent mode and then stand it on the table to refer to, much like I would a regular recipe book.
Everything wants to be a tablet, but a 13-inch, 3-pound slab? It just doesn’t work and even though the keyboard turns off in tablet mode, it’s still disconcerting to have your hand mash against keys when you hold it.
When appraising tablet mode, even on its couch-worthiness, I figured, if I’m going to sit on the couch with a tablet that can function as a laptop, I might as well use it as a laptop. A physical keyboard is far easier to use than the Windows 8 onscreen keyboard, so you essentially gain nothing from using Yoga 2 Pro as a tablet.
Configuration and Build Quality
The Yoga 2 Pro can be had in Silver Gray or Clementine Orange. Our review sample came in Silver Gray. At first blush, it looks a lot like the Macbook Air. Our review sample came configured as follows:
- Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
- Intel Core i7-4500U @ 2.4 GHZ (1 CPU, 2 cores, 4 threads)
- 8 GB RAM
- 225 GB SSD
- Intel HD Graphics 4400 Mobile
- 13.3-inch capacitive display (3200×1800 x 59 Hz)
Overall, build quality is top-notch. It’s almost impossible to find any glaring weaknesses in its construction. The whole thing is put together well and feels solid and looks gorgeous.
Usually if I go looking for something negative, I can find it. Not so much with the Yoga 2 Pro though I guess, that it is plastic might be a ding against it. In defense of that, it is a nice soft feeling plastic that resists fingerprints and smudges. There is a bit of flex in the back of the display but not enough to notice or to cause the screen to bend or distort.
The back is well vented. The device never got hot, making it a wonderful addition to my lap. In fact, I can only recall the fan coming on 3 or 4 times and when it did, it was quiet and discrete.
Hinge design is solid, which makes sense considering the things Lenovo demands of it but even so, it’s nice you can feel confident opening and flipping the lid. Movement is smooth and fluid; there’s no twisting or wobble, when you open the lid it stays put.
Ports and Switches
The Yoga 2 Pro has enough expansion ports to get by but expect to have to accessorize to get anywhere near desktop or even laptop-level convenience. Remember this is an ultrabook so everything is minimal and it’s up to you to provide further external functionality.
On the right edge you will find a (front to back) battery status indicator, power switch, and “Novo” button (which allows you to access the BIOS, restore the computer, and so on).
Towards the back is a rotation lock, volume rocker, headphone jack, and USB 2.0 port.
On the left edge (front to back) there’s an SD slot, micro HDMI port, USB 3.0 port, and power port.
Around the perimeter of the display there’s a thick rubber lip that gives a satisfying “twunk” when you flip the lid closed, and it gives the edges a nice tight seal.
Around the keyboard is a grippy, rubber finish that gives the hands a yielding but steady resting place. It feels nice, I really loved resting my palms on this stuff or tapping lightly with my fingers when pausing to think.
The rubber cleans up fairly well, which was a concern at first. I tried imagining how this thing might look in a few years once the effect of countless hours of exposure to sebaceous oils did its trick. I feel that regular cleaning will probably keep the Yoga 2 Pro looking nice for some time, but it will definitely wear differently from hard plastic or metal.
The track pad is big and responded well to even the lightest brush from my fingertips but to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite. I found the texture a bit too flat and there are no physical buttons, merely the hint of such, delineated by a discrete white line at the bottom.
I just never got used to it though I suppose if I wanted to tweak it more in the Control Panel, I might have found a happy medium. It’s not a bad track pad per se, and many a Lenovo watcher will be likely pleased to see they aren’t stuck using that little red, rubber nub between G and H.
Lenovo is renowned for its keyboards, consistently producing models that respond well and just feel great. That said, I wasn’t overly taken with the Yoga 2 Pro’s keyboard either. The chiclet design and thinness of the computer really cuts down on how far the keys press, and that takes some getting used to, particularly when moving from a traditional keyboard.
Then there’s the arrangement. Laptop manufacturers are always messing around with keyboard layouts in some vain attempt to do something with all those keys we don’t normally use, but can’t do away with because of that one time when we’ll actually need them. So we end up with “Scroll Lock” and “Pause” and “Caps Lock” even though they’re relics of computing days gone by.
On the Yoga 2 Pro, for example, the “Home” button is right next to “Backspace” and there were many times my cursor ended up at the front of the line, which begs the question, who uses “Home” so often that it even merits a full-size key?
On the plus side, as a traveler, the thickness (0.61”) is perfect and the weight (3.1 pounds) is light enough to lug across any Texas airport (I’m looking at you George Bush International) without having to switch shoulders all the time.
The Yoga 2 Pro has a glossy, ten-point capacitive display, and is one of the first of what will soon be many super high resolution displays coming to market. And, if what we saw at CES is any indication, 4K is just a product cycle or two away from commonality, like multicore CPUs and gigabytes of RAM before it.
Overall, the display on the Yoga 2 Pro is nice, it’s fairly bright and crisp and represented colors well. For a $1200 laptop, you can’t do much better. Its touchscreen responded well to any swipes, flips, and pinches I could poke at it.
On the downside, maybe it’s just me but it seems like bezel around the viewable space is a bit wide. I realize that having a wide bezel is important if you’re going to hold it like a tablet but as previously mentioned, you’re unlikely to ever want to do that.
Just the thought of holding this thing for a long periods of time as a tablet makes my arms hurt.
My biggest complaint with the display isn’t actually it or Lenovo’s fault but rather how Windows desktop apps scale to such a high resolution (3200×1800), which are an incredibly mixed bag of “good” to “OK” to just outright “terrible”. Popular apps like VLC player and the desktop Dropbox application are going to challenge your patience and pointer skills. Buttons and controls may appear extremely tiny, while text may overrun buttons, and other foolishness. It can be quite frustrating.
For a complete rundown of what to expect from a high resolution display (specifically the Yoga 2 Pro) running a Windows desktop, you can check out this article here.
The quickest, easiest, and least aggravating way to use your apps on this display is to lower the resolution to something more workable. For me, 1920×1080 (good old HD) was the sweet spot but it will be entirely up to how much desktop app wonkiness you want to endure.
The native resolution is certainly usable, Windows 8.1 itself scales fairly well and doesn’t present too many problems but unless you want to trade in all your old legacy apps for Windows Store equivalents (good luck with that) or find desktop equivalents that work well at super high resolutions, then extra patience will come in handy.
Regardless, you will probably like this display, or at least appreciate it – at 13.3 inches, it packs in over 275 DPI, which rivals similarly sized “Retina Displays”. But, there is some reluctance on my part to wholly throw my support behind it. It feels a bit overkill, particularly since it’s not that large a viewable area, and given all the system-wide inconsistencies with scaling, the extra resolution seems wasted.
The speakers are located on the bottom, toward the front. Sound on the Yoga 2 Pro is delightful. I was really pleased with its evenness and wide range.
With a lot of laptops and tablets, sound is spotty and tinny. The Yoga 2 Pro’s sound seemed to fill the machine, getting nice and loud without distorting. Coupled with the crisp display and various presentation modes, this turns into a nice little movie machine
Performance and Benchmarks
When asked what kind of computer someone should get, I usually reply, “what do you use it for?” And, the answer is almost invariably a combination of e-mail, web browsing, Flash games, YouTube videos, Facebook, and so forth. In short, a serious gamer knows what kind of hardware they need, an A/V professional lives and dies by their rigs, and a programmer is going to obviously pick the best setup that will allow them to compile stuff as quickly as possible.
When evaluating performance, we tested the Yoga 2 Pro on its battery, processor, and graphics performance. Rather than belabor you with benchmark after benchmark, we elected to keep it simple.
Everyone is going on now about battery life, and with good reason, chipsets and battery technology have vastly improved over the years. On many newer machines, particularly Apple products, you can easily see 9-12 hours of continuous use before needing a charge.
How-To Geek employs two battery life benchmarks. To test, we disabled battery saving features such as auto sleep and screen timeouts. With Windows, we can’t drain the battery all the way down to zero. The lowest you can set the “critical battery level” (the point at which the machine sleeps, hibernates, or shuts down) is 5%.
For our tests, we run the computer on battery, with WiFi enabled, and the screen set at 50% brightness. We employ Internet Explorer 11, which is the default browser on Windows computer, until you install something else, of course.
The How-To Geek Battery Benchmark
The Yoga 2 Pro is an interesting character because while it sports Intel’s Haswell chipset, which is designed with lower power consumption and operating temperatures, that doesn’t necessarily translate to long battery life on the Yoga 2 Pro.
The first battery benchmark we ran is our own home-grown test, which works by cycling through various websites every 20 seconds. This is meant to simulate normal browsing. It’s not meant to stress the machine, rather give us an idea of how long you can sit on the couch surfing the internet before the battery dies.
The result was a modest but uninspiring 5 hours and 28 minutes. Not bad but not great by stretch.
Peacekeeper Battery Test
The Peacekeeper browser battery benchmark is a much more intensive test designed to fully stress your browser with a sequence of looped routines.
When I first ran the Peacekeeper test, I thought it was a mistake, it gave me 3 hours, 16 minutes, so I tested it twice more and got no better than 3 hours, 19 minutes. All in all, according to our average you can expect about 3 hours, 13 minutes on any given day.
In both cases, with the HTG test and Peacekeeper test, battery life was pretty abysmal for a modern, Haswell-equipped Windows laptop. Realistically, a blend of browsing and video watching is going to give you between three-and-a-quarter to five-and-a-half hours. Arguably, employing simple power saving measures will extend that to a day, maybe two, and it will remain charged in standby mode almost indefinitely.
So, while you are unlikely (hopefully) to use it unplugged for 5 hours straight the moral is, if you’re going to be out and about, use a power plan, take your adapter with you, and know where the outlets are.
Processor (CPU) Performance – Geekbench
Geekbench puts the processor through its paces by throwing a variety of CPU-intensive tests such as encryption/decryption, image compression/decompression, and other calculation-heavy stuff. Tests are performed using a single core and up to all the cores on the chip, in this case, the Intel i7-4500U, which has two cores.
Because HTG doesn’t yet have a large database of scores from which to pull, we compared the CPU in the Yoga 2 Pro to other existing Geekbench Pro benchmarks.
For purposes of simple comparison, we have results for the Macbook Pro 15-inch model, which represents the higher-end of traditional laptops. The Macbook Air 13-inch model is an ultrabook and in line with the Yoga 2 Pro, while the Alienware 17 (with the higher-end GPU) is the representative Windows gaming laptop.
The first set of scores are based on 32-bit (single core in grey, multi core in blue) results.
In the second graph we see 64-bit (single core in grey, multi core in blue) results.
The Yoga 2 Pro put in a respectable showing particularly with the 32-bit results, and single core results are pretty close, particularly when compared to the Apple models. On the multi-core front, it performs better than the Macbook Air, but quickly falls behind when stacked up against CPU models with higher core counts.
3DMark – Graphics (GPU) Performance
3DMark stresses the GPU using a variety of tests to simulate intense gaming sessions, where particles and textures are turned way up. In these scenarios, your GPU is likely to work harder, get hot, and frame rates will plummet.
There are two different 3DMark benchmarks, Cloud Gate and Fire Strike. Cloud Gate is intended toward mid-range notebooks and home PCs while Fire Strike is geared for high-end gaming notebooks and PCs. Again, because HTG does not have a large body of GPUs to compare to, we have to rely on other sources. In this case, we simply used existing 3DMark scores available online.
What we’re showing here is how the Yoga 2 Pro stacks up against Apple’s offerings versus something tailored specifically towards gaming, the Alienware 17.
As you can see, if you’re planning on gaming, the Yoga 2 Pro isn’t your machine, but then again, neither is the Macbook Air and the Macbook Pro holds its own with Cloud Gate but no one can touch the Alienware laptop on the Fire Strike results.
Conclusion: The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict
Benchmarks are great and they clearly demonstrate the Lenovo’s strengths and weaknesses, but what we really want to do is revisit the question, what do you use your computer for and what can the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro do for you?
For the most part, this computer is intended for business types, students, and anyone who wants a light SOHO laptop that is as comfortable creating spreadsheets as it is playing movies. A gaming laptop it is not; you can play stuff like solitaire, “Cut the Rope”, and maybe even a calculation-happy game like Civilization IV – but, Crysis 2 or even Torchlight 2 and you can expect more frustration than fun.
- Gorgeous design; solidly, reassuring build quality and workmanship
- Stays cool, quiet fan
- Lush, super high resolution display
- Fast processor
- Large SSD
- Great sound
- Nice price
- Not all modes are equally valuable and tablet mode is especially useless
- Keyboard is exposed to table and hands when used in presentation and tablet modes
- Many Windows desktop apps don’t behave well at super high resolutions
- Awkward keyboard layout takes some getting used to
- Poor battery life
- Poor gaming performance
Judging a laptop is either easy or it isn’t. Often you can quickly deduce whether you love or hate a laptop in the first hour of use. The Yoga 2 Pro wasn’t an easy a decision but over the course of the time that I used it – once I got past the Windows desktop’s glaring deficiencies, and once I learned to adapt to the keyboard and layout – it proved itself to be a good machine. Yes, the graphics are middling and the battery life is poor, but at the end of the day, it’s a solidly built machine with a lot of nice technology crammed into it.
What the Yoga 2 Pro really has going for it are a killer feature-set at an extremely competitive price. It has a large SSD, super high-resolution display, and a top-of-the-line CPU, demonstrating that the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is just as at ease being a button-down work machine by day as it is a movie star by night. And, while it isn’t ideal for games, if you lower the resolution and your expectations, you might still enjoy some older titles, especially calculation-intensive games such as Civilization.
The Yoga 2 Pro has enough going for it to be taken seriously, so if you’re looking for a thin, light, eye-catching, speedy computer that gets out of your way so you can actually enjoy it, then this is a pretty easy decision after all.