What I’ve learned in the last two weeks with my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (i7/8/256). I’m replacing a 2010 MacBook Air (MBA) and decided to go with the Yoga 2 Pro. I mostly use Windows machines (the MBA was my first mac) and have been on the fence over a MBA 2013, the new MBP and the Yoga (and other options). Here are some reflections after 2 weeks.
TouchScreen: Once you start using a touchscreen it’s hard to go back. It doesn’t replace keyboard, trackpad and mouse but it adds another dimension that you quickly begin to take for granted. This is the big advantage over a MBA or a MBP. One of these years Apple will do touch macbooks but they are slow to adopt this kind of thing unless they can do it in a breakthrough way. I think they will sooner release a IPad “Pro” to compliment the new “Air” which will have a keyboard and some other features (to compete with the MS Surface) but I think it will keep using IOS which I think is un-developed (compared to Android or Windows) even though its app ecosystem is superior.
Yellow: I never think about the yellow problem anymore. I am running it at 1600×900 and it seems at lower resolutions the yellows are better. Some other things like Chrome run better at this resolution so until Chrome and others really change their software for the higher resolution displays I’ll keep using the lower resolution. Even the new MBP has issues with this for all but the Apple apps. The screensaver that defaults on the Yoga has bright yellow fish on it and they show up just fine. That makes me wonder if they’ll improve it with software tweeks.
Logos: Logos runs acceptably on it (i7/8/256) but not as well as on my office machine where I have a powerful processor, graphics card and fast ssd. Logos doesn’t yet seem optimized for touch either although last night I was reading Logos desktop on the air plane it worked well. Logos for Windows 8, along with some other Windows 8 apps are still too undeveloped (I’m looking at your Kindle). I’m hoping that if MS continues to push this transition their huge established market share will bring developers to develop for the Modern UI system. It is a good platform and it deserves better apps.
There are moments when I would like a real digitizer (Thinkpad Yoga upcoming) but for the most part I use my fingers.
Trackpad and Keyboard: I much prefer the my old 2010 11″ MBA keyboard to this one. The keys have sharper corners and I am more accurate typing on it. Same goes for the trackpad. I’ve been adjusting settings to limit palm vectoring and cursor jumping but it isn’t as refined as the Apple trackpads. They are the gold standard. I’m hoping that refined drivers will continue to emerge and I’ll adjust, but it is a loss.
Versatility: The versatility of the Yoga is the selling point. If I get an exit aisle seat on the plane I can actually work on this thing, read books in either desktop or Modern UI mode. etc.
Being able to use it like a 13″ tablet with a full OS behind it is really nice. That’s the killer feature.
I think we’re going to see a similar size migration in tablets as we’ve seen in Android phones. OEMs are going to continue to make tablets larger and larger and lighter and lighter (like the Ipad Air) and the new rumored Samsung note 12. Having a larger screen for reading, browsing, etc. that fits in the lap is nice for content consumption. Having a built in stand and keyboard is so convenient. Lenovo is ahead of the curve on this one (also their Flex line) and I think this will advantage Microsoft.
Windows 8.1 while better than 8.0 still needs work. It still is two operating systems that haven’t been fully integrated. How long will this take? It is clear that for Microsoft the “Modern UI” is their future but there the old windowing system still has some inherent advantages, especially on larger screens. There are some things about this OS that are deeply frustrating but there are also some glimpses of genius. If they can manage to keep working on these things they will have something. The problem is that they iterate too slowly. It may be 5 years before they really work all this out.
Use at an all day meeting:
a. I much prefer the Windows version of Office apps over the abandoned ones on Mac OS. I would have been frustrated using the Mac office versions at the meetings. Office 2013 continues to improve and is more and more refined for touch interface.
b. Battery life was OK but towards the end of the day I started to baby it and then broke down and plugged it in. The 2013 MBA would have made it no problem making it through the day. I don’t have a clear sense yet of average battery usage. So much depends on what you’re doing.
Opening and closing the lid on a Mac works perfectly, exactly as it should. While the Yoga boots very quickly from zero, its speed at resuming after a lid closure is not where the Mac is. It should be instant. I missed this from my MBA although part of the reason I passed my old MBA down to my kids was because with OS updates my old MBA with 2 gigs of ram was really getting slow. On the Yoga I blame windows for this. They’ve come a ways but there is further to go. I ought to be able to open and close the lid and have the machine work instantly and correctly.
c. I did flip it around and use the touch interface a few times, but some aspects of the desktop OS are still not well developed for touch. File management for example still works best with mouse and keyboard. In a meeting I wound up using mouse, keyboard and touch most of the time.
d. Microsoft needs to develop some in between security settings. I don’t want to have to put in my password every time I close the lid, but if I leave the machine for an hour I want to have the password come up automatically. I might be able to do this with the screen saver settings. I need to keep tinkering with it.
This is what I’ve got for now. I’ll add more to this posting if new things develop.
Lenovo released a bios update, an energy management system update and a wifi update. installed all three. Yellows still aren’t right. Can’t tell if they’re improved or not. First impression is that there is a bump in battery life. Wifi was working fine after an initial driver update.
The updates seem to have improved wake from sleep/lid performance as well.
A few more thoughts after a couple of weeks of use.
1. The form factor is really the winning element of this (again). It really opens up some nice possibilities of using a computer in ways that the old typical notebook cannot.
2. The trackpad is NOT as good as a Mac. I am regularly frustrated by it. It is bearable but I miss my mac trackpad. Same with the keyboard.
3. I like IE11 and use it a lot but it crashes often. I haven’t had it crash in the middle of typing in WordPress or something disastrous like that, but it is still buggy and needs work. The Modern UI IE11 version is nice as it’s free of controls but there are still kinks in the system.
4. The trackpad, palmrest and keyboard do hold finger oils. I don’t care but those who find this kind of thing disgusting should look at a mac.
My main observation between this and a MBA still holds. If you want a solid, conventional machine you can’t beat a Mac. If you want something that’s going to expand on “normal” and open up new ways to use your machine, try out one of these. Just saw that Acer updated its funky convertible which is a 15 inch and has a stylus. That has some attraction too but I wouldn’t want the extra weight. Again, the more you get used to using a really LARGE screen for a tablet, the more you like it.
Just returned from a work trip for a few days.
Hotel wifi and free airport wifi are notoriously awful. Windows likes to have it’s personal time to do all of its high maintenance background things, some of which seem to involve the Internet. I was greatly frustrated a few times when performance on the PC was lousy. This is a Core i7 with 8 gigs of ram and an SSD. There is no excuse for stuttering browser performance. The trackpad was unworkable in all three browsers. Dropbox seemed also to bog the machine down because someone had decided to update 700+ PowerPoint files when I was on hotel wifi.
I also had an experience once when I closed it up and put it away asleep but when I took it out it was warm which mean that something was running in the background despite the fact that I had it in airplane mode because of the sketchy wifi situation. One of the great things about the MBA was that when it was closed you didn’t get battery drain. This normally works well, but again, something wanted to do something in the background and it not only hit performance while I was working but was churning while the machine was asleep.
At one point in my meetings I wanted to use it like a tablet, a key reason to have a machine like this. The performance was so crappy it was almost unusable. In those moments I had regrets I didn’t go with the MBA.
I’m 6’5″ over 230 so coach in an airplane is not a space where I can do work with anything larger than a tablet. Even my old 11″ MBA was too bulky for me to use in a cramped airplane seat.
I had an empty seat next to me on a long flight and had some thoughts I wanted to jot down. I decided to pull the Y2P out and see how it would work.
Notebook mode again doesn’t work for me because I’m so large. I used it as a tablet and I had with me a cheepo pen/stylus I had picked up on Amazon for next to nothing. I used the handwriting recognition “keyboard” with windows and was generally quite impressed at how well it deciphered my horrible scratching. It’s not near as fast as a keyboard for me, but in a pinch I could take notes with it on an cramped flight. Couldn’t do that with a MBA.
I also had some documents to read. Again, in tablet form it worked well. The were word files so I could highlight them and mark them up with the stylus. It isn’t as nice as a machine with an active digitizer that can distinguish between a stylus and your finger, but again it worked well. This again made me happy I had this machine instead of another MBA.
Overall my general impression is regularly confirmed. If you want a terrific machine with an outstanding keyboard, trackpad, battery life go with the MBA. You sacrifice the touch screen and the convertible nature of this. Windows vs. Mac for me is a draw. Mac runs well but I get frustrated with their crap version of office and other limitations. Windows can do some great things but sometimes it’s high maintenance and will do stuff in the background and make me wait or give in.
Speakers: BTW I don’t know if I mentioned that the speakers on this machine are enormously good. The speakers on my old MBA were hardly adequate. Whenever I play music through the Yoga 2 Pro I’m always amazed at the quality of the sound. They are under the keyboard so if you want the best sound you should keep it in traditional laptop mode. I’m listening to Handel’s Messiah at the moment and it sounds glorious.
Bluetooth: There’s a problem with the Bluetooth on this machine. A google search will yield forum threads of similarly frustrated users awaiting a driver update. I’ve had the same problem. If I use a physical mouse my nice BT one has to sit on the sidelines while the trusty, old wired, USB mouse continues to work flawlessly. Ah technology.
Still no driver updates to address some issues. 😦
A few days ago I discovered a very nice feature of the Modern UI IE browser. Reading mode. In the full screen browser there is a little book icon that appears after the page finishes loading. If you hit that button the adds go away and the page is nicely formatted for reading. Very nice.
The last comment wanted and update which seems good. I’ve been using the computer for over 4 months now so what have I learned over the longer haul.
The Bad or Merely Mediocre
- The trackpad is still not as good as a Mac. I regularly have the cursor “jump” when trying to click something. I’ve tinkered with sensitivity, etc. but it can’t match the kind of reliability I had with my old MBA. I disabled the side swipe feature to use the Windows 8.1 features because too often I’d activate it unintentionally. That is a shame because it is a handy feature. At the same time I rarely plug in an external mouse which means that the trackpad remains generally usable for my usage. I use a desktop in my office for my main work. The laptop is mostly used for working at home which usually means working from my lap on a sofa. The keyboard itself is good, but not exceptional.
- Chrome scrolling: Chrome stops scrolling with the trackpad in desktop mode. Why? I don’t know. I find myself using IE on my notebook even though I’m ALWAYS using Chrome on my desktop computer. Both the scrolling and the high resolution issues.
- Trackpad sticks: Sometimes the trackpad “sticks” (not literally) with the button virtually depressed. Why? I have no idea. If I cycle sleep/wake it gets resolved, but again, this is really unacceptable.
- Driver updates: I would imagine the trackpad could be fixed with more updates. The bluetooth is also not reliable which at this point is unacceptable. Again, how about a driver update to fix it. Lenovo should be better than this is.
- Sleep/Wake: Eric in the comments noted that he powers up and down rather than using sleep. I get that but haven’t done it. I haven’t found dramatic power loss with sleep, but neither have I found it goes to sleep very quickly when you close the cover. This means that sometimes if you close the cover and re-open it again quickly it can’t cycle into sleep and wake fast enough. It’s a hassle. As Eric noted, however, it boots amazingly fast so his option would work well too depending on your habits.
- Battery Life: Is adequate, not exceptional. Now the battery is mature and in most cases I don’t have to plug it in to use it but just charge it overnight when it gets low depending on usage. It won’t compete with the current MBA or MBP but it is serviceable.
- Wish it had a digitizer: Should I have waited and gone with the Thinkpad Yoga? I don’t know. There are tradeoffs there too.
- Apps for Windows 8: This remains a mixed bag. There are some apps that are being developed and updated regularly like Readly, Bing reader, Olive Tree Bible software, other MS apps. There are others that are present but are clearly not the priority of the developers: Kindle, Logos Bible Software, WordPress and others. I realize that the Windows 8 environment hasn’t really competed with IOS or Android and that many wonder if Microsoft will abandon it and just stick with the Desktop OS. I hope MS does continue to develop the Windows 8 side. They really do have a better touch interface than IOS or Android (I use Android for my phone and Nexus 7 and love that platform too) but the “Modern UI” is superior for browsing and usability. Samsung is trying to bring Android up to par but Samsung’s software really isn’t up to speed compared to Microsoft. IF it becomes apparent that MS desktop success WILL translate into the Modern UI, and developers really dig in and commit. If that happens it will be the best system, but today it remains hobbled by lack of development for even the apps that companies have half-heartedly produced.
- Convertible: The main feature of this machine, your ability to use it in the different modes with the touch screen remains its killer feature. I use “Readly” to view my Feedly feeds and it is a great way to peruse news. The Bing news app is also quite good. Once you start using a touch screen it is hard to go back to a dumb screen. It is a nice way to read news, browse photos, etc. in a way that a standard laptop really can’t compete with.
- Windows 8.1: I know it’s maligned, and there are some nice things about the Mac OS, but if you prefer windows this is a major factor in shunning the MBA or MBP. Even though the “modern UI” isn’t really mature there are times and places for me that I use a touch app, Sometime Olive Tree Bible software for touch and then Logos 5 in desktop mode. If I’m leading a small group I can put it in “stand” mode and finger my way through texts easily and with the beautiful screen it is easy to glance at, move it forward. etc.
- Office for Windows: There is no comparison between the Mac version of MS Office and the Windows version. I used the Mac version for 3 years and was never happy with it.
- IE for Touch: The IE for “Modern UI” browser has some real liabilities (no plugins) but you can always go to desktop mode. The best use of the IE for Touch browser is reading. There is the “reading” mode (activate with the book icon on the URL bar) to nicely eliminate the adds and clutter on a site. It is one of my favorite features of the machine. I use the machine to do lot of reading and this feature I LOVE.
So on the whole am I still happy with my choice? Yes. If my battery runs down sometimes I think “I’d still be going with a MBA” but if I’m using touch browsing through news or reading blogs, there is no comparison. If I want to read a little, blog a little, browse a little, with the possibility of doing some serious work, it still remains the best bet I think for my uses.
July 11 2014
I’m amazed at how much traffic this one post continues to get on my blog which isn’t primarily a tech blog.
I’ve been using the Yoga 2 Pro a lot this summer because I’ve been on the road or working from home. It’s probably a good time to give an update.
The keyboard continues to frustrate me. Lately I’ve discovered that characters are repeating in the middle or the end of words. I don’t have this on any other keyboard I use so it must be the Y2P keyboard. It’s very frustrating.
The Trackpad, Again
The trackpad continues to be a headache. I’ve given up trying to use Chrome on my Y2P at all unless I’m using a plugin mouse. It’s that bad. The trackpad picks up touches that get interpreted as two finger squeezes to resize the screen. It makes Chrome unusable. Chrome already really doesn’t do well with the high resolution screen. I still use Chrome on my desktop computer at work regularly.
I almost always use IE on my Y2P which works better than Chrome on it. I’ve got mixed feelings about IE. It’s really very serviceable and the browser in Window 8 Modern UI mode I really like for reading and general browsing. I used it almost exclusively on my Surface Pro. I use the IE Desktop mode when I need plugins. It doesn’t have all of the hassles of Chrome with the trackpad.
Lenovo’s Lack of Updates
My biggest frustration is that the trackpad could probably be improved with continued driver updates but they don’t seem to come. I noted before that the bluetooth is also inadequate. I used a MS bluetooth mouse with my Surface Pro and a Logitech bluetooth keyboard which both work wonderfully but I don’t dare use them on my Y2P. If they would update the drivers I would have a hope, but they do not.
Would I still Buy It Knowing What I Now Know?
A qualified yes. I wish the trackpad and keyboard worked as well as a Mac but it’s a question of which annoyance you’d rather deal with. I’ll keep the operating system and curse at the trackpad and keyboard. I use my Surface Pro with a BT mouse and keyboard and it works well, but the utility of the Y2P hinge is irreplaceable. That’s what gives this machine its advantage. I wouldn’t want to go back to a non-touch screen notebook. I need to have a notebook that I can type in my lap.
No computer or device I have every owned didn’t have its drawbacks. The questions is which drawbacks for which usage and the work-arounds. If I’m going to be doing a lot of work on the Y2P I usually plug in a cheap Logitech wired mouse to avoid using the trackpad. Spell check catches the repeating characters of the keyboard. It’s tolerable. The screen is still beautiful and the yoga hinge is essential so I stick with it.