Just because Lenovo's new Yoga and its 360-degree hinge offer a slick, new approach to the convertible laptop, doesn't mean the older, rotating-hinge design has to disappear completely. Combining the rotating screen and Windows 8's tablet-style positional awareness, Lenovo's new ThinkPad Edge Twist has some unique appeal for education and small- to medium-sized business buyers.
Where older, spinning-hinge laptops typically offer three different positions for the display — standard laptop style, tablet style and rear facing — Lenovo designed the Twist to support a fourth, tent-style mode. Here, the screen is inverted, and the Twist ends up looking like a digital sandwich board.
Lenovo's Yoga ultrabooks and their sleeker hinge can do the same thing, but the 12.5-inch Twist's starting price, compared with the 13-inch Yoga, should offer a more affordable entry point for a convertible Windows 8 touchscreen laptop with a presentation-friendly screen size.
In our brief hands on with the Twist, it felt more or less like other rotating hinge designs. The hinge felt sturdy enough, and the display moved smoothly, without feeling too loose. It only swivels in one direction, though, and it can feel awkward to handle when the screen is between positions. Of the two designs, the Yoga's 360-degree hinge was preferable, in that it offered almost the same range of positions (the Yoga can't turn off-centre from the keyboard) through a simpler mechanism.
As with all of Lenovo's new laptops, the Twist's touchscreen is responsive, and reoriented itself appropriately and with reasonable speed when we moved the display around.
Otherwise, the Twist fits the mould of the modern Windows ultrabook. Lenovo claims that it measures 20mm thick, weighs 1.58kg and offers seven hours of battery life. The display is coated with anti-smudge treated Gorilla Glass, and it starts with a third-generation Intel Core i3 CPU and a 500GB hard drive.
Options include a solid-state drive and CPUs up to Intel's Core i7 family. Like many newer laptops, the Twist lacks an optical drive, although it does come with USB 3.0 jacks, and both mini-DisplayPort and mini-HDMI outputs.
We're still waiting to hear from Lenovo on Australian availability and pricing, and will hopefully have details soon.