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Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 11S strikes a compelling pose

Brad Chacos | Aug. 12, 2013
The Yoga 11S is a major improvement over Lenovo's original ARM-powered Windows RT device, but it still falls short of being the ultimate hybrid.

Silver, sleek, and still the same
The Yoga 11S is definitely a winner in the design department. If you've never encountered a Yoga laptop before, rest assured that the series lives up to its name, with each machine sporting a flexible hinge that allows you to flip the display back a full 360 degrees so that the screen rests against the bottom of the keyboard deck when you're using the device in tablet mode. Aside from the tablet and traditional-laptop configurations, Lenovo actively promotes using Yoga laptops in tent mode (basically an upside-down V) and in stand mode (in which you flip the screen around so that the form resembles the typical 90-degree clamshell, but with the keys facing down). Both tent mode and stand mode are great for watching movies, and despite the Yoga 11S's bendable nature, you won't find any flex in its lid or keyboard.

The 11.6-inch IPS display impresses with its vivid colors, and dark scenes greatly benefit from the Yoga 11S's deep blacks. The 1366 by 768 resolution is a bit of a bummer in tablet mode, but it holds up well during laptop usage on account of the system's small screen. An overactive ambient-light sensor proved annoying, though easy to disable.

The audio lacks bass and pure punch-you-in-the-ear volume levels, even with its Dolby Home Theater v4 certification, but it's decent enough for such a diminutive machine.

The connectivity situation flat-out disappoints, however. Although Ultrabooks and tablets alike regularly skimp on the ports, the Yoga 11S takes matters to the extreme, limiting users to an HDMI-out, an SD Card reader, one USB 2.0 port, and one USB 3.0 port. You'll find no ethernet connection (you'll need to buy a USB ethernet adapter if you want the security of hardwired networking).

How does it feel?
Look beyond the ports, and you'll discover that handling the Yoga 11S is a delight. The sleek, silvery gray finish has a rubbery feel that makes the hybrid comfortable to hold and hard to drop. It's attractive in a way that doesn't call attention to itself. At 2.7 pounds and 0.67 inch at its thickest, this hybrid still falls firmly in the "notebook first" class of convertibles. But unlike the convertible competition, the diminutive Yoga 11S (not to mention its 11.6-inch screen) is small enough that using it as a slate doesn't feel awkward--except when your fingers bump against the keyboard, which is left bare at the bottom of the device when you're using the machine in tablet mode. (You quickly become accustomed to the feeling.)

Speaking of the island-style keyboard, the Yoga 11S's is largely successful, with good spacing, a solid tactile feel, and a decent amount of key travel. The "leather touch" coating on the keyboard deck makes extended typing sessions blissfully chafe-free. It has no backlighting--a surprise in a laptop in this price range--but my only real qualm is that the keys themselves sit just a wee bit too shallow and close to the deck. Again, you quickly become accustomed to it. One other gripe: Placing the power button along the front lip was a questionable design decision. It's hard to find out of the box, and an annoyance to reach in everyday use.

 

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