Few Windows hybrids highlighted the compromises inherent in straddling device genres as thoroughly as the original Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11. Physically designed as a "notebook first" hybrid, yet sporting a tablet-oriented ARM processor and the neutered Windows RT operating system, it was nothing short of an elegant piece of convertible hardware crippled by its slate-friendly software.
Someone at Lenovo must have been listening to our complaints, because just a few months later we're reviewing the IdeaPad Yoga 11S, a follow-up that ditches its predecessor's mobile processor in favor of a full-blown Intel Core i5 chip. More important, this Yoga runs the full-blown version of Windows 8.
So does this dreamed-of refresh cure what ailed the original IdeaPad Yoga 11? Largely, though the $999 Yoga 11S introduces a few new compromises of its own.
More laptop than tablet
Considering its Intel Core i5-3339Y processor and 8GB of RAM, no one will confuse the Yoga 11S with a slate; of course, no one will mistake it for a graphics powerhouse, either. Its reliance on the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 hardware caused the laptop to chug through our graphics-focused tests, while the merely passable 1.5GHz clock on the Ultrabook-class processor kept the Yoga 11S firmly in the middle of the pack (at best) in the rest of PCWorld's battery of benchmarks. On the plus side, the Yoga 11S's solid-state drive delivers lickety-split boot and wake times.
But don't let the blah benchmark scores fool you: The Yoga 11S offered enough oomph to get me through my average workday, which is filled with documents, spreadsheets, Spotify, the occasional video, and scads of open browser tabs.
The processor choice does create a few worrisome issues unrelated to performance, though. The Core i5-3339Y is an older Ivy Bridge processor rather than a newer, power-efficient Haswell chip, and Ivy Bridge wasn't designed with superthin hybrid systems in mind. The underside of the Yoga 11S becomes noticeably warm when you're doing anything but basic Web browsing--not enough to make you scream in pain, but enough to make you notice and to ponder the wisdom of leaving it on your lap. The machine is remarkably whisper-silent; a heftier fan may have been a smart compromise.
Also, like virtually all Ivy Bridge laptops with touchscreens, the Yoga 11S struggles to stay alive for an extended period, giving up the ghost after 4 hours, 33 minutes in our battery test. Everyday use at full brightness drained the battery even faster than that. Say what you will about the original ARM-powered Yoga 11, at least it lasted around 9 hours.
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