Sep 282014
 
lenovo-yoga-2-pro-in-laptop-mode

Can a laptop be a tablet computer? The Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 tries to balance the needs of both in a package designed for home and small business users.

The laptop computer market is in a difficult place at the moment as both consumers and businesses move to tablets and smartphones so it’s interesting to get hold of the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 to see how one of the leading portable manufacturers is responding to the changing industry.

One of the best ways of testing a portable device is to take it on a long trip, so a couple of 14 hour transpacific flights and trips around San Francisco, the Napa Valley and Silicon Valley proved a good workout for the Yoga Pro.

As a laptop

From a hardware perspective the Yoga is an impressive device with 8Gb of RAM, 256Gb solid state hard drive and a 1.8GHz i7 chip. The screen is a very nice 13.3″ 3200 x 1800 high-resolution display.

Rounding out the hardware specs are two USB ports — one 3.0 and the other 2.0 — along with a Micro HDMI output, webcam, inbuilt mic, headphone jack and an SD Card reader. All the basics expected in a mid range ultrabook that weighs in at a respectable 1.4kg.

lenovo-yoga-2-pro-in-laptop-mode-on-desktop

In using the Yoga as a laptop, the device works well with the keys being crisp and responsive although the position of the glidepad and the backspace key being alongside the home key caused problems for this clumsy touch typist.

One of the problems with the larger form of ultrabooks is their usability when travelling economy on a plane; if the passenger in front of you reclines then it becomes difficult to use the device. This isn’t a problem specific to the Lenovo Yoga, but it is a drawback that the industry seems not to have considered in its move to the larger screens.

In the office

If you’re not travelling on planes, the weight and form factor works well and makes the Yoga 2 Pro a nice device to use while on the move. In an office environment it’s a standard mid to upper range laptop with good fast specifications.

For battery life, Lenovo claim “up to nine hours” for the Yoga Pro but in practice standard office use sees about five hours worth of juice with a full recharge taking under an hour. It’s lucky most transpacific flights now have power sockets.

Flipping to a tablet

While 1.4kg is good for a laptop it’s lousy for a tablet computer with the Yoga Pro 2 weighing in a kilo heavier than the iPad and 500g (one pound) heavier than the Microsoft Surface Pro. This makes it awkward to use over extended periods and the keyboard doesn’t feel right as the backing to a tablet.

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The Yoga’s weight problem illustrates the core conflict for a device that wants to be a laptop and a tablet as the different demands for each type of device make if difficult for designers to meet both markets.

In the Yoga 2 Pro’s design, it’s clear the engineers had to make a choice between compromising either on the tablet or laptop functionality. As it turns out the designers decided to go with releasing a good Ultrabook laptop with compromised tablet functions — this was the correct choice for the Yoga.

Windows 8 limitations

Probably the greatest problem though for the Yoga Pro 2 in tablet mode lies in software with Windows 8 being far from adequate as a tablet operating system with a confused interface, an inconsistent user experience and unpredictable responses to touch screen commands.

For companies like Lenovo who are persisting with Windows as their operating system, it’s becoming critical that they start demanding better design from Microsoft before they find their market being overwhelmed by Android and iOS devices offering a superior user interface.

lenovo-yoga-2-pro-closed-mode-on-desktop

While the Windows 8 irritations aren’t a deal breaker for the Yoga, it does limit the device as a tablet computer and its something anyone considering it instead of an iPad or Android tablet should keep in mind.

A good general duty small business laptop

Overall, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 is good Windows Ultrabook for home and small business use offering the benefits of an ultrabook with the flexibility of being able to flip into a tablet for specific uses.

The device isn’t cheap, but the range of features and good hardware specs make it a decent purchase for small businesses, sole proprietors or workers operating from home who need a versatile Windows computer.

Sep 172012
 
A hands on review of Microsoft Office and Windows 8 on the tablet

One of the key planks of Microsoft meeting the challenge presented by online services like Google Docs is their cloud based Office365.

The success of Office365 is important as Microsoft Office makes up a large chunk of the 24 billion dollars in sales, and $15 billion dollar profit, the company books from its Business Division.

Coupled to this threat is also the move from personal computers to smartphones and tablet devices which Microsoft hope to meet with their Window 8 operating system, Surface tablet computer and Windows Phone.

As part of the Australian TechEd 2012 Conference, Microsoft gave a hands on preview of the Office 365 running on a Windows 8 tablet which was a good opportunity to see how both software packages worked.

Office 365

Office365 is very similar in layout and function to Office 2010 – if you’re using earlier versions of Office, particularly Office 2003, then you may find the ribbon bar and changed menus hard to navigate at first.

Integration with Microsoft’s Skydrive is good and seamless. A nice feature in this is how a user can setup multiple Skydrive accounts as separate drives. How well this works while on the road will have to be tested away from a controlled environment like the one at the TechEd meeting rooms.

The touch screen functions are fairly hard to get used to and they don’t work particularly well with fat fingers which Microsoft attempts to overcome with providing a stylus.

Another complexity is that the menus and touch screen functions aren’t consistent across applications. The handy ‘pinch’ gesture to zoom on Windows 8 doesn’t work on the Office applications on the tablet which is a shame and is also a bit irritating for power users.

Office365 adds a range of other features like web publishing, video editing and IT management tools but the hands on demo didn’t give enough time to properly evaluate these aspects.

Window 8

The first thing that jumps out with Windows 8 is the basic interface isn’t intuitive. The tile based system is difficult to use if you’re used to a keyboard and mouse or mobile systems like Apple iOS and Android.

Another worry is the Windows 8 interface – or “Metro” as it was known – uses different applications to the desktop version. The problem with this was illustrated when trying to run a video on the device as the Internet Explorer in the Windows 8 interface was a different version to that on the desktop so videos would run in one mode, but not on the other.

This confusion between software versions is a recipe for user confusion, lost data and possibly even a security weakness. It’s surprising that having effectively two operating systems running on the device was considered to be a good idea.

Looking under the hood at the Control Panel, the Windows NT heritage of Window 8 becomes apparent. Anybody used to tinkering with the settings on Windows XP, Vista or 7 systems will have no trouble finding their way around the new version.

Overall the performance of Windows 8 was impressive. It’s quite fast and responsive and this is something that Microsoft’s demonstrators are proud of.

Tablet blues

The surprising thing was the Windows 8 system was running on a Samsung tablet with still no ship date for the Windows hardware.

The Windows 8 about screen on a Samsung Tablet

With Christmas approaching, Microsoft are running out of time to compete in the tablet market and it seriously raises questions on whether the Surface tablets were prematurely announced.

The experience with Office365 on the Windows Tablet was satisfactory although the demonstration showed there’s some barriers to adopting tablets as the main work computers.

Office 365 shows the strengths Microsoft have in the market, if Microsoft can get their tablet strategy right then they have a good product to compete with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

Time will tell if they or their hardware partners can get products that customers want onto the market.

Paul travelled to TechEd and stayed at the Gold Coast as a guest of Microsoft Australia.

May 282012
 
FINANCIAL REVIEW APP for iPad - Interactive Map

As part of the review of the Australian Financial Review’s new iPad application, I have two free one year subscriptions to both the app and the AFR website available.

To win one, submit a comment to any of the site’s posts over the next week and the best two as judged by myself will win the subscription.

You don’t have to comment on the AFR iPad’s review, it can be on any of the website’s posts. Feel free to agree, disagree or point out the subtleties and nuances I’ve overlooked.

I’d like to hear your opinions anyway, but this week there’s an additional reason to comment. Fire away.