Excellent hardware marred by user interface issues with high-res display (May 17th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Lenovo
Price: $1199 as reviewed
- Well engineered
- Fast, little bloatware
- Decent battery life
- Keyboard placement in tablet mode
- Windows 8 insufficiencies
The second coming of tablets came in on the heels of the iPad, and frankly, crushed the traditional PC market. It took some time for the market to adapt to the new reality, but in 2014 it has -- and Lenovo has a handful of devices that attempt to cater to both markets. The Yoga 2 Pro, the second version of the transformable computer, is available and has taken heed of some criticisms of its predecessor. Electronista has been living with one for a while now.
The Yoga 2 Pro is thinner and lighter than the original Yoga, measuring just 0.61-inches thick (15.1mm) and weighing in at 3.06 pounds. It is also powered by the latest Intel Core i7 Haswell ULV chips, running Windows 8.1 -- and it incorporates storage options up to a 512GB SSD and 8GB of DDR3L RAM. The Yoga Pro 2 also supports Intel WiDi for wireless streaming to TVs, boasts Dolby Home Theater v4 for audio, and is claimed to offer up to nine hours of battery life. As with most Ultrabooks, there just isn't room for an Ethernet port, but the Wi-Fi is generally sufficient.
The notebook, taking after its name, can flex into four different positions -- including notebook, tablet, stand and tent. It also features a new smart capability called Yoga Picks that works like a concierge to suggest suitable apps based upon the device's mode. In tablet mode, for example, the tablet will suggest apps like the Zinio e-reader, or sketching app Fresh Paint in tent mode. It also incorporates a new backlit keyboard, and comes in a new signature Gray or Clementine Orange.
The i7 Haswell processor makes light work of most tasks we've thrown at it, and as a bonus, doesn't seem to scald our lap area. The power-sipping that the Haswell line serves the Yoga 2 well, with Lenovo promising about seven hours of battery life as a realistic "real world" result in normal use. Our testing bore that out -- gaming sessions with the processor-heavy Civilization V gave us about five hours of use, with surfing sessions and other relatively light use clocking in at over eight hours. Playing an H.264-encoded 720p video at 4000kbps bitrate on a continuous loop sucked the battery flat in about five and a half hours.
The elephant in the room is the keyboard on the tablet. Older slates had a sophisticated rotate and fold mechanism, which broke more often than not. The Yoga 2 just opens all the way, with the (deactivated) keyboard and trackpad now adorning the back of the device. When the user handles the device in tablet mode, fingertips seem to naturally scrape across the keyboard, and try as we might to adjust our holding technique, it just isn't a natural feeling. We initially hoped we'd be able to adjust, but we just thought that it was an uncomfortable hold as a tablet, which is unfortunate.
The biggest issue we're having with the device isn't Lenovo's fault at all. Windows 8 is simply suboptimal with high-resolution displays, with a lot of unused real-estate and microscopic text, which inconsistently responds to customization efforts within Windows. This isn't a problem when actively using Adobe Reader, gaming, or other such applications which take heed of the higher resolution display and address it properly. The gaming industry figured out resolution independence in user interfaces a long time ago -- why is it taking Microsoft so long to figure this out?
All told, the Yoga Pro 2 is burly enough to perform comprehensive computing on the go or at home. We like the power, we like the engineering. We can tolerate the transforming nature of the device, and wish there was a better solution for the keyboard, but it is functional as it stands. What we don't like is Windows 8 in any flavor on a high-resolution display like the Yoga Pro 2 has, which is truly unfortunate. Should Microsoft fix this problem, or make a truly resolution-independent UI, then the supremely high-resolution screen on the Yoga 2 Pro and other similar devices would shine, and shine bright. Until then, devices like the Yoga 2 Pro are hard to recommend for everyday use.