Fold-back 2-in-1 laptops are neat, but their keyboards can get in the way when you're using them in tablet mode. Lenovo’s new $299 Yoga A12 is a 12-inch laptop that solves that problem by replacing the physical keyboard with a virtual touch keyboard – dubbed the Halo Keyboard – which lights up and provides haptic feedback when you tap it.
The benefits of the setup aren't hard to see. When you fold the touchscreen display back 180 degrees, you get a streamlined, portable tablet, without any keys poking out the back. Weighing just 2.2 pounds and measuring 5.4 mm thick, it's a lot thinner and lighter than other fold-back laptops, which makes it a lot more practical to use in tablet mode. And you'll want to use it as a tablet, since it runs on the Android operating system, which has a huge selection of touch-optimized productivity apps.
The $299 Yoga A12 might look unique, but it's not the first device of its kind. Last year Lenovo released the smaller 10-inch Yoga Book, which looks just like a miniaturized version of the Yoga A12 but is a lot pricier at $499. That's because the smaller system has some extra tricks up its sleeve – particularly a pressure-sensitive digitizer built into the base that lets you sketch and draw with a stylus. That feature is entirely omitted from the larger A12.
The other factor accounting for the price difference is the Yoga A12's stripped-down specs. It's powered by an Intel Atom x5 processor, with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The 10-inch Yoga Book has the same processor but twice the RAM (4GB total) and double the storage (64GB total). It's also rated to last a few hours longer on a charge than its bigger brother.
The Yoga A12 is definitely an interesting device, particularly for workers who want a tablet first, with the option to type on the virtual Halo keyboard to dash off a quick email reply. But based on my experience with last year’s Yoga Book, I can say with confidence that it's not accurate or comfortable enough for marathon typing sessions.