There are quite a few good 2-in-1 laptops available right now in stores, but most of them are rather expensive. In this post however we’re going to talk about one of the more affordable convertibles that you can find, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11.
It’s a compact machine with a 11.6 inch touchscreen and the convertible Yoga form that allows the display to rotate 360 degrees on its back. The laptop is available in a few different configurations and I got to test the base one, built around an Intel BayTrail-M N3520 hardware platform, which sells for under $500 at the time of this review (August 2014).
Given the hardware and the low price, you should expect this Yoga to be a decent computer for light activities and some multimedia use, for school and traveling. And it actually is, although there are a few aspects that Lenovo could have done differently, better I might say. The article below will tell you all about them.
The 11 inch Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 sells for under $500 and is one of the best affordable 2-in-1s of the moment
|Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11|
|Screen||11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 px resolution, IPS, touchscreen|
|Processor||Intel BayTrail Pentium N3520 CPU – details|
|Memory||4 GB DDR3|
|Storage||500 GB 5400 rpm HD|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||1 x USB 2.0 port + 1 x USB 3.0, SD card reader, micro-HDMI|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Size||297 x 206 x 17 mm (11.7″ x 8.12″ x 0.67″)|
|Weight||about 1.45 kg (3.2 pounds)|
|Extras||720p camera, stereo speakers, WiDi support|
Design and exterior
You’re probably going to like this thing once you get it out of its box.
I got to test the black version with a silver interior, but the Yoga is also available with a more appealing Clementine Orange outer shell. Even so, this sober version looks and feels really nice. The lid cover and the belly are made from some sort of smooth plastic, not as rubbery and not a prone to catching smudges as the one of the Asus Chromebook C200 or the ThinkPads, but still capable of offering grip when grabbing the laptop.
The interior is made from a simpler, rougher type of plastic, which does resemble aluminum on a first look, and the laptop is strong, with only marginal flex when pressing on the keyboard or on the lid.
There is however one aspect that I disliked. This laptop’s interior is framed by a slim black plastic rim which is more elevated than the silver palm-rest and rather sharp and unpleasant when crossing your palm and fingers over it. Lenovo designed it like this in order to support the screen when the laptop is closed, but they could have finished this lip better and not make it as sharp and as obtrusive as it is.
The same lip also borders the screen, but it’s far less problematic. The display itself is surrounded by a rather large bezel, as the Yoga 2 Pro is not the most compact 11 incher out there, or the lightest, with its 3.2 lbs body. It is fairly thin though (0.7 inches).
Despite its size and rectangular shape (the front does not get thinner, like on other machines), there aren’t many ports placed around the sides, but just two USB slots, a card-reader and a micro-HDMI connector, without any adapters in the pack. The Power, Rotation-Lock and OneKey Recovery buttons are also placed on the right edge, as well as a volume rocker, while a Windows Home button sits just under the screen.
You’ll use these when turning this Yoga in tablet mode. The two metallic hinges are sturdy and should handle continuous folding and unfolding well. The keyboard and trackpad become inactive as soon as you rotate the screen past 180 degrees and the laptop switches from the Laptop Mode.
They are still exposed under the body, but Lenovo made sure the keys are actually recessed into the frame so they won’t come in contact with anything when having this device lay down as a tablet or as a stand. Cause besides the Laptop and Tablet modes, this thing also works as a Stand or a Tent, the 4 standard ways made popular by the original Yoga a few years ago.
The display itself is decent, with an IPS panel (HW ID: AU Optronics B116XW02 V2.0) and 1366 x 768 px resolution. It’s also fairly bright, although the middle is brighter than the sides, so brightness distribution isn’t stellar.
The display is really good for this price range
The panel isn’t bad when it comes to displaying colors either (covers 74% of sRGB and 56% of the AdobeRGB spectrum), according to my Spyder4 Elite colorimeter, as you can see from the numbers below:
- measured gamma: 2.3 ;
- max brightness in the middle of the screen: 343 cd/m2;
- contrast at max brightness: 710:1;
- white point: 6600 K;
- black on max brightness: 0.48 cd/m2;
- average DeltaE: 2.04 uncalibrated, 1.38 calibrated .
The DeltaE is surprisingly good for a computer in this price range, although Blues are somewhat skewed and don’t get significantly better after running the calibration process.
On top of these, since this is a 2-in-1, you get the advantage of adjusting the screen to any angle you might want, which is very useful if you plan to use the device in bed, on the couch or other less-conventional places. After all, this is an 11 incher and won’t probably see a lot of desk activity.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on this thing is not bad. However, it’s not backlit and it does flex a bit and on top of these minor inconveniences, the keys have a short stroke, thus typing on the Yoga 11 does require some accommodation time and might not satisfy some of you.
Despite these, I did not encounter any problems while typing this review, once I got used to the feedback and the layout, which is stand by the way, just like it should be. Just in keep in mind that the 6th row of keys does not default as Function keys, but as various helpful shortcuts (thus, in order to hit CTRL+F5, you’ll have to hit CTRL+FN+F5), but this can be addressed in the settings if you want to.
The trackpad is pretty good as well. It is a bit smaller than what is available on other 11 inchers and its surface has a rugged feeling, thus is not as smooth as you might be used to from other devices. But it is accurate, reliable and not very clunky. It also supports gestures, but I couldn’t figure a way to get two finger taps to work on this device (I perform right clicks this way and I could not on this Yoga).
Hardware and everyday use
Hardware wise, this Yoga 2 11 model tested here is powered by an Intel Pentium N3520 BayTrail-M processor with 4 GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500 GB HDD.
The BayTrail platform is not a performer, despite having one of the fastest processors Intel offers for this platform on this unit. It is however capable of handling well most everyday activities, including browsing between multiple tabs, playing all sorts of video content and even some very old PC games, or the titles in Microsoft’s Store.
Intel BayTrail-M hardware pushes the Yoga, with 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD
The HDD really drags this thing down though. It’s a standard 5400 rpm drive (Seagate ST500LT032) with no help from any caching SSD and as a result, the laptop is slow to start from cold, installing or launching programs is going to take a while and you’ll encounter occasional hiccups and freezes even when performing daily tasks, but the truth is I haven’t used a computer with a regular HDD for a long time and my expectations might have gotten a bit off. I did notice that freezes only occur when the HDD is at high-load, mostly when installing programs and copying content from one partition to another, so that should not be a major issue, as you’re not goign to perform such tasks everyday.
Regardless, if you end up getting this Yoga, replacing the HDD with an SSD is going to make a major difference!
I did run a couple of benchmarks on this one and you can see the results below:
- PCMark 07: 1946 pts;
- 3DMark 11: P205;
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 13083, Cloud Gate –1026, Sky Driver – 483;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 7.85 fps, CPU 1.78 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL – , CPU 147 cb.
While speed is not of this platform’s assets, you should not forget that it is fanless, so the Yoga 2 runs really quiet, with only the spinning hard-drive humming and creaking from time to time (loud enough to actually hear in a completely silent room).
The laptop also runs fairly cool while performing daily activities. Its back gets merely warm and there’s some heat reaching the right side of the palm-rest, but temperatures are never going to prevent you from using this machine on your lap, if you want to.
On the other hand, pushing the laptop and running benchmarks for a while does lead to higher case temperatures, both on the inside, just on top of the keyboard, and on the belly. But again, they don’t get high enough for me to really complain about. There are two pics below, one with daily-use internal temperatures, and another with temps reached while running Cinebench 11.5.
The speakers are not bad on this Lenovo either. They are placed on the bottom and fire downwards, which does lead to some minor distortions and vibrations that spread through the entire case at high volume (you’ll mostly notice that when holding the device in your hands, in tablet mode), but they are really loud and sound rich enough for daily use.
The Wi-Fi chip was not very fast (a Broadcom BCM43142 module) in my tests, although you won’t notice the only average speed (about 20-24 Mbps, while other modern laptops easily reach 40-50 Mbps in the exact same conditions) unless you download a lot of stuff from the Internet, as the browsing and streaming experience was solid, with no unusual buffering or signal drops.
The Lenovo Yoga 2 11 gets a 34 Wh battery and with daily use that consists in browsing between 6-8 tabs, watching some Youtube clips and editing texts, that translates in about 5 hours of life, with the screen at 40% (roughly 150 nits), with the Daily Power Mode selected from the Power Manager.
I also got around 5 hours and 30 minutes of looping a 1080p self-stored clip in similar conditions, while the average consumption at Idle, with the screen completely dimmed-off leads to an estimated battery life of roughly 8 hours, which is the most you could squeeze out of this laptop.
A 45Wh brick accompanies this laptop, capable of powering it under heavy load just fine and able to charge it (5% to 98%) in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Expect 4-5 hours of daily use from this one
Price and availability
The Lenovo Yoga 2 11 is available in a few different configurations. This tested version has a list price of around $500, but you can actually find it for between $450 and $500 in various online webstores.
Higher end configurations sell for more though. Lenovo does offer this laptop with Intel Core i3 and i5 Y-series Haswell processors and pre-installed SSDs, for between $600 and $700, and those are worth a look if you need a more powerful machine.
The BayTrail hardware is going to handle daily tasks well enough though and it is fanless, which I come to appreciate more and more lately after using this platform on a few different laptops and then going back to my fan-cooled daily driver. So you could buy the version tested here and add about $100 extra for a 240 Gigs SSD (any 2.5″ 7 mm drive will work), to replace the included HDD with, thus end up with a nice, quiet 2-in-1 mini laptop for roughly $600.
With that in mind, we could conclude that Lenovo did a decent job with this Yoga, although there are a few things they could have done differently.
Two major aspects bother me on this base model tested here: the slow HDD inside and the small battery. The first hinders the daily performance, but can be addressed fairly easily. The latter cannot and that might be enough to steer you away from this Lenovo, if you need something that can go for more than 4-5 hours of daily use. 4-5 hours of real-life autonomy is not that bad, but most other ultraportables can go for longer these days.
The Yoga 2 11 is not without flaws, but if you’re after a hybrid laptop that sells for under $500, this one is worth considering
Dell’s Inspiron 11 3000 series is a close rival for this Yoga, with more ports, a larger 43Wh battery and pretty much the same features, including the convertible form-factor. It’s also cheaper, selling for under $450 right now. And there’s also the Asus Transformer Book T200, a stand-alone tablet with a latchable keyboard dock which sells for $400 (including the dock), lasts for 8-9 hours on a charge, but is heavier and more limited in terms of processing power (built on an Intel BayTrail-T platform).
Last but not least, if you don’t want the 2-in-1 form factor on your 11 incher, you can get similar devices built on Intel BayTrail-M hardware for under $350, like the Acer Aspire V3-111P or the Asus K200MA and even the $250 Asus Chromebook C200MA. Or you can get the Asus X200LA for roughly $450, powered by a faster Intel Core i3-4020Y CPU. So you do have a handful of interesting 11 inchers to choose from, all selling for under $500 these days. This post will tell you more about the models mentioned above, and others, while these will shed some light on the available 11 inch ultrabooks and the more affordable Chromebooks.
Picking one over the other is entirely up-to you. But at the end of the day, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 stands fairly proud in front of all these rivals, as a 2-in-1 mini-laptop worthy of your attention and your hard earned buck, as long as you’re OK with its drawbacks and limitations. So check it out in stores and let me know what you think about it in the comments section below.