Switching to a desktop and supplementing with a laptop, plus a Lenovo Yoga 2 Review

I’ve been playing around on my adorable little Lenovo Yoga Pro laptop for the past 2 hours, as I fly over the country (Hi! I’m looking down and waving to YOU!) on my way to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

the  many modes of the Yoga 2 Pro by Lenovo

(The Lenovo Yoga Pro was given to me as a part of the Lenovo Moms program. Lenovo and Techilicious are also paying for a part of my stay at CES this week. And, so, this is a sponsored post.)

While I have loved using the Tablets (and so have my kids), the addition of this little laptop has made a huge difference in my every day.

The switch to a desktop

You may recall that a little over a year ago, when my laptop’s second battery had died and there was little to be done to save the computer from the 20 minute start-up time or the 7 minute wait-to-open-a-program time, I opted to purchase a desktop. (It is a Lenovo Desktop computer and it’s amazing.) The decision surprised everyone, including me. But I realized that, in purchasing a desktop, I’d be better able to balance my work-time from my family time, by keeping my work in my dungeon (aka office in the basement).

Prior to this change, the laptop was a permanent fixture of our kitchen, and so was I. I spent hours at the kitchen table, working. And when the kids came home, I’d just move the laptop to a counter and continue working. Why not? The computer was there, an easy distraction and oh! there’s a facebook message and another article to complete. Oh! Hold on! Just 5 more minutes making this pinnable image.

I wanted so badly to end the endless computing at my house. I figured with tablets, phones and a netbook, I’d be fine keeping the computer in the office and going to it only during work hours.

A year later, I’m really pleased with that move. I’ve trained myself to balance my work and family life. For the past year, work stays in the office and I work during office hours. Sure, I pop on Facebook and the like, socially on tablets and my phone, but it’s very clear that when I’m working, I’m in my work space. For the past year, I’ve won back my nights and weekends. I’ve lived the present life. And the kids better understand my boundaries.

So do I.

Plus, Tablets really make it possible to not need a laptop for the day-to-day non-businessy stuff. We can pull up a recipe, watch a quick video, check our email… whatever… with a tablet. No need to take up a huge chunk of space on countertops with a laptop any longer.

And then we went to Maine

Each summer, we travel to our family home in Maine. We love to truly vacation in vacationland but, this year, for the first time, we extended our trip to 2 weeks because we were finally able to install reliable internet service in the house. We tested the “we can work anywhere as long as we have the internet” theory. And we could… except I wasn’t about to bring all of the pieces of my desktop with me on that roadtrip. Instead, I grabbed the iPad (which, really, was for the kids) and lugged my old, slow, dead-battery laptop to Maine. It worked. But it was slooooowww. It made it difficult to, actually, work.

I had to lug that laptop on 3 additional trips last year: Family Forward at Universal Studios, TypeA Conference in Atlanta and Disney World. Each time, even though I knew that it was good for me and my family, I cursed my decision to switch to a desktop. Without a reliable form of technology to actually work on, especially while away for work, I was not performing to the best of my abilities.

And then the boys’ had birthdays

We decided to purchase computers for the boys’ birthdays this year. Big needed one for school and the kids’ shared kid-friendly laptop was in rough enough shape to not survive more years with the demands of growing children. While Middle didn’t necessarily need it in 2nd grade, we know, based on Big’s third grade year, he’ll need it next year. We’d tried the family-computer-thing, but it didn’t work for us. During homework time, everyone is doing homework. Which means the last thing we want is for everyone to have to line up at the computer and wait.

The decision to buy the boys laptops rather than desktops came down to three points:

  1. The complete opposite of me, we didn’t want the boys to get “stuck” at their desks. We wanted them to be able to come to us if they had a problem or question, or to carry a laptop over to the other one to share information. Eventually, when they work on group projects at school, they’ll be able to bring their laptops with them to study sessions.
  2. With their heavy sports and after school activities schedule, it often happens that homework time is in a waiting area (luckily, we have a cafe with wifi at the gym where Middle swims.) We didn’t want the boys to have to wait to get home to complete a homework assignment. The ability to do homework on the go was a key in our decision.
  3. Space. The kids have small desks. There was simply no room to add a desktop without having to get new furniture at the same time. Additionally, there’s little room in their bedrooms for larger desks.

Watching my boys with their laptops, I felt a tinge of jealousy this fall. I love the balance in my desktop life, but I was tired of the old, bulky, slow laptop.

Lenovo Moms saved the day with the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro

Lenovo showed me there is a Better Way when they sent me a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro as a part of the Lenovo Moms program. An Ultrabook, the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, might be more flexible than the Yoga Tablets with it’s many modes (laptop, tablet, tent, and stand). It’s super slim, so it takes up less room than a 100-page notebook in my purse (actually less room than my iPad with the M-Edge cover, and almost just as light) and folds up nicely to sit on my bookshelf when not being used.

I’m still sticking to work time. I work in the office and rarely upstairs in the house. But I do take it with me to swim team practice and other activities, because I can. Our pediatric dentist now offers free wi-fi. So when I scheduled an appointment for one of the kids recently during work hours, I was able to actually set up and work while I waited.

I bought CORE i5 computers for the boys, thinking that the CORE i7 processor wasn’t necessary. My Lenovo Yoga Pro has a CORE i7 processor and, oh my goodness, there is a definite difference. This laptop is FAST. If you’re shopping computers, create a budget, and go one step further, if you can. You will so appreciate the speed of a strong CORE.

The laptop is Windows8.1, which intimidated me, at first. The boys’ and I were having a bit of trouble navigating, but after a few months on it, it’s become far easier. I’m still trying to determine the best way to organize my Windows Tiles, but you get used to the change. And, for the most part, when I’m using the Yoga 2 Pro for work, I’m in desktop mode, anyway, which is just like… well… my desktop.

The monitor is oh-my-goodness amazing. Like me, these numbers probably don’t mean much to you, but the display is techy-described as “13.3” QHD+ LED Glossy Multi-touch 3200×1800.” In my language, that means that the screen is glossy and shiny, about 13 inches and the pixels boxes are teeny tiny. I recently watched an Amazon streamed TV show on here, in stand mode, and it as clear as my TV. It’s also a touch screen, which is really easy to get used to because it works just like your tablet or smartphone. For when you’re working, there’s a trackpad (mouse pad on the keyboard) with a very strong sensor–it’s not as annoying as many of the other touchpads out there on the market. Of course, if you love an external mouse, you can always connect a wireless one (or wired, that works, too.) The only thing I don’t love about the monitor is that many programs aren’t set up to open in a monitor that has such a fine number of pixels. For example, Chrome opens way too small for my liking (it says 200% but my eyes are straining to read the screen.) It’s an easy fix, just move 2 fingers on the touchpad from the center to opposite corners to zoom in. I’ve read that this is a fault of Chrome and other programs that will need to be updated as more computer monitors begin to be available with so many pixels. In this game of computer companies always coming out with a Better Way, Lenovo has really taken the reigns with the monitor and now all the software has to catch up. And, you know, I like being a trend setter.

I am in love with this keyboard. Remember back when computers were new and you’d go with your parents to a store while they researched and researched and you’d just play with the keyboards to see which felt right? I still do that. I still go to Best Buy and touch all of the keyboards to make sure they touch right for me. I check the response time for the keys to pop back up, the curve of the keys to make sure they fit right beneath my fingers, the comfort of the arrows… all of it. This keyboard is more of a delight than my desktop keyboard. The platfrom (or surround or whatever it’s called) is a smooth, hard rubber. In comparison to other laptops in our home, hands don’t sweat or stick to it, and it’s more comfortable to float your wrists above the keyboard because of a slight, barely noticeable angle. When you’re using the laptop in other modes, the keyboard automatically shuts off and you can pull up a touchscreen keyboard–just like the one on your touchscreen tablets and phones.

A tip for anyone shopping: when you’re at the store, ask to bring the computer to a desk and sit down and pretend to type something you would really type. 

The battery is probably my only con with this computer. It’s actually a great battery, but the fabulous monitor, in it’s bright, clear pixels, makes it hard for the battery to keep up. For my flight, I’d purchased 3 hours of gogo wifi, and my computer battery didn’t quite survive the three hours. While that gave me extra sleep time on the 5.5 hour flight to Las Vegas, my heart tugged at all the laptops around me that were still running. I’ve read to turn down the brightness of the monitor, but it was already quite low. Luckily, I don’t need my laptop in long enough increments for a shorter battery life to effect my love of the laptop, but next flight I’ll have to remember to also bring along a tablet for play time. Officially, Lenovo lists the battery life at “up to 9 hrs Windows 8 Idle @ 150 nits” Battery is also drained by heavy search for wifi and websites, both of which I do when I’m on the plane writing articles. On the way home, I expect to stay off the internet and use Microsoft software instead.

UPDATE on Lenovo battery when not on wifi on the plane: after 2+ hours of typing time using Wordpad, I have 73% of the battery left, an estimated 6 hours and 48 minutes. Much, much better use of the laptop on the way home tonight. I wasn’t distracted by emails and facebook messages and there’s tons of battery life left. Hmmm. I may be onto something else; it has to do with Focus.

The SkyDrive cloud is really a Windows thing and not Lenovo, but it’s worth mentioning: if you’re going to start using more than one computer for work, I recommend that you start saving to your cloud. SkyDrive comes with Windows now and you can download it to your older desktops. With SkyDrive, I can access articles, images and more that were created on my desktop and use them on my laptop. Because I’m high maintenance, I usually save to both my desktop and the SkyDrive… just in case it’s lost in the sky, but I have yet to hear of that being a problem. (It’s also a great backup to save things elsewhere, beyond your laptop or desktop as a back up, and I’ve been learning about some options, new and old. Sarah from Tech 4 Moms explains more.)

The laptop’s hard drive has 256GB SSD memory (click to learn what SSD means and this article talks about a Mac that has 256GB SSD memory and explains that it’s probably enough memory for the average user… and then some.) It also comes standard with 4 GB memory, and can be updated to 8 GB.

Note: I began writing this review while on the plane on my way to CES: Consumer Electronics Show–the world’s largest trade show. It’s now 2 days later and I’ve carried my laptop in my bag through the show floor for three days. The fact that it’s only 3.1 pounds and just over half an inch thick bears repeating. It fits so very well into my lifestyle.

What do you need?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Here’s my advice:

Take a look at your lifestyle. If you’re using a desktop or laptop and it’s going well for you, then stick with it, upgrade when you can. If you need a change in your life (need more mobility or more privacy or a change in your life balance) consider making a change in your desktop/PC practice. Before I purchased the desktop, I did move my laptop into the office to test my idea, and saw how it worked. I could have purchased a new laptop and connected to a monitor, but I really wanted to experience the desktop and loved that I would have greater memory on the desktop than the laptop. Plus, a year ago, the purchase of laptop with all the bells and whistles, plus a monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers was far more expensive than a desktop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam and speakers. (The laptop has it all in one, the desktop you can purchase as a packagee or in pieces, which I did, recycling an old monitor and pricing out speakers, webcam, etc. Do keep in mind that when you purchase a desktop, you’ll also need those things. Unless you get a package, it doesn’t all come with the computer.)

While I’ll admit I probably have too much tech in my home, this system works well for me. I adore this beautiful, glossy laptop (I’m now at my desk at the hotel working on it.) I’ll carry it with me through the show today (weighing in at 3 pounds, it’s not too much to carry) and it fits in my tote bag so I can bring it just about anywhere. And, when I’m home on Friday, I’ll pull up my work on the SkyCloud and be able to access it all from my desktop.

I am a member of the LenovoMoms group and am compensated for my articles, videos, and time. This is a sponsored post.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2014, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

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