Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S review: A smart hybrid that puts the laptop first

Connections, performance, and battery
The included HDMI output is important for sending your signal to a larger monitor if you're going to set it up for longer-term desktop use, but having only one USB 3.0 port in mid-2013 is a letdown.

There are several configurations of the Yoga 11S currently available on Lenovo's Web site, but a confusing set of discounts (permanent? temporary?) cloud the product page. As of right now, $999 will get you a last-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and either a 128GB or 256GB SSD (call me crazy; I'd go for the 256GB model). Jumping down to $749 drops it to a Core i3, with a 128GB SSD and 4GM of RAM; and for $1,299, you can get a Core i7 CPU, with the same 256GB/8GB specs as the $999 version.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My biggest issue with the Yoga 11S is that each of these configurations uses a CPU from Intel's prior generation. Normally I wouldn't make a big deal of that, especially as the new fourth-gen Core i-series processors have been available only since the beginning of June, but several PC makers are already shipping systems with these new processors and the battery life results from them have been very encouraging. You would also get access to Intel's better integrated graphics, rather than the now-outdated Intel HD 4000 graphics in this system.

With its current specs, the Yoga 11S ran for 5 hours and 11 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's fine for any 11-inch laptop up through the middle of 2013, but the Yoga is a victim of inopportune timing. The also-new 11-inch Sony Vaio Pro 11 ran just shy of 6 hours on the same test, and Apple's new MacBook Air 11-inch model ran for a whopping 10 hours.

I was not alone in thinking of the original 13-inch Lenovo Yoga as the best example of the first generation of Windows 8 hybrid laptop-tablets. At the time, it was disappointing that the more portable 11-inch version was restricted to Windows RT, but we hoped a full Windows 8 version would be coming soon.

It took more than a while to get here, but the Yoga 11S still impresses, partly by showing the maker's understanding that many buyers of hybrids want a quality laptop first, and partly because 2013 has not seen any great new breakthroughs in hybrid design.

At the same time, it's a shame to see this system stuck with a last-gen Intel CPU, as the battery boost we'd likely get from a new Haswell-generation chip is the kind of thing I'd be inclined to wait for.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S
Windows 8 (64bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-3339Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 256GB Samsung SSD

MacBook Air 11-inch (June 2013)
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,024MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Sony Vaio Pro 11
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,748MB (shared) Intel HD Grapics 4400; 128GB SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Acer Aspire P3 171-6820
Windows 8 (64bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-3339Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 120GB Intel SSD

Find more shopping tips in our Laptop Buying Guide.