Look and feel
The rest of the Engadget staff usually leaves my desk alone: It's a bit of a mess, and besides, you never know when you'll be interrupting a benchmark test in progress. And yet, everyone who's stopped by has wanted to play with the Yoga 2 Pro. It's not even that sexy, per se. But, kind of like a fur coat or warm towel, it's just begging to be touched. As with other Lenovo IdeaPad laptops, the lid and bottom side are covered in a pleasant satin finish that stands up well to scratches and also masks fingerprints. Lift the lid and you'll find the keyboard deck is fashioned out of a rubbery material with a leather-like texture. This, too, holds up well over time; as I finish this review, the machine is about as clean and scratch-free as it was the day I unboxed it.
It's also just incredibly well-made. For one thing, it bears the same book-inspired shape as previous Lenovo Ultrabooks, which is to say the edges are ever so slightly recessed, sort of like pages stuffed between a front and back cover. The hinge is sturdy, of course -- it has to be. Like last time, the screen folds over in a smooth, fluid motion, but there's just enough resistance so that you'll never doubt its durability. Even in regular laptop mode, the display mostly stays put when you touch it, which is unfortunately something we can't say about other touch-enabled notebooks. Additionally, Lenovo added a rubber rim to the edges of the screen, so that when you stand it upside down in Tent Mode, it will have a little extra cushioning built in. The palm rest is solid, too; it won't creak when you hold it in one hand. All told, then, this isn't the sleekest PC in the world, but it doesn't matter: This thing is durable and well-built. Practical, even. Tell that to all your friends with a scratched MacBook Air, or a Samsung Series 9 covered in fingerprints.
To anyone upgrading from the Yoga 13, the Yoga 2 Pro will seem noticeably lighter: It now weighs about a third of a pound less than last year's model. For everyone else, it will simply feel like a normal Ultrabook, which is to say it's reasonably compact. At 3.06 pounds, it weighs exactly the same as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus. And at 0.61 inch thick, it's actually a little skinnier than the MacBook Air is at its widest point, which is impressive when you remember the Air doesn't even have a touchscreen adding bulk. What's more, though the Yoga 2 Pro is about as wide as other 13-inch Ultrabooks, it's a little shorter lengthwise, giving it a slightly smaller footprint. If you do some research, you will, of course, find even lighter Ultrabooks (see: the Acer Aspire S7 and Sony VAIO Pro 13), but both of those are regular touchscreen laptops, and don't have the burden of a strong hinge like the Yoga does. So if it's a convertible you're after, this is actually impressively thin and light.
The only somewhat uncomfortable thing about handling the Yoga 2 Pro is that when you flip the screen over into tablet mode, you can feel your fingers pressing against the keys on the back. As it happens, the keyboard gets disabled once you flip the screen past a certain point. Still, it's a weird feeling, pushing your fingers against loose buttons instead of a flat surface.
Even more interesting: Lenovo had the opportunity to change this. If you look at the ThinkPad Yoga, which was announced at the same time and hasn't gone on sale yet, you'll see the keyboard there flattens itself out when you go into tablet mode. Basically, what's happening is the platform between the keys raises so that it sits level with the buttons. Meanwhile, the keys get locked into place so that you can't press them. It's not a perfect solution -- you can still feel the individual buttons -- but it's a vast improvement over the old setup. According to Lenovo, though, that so-called Lift and Lock keyboard would have required a thicker hinge, along with more space inside the chassis. Lenovo was betting consumers would rather have a thin machine than one with a self-flattening keyboard.
Like last time, the Yoga uses a proprietary rectangular charging port that could easily be mistaken for a USB socket, if not for the fact that it's been painted yellow, not blue. Just next to it, on the left-hand side, you will indeed find a blue USB 3.0 connection, along with a micro-HDMI port and a full-sized SD card reader. Over on the other side is a USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack, screen orientation button and a volume rocker for you to use in tablet mode. The small power button also now lives on this side (it used to sit on the front edge). To recap, then, since an Ethernet jack has become an impossibility for most Ultrabooks, the only thing you might be missing here is a full-sized HDMI port. In which case, it's time to buy yourself a dongle.
Keyboard and trackpad
With the exception of backlighting, the keyboard hasn't changed since the original Yoga came out. That's mostly a good thing. Like pretty much every Lenovo laptop we've ever tested, the buttons here offer a healthy amount of travel, and are backed by a sturdy keyboard deck that doesn't move or bend while you type. And though this technically isn't the same layout you'll find on one of Lenovo's ThinkPad machines, the buttons are about as well-spaced, with the same easy-to-hit "U" shape. As ever, the keyboard is comfortable and easy to type on, though the Enter, Caps Lock and Tab keys are all still on the small side. It's sort of puzzling that Lenovo's been at this for so many years and still hasn't figured out how to avoid cramping on a 13-inch laptop keyboard.
The large glass trackpad here isn't perfect, but it comes close. All the stock Windows 8 gestures (swiping for the Charms Bar, toggling through apps) work well, as does pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. We even had an easy time with single-finger tracking, which seems to be the Achilles' heel for most other laptop trackpads. Occasionally, though, the pad went rogue. When using two fingers to scroll horizontally through the Start Screen, I accidentally launched a program I didn't mean to open. Other times, I ended up clicking on things in the browser when all I meant to do was drag the cursor around or scroll down the page.
Display and sound
We can't confirm this, but we suspect the Yoga 2 Pro uses the same 3,200 x 1,800, 350-nit display we first saw on the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus. Which would be great news indeed: This panel is among the best in its class, right up there with the MacBook Pro's Retina display. Not only is it incredibly sharp, but also the 72 percent color gamut ensures tones are vibrant without being oversaturated. The viewing angles are also wide, thanks to IPS technology and some very effective low-glare coating.
If we have any hangups about the display, it's that the 3,200 x 1,800 resolution is sometimes too sharp. And really, that's more of a complaint about the software selection than this particular screen. In general, as we've tested laptops with resolutions above 1080p, we've noticed that not all apps have been optimized for screens this sharp. Even on Windows Media Player, a built-in Windows app, the playback controls at the bottom of the screen are ridiculously tiny. Ditto for just about every site we went to in Google Chrome (IE 11 and Firefox were fine). We're sure the software support will improve over time, as 2,560 x 1,440/3,200 x 1,800 screens become more common, but until then, having such a high pixel count actually feels like an occasional drawback.
The two speakers, located on the bottom side of the laptop under the palm rest, push out decently loud sound; when listening by myself in a quiet room, I typically had the volume well below its median setting. The quality isn't bad, either. Songs do sound a bit trapped at top volume, but any tinniness is still minimal compared to other laptops in this class.
Performance and battery life
Technically, the Yoga 2 Pro starts at $1,049, but if you purchase it at Best Buy, you'll only have to pay $1,000 -- and you'll get the same specs you would have if you bought the $1,199 configuration listed on Lenovo's site. Either way, for a fairly low price, you're getting basically the same specs (1.6GHz Core i5 Haswell processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD) that you'd find on a $1,400 Ultrabook.
What this means, then, is that for a fairly mid-range price, the Yoga 2 Pro offers the performance of a high-end machine. You can see that in the benchmark scores listed above, but also in real-world performance. The machine takes just nine seconds to boot into the Start Screen. Read and write speeds are also in line with other machines in this class -- well, at least the ones that aren't using PCIe SSDs, anyway. In our tests, we saw peak read speeds of 546 MB/s, with writes maxing out at 139 MB/s. If you take a look at our list up there, you'll see many other Ultrabooks turned in similar numbers, with the Sony VAIO Duo 13 notching the exact same results.
At first we thought our battery test had gone terribly wrong. You see, Lenovo rates the Yoga 2 Pro for up to nine hours of run time. Also, the battery has the exact same capacity as last time (54Wh). So, when we got just six and a half hours of video playback (WiFi on, brightness fixed at 65 percent), we were, needless to say, a little disappointed. All the more so because we've gotten spoiled by long-lasting laptops; until now, the shortest-running Haswell Ultrabook we'd seen was the Acer Aspire S7, and even that managed 7.5 hours. Heck, even last year's Yoga 13 lasted 5.5 hours, and it didn't even have a Haswell chip. Weren't Intel's new processors supposed to deliver a bigger improvement?
So we were puzzled at first, but then we read Lenovo's fine print. Though the company allows up to nine hours of idle time, it claims just six hours of video playback. Indeed, a Lenovo rep told us the company's own engineers got around seven hours using the same battery test that we run. Also, the battery capacity has stayed the same at 54Wh, so although the Yoga 2 Pro benefits from a more power-efficient processor, it also has a sharper display draining the battery life faster. Given all that, then, it's clear that our results are normal for this machine; they're just not very impressive.
Software and warranty
If you've purchased a Yoga, it's safe to assume you're already sold on the versatile design. Still, once the novelty wears off, Lenovo wants to give you some ideas on how to make the most out of each usage mode. Included on the Yoga 2 Pro and upcoming ThinkPad Yoga is Yoga Picks, an app that automatically detects when you've flipped the screen into a different position, and gives you suggestions on which apps would be most appropriate. So, when you flip the screen back into Stand mode with the keyboard facing away from the screen, you'll see a notification in the upper-right corner of the screen, the same way you'd see a brief pop-up if you were to insert a USB device. Click on that notification and you'll see a list of apps that would make sense in that screen-only mode (think: Netflix and other lean-back programs).
In addition to Netflix or Skype or whatever else you might have installed, Lenovo's also thrown in a few new apps of its own, all of which were designed to be used in more than just regular, old laptop mode. Chief among them is Yoga Chef, which lets you use motion control to move through menus and recipe pages (Bing Food & Drink, the kitchen app built into Windows 8.1, works the same way). In our tests, we ultimately got the motion control to work, but even after playing around with it for a while, it still usually took us a few tries. On the plus side, the app is launching with a healthy (har) selection of recipes.