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The choices are blurring for consumers looking for a mobile device. While tablets are still popular, laptop screens and keyboards are being separated and recombined in new ways. Hybrid machines from Lenovo and Sony, using Microsoft’s Windows 8, give the indecisive a – somewhat unsatisfying – taste of both.
Lenovo Yoga 13
It cannot quite manage the lotus position, but the 360-degree range of this Ultrabook laptop’s hinges means it can fold back on itself completely to become a 13in tablet.
Flexibility does not equate to flimsiness – the hinges are strong and have been bent 25,000 times in testing. They manage two other useful contortions: the Yoga becomes a tablet with its own stand if the keyboard is folded back underneath as a base and the screen is tilted, or if the device is stood up in an inverted V-shape like a tent.
There are some drawbacks. While the keyboard always disables itself once the screen is pushed past 190 degrees, it seemed a little strange to hold the Yoga in tablet mode and feed the exposed, slightly recessed keys on the back. Eventually I got used to this and found myself tapping on the keys, treating them like an executive toy, as I waited for a webpage to load. For those who dislike feeling the keys, however, Lenovo does offer a cover into which the keyboard can slide.
I also encountered a bug in “tent” mode – the screen was presented upside down, as the correct orientation was not sensed, and a game I loaded appeared sideways, meaning my neck had to adopt a 90-degree yoga position.
Used as a laptop with the familiar Windows desktop interface, the Yoga has a smooth trackpad and Lenovo’s usual excellent keyboard, although it is not backlit. At 3.3lbs (1.5kg), it is about 10 per cent heavier than a MacBook Air but has about 10 per cent more battery life at about eight hours. It is more than twice the weight of an iPad, so the stand position is definitely needed to prevent your hands from growing tired in propping it up.
The screen is vivid, very responsive to touch and has a higher resolution than an Air at 1,600x900 pixels.
There are two ways of looking at the price (from $1,000, £1,000 in the UK when available in December). It is expensive as a tablet and well above a $700 mainstream laptop, but is priced similarly to many Ultrabooks, with the added bonus of its touchscreen and tablet capabilities . . . and the Yoga’s design is certainly one of a kind.
Sony Vio Duo 11
If the Yoga flips like a gymnast from laptop to tablet, the Duo’s 11.6in (29.5cm) screen pops up like a jack-in-the-box to reveal a keyboard underneath.
I had a harder time with the keyboard. The sliding mechanism limits its size and there is no room for a trackpad – a button in the centre of the keyboard serves as a mouse.
The smaller keys are also reflective in daylight and hard to read, but a backlit keyboard eliminates the problem at night.
Like the Yoga, the Duo feels bulky as a tablet – at 2.9lbs (1.3kg) it is double the iPad’s weight, but its screen is outstanding. It is Full HD – 1920x1080p – so movies look fabulous. There are also Full HD webcams front and back.
It comes with a sophisticated N-trig stylus and drawing applications, although there is nowhere to dock the pen.
This may appeal to artists and is useful for editing photos, but I found little need for it and it adds to the cost. Starting at $1,100 (£849), the Duo is a well-built machine featuring high-quality components, but I still felt short-changed by an experience that could not match that of a separate laptop or tablet.
Planet of the Apps
Chris Nuttall picks his favourite from the latest crop
What it is: Letterpress for iOS (free)
Why you should try it: In a week when the blue states of President Barack Obama beat the red ones of Mitt Romney, a new word game is also taking off in the US where you conquer territory with pink or blue words. Letterpress’s beautifully simple grid design invites you to form five-letter words, fence off letter tiles from your opponent and turn the board pink or blue in your favour. It is highly addictive, but the reliance on Apple’s Game Center to provide opponents can make it slow.
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