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

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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.

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7.2

Lenovo Yoga 2 11-inch

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.

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 x360Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch)Dell XPS 11
Price as reviewed $474$449$1,399
Display size/resolution 11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen11.6-inch 1,366x768 touchscreen11.6-inch 2,560x1,440 touchscreen
PC CPU 2.16GHz Intel Pentium N35202.16GHz Intel Pentium N35201.5GHz Intel Core i5 4210Y
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz4GB DDR3 SDRAM 13334GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 32MB Intel HD Graphics32MB Intel HD Graphics1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics HD 4200
Storage 500GB 5,400rpm HDD500GB 5,400rpm HDD256GB SSD
Optical drive NoneNoneNone
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.

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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.

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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.

Both the x360 and the Yoga 2 use one of Intel's current-gen Pentium CPUs. If you expect mainstream laptop performance, on par with a Core i5 or even i3 machine, you're not going to get that, but then again, you won't find those Core i-series CPUs, outside of an occasional holiday promo, for under $450.

You're most likely to notice when navigating in the traditional Windows desktop view and menus. To Microsoft's credit, the tile-based Windows 8 interface is fast and responsive with pretty much any processor, and native Windows 8 apps work great. Lenovo also has a small popup that recommends specific apps based on which angle the hinge is folded into, but there are no great surprises there.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Comparing the Yoga 2 and the x360, the HP hybrid ran some of our benchmark tests faster, but the difference wasn't big enough that you're likely to notice in real-world use. The HP's extra RAM, 8GB versus 4GB, gets the credit here, but spending more on a Core i3 or i5 Yoga 2 11 would yield results on par with mainstream laptops.

A Core i-series CPU version might run longer, too, thanks to Intel's big gains in battery life over the past couple of years. The Yoga 2 11 ran for 5:35 in in our video playback battery drain test, while the HP x360 ran for 4:47 on the same test. An 11-inch MacBook Air, at twice the price, would easily more than double that time.

Conclusion

By making this the least-expensive Yoga to date (not counting the best-forgotten Windows RT version), Lenovo makes a strong case that laptop and hybrid shoppers should expect more from budget PCs. At the very least, a solid build with an IPS display, decent keyboard, and a touch screen. If you think of this as simply a decent budget touchscreen laptop and take its transformative hybrid properties as a bonus, it feels like an even better deal.

If the keyboard were a little less flexible/clacky, and if it had a few more ports, I'd strongly suggest investing a few hundred more in the Core i3/i5 versions for a nice ultraportable workhorse.

Comparing this system with the Yoga 2, the x360 ran some of our benchmark tests faster, but not by a large margin. The extra RAM, 8GB versus 4GB, likely gets the credit here. Trading up to a Core i-series processor would yield a big boost in application performance but would also cost much more.

Battery life is always a strong selling point for both ultraportable laptops and tablets, so you'd think HP would make this a major feature of the x360 hybrid. Unfortunately, despite the low-power CPU, battery life here was merely average, running for 4 hours 47 minutes in our video-playback battery-drain test. The Yoga 2, with the same CPU, ran a bit longer at 5 hours 35 minutes. Ironically, you really have to trade up to a more powerful Core i-series system to get the full benefit of Intel's recent battery-life gains.

Handbrake multimedia multitasking test

Lenovo Ideatab Miix 2 1,001Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch) 760Dell XPS 11 751HP Pavilion 11 x360 746Lenovo Yoga 2 (13-inch) 475
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch) 599HP Pavilion 11 x360 477Dell XPS 11 341Lenovo Yoga 2 (13-inch) 310
Notes: In seconds; shorter bars indicate better performance

Apple iTunes encoding test

Lenovo Ideatab Miix 2 398Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch) 313HP Pavilion 11 x360 312Dell XPS 11 167Lenovo Yoga 2 (13-inch) 124
Notes: In seconds; shorter bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test

HP Pavilion 11 x360 287Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch) 335Dell XPS 11 388Lenovo Yoga 2 (13-inch) 435Lenovo Ideatab Miix 2 442
Notes: In minutes; longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

HP Pavilion 11 x360

Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.16GHZ Intel Pentium N3520 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz;32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 500GB HDD

Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch)

Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.16GHZ Intel Pentium N3520 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz;32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 500GB HDD

Lenovo Yoga 2 (13-inch)

Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz; Intel Core i5-4200; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz, 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 500GB SSHD

Dell XPS 11

Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 128GB SSD

Lenovo Ideatab Miix 2

Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD

Find more shopping tips in our Laptop Buying Guide.

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7.2

Lenovo Yoga 2 11-inch

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Battery 7