Lenovo's ThinkPad Yoga 14 strikes a great middle ground between bulky workstations and flexible hybrids. The notebook sports most of the work-friendly features you expect from a ThinkPad product, including a solid, durable design; an excellent keyboard and trackpad; and fast performance. As a bonus, you get a flexible hinge that lets you bend back the display so you can use the device like a large tablet.
But you'll make a few sacrifices for this particular combination, including below-average battery life. And since this new computer is thicker and heavier than standard Yoga laptops, the foldable design is a bit less practical. Still, the $999 ThinkPad Yoga 14 a solid, flexible workstation — with a few small caveats.
Like its 12-inch predecessor, the 14-inch Yoga 14 blends the understated look of a traditional ThinkPad laptop — perfect for business settings — with the flexibility of Lenovo's Yoga line.
The notebook's magnesium alloy build gives the device a premium feel. This new Yoga also feels extremely sturdy and durable, with tough metal hinges.
Like other Yoga notebooks, the ThinkPad's display can bend back a full 180 degrees, so it can be used like a tablet, albeit an extremely bulky, oversized tablet. It won't replace your iPad, but the flexibility is not just a gimmick, either. The design makes the notebook easier to use in confined spaces — on an airplane, for example. I also like that you can fold the keyboard back halfway to use it as a stand. That could come in handy for showing off a slideshow or presentation to a small group, when you can utilize the touch screen.
Lenovo's Lift 'n' Lock feature ensures that the keys don't get in the way when you're using the slate in tablet mode. As soon as the display has been folded back halfway, they retract into the notebook's frame.
Admittedly, the Yoga 14 can feel a bit bulky when you flip the screen around, especially compared to the ultrathin Yoga 3 Pro. Regardless, I like having the option.
It's not the slimmest or lightest notebook around, but the Yoga 14 is relatively portable for a midsize workstation. Measuring 13.3 x 9.4 x 0.8-inches, it's slightly thinner than Dell's 0.9-inch Inspiron 14 5000, and on par with the 0.8-inch Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W. And weighing just 4.2 lbs., it's a bit lighter than both of those notebooks.
A lighter machine might be a better bet for daily commuters, but the Yoga 14 isn't too bulky to lug along with you on your way to work.
While 13-inch displays are standard for ultraportable laptops like Dell's XPS 13 and Apple's MacBook Air, 14 inches is a step up for midsize workstations like the Yoga 14. In terms of size and resolution, the 1080p screen offers plenty of real estate for multitasking. It also feels comfortable for screen-intensive tasks like editing a spreadsheet. Text is sharp and readable, and colors are vivid. Plus, the display is slightly brighter than average, so it's easy to see the screen outdoors or in direct sunlight.
Laptop keyboards don't get better than this. The Yoga 14's keys are large, well-spaced and comfortable, with a smooth, plastic finish. They provide good feedback when pressed and offer a good amount of travel — about 1.6mm, which is slightly deeper than the 1.5mm average for laptop keyboards. The more travel a keyboard offers, the more comfortable and accurate it will be for most typists. Plus, the generously sized wrist rest provides plenty of support while you're typing.
I also liked that the Yoga 14's Function keys default to handy shortcuts, so you can quickly tap them to change the volume or brightness, toggle Wi-Fi connectivity on or off, or pull up the Windows 8 search box.
Touchpad and pointing stick
Per the ThinkPad tradition, the Yoga 14 comes with two distinct ways to control the on-screen pointer: a touchpad and a pointing stick.
The 3.9 x 2.75-inch touchpad is large and responsive, so it's easy to mouse around the screen with precision. Instead of featuring discrete buttons, the entire touchpad can be depressed for left and right clicks, with a satisfying level of feedback. You can also click with a light tap, which feels equally responsive.
Lenovo also retained the red pointing stick in the middle of the keyboard, positioned amid the G, H and B keys. The small nub, which Lenovo calls a "TrackPoint," is handy because it lets you move the pointer without removing either hand from the keyboard. The pointer is very responsive and requires minimal pressure for small mouse movements. Plus, it's easy to reach down to the touchpad with your thumbs while using the TrackPoint.
The ThinkPad Yoga 14 comes with neither a stylus nor a pressure-sensitive display, so it's not ideal for note taking. That's unfortunate, since the notebook's flexible design would make it easy to take notes on the display. It's especially disappointing since the original ThinkPad Yoga came with a pen. Lenovo does sell a pressure-detecting stylus for ThinkPad devices, but don't expect writing with this pen to feel as smooth as writing on a screen that has built-in pressure sensitivity. Plus, there's no place on the laptop to stow the stylus when it's not in use.
The ThinkPad Yoga 14 offers decent longevity, even if it falls a bit short of the 7-hour average for notebooks in this size category. The device ran for 6 hours and 36 minutes on a battery test involving continuous Web browsing via Wi-Fi, which was conducted by our sister site Laptop Mag. In comparison, the Satellite Radius ran for 6:54, and the MacBook Air ran for an epic 12 hours and 20 minutes. Numbers can be deceiving, though; the Air's screen is a bit smaller and significantly lower-res than the Yoga 14's display, so there are clear tradeoffs. All in all, there are worse options for business users who prioritize staying power; the Dell Inspiron 14, for example, ran for just 5:48.
The Yoga 14's webcam is perfectly adequate for videoconferencing, but don't expect to get any great-looking images from this notebook's 720p front-facing camera. Like most notebook webcams, this one produces images that are relatively grainy and a bit washed out. On the bright side, the Yoga 14 has louder-than-average speakers, so you'll have no issues hearing the person on the other end of your call.
Ports and connectivity
But the biggest difference is the inclusion of a docking port that supports both Lenovo's OneLink and OneLink Pro docks, so you can easily link the notebook to desktop accessories and a larger monitor. Meanwhile, a full-size HDMI port will make it easy to stream presentations from your notebook to a monitor or TV, which could come in handy during your company's morning meetings. You also get a 4-in-1 card reader on the left edge that accepts a variety of memory card formats (SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro).
The Yoga 14 comes equipped with a relatively clean installation of Windows 8.1, but Lenovo did pack in a few extra applications that might be interesting to business users. For example, ShareIt lets you beam files and documents from your laptop to your smartphone, and vice versa, with a few clicks. The app worked well when I tested it on my Android phone.
Then there's Password Manager, a security app that lets you store secure login details for websites, then log in using a master password. It also lets you create password-protected notes.
Finally, there's Lenovo QuickControl, which turns your smartphone into a presentation controller. Once your iPhone or Android phone is connected, you can use touch-screen controls to advance through slides, move the mouse cursor, adjust the volume and more.
You can't customize the Yoga 14 to fit your computing needs; the machine ships in a single configuration. The sole $999 model comes with a speedy 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-4210U processor, 8GB of RAM and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 840M graphics card. It also includes a sizable 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive.
The ThinkPad Yoga 14 is a balancing act of diverse features. Thankfully, Lenovo pulled them all together into a satisfying work machine. The notebook features a high-quality build and an excellent keyboard and trackpad — all must-have features for serious productivity. And extras like the TrackPoint pointing stick are great for legacy ThinkPad users who prefer those options.
That said, the Yoga 14 makes a few small compromises. It could last longer on a charger, and the flexible Yoga design isn't as useful as it is on smaller, slimmer models. Still, this is a great pick for business users who want a versatile notebook for work.