Lenovo Yoga 3 review: A powerful, flexible hybrid
Lenovo’s Yoga hybrid design is one of the simplest going. In contrast to its tablet-centric peers – Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, for example – Lenovo places the emphasis firmly on a classic laptop design, albeit one with a twist. Now, the company has released the largest Yoga yet, the 14in Yoga 3.
The Yoga design is elegant in its simplicity. Take a standard laptop, add a touchscreen and throw in a hinge that allows the display to fold backwards through a full 360 degrees. The flexible hinge allows Lenovo’s Yoga devices to transform into a giant tablet, prop up in a “tent” mode for video playback or presentations, or contort into a “stand” mode that sees the keyboard placed face down, allowing the display to be tilted just so.
Now, close your eyes and imagine a Yoga 3 Pro that’s spent several weeks on the sofa eating pizza and watching Netflix: you’re looking at the Yoga 3. Unlike the recent Yoga 3 Pro, there’s no fancy watch-strap hinge, and it’s put on a fair bit of weight. At 1.65kg and 18.5mm thick you can hardly accuse it of being completely out of shape – it does have a 14in display, after all – but, in all honesty, this isn’t a hybrid you’ll want to use in tablet mode with any regularity.
It isn’t much of a looker, either. The matte-silver plastics covering the base and lid (apparently, retail models will also be available in white) do little to set the pulse racing, although things improve a little once you open the lid. The textured, matte-black keyboard surround adds a dash of class, and the backlit keyboard and rim of chrome circling the touchpad do their bit to lift the Yoga 3 above the average.
Performance and hardware
Thankfully, Lenovo has spent most of the budget on a capable selection of components. Opt for the £650 model and you get a 2.2GHz Core i5 Broadwell CPU, 4GB of RAM and a standard HDD paired with 8GB of solid-state cache. The £800 model on review, however, bumps the specification up to a 2.4GHz Core i7-5500U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Which would I choose? Well, it’s fair to say that shelling out an extra £150 on the £800 model looks like the far better bet.
It comes as no surprise to find that performance is, in the main, pretty good. The only quibbles that arose were a result of Lenovo’s preinstalled Harmony software, which decided that hogging 25% of CPU resources in the background was a good idea. An update seemed to fix the issue, but it was disappointing to find Lenovo’s own software causing such problems in the first place.
There are other, minor disappointments. For instance, the presence of an M.2 SSD is less exciting than it could have been. While it’s theoretically capable of delivering super-fast transfer speeds via the PCI Express bus, the Samsung SSD in the Lenovo never exceeded the kind of performance I’d expect from a more humdrum mSATA drive.
Oddly, the Yoga 3 didn’t exactly cover itself with glory in Alphr’s suite of benchmarks, either. Given the components inside, it should have acquitted itself well, but after running the benchmarks several times it was clear that the Yoga 3 is incapable of hitting the heights of laptops housing a similar spec. With a score of 33 in Alphr’s benchmark suite, the Yoga 3 inexplicably found itself around 26% behind the similarly equipped Asus Zenbook UX303LA.
It isn’t clear why the Lenovo is so far behind, either. It’s right on target in the image processing section of the Benchmarks, but drops 16% behind the Asus in the video-encoding test and stumbles 61% off the pace in the multitasking tests. The CPU doesn’t run hot and there’s no obvious throttling; nor are there any rogue processes languishing in the background – it’s thoroughly odd.
Battery life was pretty good, however. With a 720p video looping constantly, Wi-Fi switched off and the screen brightness set to 120cd/m2, the Yoga 3 lasted for a creditable 8hrs 22mins. That compares favourably with most of the competition.