Lenovo’s classic boxy ThinkPad design hasn’t ever been something destined to win design awards, but the company is challenging laptop design conventions with the IdeaPad YOGA. Part Ultrabook and part Windows 8-powered tablet PC, the IdeaPad YOGA combines the Ultrabook form factor with a functional tablet implementation that makes touch computing make sense on a product with a keyboard.
While the IdeaPad YOGA unit I saw at Digital Experience is still a protype that was heavier than the promised 3.1 pounds of the shipping model, it still felt far lighter than the competing Envy 14 I examined at HP’s booth. The 13.3-inch screen displayed the Windows 8 touch interface with what they say is a 1600×900 screen, though we weren’t allowed to interact with Windows 8 for some reason, so I couldn’t verify the screen specs. The real fascination for me is the way the screen folds over on itself.
One of the key things I’ve been searching for in a Windows computer is something as thin as a MacBook Air with a touchscreen. Every time I tell people this is the computer I want, the response is always something about it being impractical to have a touch screen and a keyboard. The IdeaPad YOGA provides this best-of-both-worlds experience and takes it a step further by allowing you to fold the screen over backward so that the back of the screen and what would normal be the bottom of the laptop are touching.
While this doesn’t sound ideal, because it leaves the keyboard exposed, it seems to actually work quite well. Lenovo disables the keyboard when the YOGA is folded over, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping a key or moving the mouse. Windows 8 is designed to be multi-touch from the ground up, so you have a true touch screen experience to work with.
Inside the IdeaPad YOGA, you have everything you’d expect from an Ultrabook. The Intel Core Processor family and Intel chipset provide the foundation. The YOGA is configurable up to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state hard drive. Battery life is reported to be eight hours, though that’s a number I don’t trust unless I’ve seen it field tested.
A .67-inches thick, the IdeaPad Yoga is thin. A few additional details I noticed were the rubberized feel of the exterior, which seems deisgned to grip. The palm rest is leather rather than the typical plastic or metal. All buttons, like volume and various switches appear to be designed with the tablet mode in mind based on placement. And the ports include two USB, an HDMI output, and SD card slot.
This is the first Windows laptop I’ve truly been excited about in ages. Hopefully it’s as good as it seems to be when it comes to market later in 2012 around the time Windows 8 ships.