Lenovo turned many heads at CES with what may be the first ultrabook convertible, the IdeaPad Yoga. Why the seemingly silly name? Instead of a traditional swivel hinge design, the IdeaPad Yoga sports two hinges and opens up 360 degrees over itself when converting into tablet mode. The unique design allows the IdeaPad Yoga to contort into four distinct modes: notebook, tablet, tent, and stand.
First and foremost, the new IdeaPad is an ultrabook, and it is ultrathin. It has a 13.3-inch 1600 x 900 display that supports up to 10 touch inputs. It will have an Intel Core chip, SSD, and ship with Windows 8. In fact, it is launching alongside Windows 8, meaning consumers won’t see it until late 2012.
Intel has strict standards for its official ultrabooks, including a demand that 13-inch units must be at least 20mm thin if they sport a touchscreen, 18mm if not. The IdeaPad measures just 17mm and weighs a little more than 3 pounds. Lenovo reps did not offer any specifics in regards to battery life, only saying that the Yoga will also meet Intel’s standards for longevity. As a pure laptop, it’s impressive, with a full Chiclet-style breathable keyboard, leather texture palm rest, and large glass touchpad.
While the IdeaPad Yoga I saw at CES 2012 is far from a finished product, it was running the Windows 8 Developer Preview, though it still seemed close to complete. From my brief time with Windows 8, it’s very clear how well the Metro UI will lend itself to touch navigation and swiping. For its part, the Yoga was extremely responsive and fluid.
Tablet, Tent and Stand
Of course, what distinguishes the Yoga from the scores of other ultrabooks at CES is its distinctive dual-hinge design. Typical convertibles have one swivel hinge that rotates the display, laying it over the keyboard for tablet mode. With the Yoga dual-hinge design, the back of the displays aligns with the back of the keyboard, leaving the keys and touchpad exposed. Even though they are both deactivated, it still feels a bit awkward in use – but tablet mode is not the point of the Yoga. The other two modes, tent and stand, both impossible with the single swivel hinge design, help make the Yoga’s case.
Tent mode is ideal for graphical presentations, and as a multimedia display, stand mode as well. All modes utilize the g-sensor, which was not yet functioning on the pre-production units, to reorient the display. In fact, I see the Yoga as primarily a notebook, simply because the Yoga does not include a docking pen. I still wonder how well Windows 8 will work with a pen. The Metro UI is designed for swipes and finger taps, not the precise taps Windows 7 requires. However, note takers, artists, and scribblers will certainly lament the lack of an active stylus with the Yoga.
The market will decide if a penless Windows 8 convertible like the Yoga is a viable product. It’s also very far from release, so Lenovo could reverse course and add one before it launches along with Windows 8 in Q3 or Q4 2012, or at least offer one as an accessory or as a variant model. As it stands, the IdeaPad is a slick and innovative device that stands out among the dozens of other ultrabooks pouring out of CES 2012.