The perfect travel companion – Yoga 900 review

I recently made the trip from Perth, Western Australia to Stockholm, Sweden. This wasn’t just some short trip overseas to catch up on the northern weather, but a full family move. And of course I brought my Yoga 900 along with me.

But, this is not about the why and when of my move..It’s about the experience I’ve had to date with the Lenovo Yoga 900. I should quickly add that I’ve also had the Yoga 3 Pro, the predecessor to the Yoga 900, which has also been covered by me in a previous post, and I’ll be drawing some “end-user” comparisons.

Specifications

The specs of my Lenovo Yoga 900:lenovo-laptop-yoga-900-13-silver-laptop-mode-3-big

CPU: Intel Core i7-6500U 2.5GHz 1866MHz 4MB
OS: Windows 10 60-bit
Display: 13,3″ QHD+ 3200×1800
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 16GB LPDDR3-1600
HD: 512GB SSD SATA III
Weight: 1.29kg
Thickness: 14.9mm

A few things first. The CPU is a massive improvement to the Yoga 3 Pro; it’s a 6th gen i7 and having 16GB of RAM to play with is also a huge difference. I can definitely recommend looking at this configuration. I also got the silver edition instead of the orange version. Again, they’ve packed a 6th gen i7 into a device this thin and making it work!

Initial Impressions

It’s almost needless to say, but looking at the thickness at 14.9mm and a weight of only 1.29kg, you’d know that this is a thin and lightweight laptop. I’m a very heavy handed guy and sometimes when I pick up hardware that feels fragile, i’m almost overtly cautious about it. This was the same with the Yoga 900 – it’s so light and thin that I was seriously worried about breaking it. That quickly went away though – it’s a solid machine and doesn’t seem to have the “flexing” that’s been reported on the Yoga 3 Pro. At least, it was not something that concerned me at all after having handled it for a couple of hours.

The unpacking was, as expected, incredibly simple. The Yoga 900 rises neatly out of it’s setting when you opened up the lids (i’m generally not much of an “unboxing” fan, but this did give me a little smile) and everything is neatly packed away. It’s a no-frills package that’s there to provide a purpose, and the minimalistic approach is very much aligned to the look and feel of the Yoga 900. It’s a no-nonsense device with a very clean design…a shod it..it’s absolutely beautiful.

lenovo-laptop-yoga-900-13-gold-hinge-detail-6-bigThe Yoga-hinge is still present, but Lenovo has simplified it a bit (i’m not a mechanical engineer so i’m not sure how this is simpler), and it’s still a work of art in my not-so humble opinion. I mean, this is simplicity, form, function and beauty all in one. It also functions as a sort of heatsink as two tiny fans push the hot air out onto it. You’ll feel this getting warm under heavy load, but never hot.

The screen is fantastic. I mean, absolutely brilliant. The touch capability is spot on accurate and the audio, whilst not being terribly loud, is crisp and nice for both music and movies (think Netflix folks).

Ok, I’ve mentioned “laptop” a few times now. It’s actually not just a “laptop”; it’s a 2-in-1 convertible…But….

Is it a “laptop”?

We mostly attribute the word “laptop” to work machines, or heavier gear that can take a pounding from the kids. My version of “laptop” is something I can work on and this one easily kept up with demands during the workday. Running Visual Studio didn’t seem to phase it a bit, although it did get a tad warm at times. Secondly, had it hooked up to a second monitor and the onboard Intel HD 520 chip had no issue with that either.

As a consultant I’m also frequently on the move – 1.29kg is nothing for a bulky guy like me and this makes it absolutely ideal to bring along to client meetings. I actually found myself unplugging it and going for long periods of time without plugging it back in again. From a workload vs battery life then it almost went a “full” day for me. When i say “full” day then i should probably quickly say that i’m a 6am to 6pm worker. I never tried leaving the charger at home – can never be prepared enough as a consultant, but i’d feel confident not needing it for most of the day.

So, from the perspective of this being a “laptop” or a “tablet” – well it did provide the form and function for me during the day when I needed a “laptop”…But…

Is it a “tablet”?

Most tablets come in the 8″-10″ range. This is a 13″ tablet. No doubt about it. It’s not the one you drag out for the selfie-shot. It’s a work “tablet” and home “tablet” in one. Light enough when you need to bring both a tablet and a laptop along for your trip and powerful enough to step up when you need a little extra working resources.

I got several tablets – Yoga Pro 3, Yoga 10+ HD, Surface RT. Each of these are “entertainment” tablets. I use them to consume information, not to work on. (Will review the Yoga Pro 3 at some later stage..it has a friggin’ projector in it!!!). With the Yoga 900 I use the tablet to work on as well. Love the WriteIT app and the touch screen is super accurate, making it well enough to use during meetings, at the park, in the car and on the plane.

Why a convertible?

This isn’t just an easy question to answer. I’m like Jeremy Clarkson most of the time – gimme POWER!!! and i’ll lug around a power brick the size of Chernobyl happily enough. Over the years i’ve had some of the most powerful laptops out there – big, powerful monsters that was meant to crunch numbers and run virtual machines. With the cloud available 24/7 (yeah, yeah, yeah..not entirely true, but for 99% of the time it is and that’s all that matters to me) I’ve found that I don’t need to lug this monster around with me all the time. I can go lightweight and still be able to do my job (yes, there’s times where I do wish for some additional power, but i got my Y50 for when that’s needed and i’m looking to get hold of a mobile workstation as well).

Secondly, space is an optimum these days and it’s not always available to me. Especially if I need to cart around headsets, notepads/compendiums, external hard drives, cables, charging cables etc etc. I don’t want to look like an arctic explorer each time I go to a client meeting.

The convertible has the best of both worlds without setting foot in either camp entirely. It’s flexible and multi-purpose (check your phone folks, why do we suddenly log around smartphones that’s getting larger and larger?) and I’ve found the Yoga 900 to be a perfect travel companion. It doesn’t tell me what to do, it doesn’t push its elbows across to my seat on the plane and I don’t look like Quasimodo walking around Stockholm. It’s also not a fashion accessory like a pretty handbag (or dare I say Apple device??); it’s a functional device, which looks darn good as well.

Back to the beginning..

I had multiple choices as far as devices went, when I travelled from Perth to Stockholm, but I settled on the Yoga 900 as it was super lightweight. at 1.29kg it didn’t push the limit of what my luggage was allowed to weigh and I really didn’t want to be stuck in an airport (in case of delays and what not) without a device that gave me some flexibility.

It proved to be a great choice. Not only did it entertain me on the long flight (my eBook collection was sync’ed nicely so plenty of reading material in case I had a seat with a dud entertainment system) but it had enough battery charge to get me all the way. Granted, i had a nap along the way as well but for the majority of my trip I was reading and writing. One thing that did concern me was the reclining seat from the passenger in front of me. Would a laptop be too big and make it awkward for me to type and work? nopes, enter “Stand Mode”. With the awesome hinge I was able to flip it around, automatically disable the keyboard, and still sit and read.

Conclusion.

The Yoga 900 is a huge improvement over the Yoga 3 Pro. It has many of the same characteristics, but the improved CPU, more memory etc really puts it into another class altogether.

It’s the perfect travel companion too…

Leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback…Happy geeking!

IFA 2015 in Berlin – Santa needs TOIL

Yeah – Santa seriously needs some TOIL this X-Mas

Most know (by now you should anyways) that I’m a geek and all excited about new gadgets – CES and IFA are two of my most favourite shows. Gadgets everywhere.

This year’s IFA has just kicked off this week in Berlin and to say that there’s a few toys that’s caught my attention, is probably an understatement. Since they threw about 80 new devices out there, it’d be too much for me to cover (some also isn’t that important to me) – but the ones i’m the most excited about is here..

Moto 360 2nd Gen (link)

..yes..i know, it’s a ‘droid watch – but damn, it’s one fine looking specimen. I’m (secretly) a watch whore..s’cuse me..enthusiast, and the wearable market is flooding with smart watches (and no, i do not count the iWatch as being smart), but they tend to look like “packaging” rather than something you want to wear.

lenovo-launch-moto-360-bigok – some of the 2nd gen designs are a little bit “blingy” for my taste, but the matte black steel link is just awesome.

some key points on the 2nd gen:

  • There’s now a men’s and women’s collection (yes, ladies, you can play with the cool guys too)
  • There’s an inbuilt fitness tracker (can see some awesome applications coming for that, g’bye Fitbit)
  • Thinner bezel than 1st Gen 360

Oh, and lets not forget it looks a hell of a lot better than both Galaxy Wear and the Apple iWatch.

This one is on the top of my list of toys for the next year.

IdeaCentre Y700/900 (link)

With the Y700/900 Lenovo steps right into the high-end gaming market and mentioned during the reveal was tool-free install, from end-to-end, 32Gb ram and Dual-GPU, not to forget Skylake CPU.

lenovo-launch-ideacentre-y700-bigI actually didn’t think Lenovo would make this move to be honest – yes, we’ve heard them ask for “What do you want in a gaming rig?” on more than one occasion, but the gaming industry is a numbers game. Bang-for-buck is the mainstay for gamers these days. The true enthusiast will of course shell out their second kidney for the coolest tricked out rig on the market, but they’re not the mainstream users that most manufacturers target from the bat. No, that was what we saw with the entry level Y50/70 gaming laptops. They’re right in the sweet spot on price and capability.

 

Yes, they looked good and the addition of the 4K screen was something totally unexpected, but it was a numbers game predominantly – again, bang-for-buck.

For gaming i’m usually by far a desktop and console type of guy; have owned both dedicated gaming laptops before and the experience (especially with the Dell XPS 1710) left me with a bad, bad, bad taste in my mouth. The Alienware later owned took the edge of the bitter experience – but, that was also some seriously expensive kit. Would take something seriously impressive to make me fork that kind of dough out for a gaming laptop again.

Lenovo doesn’t sit still of course – the Y700/900 shows that and I for one can’t wait to see what the guts will look like when more is revealed.

That leads me to the next toy..

IdeaPad Y700 (link)

As just implied, the gaming laptops are mostly a gimmick for me – ok, owning one of the Y-series laptops would be awesome but not for the mobility aspects of it. They come with some serious guts that I can appreciate and I don’t currently have a desktop.

It’s coming in 4 flavours (awesome, awesome’er, awesome’er’er and awesome’est):lenovo-laptop-ideapad-y700-touch-back-1

  • 14″ entry level, yet still with AMD R9 discrete graphics
  • 15.6″ with Intel RealSense
  • 15.6″ with Touch screen, and
  • 17″ (which is rumoured to come with the Skylake chip – unconfirmed at this stage)

Lastly, one device that I think is epic.

Yoga Tab 3 Pro 10 (link)

I owned (guess you can say “we” own it now) a Yoga Tab 10 HD (the little cousin to this one), which is a 10″ Android tablet. Still, I’m not a fan of Android, but this little device is here to stay. It’s probably one of the devices that gets the most usage around the house and that’s because of the awesome battery life this tablet has – 18hrs.

So, the YT3P10 is the same as the Yoga Tab 2 Pro and maintains the nice build quality – and of course it has a projector in-built. Yeah, the Yoga Tab 2 Pro also had a projector in-built, but rumour has it that this one is even better (projects a 70″ display onto any wall).

Here’s the total list of devices that got revealed..

Lenovo IFA 2015 Products Showcase (external)

Retro ThinkPad Survey 4 – misc options

David Hill’s latest blog post, Retro ThinkPad Survey 4, takes us through the last and final survey on the Retro ThinkPad. An estimated 25,000 people have participated in the three previous surveys(#1, #2, #3) so the Lenovo team got a ton of information to work with. I personally think this is a huge outcome and with the last survey launches it looks like the interest in the Retro is definitely real.

ThinkPad Powerhouse – not a thin little fashion accessory

Survey 3 had honestly very few surprises (in my book that is, David was a little surprised that the SD card option rated as high as it did) with powerful dual and quad core CPUs being the preferred CPU range.

We didn’t see any charts on this, but the two top choices had significant numbers behind it that I suspect it was an easy overview.

With previous ThinkPads being powerhouses in terms of performance, build quality and durability, I’m as I said not that surprised that the CPUs with the predominant choices were the two biggest CPUs on the market. Did surprise me a bit that there wasn’t any news in there on the new Xeon chipsets – but, maybe we’ll see them when they’re launched.

Feedback is important

I don’t think many realise how big a step these surveys are in terms of market segmentation – but in my last blog on the surveys I mentioned a bit about it.

Getting this much feedback on product and device features is a huge benefit. It’s not a closed door with some fancy marketing ads springing up, showing happy hipsters sitting parks or looking relaxed and stress free. This is real feedback, from those that buy quality kit, and I seriously hope Lenovo pays attention to everything in the surveys AND the comments that’s coming in on David’s blog posts.

linuxist couldn’t have been any more spot on with this comment.

Comparing Lenovo to Apple, I think Apple would be never to do a survey like this and absolutely not as extensive a survey as this. They believe they just know what’s best. This is their tragic flaw. Sometimes they get it right, but sometimes they’re just plain wrong.

linuxist

Another spot on comment from David’s blog by Alex:

Sometimes it is good to have a benevolent dictator. But of course, asking a niche group of users like us will also give you the chance to spot new trends.

Alex

DHill_4survey_hero2

Take the last and final survey here.

The guts, more guts and then some – Retro ThinkPad survey #3

Now as I mentioned in my blog post from last week, a laptop is more than just a fancy accessory for me – it’s a tool and I spend a lot of time weighing up what I’m going to be using it for. That’s why the 3rd survey (in a series of 4) for the Retro ThinkPad is one of the most important ones for me. This survey now looks at the guts of the laptop – yup, and it’s now live.

More than 6000 took the 2nd survey!!

What? That’s absolutely awesome and I can only say that this amount of responses are going to do  the Retro ThinkPad a lot of good. The more that answers the surveys, the more accurate Lenovo and team Hill can be when it comes to actually building it.

Some of the answers that’s come out of the 2nd survey actually surprised me – especially how equal the votes were around Lighting.

survey2-lighting

Would you prefer ThinkLight or Backlit keys?

  • ThinkLight: 50.6%
  • Backlit keys: 49.4%

This question came from the 1st survey as well and was asked again in the 2nd survey as the results weren’t clear enough. Guess that’s still the case.

The question around what screen size most wanted didn’t surprise David Hill (the 14.1″ came out on a clear winner) and neither was the aspect ratio (at 16:10) which more than half of the responses favoured.

Some of the true diehard fans commented on David’s blog that they were disappointed with the aspect ratio and even wanted to forego the device altogether because of that.

Without going into a full scale virtual war here, then I honestly think that’s just being a little bit too much of a purist imho – would you also prefer a CPU from 1999 and a CD drive, running Windows ME?

I personally think the Retro will have a lot more to offer as well as bring it into the 21st century without us going down the road of being too purist about things. Lets also be practical, those types of screens are hardly manufactured these days.

That being said, reading the comments on David’s blog shows just how strong the fan base are around this device and that’s also a good thing.

 

 

2nd Survey up for the Retro ThinkPad

As I mentioned in the blog entry from last week, Lenovo is working on feedback for the Retro ThinkPad and this week we see the 2nd survey launched.

The focus of the 2nd survey is display size, aspect ratio, resolution and system status indicators (Last week was keyboards and lighting). With more than 4,000+ people responding to the 1st survey and the response was overwhelming to say the least – the 1st survey is still up if you haven’t participated yet.

DHill_2survey_hero

Results from 1st survey

In David Hill’s 2nd blog post, announcing the details of the 1st survey and also what to expect from the 2nd survey the results was quite interesting.

For instance, a 7-row keyboard was without a doubt the preference (one of my choices too), with the results from the survey coming in as follows.

DHill_2survey_barchart

Would you prefer a 7 or 6-row keyboard:

  • 7-row keyboard: 80.3%
  • 6-row keyboard: 19.7%

With regards to the keyboard lighting then the results wasn’t decisive and David has added the question to the 2nd survey again to see if it could be narrowed down some more.

DHill_Timemachine5

My preference unfortunately didn’t make it to the 2nd survey – i’d like to see both the ThinkLights and a backlit keyboard, but with the option to turn both on and off individually.

Why do I think these surveys are important?

Well, it’s actually very simple. When you normally pick a laptop (or device) there’s a focus on both brand and budget. Mostly you see a lot of fairly “generic” laptops on the market, even from the big makers, with nothing really standing out so the choice comes down to what you prefer and branding here usually have a big impact.

I view laptops as a tool – yes, i have clear preferences as to which brands I wont touch (Apple being one of them) but within the other brands on the market the offerings are usually fairly standard – so price plays the second role. Where can I get the most bang for my buck.

Having an opportunity to give feedback, which addresses all of my preferences within a device, is almost like building a high-end custom laptop – which when I’m honest I really can’t afford. I’m not naïve enough to think that all of my choices will be addressed, but if I can weigh in on those that most concern me then I’ll definitely be doing so and when it only takes a few minutes of my time, what more can you ask for?

Time travel – myth, legend or happening? ThinkPad “Retro”

The ThinkPad brand has a huge following – and i mean, it’s almost like a culture in of itself. We see a fan base, with strong and long running ties to the ThinkPad brand; But in an industry where most are conforming to market analysis outcomes and what’s available from a technical perspective, not many brands manages to create quite as much “stir” in the ethers like Lenovo’s ThinkPad.

Some of the best (and if you ask an owner, “THE” best) performing and quality built business laptops come from the ThinkPad line, with the current T450 and W541 coming out as uncontested winners – so where’s Lenovo going next?

Enter stage right – “Retro”

The code name for the next generation of performance beasts is “Retro” and it’s clear that people like David Hill, Chief Design Officer for Lenovo PC and Server wants to get it right. He released a blog not very long ago, which saw more than 190,000 views and as of today, more than 3,000 comments, which outlined some of the thoughts behind the “Retro”.

david-hill-blog2

The sheer volume of responses has given the “Retro” life and David is now asking for specific feedback through a series of surveys – with the first one being launched today.

The surveys are just short and concise, but centred around specific aspects of the device. In a manner Lenovo is letting the community (and it’s fans) give feedback on what should be included in the “Retro”. That’s almost unheard of from such a massive manufacturer – something that only small, specialist makers care to dive into. The first survey is addressing keyboards and pointing devices.

It’s an opportunity to give input into the actual device capabilities – keyboard (here’s to hoping the traditional ThinkPad keyboard is included..nudge, nudge!!), hinge type, ThinkLights, internal components, screen type etc etc.

We don’t yet know how many surveys will appear, but we do know that this is the first. Best bet would be to keep an eye out for the Lenovo Blog – or catch the #RetroThinkPad or #LenovoIN hashtags on Twitter.

Here’s a link to the first (of hopefully many) opportunities for us to have a say – Retro ThinkPad Survey Series – Survey 1 – and here’s the blog announcing the survey.


BHM-tinyBrian is a member of the Lenovo INsiders group and is a Microsoft MVP. All opinions and views are his own. Catch him on twitter.