Monday, December 17, 2012

Technology Convo: The Lenovo Yoga

I am supposed to be talking about the Lenovo Yoga this evening, a computer I purchased last weekend as my Dell laptop decides to eat itself from within and I make a transition to new hardware before all is lost.

Steven reviewed his Chromebook, a computer I looked at long and hard before making a different and more expensive decision.  That said, Steven bought his Chromebook for a development box, something I heard was do-able just Saturday night.

I'm looking at Chromebook as a solution for Jamie for next year sometime, and I think it will meet all of her needs - except for figuring out how she can manage iTunes.  So if anyone wants to jump into this discussion, please help me out.

But this is about the Lenovo Yoga, the Windows 8 machine I picked up that's part tablet, part laptop.

Windows 8

I'm a longtime Windows user, and the quirks of Windows are so seamless to my everyday existence that they're usually fairly transparent to me.  You probably read that Windows 8 has been redesigned for the tablet, but that's not altogether true.  Windows has created an interface for the tablet with brightly colored "tiles".  And, sorry, it's mostly intuitive.  If you can use an iPhone or Android phone, this isn't any better or worse.  I also expect that the "tiles" will become more customizable over time, but they work just fine for now, and whether you hold the tablet in landscape or portrait, it's all pretty easy to use.

I didn't choose one of the cheaper options for my device because I wasn't comfortable with what I'd read about the tablet-friendly Windows RT, and so I'm running a full version of Windows 8.  I didn't want the pumped up tablet of the Microsoft Surface, I wanted a full PC.

The store takes its cues from the Apple "Apps" market, and while it isn't terribly well populated now, there's no reason to think that it won't continue to grow.  Early days.

What the ads on TV don't tell you is that there is also a "desktop" mode that looks and behaves more or less like any other Windows box you've previously had, especially Windows 7.  Clearly Windows 8 needs to work with desktop PCs, and this is the solution - so, no, you won't be using Windows tiles on your desktop unless you have to.

Transitioning between the desktop and tiles is usually pretty seamless, but I'll talk about complications a bit more later.

By the way, this thing fires up instantly.  My Windows 7 machine would take long enough to fire up that I'd go and get a soda, but this device takes seconds, so whatever Apple has been doing for years, Windows seems to have sorted out for themselves.

When you buy or load software, it shows up both in the usual places in the MS8 Desktop, but also generates a tile in tablet view.  Kind of nice.

The Cloud

I'm, personally, a believer in cloud technology, but as Google, Apple, Microsoft and - no doubt - others race to get you using their services, we're heading back into the era of the 90's that never quite worked out for the consumer.  If you recall, back then Macs couldn't run a lot of software.

I took my Yoga with me to San Antonio, and had a hard time getting wireless, so the thing became a brick in a lot of ways.

While I began using the MS SkyDrive with Windows 7, I plan to use the SkyDrive exclusively (with the free 25 GB of memory) for my files.  I've been doing some of this for years with Google, and I may be setting myself up for disaster doing this at SkyDrive instead of Google, I'd feel no more confident that Google will be in business in a few years or will have pulled that much further ahead, and with legacy files largely in MS, this decision made a lot of sense for me.

At this point, I think it's a gamble, and pointing to any service over the other as "likely to protect your information" is a religious decision.  MS knows what's at stake, they don't make their money selling data (as far as I know) and they aren't selling me ads at this point, so I'm pleased so far.

Also, should I buy an Microsoft phone, I believe like moving between Apple devices, I'll have access to the software I purchased.  So, yes, I'm considering moving to an MS phone in the spring.  Especially if its cheaper than the iPhone, which it likely will be.

The Device

I don't like to buy cars the first year a new model arrives, but things are moving quickly out there with computers.

The Yoga has a standard laptop position that I've been using for blogging, word processing, etc...  and when you fold the monitor over and back (what would be breaking most laptops as you try to create a greater than 90-degree angle) so that it's facing out with the keyboard the back of the "closed" device, it becomes a tablet.

As you can see in the pic above, it can become a sort of tent, and I've been watching videos that way, putting it on the coffee table, etc...  Snap it further closed and it's a true tablet.  The keyboard as a back to the tablet isn't, I am happy to report, even very noticeable.

The monitor is clear enough and I can watch HD videos.  In laptop mode, it will also continue to behave as a touchscreen, which means every once in a while, even in laptop mode, I bypass the fingerpad and begin swiping through tiles, etc...

I am concerned about damaging the keyboard while its in tablet mode, or the touch pad, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The device has USB ports and an SD card slot, and I may be buying an SD card at some point.

I did get the 13" model, so there's plenty of real estate.  As I wrote about before, I found it to be an excellent reader for Comixology comics, and have also found it to be a great reader for online periodicals, but I haven't tried the Kindle app yet, so I can't report on books.


It's not all sunshine and roses.  I've already thrown in the towel and purchased an external hard drive.  It's just going to be necessary.  Luckily, they aren't  all that expensive.

I have issues that I am realizing may be hard-ware based or PBKaC* rather than anything with MS8.  Every once in a while I click on the screen incorrectly and up ops the tiles and I have to navigate back to the desktop.

Sometimes if I am working in the desktop and close the thing to use as a tablet, it gets grumpy and won't agree to behave as a touchscreen.  It's an easy fix - just fold it back closed and open again and - voila!  You're good to go, but it's annoying when it happens.

And, every once in a while, a piece of software burps and the computer takes you back to the prior application for no reason.  Not often, but it happens.  And, some software and the occasional app don't like to be looked at in portrait format and insist on landscape.  I've no idea why.

Again, the iTunes problem.

The hard drive on the Yoga isn't a powerhouse, and you're supposed to be kicking your files up to the SkyDrive.  I'm fairly certain running iTunes from the SkyDrive will be a disaster, and iTunes has been monkeying with itself as a cloud service for a while.  A lot of my music showed up just by logging in to iTunes, but a lot did not, and I assume that's a DRM issue.   I foresee myself running iTunes mostly off of an external harddrive, and that sounds like a pain.  I'm exploring the iTunes match service, so I'll let you know what comes of that.

But what has been a pretty nice world where Apple, Google and MS seemed to all want to work together for the consumer, we may have exited the freeway and decided to start wandering the countryside again for a while until our overlords start agreeing to work well together again.

I bought Office through UT, where I work and can get a (very steep) discount rather than pay $100 for the pleasure of having the Office suite (which does not come with Visio, which I don't get).  If MS wants to keep up with Google and Chromebook, and wants to sell MS Office, which integrates very well with SkyDrive in a slightly less creepy fashion than Google Drive, they need to make MS Office free to anyone with a home license.

Wrapping it Up

It's only been a week, and a very busy one at that.  I'm not a power user, and I don't know when or if I would be.

All in all, I'm very pleased.  Time will tell about the integrity of the hardware.  So far so good with Windows 8.

For the cost, I feel like I did okay by paying more than I would for a new laptop, but now I don't need to buy that tablet I need as a 1st World Human.  And, if you have a wireless connection on the other end so its worth taking your laptop/ tablet - the Yoga is really light on it's own after carrying the lead weight that is my Dell laptop.

*Problem is Between Keyboard and Chair


RHPT said...

You'll have to do another blog post explanation your reason to use a Win8Pho instead of Android.

The League said...

Well, the idea is that my tiles in Windows on my Yoga and my phone will be the same. If Android can do that for me, its worth looking at.

Like I said, they're clearly drawing lines between platforms and it's all about "your stuff" living primarily in the cloud. I think they'll figure out how to play well together again in a few years, but for right now, it seems there are short walls built between platforms for users who don't feel like performing stunts to make it all work together.

Simon MacDonald said...

@The League

First if Jamie is sold on iTunes then don't get her a Chromebook. They can't and probably will never be able to run iTunes.

As for your iTunes problem, any music, video's, etc. you purchased through iTunes should show up on your new device with that little cloud next to it. Other media like ripped CD's or DRM free downloads you've imported into iTunes will not show up. You could probably set up home sharing to move the files over easily but then you'll start running out of hard drive space. As you guessed running iTunes off of an external hard drive can be a pain.

It sounds like you are pretty sold on Windows which is cool plus it looks like you work is well integrated with MS Office which is a big deal as well.

Although, if someone tried to pry this MacBook Pro away from me it would get messy.

The League said...

I am really struggling with the iTunes quandry. Its really the only thing I can't resolve, so I'm hoping spending some time with Match and iCloud over the holidays will give me a magic solution I'm not thinking of quite yet, but... as I say, these guys aren't playing well together. It's going to be a complete bastard getting this sorted and 2003 me is looking at 2012 me and saying "SEEEEEEE! I TOLD YOU!"

This is going to end poorly.

I may be looking at lower end Mac solutions for Jamie as my own experience is making me nervous, and she is a heavy iTunes user.

Simon MacDonald said...

@The League

The only problem with lower end Mac solutions is that they too have small hard drives so it is hard to get all you media on the device. That is what I find with my Mac Mini at home. Moving my iTunes library worked great up until the NAS crashed. I have to get a new solution after the holidays.