A clever new hinge inspired by watches and Intel's latest CPU make the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro a seriously desirable convertible Ultrabook
Lenovo’s Yoga convertible laptop concept has now reached its third iteration. The original IdeaPad Yoga 13 was one of our favourite hybrids of 2012 and last year’s Yoga 2 Pro blew us away with its stunning, super high resolution screen, but the company has outdone itself for 2014 with the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro – thanks in part to an improved 360 degree hinge inspired by wristwatches.
The Watchband hinge is made from over 800 individual pieces of aluminium, and not only looks fantastic but is actually tougher and sturdier than the outgoing model. It has six ‘hinges’, rather than two, which helps lock the display in place even when you’re working in Stand mode with the touchscreen. It also lets you lay the screen completely flat, and has allowed Lenovo to trim even more away from the body of the laptop.
With the lid closed, the chassis is just 12.8mm thick and now weighs 1.2kg – down from 1.4kg in the old model. This makes the Yoga 3 Pro one of the smallest and lightest 13in Ultraportables we’ve reviewed, and also means it’s possible to hold one-handed without giving yourself a wrist injury. It’s far more comfortable to hold in both hands, which meant we used the tablet mode more frequently.
The thin dimensions mean there’s not much in the way of connectivity, although Lenovo has cleverly made the proprietary charging port double as a regular USB port. You get two further USB3 ports, a mini HDMI video output, 3.5mm audio jack and 4-in-one memory card reader, as well as physical volume and orientation lock keys. You also get 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless for cable-free connections.
Intel’s new Core M processor is the other reason Lenovo has managed to slim down the Yoga so drastically. It has a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of just 4.5 watts, which is less than half that of previous generation Haswell low-voltage chips; that means it won’t produce as much heat as last year’s CPUs and should consume less power – potentially meaning major battery life improvements. Indeed, the Yoga 3 Pro lasted a superb 12 hours 32 minutes in our light use tests, which makes it the longest-lasting 13in Ultrabook we’ve tested. Switching to our heavy use test, it still managed to last 7 hours 39 minutes away from the mains, which is still the best performance we’ve seen from a Windows Ultrabook. The only devices we’ve reviewed that beat it are tablets with keyboard docks that double as a second battery, and Apple’s larger, thicker MacBook Pro. You should be able to go almost an entire working day without having to bring along the (admittedly very compact) power brick.
Despite the reduction in power consumption, the Core M-5Y70 used in the Yoga 3 Pro still manages to improve performance over last year’s similarly clocked Haswell chips. The dual-core chip usually runs at 1.1GHz, but can Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz when thermal limits allow. Paired with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, it achieved an overall score of 31 in our multimedia benchmarks, which is more than sufficient for everyday jobs like word processing or web browsing. Admittedly this was less the Yoga 2 Pro, which scored 46, but the new model uses much less power to get there.
As we’ve come to expect from low-voltage processors, the integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU isn’t particularly suited to gaming. It could only manage 14.1fps in our Dirt Showdown test at 720p, and turning down the graphics settings to the low presets couldn’t create a playable frame rate, so there’s no chance of playing modern games at the Yoga 3 Pro’s native resolution.
The 13.3in, 3,200×1,800 QHD resolution was the definite highlight of last year’s Yoga 2 Pro, so it’s great to see it make a return here. As before, it has a display density of 275 pixels per inch (PPI), meaning it’s impossible to see the individual pixels unless you press your nose up to the screen. As you’d expect, high resolution photos look incredibly detailed, and you can also appreciate the extra clarity found in 4K content, even though it is being downscaled from its native resolution.
Image quality is equally impressive, although it’s not necessarily an improvement over the Yoga 2 Pro. Solid colours are vibrant and evenly lit, with clean whites thanks to a high peak brightness of 275cd/m2, and the sRGB colour gamut has improved to 94.1% coverage, up from 85% in the old version. Colour accuracy is merely average, however, with reds and greens in particular appearing less saturated than we would expect. A higher black level of 0.65cd/m2 and lower contrast ratio of 421:1 are both disappointing, as although they don’t ruin the picture it’s harder to pick out details in very dark images. A mixed bag, then, but in general pictures and video don’t disappoint. Viewing angles are excellent, which should be expected for a device that can be used in four different positions.
We had hoped that Windows 8.1 would have solved the resolution scaling issues we encountered on the Yoga 2 Pro earlier this year, and for the most part it has; the Desktop is legible without requiring third-party software, text is easy to read and icons are a sensible size. There are a few holes, as the command prompt still uses microscopic text and some third-party programs aren’t optimised yet, but for day-to-day work there’s no downside to the huge resolution.
This makes the Yoga 3 Pro a pleasure to use, thanks in part to the comfy and responsive keyboard. Once again, Lenovo has recessed the keyboard tray to prevent the keys from getting scratched when in tablet or stand mode, which is no easy feat, seeing as the laptop body is only 8mm thick with the screen open. Even so, the keys themselves are springy and have a surprising amount of travel, meaning we could type quickly and with few mistakes. The backlit keys make it easier to work in the dark, and the textured, soft-touch wrist rest was comfortable for long periods in front of the screen. The smooth all-in-one touchpad is a great match, with quick and responsive movement, and all the usual Windows 8 shortcuts and multitouch gestures.
At £1,300, the Yoga 3 Pro one of the most expensive Ultrabooks available today. It’s also £300 more than a top-spec MacBook Air, although the Apple machine lacks a high resolution display, has less memory and doesn’t also double up as a tablet. Given the battery life improvements and slimmer dimensions, the Yoga’s position as the best convertible laptop has been cemented here. Picture quality may be a slight reduction over the outgoing model, but it’s only slight, so if you’re looking for lightweight Windows laptop there’s no doubt this is the one to buy.
|Processor||Dual-core 1.3GHz Intel Core M-70|
|Graphics adaptor||Intel HD 5300|
|Total storage||256GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Parts and labour warranty||One Year RTB|
|Part number||Yoga 3 Pro-1370 80HE|