It’s kind of funny and tricky to review a Windows 8 computer. I say “Blame the software.”
Let’s start with the good: The Yoga 11S has more ‘modes’ than advertised
To be fair, let’s talk hardware first. This Lenovo hybrid computer is named the IdeaPad Yoga 11S and it adapts to whatever task you require at the moment. There are 4 modes you can change it into: Laptop, Tablet, Stand, and Tent. Laptop mode is the only mode where you can use the keyboard. The device senses when you change it out of laptop mode and will disable the keyboard automatically. If you need the keyboard in the other 3 modes, you’ll need to rely on the touchscreen keyboard. You can access that keyboard with the tiny keyboard icon all the way at the bottom of your screen. It will not just “pop up” on its own in fields where you’d assume it should – you actually need to press the tiny icon to access it. Not a big deal – it’s just different from an Android keyboard UX. Just saying.
Stand mode, in my opinion, is nothing more than laptop mode, but the physical keyboard is “tucked under” to become a base (and, as stated earlier, deactivated, because the keys are now inverted in this mode), and the display pulled closer to your face.
Tent mode is basically tablet mode but pryed slightly apart, so it looks like an upside-down V. Tent mode has the smallest footprint of the 4 modes, which is helpful on a small or cluttered workspace. In this mode, you can rest it on your desk, countertop, etc. but you could probably even hang it over the back of a chair, although I didn’t try that. Tent mode can be rotated to portrait orientation – it will resemble a standing, slightly open “book” in this way, instead of an upside-down V. That said, the Yoga 11S in my opinion has 4 and a half modes, instead of the advertised 4 modes.The machine itself is sturdy – you can tell it’s built to last. Everything feels good on the fingertips too. Pity, because an analogy would be like a great house being in a bad location. Keep reading and I’ll explain what I mean.
User experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, and other classics
It isn’t easy to talk about user experience when every person is different. If you’re new to computers, the Yoga 11S might frustrate you. If you paid close to $1K assuming it’s an easy-to-use computer based on its high price, you might even get angry and feel buyer’s remorse. Specifically, I’m talking about the software in the Yoga 11S, like Microsoft Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, etc. These classic programs (and the resulting less-than-stellar UX they provide) aren’t Lenovo’s fault – It’s Microsoft’s. Well, you can also blame Lenovo for being buddy-buddy with Microsoft. I’ve been using computers since childhood so my UX with the Yoga 11S is definitely colored by what I already know. Let me get right to it. Opening Microsoft Word was a bona fide pain, and like I said, I’m not new to computers. I finally got it to open a .docx file I stored on my SkyDrive (which is another Microsoft service) after five attempts via the dreadful Internet Explorer. If I were a computing newbie and bought the Yoga 11S new and experienced all this hooha, frankly, I would be ticked off. This is not the UX you’d expect with this expensive of a machine. To open an Excel spreadsheet (an .xls file), you need to download the file to the Yoga 11S itself and be logged into SkyDrive or Office.com (that’s the domain name for Office 365, the required subscription web app suite in Microsoft’s cloud which Microsoft wants everyone to use). Only then will user commands work, meaning commands like “Open.” Insert eyeroll. In contrast to my .xls file, my .docx file didn’t need to be downloaded onto the Yoga 11S. Who has time to remember all these nuances? I don’t. (Also: My .xls test file was really small, it wasn’t like it was huge or anything.)
If you insist on this hybrid because you love Microsoft Office, at least prepare yourself
If you’re easily angered by persnicketty software, but you insist on buying the Yoga 11S because for whatever unshakable reason you feel you can’t live without Microsoft Office, but the 4 modes appeal to you, you’d better prepare yourself by reading Cindy Grigg’s article on what’s current (and confusing) about Microsoft Office.
I tried to use the Yoga 11S to use GooglePlus, which is the Google equivalent of Facebook. I chose tablet mode with portrait orientation and used the G+ web UI through Internet Explorer. The screen got significantly cut off on the right hand side while trying to read profile pages. I’d say about 15 percent of the data on screen was truncated vertically and unviewable. That’s a lot. This might have been tolerable if there was a way to forcefully zoom out, but there isn’t a way to do that. I wasn’t even able to scroll horizontally. In fairness, rotating to landscape “solved” this page-specific issue, but don’t you think we should be able to choose which orientation we want right from the start, as well as go to any page we want and not worry about information getting chopped off? Sorry, but I need to eyeroll again. The resolution is okay at a normal distance, but up close you can see craggy letters.
Many tech critics say “Microsoft is not the future.” While nobody can say what the future will be with full certainty, we can make predictions. As it stands, Microsoft is still enterprise king – for now – but if the future of enterprise has a lot more BYOD, then Microsoft should worry, at least a little, because BYOD typically means iOS or Android. (Although Microsoft would love to see changes in that trend via its OEM brigade, of which Lenovo is a part of, along with ASUS, Dell, Acer, Toshiba, etc.) So the critics have some valid points. In conclusion, I must give this opinion: The Yoga 11S has 4 and a half cool modes, however, it isn’t the best choice for folks who (a) rely on Microsoft Office. (b) Doubly true if you’re new to computers, and (c) even worse if you’re not good with adapting. And one other issue about Microsoft Office, in case you missed it in Cindy Grigg’s guide: There are annual costs involved. Yes, Office 365 is a yearly subscription service. Choosing not to renew each year means you can’t edit your documents, spreadsheets, etc. (You can still view them in “read-only” mode, however) If the 3 traits I mentioned match your personality, I advise you don’t buy the Yoga 11S. Again, it’s just my opinion. If you don’t use Microsoft Office alot, you might feel it’s significantly overpriced for your needs. If you insist on getting the Yoga 11S, I guess you either believe in being a supportive early adopter and want to see hybrids evolve, or you like Lenovo as a brand, or maybe you just like a challenge.
802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Hard drive: 256GB SSD m-SATA II SATA 300
Memory: 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz SODIMM
Processor: Third-generation Intel Core i5-3339Y 1.50GHz 1600MHz 3MB
OS: Microsoft Windows 8, 64-bit
Screen: 11.6″ HD IPS display, 16:9 widescreen
Video graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000
Battery: Lithium polymer 4 cell 42Wh Up to 6 hours
Additional features: Ambient light sensor, accelerometer, 3-axis light gyroscope, digital compass
Audio support: Integrated stereo speakers supporting Dolby Home Theater v.4 Certification
Camera: Integrated HD 720p camera