Lenovo twists a tablet and laptop into the IdeaPad Yoga

With a screen that folds all the way back, this Windows 8 laptop can double as a tablet.

Despite its reputation as a maker of buttoned-down business laptops, Lenovo can always be counted on to produce a couple of intriguing concept pieces at CES every year, such as the IdeaPad Yoga.

This Windows 8 prototype laptop is described as "the industry's first multimode notebook with a 360-degree flip-and-fold design." A 13.3-inch touch-screen laptop, the Yoga is a thin, light laptop, but perhaps not quite an ultrabook. It's 16.9mm thick and weighs 3.1 pounds.

The name Yoga in part gives away the system's big selling point, that the display flips fully over to become a tablet. In fact, it has four usable positions, which Lenovo calls notebook, tablet, stand, and tent.

Lenovo says the combination of a traditional laptop design and a tablet makes the Yoga ideal for both content creation and consumption. The 13-inch display has a 1,600x900-pixel native resolution, and 10-point capacitive touch.

We've seen similar ideas for years in what are called convertible laptops, which have a rotating center hinge to swivel into both laptop and tablet forms. The problem with those, traditionally, has been that the single center rotating hinge was a potential weak point in the design. Lenovo says the Yoga's full-length hinge has been rigorously tested and is stronger than the older rotating convertible design.

When flipping the Yoga's screen back, the physical keyboard doesn't disappear from view, as in the case of a convertible laptop/tablet, but it does get automatically disabled, instead activating an onscreen keyboard. A slightly raised layer of leather over the wrist rest and keyboard tray lets you rest the tablet on a table, keyboard-side-down, without worrying too much about damaging the keys. Some buttons have been repositioned to the sides for access no matter how the system is folded, and the outer shell has a soft-touch coating for easy gripping.

The IdeaPad Yoga is designed for Windows 8, so we won't be seeing it in stores anytime soon--it's expected in the second half of 2012, with an estimated starting price of $1,199. The system will run Intel's Ivy Bridge Core i-series CPUs, with up to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and Lenovo says it should get 8 hours of battery life.

 

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