Rise of the Yoga-likes: The best hybrid design goes mainstream
Laptops and hybrids with foldback hinges, similar to Lenovo's Yoga, are all the rage.
A Yoga (or yoga-like) for everyone
Lenovo's Yoga laptop/tablet hybrid is the closest thing PC design has had to a eureka moment in years. The 360-degree fold-back hinge allowed for a workable part-time tablet experience while keeping the all-important laptop shape intact. It's not surprising, then, that other PC makers would follow suit, with similar designs coming from Dell, HP, Toshiba, and others. Here's a brief survey of what we call "yoga-likes" for everyone.
Unlike the Yoga line, where the keyboard, while deactivated, is still clacking around under your fingers in tablet mode, the XPS 11 tries a different tack. In this case, the keyboard is actually almost entirely flat, with no moving parts.
We recently got a chance to get our hands on this upcoming 11-inch system and gave it a brief test drive. In the hand, it feels solidly built, especially considering the low price, thanks to its part-aluminum body (even if it's on the thick side) and stiff-but-flexible hinge.
HP's pitch for the Pavilion x360 is a little different than Lenovo's for the high-end, premium-priced Yoga, which starts at around $1,000. Instead, HP's version starts at $399, which means it runs Intel Pentium chips, rather than the more mainstream Core i-series CPUs (although that's honestly fine for an 11-inch laptop).
The difference here is that instead of an 11-inch or 13-inch laptop screen, Toshiba is taking the idea bigger, into a 15.6-inch laptop. The basic idea is still the same: fold the hinge back -- Toshiba calls it a flip-and-fold design -- and use the system as a thick, heavy tablet, or prop up the screen for easy viewing without the keyboard getting in the way.
Even Lenovo is getting in on the act, creating a series of Yoga spinoffs. One upcoming set is a pair of 11-inch models with the Yoga hinge, one with Windows 8, but the other with Google's Chrome OS. These will cost between $350 and $550, and are initially targeted at the educational market.
Of course, the current Yoga flagship is still worth a look as well. The 13-inch Yoga 2 Pro starts at $1,099 for a Core i5 configuration, plus a special feature none of the Yoga-likes have -- a better-than-HD 3,200x1,800 display. (A standard HD-resolution version, called the Yoga 2, starts at $999 for a 13-inch model, and $449 for an 11-inch lower-res version.) Read all the latest Lenovo laptop and hybrid reviews here.