Today we’re taking a look at the Lenovo Yoga 3 11″ ultrabook. I want to start out by saying thank you for the great team over at Lenovo for sending over a unit for us to take a look at. I’ve used the Yoga 3 for about a month now and tried to put it in different situations to see how it can handle everyday tasks and some more stressful actions. Whether it be gaming, word processing or just browsing the web, I tried to put the Yoga 3 through its paces in laptop mode, tablet mode and the two convertible modes, stand mode and tent mode. In some of these situations, the Yoga 3 shined. But not all is bright because we definitely had some issues. Read on for our full review.
As you can see, the Yoga 3 is pretty decked out for the small package it comes in. 8 GB of ram should keep you able to multitask pretty much anything the processor can run. The processor is just an Intel Core M and while not incredibly powerful (no Photoshop, sorry) it’s very efficient. The Yoga 3 is fanless and a huge part of that is the Core M processor not putting out much heat. There are a lot of pixels packed in the 11″ screen. A 1080p IPS panel is a welcome addition in this package. The Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU is much like the CPU where it’s extremely efficient at what it does, but what it does will be limited.
Screen: One of the things that will immediately turn me off to any kind of electronic device is a bad screen. If the panel I’m looking at constantly to control the phone/computer/tablet sucks, why even bother. Luckily the screen on the Yoga 3 is excellent. It’s packed with pixels since it’s a 1080p IPS panel. Viewing angles are predictably fantastic. While sitting almost exactly to the side of the screen I can still make out what’s going on and the colors don’t wash out. The screen is extremely reflective and a fingerprint magnet so there are a couple of things to look out for when you’re working outside.
Battery: The 4 cell 34Wh battery is paired with an efficient CPU and GPU to give the Yoga 3 pretty good battery life. I was unable to kill it during a normal work day when I would be on it between 6 and 7 hours on and off. This thing constantly outperformed the expected battery life given in the power center in the start bar. I would normally keep the settings on balanced or switch over to power saver if things got dicey and I need to squeeze out some juice of it but that rarely happened. I was normally writing for the site and browsing Reddit during my sessions on the Yoga 3 but the occasional pixlr or YouTube session wasn’t out of the question.
Trackpad: The trackpad on the Yoga 3 is surprisingly big. It’s not MacBook Pro big but for the size of this little ultrabook, it’s very respectable. Two finger scrolling and other gestures are included which was a nice surprise as I haven’t used an ultrabook in a while. There is almost no friction during finger travel and the pad feels nice and hard to the touch. Think tempered glass instead of plastic screen protectors.
Flexible: The Yoga 3 can function any of three ways. There are the standard laptop and tablet modes and the nonstandard tent and stand mode. In tablet, tent and stand modes the keyboard is disabled to prevent any accidental touches. There’s a button on the right side of the body that also locks your orientation just like a regular tablet would so if you’re using it in bed it would be flipping around on you. I found tent mode especially good for letting my daughter watch cartoons in bed with my wife and I. It didn’t take up much space and she could touch the screen like she’s used to on our iPad and phones to navigate.
Form Factor: If you have this in your bag, you’ll hardly notice it’s there. The Yoga 3 has small bezels on the side of the screen, it’s very thin and very light. I can easily carry it around in one hand and while it’s not as light or easy to use as say, an iPad, you’re getting added functionality from the extra size. This is still going to be small than most iPads with a keyboard case on it.
Audio: The speakers are about as good as you can expect for an ultrabook. There are two speakers on the bottom of the case that provide pretty clear audio. If you’re sitting this on a bed or something similar, you may run into an issue of muffled audio but on its own, I’m pretty impressed. The vocals come through quite well and while there’s almost no bass, what you do get is very tolerable. Do you want to rely on this for a party with guests? No way but it should be good in a hotel room, business meeting for a presentation or watching videos on your own.
Performance: This one pains me because I had really high hopes for the Yoga 3. But frankly, the Core M is underpowered for anything but the lightest of tasks. Browsing the web with chrome and several plug-ins enabled could be a chore with lag and stutters often breaking the experience. Watching 1080p YouTube videos for more than a few minutes was simply impossible. I had to knock down the video quality into the 480p range to get seamless playback.
This processor was definitely designed for easier tasks like showing presentations and light web browsing but there is some disappointment that it couldn’t handle even light gaming on low settings. Downloading, installing and playing anything from Steam became such a hassle that I just quit trying.
Keyboard: So, I’m going to mark this as a negative but I understand Lenovo’s predicament here. The keyboard frankly is frustrating. There is no travel when you press a key which you can understand since the laptop is so thin. I wasn’t a fan of the feel of the keys either. They’re very smooth and you almost feel like you can fall off of them if you’re not careful.
The spacing is okay and I appreciate the full set of function keys but some backlighting on the keyboard would have gone a long way. Also, I’m not sure why F4 just closes out of whatever window you have up. It’s incredibly frustrating to accidentally hit that button and lose what I’m doing. Please get rid of that key.
I think the Lenovo Yoga 3 11″ is a really good ultrabook held back by a weak CPU and GPU. The stuttering and lagging takes you out of the experience of what you’re doing in some important situations. When you’re engrossed in a fantastic YouTube video, you don’t need to be reminded that you’re watching it on a computer that can’t push that many pixels for very long.
Alternatively, I absolutely love the screen. They picked a great panel that looks beautiful in almost all conditions. Even in direct sunlight it’s okay but you’re going to have to deal with some glare. Lenovo is selling the Yoga 3 11″ for $849 on their website with other sites like Best Buy listing it for $899 and Amazon at a similar price. I frankly think it’s too much. With the Surface 3 coming in at $500, and $630 with typepad, I think it eats the Yoga 3’s lunch.
If you’re looking for something that has better specs than an iPad to be your on the go device, you can definitely look here. the keyboard, great panel, 256 GB SSD and 8 GB of ram, not to mention full windows, all trump the iPad Air 2. But if you’re just for a small windows laptop, I think there are better options at the price point.