flexible form factor fixation


Time has a way of changing perceptions. I didn’t think I needed to get with the times, but now I’ve bitten the bullet and upgraded to a Lenovo Yoga 11S. The Yoga line is more popular for its 13-inch model, and will the more so be when its successor, the Yoga 2 Pro, is released in the coming weeks with its fantastic 3200×1800 resolution display. But the 11S is still a formidable mobile option.

The Yoga is famous for its ability to bend the screen all the way behind its back, converting into a tablet. The Yoga 11S was originally based on the Yoga 11, an unfortunate Windows RT-based machine with no particular hopes or dreams. Lenovo ditched Windows RT for a full version of Windows 8 (which was wise), but they released the 11S over this summer with 3rd-generation Intel Core processors (which was unwise). The battery life and performance was not where it should have been; otherwise, reviews were favorable.

Finally, Lenovo has – with literally no fanfare – upgraded the Yoga 11S to a 4th-generation Haswell i5 processor. At the moment, this fact is not propagating through the Internet, which is why I’m calling it to everyone’s attention. Lenovo’s site does not yet list the new model on its Haswell page, nor does it sell the new version. But a random visit to none other than Best Buy’s website revealed the refreshed model, the Yoga 11S – 59385438, to be exact. My local Best Buy was in the process of replacing its old inventory with the newer model. Here are the specs:

  • CPU: 1.5 GHz Core i5-4210Y (up to 1.9 GHz)
  • Display: 11.6″ 1366×768 10-point multitouch IPS, Intel HD 4200 graphics
  • RAM: 4 GB PC3-12800 DDR3 1600 MHz
  • SSD: 128 GB
  • Networking: 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports: 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, HDMI, mic/headphone, SDHC
  • Dimensions: 11.73″ x 8.03″ x 0.67″, 3.08 lbs

My first Yoga 11S arrived with a dead pixel in the middle of the screen, but was easily replaced. My time since then has left me with some impressions. First, let’s talk about the not-so-good: the resolution, the limited port options, and the sealed battery.

The screen has very good color reproduction and viewing angles, and the resolution is not crippling at those dimensions; it’s never terribly pleasant to have to mess with DPI settings in Windows anyway. Still, more pixels would have been welcome, and the screen is a bit dim and glossy. At least two USB 3.0 ports should have been standard, but I have only one USB 3.0 device at this time anyway; plugs just aren’t as popular as they once were. And while I generally sneer at expensive electronics sealing their disposable parts (i.e. batteries) from users, I’ve had to accept that the winds are blowing that way; still, the battery is accessible, but it must be done by utilizing a torx screwdriver and by removing the keyboard. As expected, when bent into tablet mode the back is all keys, and it’s a bit uncomfortable pressing them in while holding the device (they’re deactivated, of course). Finally, a U-part Haswell chip with a bit more power would have been nice.

Obviously this thing can’t game, but that’s not its intent. It’s still disappointing, but no one has the guts to make a compact convertible device with a dedicated graphics card (unless you count the Razer Edge, which I don’t). There are some compact laptops with dedicated GPUs, but laptops are dull these days. One might as well game on a much more powerful desktop…and a Vita.

Now, on to everything else. The device is fairly compact and quite sturdy. Although it seems to be plastic (I’ve had difficulty determining that for certain), it’s coated in a nice rubbery texture and seems like it could take a pretty good beating. And battery life seems pretty good so far, seemingly capable of exceeding five or six hours. The computer is very quiet, but, as a consequence, it gets fairly warm under stress; still, I appreciate the fans never really coming on under tablet use. The single RAM slot and SSD are actually (somewhat) user-accessible as well, if one is so inclined. I’ll be adding a 128 GB SDXC card to load my movies and music onto for now.

I like the Yoga 11S. It was the right fit for me because it was smaller than most convertible tablets, but still maintained a powerful processor, a solid build, and a good price. And that’s a pretty big part: the 11S is priced very reasonably compared to similar convertible options at this point. There are other more expensive options out there, but they have drawbacks too. The Surface Pro, and similar designs, place the tablet form factor first and the laptop mode second, resulting in too many compromises in real-world usage. Dell’s upcoming competitor, the XPS 11, is essentially a copy of Lenovo’s Yoga design and may end up being a bit nicer, but I’ve been burned by Dell before – and the price is likely to be much higher when it’s finally released.

Now let’s see if Windows 8.1 irons out any of the wrinkles in this not-quite-as-intuitive-as-Windows 7 operating system. I will say that Windows 8 is much easier to use on a touchscreen, for what it’s worth.

4 thoughts on “flexible form factor fixation

  1. Finally! It’s really hard to find anything on the web referencing the upgrade to Haswell in the 11S.

  2. 3lbs? Ouch. That’s pretty heavy for something that can be used as a tablet.

    What are your experiences in using tablet mode, or any of the other modes?

  3. It is fairly heavy for a tablet. It’s really a compact laptop first, tablet second; there are other convertibles that are tablet first, laptop second (e.g. Surface Pro). For my purposes, this is the best compromise. It sits on my desk at work as a laptop, then I get it out at home on the couch and use it like a tablet.

    It’s still one of the smallest i5 systems with a built-in keyboard. But it definitely works best on your lap or cradled on a forearm.

    I need more upper body strength anyway.

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