Bryan Paul Sullo

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s – A review

In Productivity on 3 May 2014 at 4:42 pm
For about a year and a half, I used an Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime 201 as my primary travel computer. It was small, and light, and turned on instantly, and was great for taking notes at meetings, and carrying around client sites. Alas, I finally reached the limits of its ability. The Android operating system was just not quite robust enough to do the things I needed it to do. It was time to go back to a Windows laptop.

My requirements were that the device had to be very small (an ultrabook), it had to have an Intel Core i3 or better processor, and it had to have a touch screen. (Using Windows 8 without a touch screen is a maddening endeavor. With a touch screen it’s surprisingly intuitive.) Most of the devices in this arena were around $1000. I came across the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s in Best Buy, for $800, and realized it was the best deal going.
I was a little worried that I would regret my decision after the purchase, but, so far, I have not. Before I talk about all the pros of the Yoga 11s, let me get the cons out of the way:
  • No Trusted Platform Module (TPM). In this day in age, I can’t imagine why you would make a computer without a TPM. A TPM is a hardware device that is embedded into the computer and which acts as a way to authenticate decryption of a hard drive without having to type a password every time you turn it on. Hard drive encryption is mandated by many state regulations and business entities, and it’s just a good idea. Unfortunately, the only models that come with a TPM are hundreds of dollars more expensive (and not because of the TPM). This is a consumer-market device, as opposed to a business-class device, but nowadays, what’s the difference?
  • No rear camera. This may seem trivial, but, when much of your work involves documenting things, you need to take pictures. I regularly use Evernote to document networks, equipment, and other items for work (and plenty of things around the house), and I’d gotten into a groove using my Android tablet to take pictures as I was typing up documentation. I can still use my phone, but it would be awesome to by typing a note on my laptop and then use it to insert a picture in-line.
  • No GPS. With a tablet, a GPS is expected. A large, mobile touchscreen almost begs to be used with mapping applications. Bing and Google Maps will detect rough location from Wi-Fi networks, so it’s not a total loss there.
  • The right Shift key is not sensitive enough. Due to the keyboard layout (and, I guess, my finger layout), my pinky ends up at the left edge of the right Shift key. Pressing this key by the edge doesn’t register as a keypress, even though it feels like it should. I have to press just a bit harder to get it to register. This means I occasionally mistype, including passwords, which is frustrating.
  • The Yoga makes a pretty heavy tablet. My primary use is not as a tablet, so that’s fine with me, but it might be a problem for some.
  • In tablet mode, the keys and touchpad end up on the back of the device. That means when you hold the Yoga, your fingers are pressing keys the whole time. The keys automatically turn off when the screen angle passes the 190 degree (or so) mark, so that’s not a problem, but it just feels wrong. I guess I’ll get used to that. (Note: So far, the key shut-off feature has failed once, which caused me to type things on the screen just by holding the tablet.)
  • This isn’t specific to the Yoga, but the lack of apps in the Microsoft Store is maddening. Google has one app: Google search. No Gmail, no Google Drive, no Google Voice. There is no Wi-Fi analyzer app like there are for Android and iOS.
  • Again, this is a Windows 8 complaint, but there is no copy/paste between “Modern” (full-screen) apps and desktop apps. I want to use the modern apps in tablet mode, but I sometimes need to communicate information between the modern and desktop interfaces.
  • The Wi-Fi adapter doesn’t support the 5GHz band. I’m sure 2.4GHz will be around for the life of this laptop, but 5GHz is faster, and can get you off of the more congested 2.4GHz networks. Frankly, I’m shocked that an $800 laptop didn’t come with a 5 GHz Wi-Fi adapter.
And, here are the good features:
  • First of all, this is just a cool device. I mean, who doesn’t want a notebook that folds 360 degrees, and can be used as a tablet.
  • In stand mode, the keyboard becomes a super-sturdy kick-stand. You may wonder why you would want to use it this way: Why not just use the keyboard? Once you do, though, you find it’s very convenient for using in your lap, or on a counter, when you need extra space. It’s actually not bad to use in the car (not while driving!) because the steering wheel would get in the way of a traditional laptop. I use the Yoga in stand mode about as often as I use the keyboard.
  • The Yoga can also be used in “tent” mode, which is just what it sounds like. In this mode, only the top edge of the screen, and the front edge of the keyboard are touching the support surface. Why would you want to use this mode? I find I use it like this in the kitchen. When the Yoga is in stand mode, all of the keys, and the touchpad are in contact with the surface beneath it. I don’t necessarily trust that my kitchen counter or table are completely free of liquid, so I use tent mode there. Tent mode is also good if you have limited space. In stand mode, the Yoga requires 8.5 inches of depth (front to back). In tent mode, you can place the Yoga in a space that is only 3 inches deep.
  • Battery life is outstanding. I can get almost a full 8-hour day of light-to-moderate use on one charge.
  • Despite the lack of 5GHz Wi-Fi, the gain on the 2.4GHz antennas is astounding. Sitting at my desk in my office, I’m picking up signals from another office 500 ft down the road.
  • A big laptop can be a barrier in meetings–literally. It’s like putting a wall between you and whomever you’re meeting with. The 11s is small enough to be unobtrusive, and, in tablet mode, can be lain flat.
  • When I’m not using it, I leave the Yoga in sleep mode. It draws almost no power, and is instantly available when I need it.
  • The Yoga feels sturdy. I was concerned about the gimicky nature of the flip-over screen, but they’ve done a good job with the design. It’s tight and solid.
  • Lenovo didn’t load a ton of crapware on the device. There are some Lenovo apps, most of which I’ve found to be completely unnecessary, but it’s pretty clean, otherwise.
  • The surfaces of the Yoga are solid, but somehow a little grippy. That makes it easy to carry, and it means that, when it’s in stand or tent modes, it doesn’t slide all over the place.
  • The speaker isn’t loud, or particularly high-quality, but it’s louder than the one on my Asus tablet, and I can use it to watch streaming videos without requiring an external speaker.
All in all, this is a great device, and does exactly what I need it to do. I would highly recommend the Yoga 11s to others, and will seriously consider other Lenovo products in the future.

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