Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Review: One Flexible Ultrabook

Whether in notebook, stand, tent, or tablet mode, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is definitely a head-turner. But does this Ultrabook's innovative multi-mode design effectively juggle its multiple personalities in an equally-harmonious, Zen-like manner?

With Windows 8 slowly  picking up momentum, the constantly-evolving touchscreen-enabled hybrid Ultrabook/tablet is also becoming more commonplace. In the race to discover the perfect form factor, PC manufacturers need to think more aggressively outside the proverbial box to earn your business. The IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a prime example of Lenovo’s approach to this unique market.

Labeled as the world’s first multi-mode Ultrabook, the IdeaPad Yoga 13 appears to be ready for virtually any Windows 8 mobility scenario the casual user, student, or professional can throw at it.

The Yoga 13 is capable of assuming any of four different orientations, or "operational modes": Laptop, Stand, Tent, and Tablet.

Laptop Mode

This traditional mode resembles any other clamshell-style Ultrabook or laptop PC. As with all typical laptops, the keyboard and touchpad serve as the primary input in this configuration. However, having the added benefit of a touchscreen provides the Yoga 13 with a welcomed third input option. Obviously, Laptop Mode is useful for basically any task that you would use a notebook for, such as office productivity, photo editing, light gaming, email, and Web browsing, just to name a few.

Stand Mode

In Stand Mode, the screen is capable of being rotated well past 180 degrees. The exposed keyboard and touchpad faces the same surface that the system rests on, so the touchscreen becomes your only input. This mode is particularly suited for viewing video content because, unlike the Yoga 13's next mode, Stand Mode allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen to find that perfect viewing angle. Likewise, this orientation is also great for teleconferencing, since tilting the screen also adjusts what's captured by the embedded HD webcam.

Tent Mode

Tent Mode is very similar to Stand Mode, though the Yoga 13's screen opens beyond 270 degrees to create a tent shape in this mode. Here, the Yoga 13 stands on its outer display and base edges, with the hinged section facing up, allowing the touchscreen to be aimed towards the user or viewing audience. Tent Mode is handy for viewing recipes in the kitchen, following laptop service manuals in the tech shop, or simply serving as a digital picture frame placed tastefully on a shelf or desk.

Tablet Mode

By rotating the Yoga 13's screen all the way back 360 degrees, we enter its Tablet Mode. In this mode, the back of the screen housing rests on the outer base portion of the system itself, giving the user a solid-feeling touchscreen-only handheld device.

However, in Tablet Mode, the keyboard and touchpad are still exposed to the elements on the rear side of the unit, which is what we like least about this orientation. At least the keyboard and touchpad are automatically deactivated after the screen is rotated beyond 180 degrees (basically anything past Laptop Mode). As expected, Tablet Mode is very capable of performing tablet-oriented tasks such as email, reading, casual gaming, and Web browsing with native support for Adobe Flash and HTML5.

Physical flexibility is not the Yoga 13's only standout feature. This is also one seriously thin convertible Ultrabook.

How Thick Is Thin?

The Yoga 13 is clearly thinner than many of the other Ultrabook solutions out there, including the smaller, swivel-display Dell XPS 12. In fact, at just 0.67" tall, the Yoga 13 even narrowly slides under the MacBook Air's already-impressive 0.68" Z-height.

While retailers are offering some pretty hefty "Ultrabooks", complete with hard disks and even optical drives, the Yoga 13 is a legitimate and true ultra-slim notebook that simply doesn't have enough "Z" to accommodate such old school components.

Starting at $999, the Yoga 13 is available directly from Lenovo USA in numerous customizable configurations. Choice of colors include the default Silver Gray and the flashier Clementine Orange. We opted to keep the color stock, and instead invested in some of the mid- to high-end hardware options offered. The table below lists the system specs of our Yoga 13 evaluation unit:

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 System Specs
Intel Core i7-3517U (Ivy Bridge), 2C/4T, 1.9 GHz Base Clock Rate, 3 GHz Max. Turbo Boost, 17 W
Intel QS77 Express Chipset
8 GB (1 x 8 GB) PC3-12800 DDR3 @ 1600 MT/s
Intel HD Graphics 4000 (integrated)
128 GB Lenovo/Samsung PM830 SSD (SATA 6Gb/s, mSATA Form Factor)
Card Reader
SDHC UHS-1-Compatible Multi-Card Reader,
13.3" 10-Point Multi-Touch HD+ IPS @ 1600x900
Lenovo Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n + Bluetooth v4.0
Intel HD Audio (integrated)
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro (64-bit)
1.0 MP 720p HD (integrated)
USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Headphone/Mic Combo Jack, HDMI v1.4a
4-Cell Li-ion (14.8 VDC - 3.7 Ah/54 Wh)
AC Adapter
65 W
3.3 lbs
13.1" (Width) x 8.9" (Depth) x 0.67" (Height)
Warranty (USA)
1 Year with Extension Options (up to 3 Years)
$1,330 As Evaluated

Bundled Software

Overall, Lenovo keeps the third-party bloatware to a minimum on the Yoga 13. Unfortunately, the installation is not entirely pristine. Some of the usual suspects are pre-installed at the factory, and include McAfee’s Security Advisor, eBay, and Skype. Other applications automatically bundled with the system include Evernote, Rara.com music streaming, and Intel’s AppUp gateway. Lenovo also tosses in its own Cloud Storage solution (powered by SugarSync) and its well-balanced Lenovo Support utility. Although an option when ordering our Yoga 13, we opted to proceed without Microsoft Office 2010 being factory-installed.

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  • clriis
    I have been a Yoga owner for the past 3 months and in general I really like this hybrid though it takes some time finding out new ways of utilising and working with, especially when you are also new to the modern/metro interface but I don't find the learning curve steep and for me it's definitely an enjoyable and amusing process. Overall I have no regrets given that it is also a fantastic traditional laptop. As opposed to others I don't find any problems using Windows 8 in traditional desktop mode with mouse and all and no, I don't miss the Start button.

    BUT... as a couple of contributors here have already commented, THE WI-FI / BLUETOOTH MODULE ON THE YOGA IS SERIOUSLY FLAWED. To prove that point just try to Google 'wi fi issues' and see what comes out on top!

    In an otherwise interesting review I'm surprised to see that the WI-Fi section deals with only signal strength and not data transfer rates which is supposedly of more interest to the end user. Here the Yoga is challenged especially if you also use one or more Bluetooth devices (like a mouse and streaming audio). Sitting in a space with -61 to -67 dB signal and with no competing or overlapping channels you at times get transfer rates as low as 6 Mbit/s (turning off BT devices increase the speed to around 25 Mbit).

    The Yoga apparently is also very choosy in which wireless router it's connected to. I have personally tried 5 different ones at home (TP-Link WDR4300, Thomson, TP-Link WR741 with Gargoyle, D-Link DIR645 and Netgear R6300), and with the Netgear R6300 I, in some cases, get the above nearly tolerable speeds, but not anything that can match my other wireless devices. I'm now contemplating purchasing the Netgear A6300 USB adapter in order to obtain reasonable and stable transfer rates although this step also contains a number of cons.

    Despite subsequent driver updates Lenovo/Realtek has not managed to solve these problems. The latest update even includes some kind of USB trigger, installing itself as a running service with log file and all. For all we know it makes the mousepointer flicker every two seconds....hilarious!!!

    I (and I'm sure, many others) would be really interested if Scott could elaborate more on the possibilities of utilising the empty slot for adding/changing the WiFi/BT adapter to a PCIe thingi. What would be the real options given the BIOS whitelist and all???
  • timeandspace
    The newest one Yoga 11s (small and speedy) sounds great but it’s expensive.

    I've created a comparison chart here: http://angelinaward.hubpages.com/hub/Lenovo-IdeaPad-Yoga-13-Price-and-Review-Dream-Deal-or-Dead-Loss
    that compares the Yoga 13 vs Yoga 11 vs Yoga 11s vs Macbook Pro. Based on this chart you'll see that the Yoga 13 still remains the best of the bunch and the launch of the Yoga 11s will do everyone a favour prompting sellers to reduce the Yoga 13 price even more.