Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12

Introduction and design

If you’re trying to choose the right laptop for work, you’ve probably noticed three dissatisfying categories. You can go with an insanely powerful and heavy workstation that costs more than most used cars. You can go with a consumer laptop that looks good but doesn’t pack the punch necessary to push past spreadsheets. Or you can go with a highly portable convertible that won’t do much more than let you check your email.

Professionals that want a device that looks cool, isn’t heavier than a brick and packs enough horsepower to get the job done have mostly been out of luck. If you’re this specific person, Lenovo thought of you when it made the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 ($845, £558, AU$1077).

If you’re having trouble picturing such a device, close your eyes and imagine a cross between the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ($1,299, £999, AU$2,099), the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799, £528, $AU1,018), and the Dell Precision M3800 workstation ($1,650, £1,091, AU$2,100). Although it isn’t as light as the Surface Pro 3, as sexy as the Yoga 3 Pro, or as powerful as the Precision M3800, the ThinkPad Yoga 12 holds its own admirably in all three categories.


The ThinkPad Yoga 12 is built with a black magnesium alloy chassis that feels great to the touch but doesn’t do much for the eyes. This laptop isn’t ugly by any means, but it features the same signature ThinkPad design that you’ve grown accustomed to (and bored by) since the line was unveiled in 1992. The laptop measures 12.44 inches (31cm) long by 0.74 inches (1.8cm) thick and it weighs a manageable 3.48 pounds (1.5kg).

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 review

The top of the device sports the customary ThinkPad logo with accompanying light-up lowercase letter “i,” a barely noticeable black on black Lenovo logo near the upper half of the laptop’s silver-colored, metal hinges. The bottom of the device features three five-inch-by-one-inch vents, and five small speaker slots. In addition to the ports that I’ll mention later, the right side of the device houses a tiny slot where you store the optional digitizer pen. No larger than a pencil’s eraser, you wouldn’t even notice this slot if the top of the digitizer weren’t red.

Although I love how the magnesium alloy feels, it does get very oily and dusty. It isn’t as bad as shinier, plastic laptops, like some of Acer’s budget Chromebooks, but definitely worse than higher-end laptops, like the Dell XPS 13. Despite the smudging, you won’t notice a scratch anywhere on the surface for a long, long time. I scraped my nails across the chassis and there wasn’t a scratch in sight.

The full HD (1,920 x 1,080) touchscreen isn’t the highest quality display on the market, but it’s as versatile as any you’ll find. You can bend the display back 360-degrees, so that the laptop can be used in four different modes: laptop, tablet, tent, and stand. It’s a shame Lenovo couldn’t find a black metal hinge instead of the silver metallic hinge, which is sturdy and smooth, but takes away from the laptop’s aesthetics.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 review

Speaking of the touchscreen: I find it very unlikely many people will enjoy using this device in tablet mode. At 3.4 pounds, it’s just too heavy to hold in your hands the way you would a tablet. For reference, the Surface Pro 3 is only 1.76 pounds, and the iPad Air 2 is 0.98 pounds.

The Yoga 12 is double and triple the weight, respectively, of two devices many consumers have used at least once. Tent and stand mode are fine for presenting or watching movies, because you’re meant to rest the devices on a table, but don’t buy this device if you plan to use it primarily as a handheld tablet.

With that being said, Lenovo’s “Lift and Lock Keyboard” is pretty cool. When you bend the hinge beyond 260-degrees, the keyboard’s keys sink into the frame of the laptop, providing an almost flat surface where your palm sits when using the device in tablet mode.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 review

As for the keyboard itself: it’s spill resistant and sports Lenovo’s signature AccuType curved keys, of which I’m not a fan. Nor am I a fan of the three buttons at the top of the clickpad, which just seem to get in the way rather than providing me with any added value. Neither of these gripes is a deal-breaker. Just to show that I’m not an outright Lenovo keyboard hater, the clickpad itself is the perfect size, it’s incredibly smooth and I found it to be accurate right out of the box.

Specifications and performance

As you can see from the specs below, you’re getting a device with a solid interior. The fifth-generation Intel “Broadwell” chips can be upgraded to Core i7. I found the 2.90GHz in my device to be speedy enough to get me through a few days of work, and one day of lounging around the house.

The 8GB of RAM and 180GB solid-state drive on the review unit isn’t going to wow anyone, but the device can be upgraded to include up to a 1TB hard drive and 250GB of SSD storage.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 review

You’ve got all the ports you’ll likely need to get you through a workday. The absence of an ethernet port is annoying, but we’re all just going to have to get with the times and accept that adapters are the norm these days.

Here is the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 configuration given to TechRadar for review:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-5300U (2C, 2.30/2.90GHz, 3.0MB, 1600Mhz)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Screen: 1920×1080
  • Storage: 180GB SSD OPAL2
  • Ports: 2 USB 3.0, mini-HDMI, 4-in-1 card reader (MMC, SD, SDHC, SDXC)
  • Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless – AC 7265 + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: HD 720p
  • Weight: 3.48 pounds (1.5kg)
  • Size: 12..44″ x 8.70″ x 0.74″ (31 x 22 x 1.8 cm)

For those who like to abuse their hardware, the Yoga 12 is Mil-Spec certified, which means the laptop is able to continue operating for an extended period of time from -20-degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius. It’s also dust and sand resistant, for when you need to finish that presentation while backpacking through the Sahara.


  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5,377; Sky Diver: 51,238; Fire Strike: 750
  • Cinebench CPU: 263 points; Graphics: 29.89 fps
  • PC Mark 8 (Home Test): 2,471 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 24 minutes

In our suite of benchmarks, the ThinkPad Yoga 12 proved itself worthy of any head-to-head comparison with the Yoga 3 Pro and the Surface Pro 3 in terms of design and gameplay. The ThinkPad Yoga demolished the Yoga 3 Pro and Surface Pro 3 in the 3DMark graphics test, with a Fire Strike score of 750, compared to the Yoga 3 Pro’s 329 points, and the Surface Pro’s 347 points. This score obviously doesn’t even come close to the Dell Precision M3800’s 8,170 3DMark graphics test score, but there aren’t many laptops on the market that are gunning for that rarified air.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 review

In the PCMark 8 test, the ThinkPad finished with an impressive speed that merited 2,471 points, which is more than double the Yoga 3 Pro’s 1,147 score, and just narrowly edges out the Surface 3 Pro’s 2,190 points. But again, if you need workstation speed, buy a proper workstation. The Precision M3800 scored a whopping 3,322 points in its test.

Battery life is where the ThinkPad gets to flex its muscle against the Precision M3800. The latter only scored two hours and nine minutes in the PCMark 8 battery test, whereas the Yoga 12 made it to three hours and 24 minutes, which is just slightly better than the Surface Pro 3 and Yoga 3 Pro. In real-life testing, the Yoga 12’s battery life lasted for seven hours and four minutes of video playback with the screen brightness and the volume set to 50%. Frazzled workers beware: the laptop shut down on me with “6% and 28 minutes left.”

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 review

One other important point to note: When TechRadar reviewed the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12’s larger twin brother, the ThinkPad Yoga 14, we found a major issue. As we noted then: “Lifting the laptop from its front left corner causes the system to shut down immediately.” This defect, as well as other reported battery defects, are common among Yoga 14s. However, the Yoga 12 review unit sent to TechRadar was in perfect condition.


The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 is trying to be all things to all people. Normally when this happens there are major compromises that damage the overall integrity of the product. This isn’t the case with the Yoga 12 – it competes pretty well against some of the major players in all of the specific categories in which it wants to play.

We liked

The Yoga 12 is a versatile bulldog of a device. You can use it as your work laptop. You can use it for play. It won’t be the best pick for either of these tasks, but it won’t stray too far from the upper tier either.

At 3.4 pounds and 0.74 inches thick, it’s just light and slim enough to claim portability. With more than seven hours of video playback, its battery is good enough to get through a workday, and it’s affordably priced starting at just $845.

We disliked

For the very same reason, you may want to avoid this device. If you absolutely need a machine that can edit video, handle multiple spreadsheets, and store a ton of data, then you’re better off going with the slightly heavier Dell Precision M3800, which is only 3.8 pounds (1.8 kg) compared to the Yoga 12’s 3.4 pounds. Conversely, if you need something that’s lightweight and sexy, then you should definitely go with the Yoga 3 Pro or the Surface Pro 3.

Final verdict

If your business is looking for a powerful and versatile convertible laptop that looks good and doesn’t break the bank, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 should definitely be on your shortlist. However, don’t expect this device to wow in any specific category.

The ThinkPad Yoga 12 isn’t the lightest. It isn’t the fastest, it isn’t the most powerful and it doesn’t have the nicest screen, either. What you’re getting here is just enough style to be cool, and just enough horsepower to be productive.