L enovo’s Yoga hybrid design is elegant in its simplicity. Take a standard laptop, add a touchscreen and throw in a hinge that allows the display to fold back through 360 degrees. The device can thus transform into a giant tablet, prop up in a “tent” mode for video or presentations, or contort into “stand” mode with the keyboard positioned face down.
With its 14in screen, the Yoga 3 is the largest Yoga yet: at 1.65kg and 18.5mm thick, it’s not a device you’ll want to use in tablet mode regularly. It’s not much of a looker, either: it lacks the fancy watch-strap hinge of the recent Yoga 3 Pro, and the matte-silver plastics covering the base and lid (retail models will also be available in white) fall short of delivering a premium feel.
Thankfully, the same isn’t true of the internals. The $1199 model comes with a 2.2GHz Core i5 Broadwell CPU, 4GB of RAM and a standard HDD paired with 8GB of solid-state cache. The $1749 model on review here bumps up the specification to a 2.4GHz Core i7-5500U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Yet despite those powerful components, the Yoga 3 fared quite poorly in our benchmarks, with an overall score of 33 – 26% behind the similarly equipped Asus Zenbook UX303LA. While right on target in the image-processing section of our benchmarks, the Yoga 3 dropped 16% behind the Asus in the video-encoding test, and was 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 a credible 8hrs 22mins.
The Full HD touchscreen looks good too, at least on first glance. The IPS panel is crisp and consistent from every angle - an essential trait for a display designed to be used in multiple modes. The gloss finish also helps images pop.
Look more closely, however, and it’s clear Lenovo has cut a few corners. Contrast hits an impressive ratio of 1,193:1, but brightness tops out at 240cd/m2 – not much better than we’d expect from a budget laptop. Colours lack punch too: our tests revealed that the IPS display can reproduce only 60% of the sRGB colour gamut. Dark shades in particular get crushed, so watch a moodily lit movie and you’ll be left wondering what’s happening in the shadows.
Despite the Yoga 3’s size, connectivity is limited, with only two USB 3 ports available for connecting peripherals. However, since the power supply connects via a modified USB connector, you can use the socket as a supplementary USB 2 port when you’re not charging the device. The micro-HDMI connection is maddening: there’s plenty of space for a full-sized port. The SD slot leaves the card jutting out by a centimetre or so, as well. Still, 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4 are welcome, and the 0.9-megapixel webcam is fine for video chats – even if images do fizz with noise and edge-enhancement artefacts.
The Yoga 3’s keyboard feels good thanks to the snappy feedback from the rubberised, backlit keys, but the layout takes some getting used to, primarily due to the row of buttons to the right of the Enter key. I often found myself hitting the End or PageUp keys by mistake.
The touchpad is mediocre, with too much friction to deliver smooth control, and a buttonless design that’s plain aggravating. Thankfully, the touchscreen is sensitive, responsive and accurate.
I’m a fan of Lenovo’s Yoga range, but for $1749 I expect a great display and ergonomic design as standard. The Yoga 3 doesn’t deliver on either count. In fact, it doesn’t really deliver on the Yoga concept at all: it’s too bulky to use effectively as a tablet, while limited connectivity and a middling screen make it a poor laptop. I suggest you check out the Asus Zenbook UX303LA instead: it’s faster, better-looking and far more refined.