Lenovo Yoga 2 11-inch review: An entry-level Yoga that's flexible but affordable

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.2
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Battery life: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good The Yoga 2 11 is well-built for a budget laptop, and offers the same tablet and kiosk modes as its more-expensive cousins. Keyboard and touch pad are similarly impressive for the price.

The Bad The lower-power CPU doesn't offer fully mainstream performance, and the keyboard flexes under even light typing.

The Bottom Line Lenovo's Yoga 2 11 combines the popular Yoga hybrid design with an affordable 11-inch ultraportable for a system that's budget-feeling but sturdy, and one of the best of a new breed of low-cost hybrids.

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HP's recent Pavilion x360 promises a full-featured fold-back hybrid design in an 11-inch ultraportable body, for about the same price as a basic budget laptop. Dell's Inspiron 3000 offers much the same thing. Lenovo, the company that made this design popular in the first place with its Yoga series, also sees the need to bring hybrids to budget shoppers, which explains the 11-inch Yoga 2 11.

Like the recent 13-inch Yoga 2, this version keeps the 360-degree fold-back hinge from previous-gen Yogas, but cuts some of the higher-end features, such as better-than-HD displays or ultra-thin designs. At the entry level prices we're looking at, the Yoga 2 11 is also powered by an Intel Pentium CPU, rather than a Core i-series, although those are available as well.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Speaking of prices, if you want to buy anything from Lenovo, you're usually better off buying one of the company's identical, or ever-so-slightly different, models made especially for Best Buy. Same machines, often with lower prices. In this case, a Yoga 2 11 with a Pentium CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive is $530 (£450) from Lenovo (down to $490 for a Celeron CPU, available only in the US). In the US, from Best Buy, the same configuration is a very reasonable $450. (Similar models are not available in Australia, where the only Yoga 2 11 available costs AU$1,000.)

Upgraded, US-only models include a version with a Core i3 CPU for $579, and a Core i5 with a 128GB SSD for $699 -- reasonable, but not exactly bargains, considering the budget-feeling design.

Some configurations of the HP x360 cost less than the Lenovo, but the Yoga has a couple of distinct advantages which make it worth the extra money. It's thinner, lighter, feels a little more solidly built, and -- most importantly -- it has a decent 1,366x768 11.6-inch display. In contrast, the HP x360 has a simply awful display that looks much worse when comparing the two systems side-by-side.

HP Pavilion 11 x360 Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch) Dell XPS 11
Price as reviewed $474 $449 $1,399
Display size/resolution 11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen 11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen 11.6-inch 2,560x1,440 touchscreen
PC CPU 2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3520 2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3520 1.5GHz Intel Core i5 4210Y
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 32MB Intel HD Graphics 32MB Intel HD Graphics 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics HD 4200
Storage 500GB 5,400rpm HDD 500GB 5,400rpm HDD 256GB SSD
Optical drive None None None
Networking 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Design and features

The basic idea behind a fold-back hinge hybrid is the same across products from Dell, Lenovo, HP, and others. You can position the system as a traditional clamshell laptop, then bend the lid backward, past 180 degrees, stopping at a kiosk or table tent form in the middle, or else folding it all the way back into a tablet shape.

It's a concept we've supported since the original Lenovo Yoga model, and it's telling that both Microsoft and Best Buy used the Yoga extensively in Windows 8 launch ad campaigns to describe the utility of the Windows 8 tile menu and touchscreens.

lenovo-yoga-2-11-inch-product-photos014.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Why this over pull-apart hybrids or ones with screens that swivel around on a central hinge? The fold-back hinge does the least to interfere with the traditional clamshell laptop design; and it's relatively inexpensive to engineer, according to our conversations with PC makers.

An 11-inch laptop, hybrid or not, needs to be portable. And while the Yoga 2 11 isn't the slimmest or lightest ultraportable around, it presents itself well in this price range. The HP x360 weighs 3.3 pounds (1.5kg), while the 11-inch Yoga 2 is only 2.8 pounds (1.3kg). By way of comparison, the 11-inch MacBook Air is 2.4 pounds (1.1kg).

The keyboard on the Yoga 2 11 is about as good as the one of the HP x360, with each having its own advantages. The Lenovo's keys have that familiar convex shape, slightly bowed out at the bottom edge of each key for fewer miss strokes, while the HP version has keys that feel less clacky, and with less flex in the keyboard tray while typing.

lenovo-yoga-2-11-inch-product-photos008.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET
The touch pad has a clickpad-style design, giving you a touch surface without separate physical left and right mouse buttons. Two-finger scrolling works, but the small pad and small screen means navigation, especially in large, multi-page documents, can be a pain.

The biggest difference between this system and HP's x360 version is the 11.6-inch 1,366x768 display. The HP screen is washed-out and often hard to see, while the Yoga 2 11 has a bright, clear IPS screen that immediately looks much better in comparison. It's not the higher screen resolutions people are quickly becoming used to in nearly every type of gadget, but for under $500, it works. More importantly, you can easily share what's on-screen with a group in tablet or kiosk mode, while the HP x360 screen would make the same material hard for some to see.

Lenovo Yoga 2 11 Ports and Connections

Video micro-HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery

One area where the HP x360 kills the Yoga 2 11 is in ports and connections. The HP has a full-size HDMI port and Ethernet jack, both features the Yoga lacks. One additional quirky complaint -- I've always found the power buttons on Yoga laptop, placed along the side edge, to be too small and hard to see at a glance.

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