Lenovo Yoga 3 14″ Review: Don’t Call Me Surface
Lenovo is one of the few manufacturers (if not the only one) to produce a Windows 8 laptop-tablet combo as aesthetically pleasing as Microsoft’s flagship Surface line. The Lenovo Yoga 3 14″ is one of its mid-range offerings, giving you near-top-shelf specs and a flexible Microsoft Surface-like chassis with a touchscreen for a reasonable starting price of $799. I encourage you to read on while I give my impressions of the laptop/tablet convertible in everyday use.
Though similar in form, there are some significant differences between the Yoga 3 and the Surface 3 in the chassis design. For one thing, the keyboard is not detachable so you’re going to have to fold the keyboard flush against the back of the display to get tablet mode. The keyboard is also much thicker and heavier than the featherweight detachable version found in the Surface lineup. The matte plastic shell and the overall weight of the laptop give it a premium feel without making it unwieldy. I had little use for the trackpad (as I also don’t for other laptops), as it made typing very difficult in laptop mode (many errant taps make my cursor move around while I’m typing).
The Lenovo Yoga 3 14″ is not plagued by the weaker, mobile-oriented Intel Core M processor featured in the 11″ counterpart reviewed by fearless leader Ben Schoon. Instead, the 14-incher flaunts a fifth-generation Core i5 normally flanked by 4GB of RAM, though my review unit bumped that spec up to 8GB. The hard drive is a 128GB SSD affair and the display is a refreshing 1080p departure from the 1366×768 of my current laptop. Here is a nice, bullet list of key specs for your tl;dr pleasure:
- 5th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 2.2Ghz max clock speed (1.6Ghz in power-saving mode)
- 4/8GB RAM (base model has 4GB, my review unit had 8GB)
- 128GB SSD hard drive
- 14.0″ FHD LED AntiGlare Multitouch display (1920×1080)
- Windows 8.1 64-bit edition
The Yoga 3 comes with a mostly un-bloated version of Windows 8.1 (64-bit). There are some noteworthy Lenovo apps included, though. For example, Lenovo includes its own settings app which lets you make a few tweaks that Microsoft’s control panel doesn’t. Another example is MaxxAudio, which includes an equalizer and the ability to bump the speaker volume a bit higher than possible through Windows itself (more on the speakers later).
For the most part, the PC performed adequately in everyday tasks. However, as I’ll explain in more detail below, there were some stutters when it had been left running for longer than a few hours. Since I have a hard time believing a Core i5 with 8GB RAM would struggle with even a 1080p display, there might be some issue with the touchscreen drivers or with the display itself.
I found the 1080p display resolution pleasing, especially as I watched HD content on Netflix and the CBS app (please update your app to be on par with the Android version and include All Access support, CBS). However, the display was a bit dim while watching such movies and TV shows, even at maximum brightness. The touchscreen is quite responsive when it first boots, but after a while it becomes very laggy so that a full reboot becomes necessary. On the bright side, rebooting takes only a minute or two in Windows 8.1.
I found the sound to be rather muted, the max volume being much lower than even mid-range on my regular PC (which, by the way, is a Windows 7-running Toshiba Satellite with a 3rd-gen Core i7 circa 2012). Using the included MaxxAudio app improved things somewhat, but I would encourage Lenovo to consider boosting speaker output in their next generation. Hopefully they will also give the nits a bump (in case you didn’t already know, nits are a measure of a display’s brightness).
The battery seemed adequate, as I found myself binge-watching one of my favorite TV shows on Netflix, watching at least four-five episodes before getting my first low-battery notification (10%). This works out to about 3-4 hours of nonstop video playback at max brightness, max clock speed (I set the power profile to “performance”) and max volume.
It’s certainly worth $799 for a 1080p touchscreen, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD storage, a 5th-gen Core i5 processor, and a flexible form factor to rival Microsoft’s flagship Surface 3 line. It’s even well worth $929 to get the 8GB RAM model I tested with 256GB SSD storage. You just have to keep in mind that you’ll want to use it in settings with relatively low ambient light, and you might want to consider adding an external speaker.