Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Lenovo official website

Windows 8 is leaps and bounds away from the traditional, stripped-down operating system Windows users are accustomed to, and the devices created for Windows 8 are just as new and innovative as the software itself. Getting the full Windows 8 experience means more than just upgrading your operating system — it means finding the right device to couple with Microsoft’s latest touch-enabled release.

PC and electronics makers are no longer tethered by the same restrictions they once faced when it comes to creating personal computers and devices. As tablets have continued to gain prominence in the technology industry, the hybrid-computer model has given manufacturers more freedom and flexibility (literally) to create lightweight, bendable computers that can function as both a tablet and a PC.

These shape-shifting computers are a crucial part of the Windows 8 mantra, as the devices boast the functionality of a laptop while incorporating the touch elements of a tablet — which is crucial for the touch-centric interface found in Windows 8; however, similar to Microsoft’s new operating system, this style of laptop-tablet hybrid device strays away from what traditional buyers are used to, making it difficult to decide which one to purchase.

There are a variety of these laptops that can interchange between clamshell and slate mode, but what makes one gadget outshine another? Its ability to perform as both a tablet and a PC, which is why we’ve crowned Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 as the best Windows 8 device of the year.

Windows 8 support. The key word here is Windows 8, not Windows RT. This automatically eliminates devices such as Microsoft’s Surface tablet or Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 11, which run on Microsoft’s scaled-down software. Windows RT differs from Windows 8 in that it functions on an ARM-based processor, which means that it cannot run traditional Windows apps. To put it simply, Windows RT can be thought of as Microsoft’s mobile version of Windows 8 compatible with tablets only, while Windows 8 is the full version of Microsoft’s newest operating system. Lenovo’s IdeaPad 13 gives users the works when it comes to experiencing Windows 8, complete with gesture support and access to the full Windows 8 app store.

Impressive specs. Starting at $999, users have the option of purchasing a model complete with Intel’s Core i3, i5 or i7 processor. With a 13-inch LED multi-touch display boasting a resolution of 1600 x 900, its screen beats out the native resolution of Apple’s MacBook Air. It also comes with Intel’s HD Graphics 4000 graphics card. These specs have PC written all over it, but here’s where we start leaning toward the mobile side. Rather than coming equipped with a hard disc drive, Lenovo’s offering features solid state storage, which can probably account for its somewhat hefty price tag. This is a reasonable trade off, however, seeing as SSD allows for speedier overall performance and data can easily live in the cloud these days. As for this SSD storage, Lenovo’s lower-end version comes with 128GB but a little more money will get you 256GB. In addition, you can choose between 4GB or 8GB of RAM.

Lightweight design. We’ve talked about why we love Lenovo’s IdeaPad 13, and its design is a major factor when it comes to why it’s better than competing models. We felt it best to eliminate any connectable Windows 8 laptops from the running right off the bat. It’s less convenient and more difficult in some circumstances than simply folding the keyboard into the device itself. The form factor is also far less innovative: why purchase a Windows 8 laptop with a detachable keyboard when you can buy a tablet with a separate keyboard for a lower price? Weighing less than 3.5 pounds, you can get the lightweight portability of a tablet or competing ultrabook like the MacBook Air with the fully functional keyboard of a traditional clamshell.

That being said, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 isn’t cheap, but its flipping mechanic is smoother and easier than competitors such as Dell’s XPS 12. To switch between laptop and tablet mode, simply fold the screen all the way back until it touches the computer’s backside. This means that they keyboard is left exposed, which can be strange to get used to, but the keys are automatically disabled. In addition to using the device as a notebook or a flat slate, you can also fold the IdeaPad half way and use it in tent mode. This is perfect for quickly showing off content to a friend or neighbor or giving a presentation.

While the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 may not be perfect for everyone, it encapsulates the hybrid functionality that Windows 8 is all about. For those who want a device that can function as a PC with a little taste of tablet, this is certainly a top competitor.

Disagree or have another Windows 8 device you love? Share your thoughts in the comments below.