User Interface, A/V Quality, Thermal Design
For the most part, the ThinkPad Yoga’s keyboard looks and feels practically identical to that of the X240. The keys feature a smooth finish and are very tightly-fitted with absolutely no rattle, which gives them a high-quality feel. As with the X240, we would have preferred a slightly crisper stop and a bit more key travel (travel overall is on the medium to short side), and the actuation force of the Yoga’s keys is a little more than we normally prefer as well (the T440s, for instance, was just right). There have also been occasional complaints about the sizing and organization of some of the keys. But overall, this is an excellent keyboard—ahead of the Yoga 2 Pro’s, and in fact, ahead of most every Ultrabook out there… once again, Lenovo comes close to keyboard perfection.
The touchpad, on the other hand, commits precisely the same sins as the other recent ThinkPads we’ve reviewed. While our review unit’s pad didn’t seem to rattle quite as much as the ones in our T440s and X240 review units, it still exhibits a clattery and cheap feel compared to traditional touchpads. Moreover, the pointer jumpiness phenomenon also persists, afflicting many innocent taps with an undesired pointer movement that never ceases to annoy. And, of course, it follows that TrackPoint functionality is equally hobbled; the lack of physical buttons is something which makes its use subjectively very challenging, requiring much more conscious thought than it should.
Fortunately, as always, the touchscreen works as intended. Sure, it’s not difficult to find a functioning touchscreen on a mainstream notebook these days, but it is rather uncommon to see one with the added bonuses the ThinkPad Yoga implements. For starters, this is one of the few touchscreens available that does not incorporate a glossy finish—something which will certainly be appreciated by business professionals and notebook enthusiasts alike. The panel finish is referred to as “anti-glare”, but it only does a partial job of diffusing light sources; it’s more accurate to refer to it as “half-matte”. The next big benefit is the inclusion of a Wacom digitizer pen, providing for enhanced touch accuracy and versatility. Another variation of the ThinkPad Yoga ships without the digitizer and with an “anti-smudge” screen in lieu of the anti-glare one we received.
One complaint which we levy against such models rather frequently is the inability of the (massive!) hinges to hold the display still in the midst of even light tapping while in notebook form. Coupled with the much-appreciated semi-gloss screen, this problem could certainly be worse, but it’s still a nuisance in the presence of brighter light sources and well-lit environments in general. Not to mention the fact that the screen contents themselves wobble along with the lid (of course), which can be grounds for a headache after a bit of use. By the way, this problem also afflicts the use of the Wacom digitizer pen while operating in Notebook or Stand Mode to the point which it is nearly impossible to use reliably—so stick with the Tent or Tablet modes if you’re planning to use the pen.
One of our complaints about the original Yoga design was actually related to the sensation of holding the device folded into tablet mode with the keyboard exposed. It’s weird, because your fingers would depress the keys uncontrollably while you operated the tablet, which not only feels strange but probably isn’t ideal for long-term durability. The ThinkPad Yoga is the first in the Yoga line to correct this problem, and it does so with a unique approach: by lifting the keyboard surround (the surface in between the keys) automatically and progressively as the device is folded backwards. This happens painlessly and completely transparently to the operation of the computer; the only thing the user notices is that suddenly the keyboard has seemingly flattened out to become a mostly solid surface.
Thanks in part to the semi-matte screen, the ThinkPad Yoga is pretty easily operated outdoors provided you aren’t sitting in direct sunlight. The screen seems quite bright (brighter than the X220 used to type this), and Lenovo quotes it at 400 nits, which seems pretty close to accurate. It’s also IPS, which makes for great viewing angles and stable color reproduction. The contrast seems very good, too, as should be the case for a panel of these specifications.
On the other hand, the audio is really nothing special. Dolby DTS post-processing or not, the ThinkPad Yoga’s audio is par for the course in terms of business machines: clear enough to discern the intricacies of the trebles, but weak enough in the low frequencies to warrant the usage of external speakers (or headphones) when any degree of music or film is on the agenda.
The Yoga is one quiet computer. In fact, most of the time (during light use), the fan doesn’t even run—and the machine is essentially silent. It’s only when under a moderate load that it finally becomes audible, and it’s still relatively quiet. The only thing worth mentioning is that it has the same sort of high pitch to it as other thin ThinkPad models, and that means that some might describe it as a whine. Fortunately, since the exhaust vent is on the rear, it’s pretty hard to hear it regardless.
How well does this actually control the temperatures of this fairly slim machine, you ask? Externally, there are no issues: only the right-hand bottom side of the unit retains any sort of bothersome heat, and even then it’s still just overly warm under load—and while idle, it’s not a problem at all. Internally, it’s a different story: under any sort of moderate stress, the machine quickly heats up and refuses to cool down without sacrifice. The effects of this unchecked temperature rise are mostly felt in the realm of performance, and as such, we’ll cover this more thoroughly in the performance section of our review later on.