Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 review: A better laptop than tablet

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 6.0

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 4 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 works as a laptop alternative, thanks to its always-attached keyboard and myriad useful ports, and its physical flexibility provides useful ergonomic options. Its battery charges quickly and depletes slowly. Brightness shortcuts on the keyboard unearth a normally buried option in Windows RT.

The Bad As a tablet, the device is too bulky and heavy to hold in your hands, and its Web performance is slow. A full Windows 8 version with updated specs will be available soon for only $150 more.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 is a great laptop alternative that's unfortunately too bulky to completely replace your tablet.

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The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11's keyboard is permanently attached to the tablet section and when in tablet mode, it’s bulky, heavy, and awkward to hold. Thankfully, if you’d rather lay your tablet down flat or simply watch movies on it, the Yoga 11’s flexible, dual-hinge, $649 body gives you a few useful positions to choose from. Also, in laptop mode, it makes for a pretty cheap ultrabook, as long as you don’t mind being saddled with Windows RT .

If the thought of buying a device with RT causes you to wake up in the middle of the night screaming, then you may want to wait for the Windows 8 version of the Yoga 11, called the Yoga 11S , coming this summer for only $150 more. The Yoga 11S will also include a higher-resolution screen and a faster non-ARM Intel Core i5 CPU. Or, if you find 11 inches of screen size to be lacking, the 13-inch Yoga 13 may be more up your alley.

Compared with the Microsoft Surface RT, the Yoga 11 is a better lap computer and offers more ports, including two full-size USB port and a full-size SD storage expansion slot. However, the Surface's Type Cover keyboard is more comfortable, its Internet performance consistently zippier, and it’s a lot thinner and a lot lighter as a tablet.

If you’ve made your peace with Windows RT’s offerings, the Yoga 11 serves as the best RT device next to the Surface. However, it’s a better laptop than a tablet, so its appeal will depend on what you're looking for.

Finding your center
Unlike all previous Windows RT tablets , the Yoga 11's screen can’t be detached from its keyboard. The two are permanently linked via dual hinges that allow the screen to tilt back 360 degrees, until the back of the screen lays flush with the back of the keyboard. In this position, the Yoga 11 is the closest it'll ever get to feeling like a normal tablet. That is, if you don’t mind the 2.6-pound weight, 0.7-inch thickness (at its thickest), or the feel of keys on the back of your tablet while you attempt to hold it with one hand, and read the morning’s news and sip your coffee with the other. No, the Yoga 11 doesn't make for the best portable tablet; it feels heavy and awkward to hold from this position. However, it works fine once it's laid down flat.

Sure, it's definitely a tablet, but it's one of the heaviest, bulkiest tablets I've ever held. What you can't see in this pic is the muscle strain. Josh Miller/CNET

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 Asus Transformer Tab Infinity TF700 Microsoft Surface RT
Weight in pounds 2.6 1.32 1.5
Width in inches (landscape) 11.7 10.4 10.8
Height in inches 8 7.1 6.8
Depth in inches 0.70 0.33 0.43
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.8 0.8 0.8

You can also orient the Yoga 11 in three other ways. There’s Tent mode, or, as I like to call it, the downward dog position. OK, I don't actually like to call it that, but it feels appropriate. Here, the screen is tilted back about halfway past 90 degrees, then propped up on the top edge of the screen and bottom edge of the keyboard, with the screen facing the user. Not a bad position if using the tablet on a desk, but also not all that different from the third position that sees the keyboard lying flat, keys down, again with the screen facing the user. This was the ideal position for movie-watching, allowing you to easily tilt the screen back and forth to find the perfect position, with no keyboard futzing with your movie engrossment.

With the keyboard flat on the desk (and automatically disabled), this mode is great when watching movies and TV shows thanks to its easily tiltable screen. Josh Miller/CNET

The final position is also the one you’ll probably use most, laptop mode. From here the Yoga 11 is essentially an 11.6-inch ultrabook with a touch screen. That’s about 1.5 inches larger than most tablet screens and about an inch larger than the Surface RT's. Thanks to the larger screen, the Yoga 11 features a wider-than-usual keyboard compared with most tablets, and as a result is a bit more comfortable to type on. Thanks to its flat laptop bottom, the Yoga 11 is more conducive to typing from your actual lap; something I couldn't say about the Surface RT given its kickstand design. That said, however, the softer, wider keys of Surface RT's Touch Cover just plain feel better on my fingertips and is still my preferred typing tablet. One last useful note: adjusting the screen brightness on a Window RT tablet usually requires a couple levels of menu navigation, but the Yoga 11 thankfully features a brightness shortcut key that makes for a much less irritating task.

Sticking with the whole "whisper: I'm really a laptop..." motif, the Yoga 11 is packed with ports. Along its left edge sits a headphone jack, a full USB port, a full HDMI port, followed by a speaker grille, and volume rocker. On the front edge is the power/sleep button, and on the right edge is a charging port, a full SD card slot, another full USB port, and another speaker grille.

It's good for using as a tablet on a desk, looking distinctive among other tablets, and when giving couch presentations. Josh Miller/CNET

Windows RT is still Windows RT
Windows RT is essentially the light version of Windows 8, designed specifically for ARM processors like the Tegra 3. RT gives you access to the complete Windows 8 "Metro" touch interface, including all ARM-based apps from the Windows Store. You also get full Windows 8 versions of Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, run through what looks like a traditional Windows Desktop interface.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Operating System Microsoft Windows RT
  • Installed Size 2.0 GB
  • Color silver gray
  • Weight 2.8 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Ultra-Low Power GeForce
  • CPU NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30 / 1.3 GHz