With the Holiday season in full swing, tech toys are at the top of many people's wish lists. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a new Intel-based 2 in 1 Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and after a few days of playing with it, I wanted to share my opinion if you should be wishing for this Ultrabook in your stocking.
One thing that surprised me immediately about this particular piece of hardware was how light it was. Weighing in at just over 3 pounds it’s probably the lightest laptop I’ve held recently. Externally it doesn’t come with a lot of frills. There is no replaceable external battery which could be problematic for some, but seemed to do just fine lasting through several hours of web surfing and Netflix binge-ing. There aren’t a whole lot of inputs either. The Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 boats 2 USB ports (one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0), a mini-HDMI port, and a 3-in-1 card reader. One thing that stood out for me was the power adapter connection. Rather than just using a standard barrel plug (which I’m sure some of us have snapped off accidentally in the past), the Lenovo sports a plug that feels a little more hearty and gives a little more confidence in a sturdy connection. Lastly there is a combination microphone and headphone jack that seems to be optimized for use with the pre-installed Skype app, which would also be used in conjunction with the 720p webcam.
The guts of the Lenovo were a pleasant surprise overall. The Intel Core i5 1.8Ghz processor sounds under-powered at first, but considering this Ultrabook seems to consider itself a tablet first and a laptop second, it provides plenty of power to run several applications at once and is balanced by the 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a solid state drive. While we’re on the subject of the SSD, one of the more disappointing aspects of this machine is the paltry size of the internal hard drive. Once I had installed my most used applications, touchscreen apps, and sync’d up my Google and Sky drives, more than 75% of the paltry 128GB SSD had been used up. Obviously a larger SSD would raise the price considerably, but I would recommend carrying a 1TB USB 3.0 external drive to store your data on. Of course one plus of having the SSD built in is that the computer boots up blazing fast and the response time launching programs and apps is almost immediate.
The next thing I’d like to address is the screen. The 13.3″ size is good for a laptop but a little clunky for a full-on tablet. The screen itself is bright and clear and has a native resolution of 3200×1800 which makes everything look sharp and clean. One hint for people NOT using the pre-installed Internet Explorer browser. You may want to adjust your settings to make you tabs and windows a little larger from within the program since the Lenovo didn’t seem to like it too much when I tried to change to something other than the native resolution. The screen is also really prone to smudging, but it doesn’t seem to affect productivity and cleans easily with a microfiber or cotton cloth. All of the great things about this screen does come with one caveat though, and that is how fragile it looks and feels. I felt in constant fear of breaking the screen every time I opened the lid of the computer. Paranoia aside, it just felt too thin and breakable.
The keyboard should feel very familiar to those folks who are used to working on Macs. The keys have a great feel to them and are spaced out well enough that I didn’t feel like I was fat-fingering every other word. The keyboard is backlit as well and is very responsive. One complaint is that when you’re using the Lenovo in tablet mode, the keyboard is exposed underneath, and I feel like I’m pressing keys accidentally.
One other thing that blew me away was the sound that came out of this tiny shell. Most laptops in recent years have had fairly weeny speakers and watching a movie or playing a game on them has been an exercise in frustration to get any real sound out of them. Using Netflix or showing someone a YouTube clip on the Lenovo was a pleasure. Using the Dolby Home Theater v4 audio driver, I can now actually hear what I’m watching. Users of applications like Pandora or Spotify will really appreciate the sound as well.
The software is really the only part where this machine really doesn’t excel. Unfortunately it comes bundled with Windows 8.1 and a whole lotta bloatware. You’ll spend your first couple of hours with this computer out of the box just adjusting settings and removing so-called “productivity” software just to get everything the way you need it to actually function harmoniously. I do find it helpful sometimes being able to use both the touch screen and the keyboard to accomplish tasks or move between applications or programs though, and don’t really mind the “Metro” start screen too much. The Windows app store is frustrating mostly because, for those of us used to either the Apple or Android app stores, there really isn’t much of a selection available for even some of the most commonly used apps. The word on the street is that many of the most common frustrations with this version of Windows are being worked on as we speak, and that an update or two in the future may address some functionality issues. That said, Lenovo should back off on the bloatware.
Overall the hardware is responsive, it’s very portable, and while it doesn’t offer a lot of options outside of the most standard of inputs, the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro 2 in 1 would work well for college students or in an office. If you’re a creative type you can appreciate the 10-point touch screen which was very accurate when taking notes and drawing in tablet mode. If you’re a traveler for work or pleasure you can dig into the creature comforts of a bright screen and clear sound for watching movies or listening to music while on an airplane or in your hotel room.
Overall Score – 80%