As a kid, I used to love shopping for fresh school supplies (I’m a nerd like that). I’d drag my mom to the nearest drugstore to stock up on pens and pencils and debate the coolness of various lunchboxes. But that was during simpler times, when a paper notebook was enough. Now, back-to-school shopping also involves high-tech products.
If a new laptop is on your list of needed gear, and budget is an issue, there are two models that are worth consideration: The HP Pavilion x360 and Lenovo Yoga 2. Both are 11-inch convertible Windows PCs with a 360-degree hinge design, meaning that you can fold the keyboard back under the display to use it as a tablet. The Pavilion x360 starts at $400, and the Yoga 2 starts at $489.
These aren’t high-performance machines, but I found that they’re perfectly capable of handling everyday tasks like email, document creation and video watching. That said, if you can afford it, it’s worth spending a little more money for the Yoga 2. You’ll get a better screen, longer battery life and sleeker design, among other things.
Lenovo was the first company to come out with the 360-degree hinge design when it debuted the first Yoga laptop back in 2012. Since then, the company has continued to improve the series.
At 11.7 inches wide by 8.12 inches long by 0.67 inch deep and 3.2 pounds, it’s easily transportable in a backpack or even a large purse. The rectangular black chassis reminded me a lot of the company’s ThinkPad business laptops, but there is an orange color option if you want something more distinct.
I used the Yoga 2 in all of its various modes: Laptop, tent and stand mode for watching videos, and tablet. Angling the screen was easy, and the hinge felt sturdy. But like most PC hybrids, the Yoga 2 still makes for a clunky tablet. It’s more manageable than its 13-inch sibling, which my colleague Lauren Goode reviewed a few months ago, but it’s nothing like a dedicated seven-inch tablet.
While I was fine putting it on my lap or resting it on a desk for viewing movies, I can’t imagine ever reading an e-book on the device. I also don’t like how the keyboard is exposed on the underside when it’s in tablet mode. But given the choice, I’d still pick it over the Pavilion x360 any day.
Though a hair lighter, at 3.1 pounds, the Pavilion x360 is bigger and thicker, at 12.1 inches wide by 8.46 inches long by 0.86 thick. The problem is that when it’s in tablet mode, the bottom lid juts over the screen about three-quarters of an inch, and the tapered edges create a larger gap between the top and bottom, making it less comfortable and more unwieldy to hold than the Yoga 2’s flatter design.
Also, while the two laptops share the same 1,366 by 768 resolution touchscreen, the Pavilion x360 doesn’t get very bright, even at the highest setting. Colors were washed out, and the display was somewhat difficult to see in a room with bright sunlight. Meanwhile, the Yoga 2’s screen was vibrant, and images and text looked sharper.
On the upside, I thought the Pavilion x360 had the better keyboard. The layout is roomy, and I liked the springy feedback of the buttons, whereas the Yoga 2’s keyboard felt a bit mushy. HP also includes a healthy number of ports on the Pavilion x360, including an HDMI connector, three USB ports (one USB 2.0, two USB 3.0), an Ethernet jack, an SD card reader and a headphone jack. The Yoga 2 offers two USB ports (one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0), a Micro-HDMI out, an SD card reader and a headphone jack.
HP touts the integrated Beats Audio technology in the Pavilion x360, and I noticed a difference in sound when watching videos on both laptops. The Pavilion x360’s speakers delivered richer and louder audio. Finally, if you’re into colorful laptops, the Pavilion x360 comes in red, purple or gray.
In terms of features, the Pavilion x360 and Yoga 2 are quite comparable. Both are running Windows 8.1, and each comes with a fair share of extra apps from the respective companies. For example, Lenovo ships the device with a photo-editing app called Yoga Photo Touch and a recipe app called Yoga Chef. The Pavilion x360 comes with HP Connected Photo and Connected Music.
Both of the review models I tested featured a 2.16GHz Intel Pentium processor and 500 gigabyte hard drive. Lenovo offers the option to configure the Yoga 2 with the more powerful Intel Core processors, while HP does not. When it comes to memory options, the Pavilion x360 is available with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM, while the Yoga 2 only comes with 4GB of RAM. My HP review model had 8GB, which adds $75 to the total cost.
Translated into real-world usage, I found that both laptops performed similarly well. I used each one as my primary laptop for several days, working on Word documents, browsing the Web and streaming movies from Netflix with no major issues. There was some sluggishness when launching some apps, but they didn’t greatly impede my productivity.
Battery life is another story. For my harsh battery tests, I set the screen brightness to high, turned off all power-saving features and left Wi-Fi on to fetch email while continuously playing a video. The Pavilion x360 lasted only three hours, while the Yoga 2 beat that by one hour and 20 minutes. Neither is particularly impressive, but still, you’ll get more mileage out of the Lenovo.
If you’re in the market for a new laptop, and like the idea of hybrid design, the Lenovo Yoga 2 is a good choice. It’s a little more expensive than the HP Pavilion x360, but you’ll get more for the money.