Lenovo basically defines the two-in-one category with its Yoga line.
Just look at the convertible-hybrid laptops coming out of competing companies like Dell, HP, and Toshiba, which all use some variation on the basic multimode design introduced with the first Yoga laptop back in 2012. Now, with the Yoga 3 Pro, Lenovo has come out with a new design that completely revamps the multimode hinge, swaps out the processor for Intel’s new hyper-efficient Core M CPU, and packages it all in a very thin, very luxurious new chassis. It’s a step forward in two-in-one design, and it’s worth the high-end price.
The biggest change with the Yoga 3 Pro is the hinge, which leaves behind the dual-axle design seen on the Yoga 2 Pro and the Yoga 2 13, and instead uses a watchband-inspired hinge that runs the length of the device. You can still flip and fold the laptop as before, with the four usage modes of Stand, Tent, and Display, but now you can finally also lay the laptop out flat. More important, the new hinge lets Lenovo shave a few more millimeters from the device, making the 3 Pro the thinnest Yoga yet—and the first time a system of this size hasn’t felt too large for tablet use. The sturdier hinge also results in a machine that better holds up to the many taps and touches to which it will be subjected in daily use.
The laptop measures 0.5 by 12.99 by 8.98 inches (HWD) and weighs just 2.6 pounds. The chassis is molded plastic, with anodized aluminum on its lid and underside, but the palm rest gets a soft-touch finish with a polka-dot texture. The laptop slims down even further with the new fanless chassis design, thanks to an Intel Core M processor that doesn’t need the cooling fans Intel’s usual laptop CPUs require.
The keyboard is also a bit thinner, but Lenovo has managed to retain most of the comfortable depth and smooth key movement seen on past iterations of the Yoga. That said, this might be as thin as a laptop can get while still having a regular keyboard, and even this one won’t please all users—I know I was irritated by how shallow the key travel was. The keyboard does have backlighting, so typing in a dark room will be a little less difficult. The touchpad is also quite good, with all of the gesture controls and accurate tracking you might expect from a Lenovo product.
The 13.3-inch display, with its Quad-HD (3,200-by-1,800) resolution, features Gorilla Glass, which should protect it from scratches and cracks. The edge-to-edge glass only enhances the gesture controls and the touchcapable display offers full ten-finger tracking. This is one of the first times we’ve seen a convertible hybrid laptop with a better-than-HD-resolution display; it definitely helps justify the Yoga’s premium price.
In addition to the new look, Lenovo throws a couple of unexpected curveballs in terms of the port selection, like a power connector that doubles as a USB port.
The standard USB port is modified with a slight bump on one side that ensures the power cord is plugged in properly, and the port reverts back to standard USB whenever the DC power cable is disconnected. This has the dual effect of reducing by one the number of ports needed on the system without reducing total connectivity, and adds a new proprietary charger that you’ll need to purchase through Lenovo. Additionally, the laptop offers micro HDMI for display output. The smaller port doesn’t require the extra chassis thickness that a standard HDMI port does, but it will require some sort of adapter dongle or micro-to-full-size HDMI cable to run a connection out to a TV or projector.
Otherwise, the port selection is fairly standard, with two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and a headset jack. Along the right side of the laptop are several physical buttons for Power, Volume, and Screen Rotation. Inside, the system is equipped with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Given the extremely slim chassis, it’s not a bad selection of features. The sleek design also dictates the storage options—the Yoga 3 Pro comes with a 128GB solid-state drive.
The system comes with some software preinstalled, including 30-day trials of McAfee LiveSafe and Microsoft Office 365, along with apps such as Skype, Zinio, Amazon, Evernote, and proprietary Lenovo apps that include cloud storage through Hightail, Lenovo Phone Connection, and Lenovo Photo Master.
There’s also something called Yoga Chef, which includes a regularly updated selection of recipes presented in a series of full-screen cardsthat let you swipe through the steps of cooking as you go, with the option to use Lenovo’s webcamenabled gestures to swipe through without touching the display.Another app called Lenovo Harmony serves as a custom dashboard for your favorite apps and also a bridge between Windows’ start interface and the desktop. Lenovo covers the Yoga 3 Pro with a one-year warranty that includes free depot and carry-in repairs.
The slim design of the Yoga 3 Pro is owed largely to the use ofthe new Intel Core M 5Y70 processor. With it you get 8GB of RAM, and that’s all: Because it’s soldered directly to the motherboard, there’s no opportunity to upgrade the memory. And though the processor is far more powerful than the Intel Atom CPUs used in many Windows tablets, it doesn’t favorably compare with the Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors used in other convertible hybrids.
In the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, the Yoga 3 Pro scored 2,094. The considerably less-expensive Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W-B5224, on the other hand, scored 2,757, thanks mostly to its Core i7 processor, while the Lenovo Flex 2 (2,693) and the HP Envy x360 15t (2,682) both have Core i5 CPUs. We noticed similar differences in performance in our Photoshop CS6and Handbrake tests.
The graphics processing is all done by the Intel HD Graphics 5300, the Core M chip’s integrated solution. Although integrated graphics are as a rule no competition for a discrete graphics processor, the performance is, again, lower overall than you would see with that of a standard Core i5 or Core i7 processor.
For example, the Yoga 3 Pro scored 2,977 in 3DMark Cloud Gate, and 202 in Fire Strike Extreme. By comparison, the HP Envy x360 scored 4,012 in Cloud Gate and 227 in Fire Strike; the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W-B5224 scored 5,089 in Cloud Gate and 295 in Fire Strike. The Yoga 3 Pro’s graphics performance isn’t bad, and will certainly be sufficient in tasks like Web browsing and streaming media, but if compared with one of these other systems, you would see it running slower.
The Core M CPU is essentially running at a lower clock speed to reduce power consumption and generate less heat. As a result, the Yoga 3 Pro has an edge when it comes to battery life, lasting an impressive 8 hours, 19 minutes, on our rundown test. That’s almost 30 minutes longer than the closest competitor, the Toshiba P55W-B5224 (7:51), and is all the more impressive when you note that other competing convertible systems didn’t even reach the 6-hour mark.
If picking out the best system were purely about performance, I’d recommend you opt for one that costs less than the Yoga 3 Pro but has a full-size laptop CPU— the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W-B5224, our Editors’ Choice for midrange convertible-hybrid laptops, for example. But if portability and battery life are primary concerns, the Yoga 3 Pro is well ahead, thanks to the Core M and the slimmer design it allows. Factor in its excellent display, solid feature set, and striking design, and this is one of the best ultraportables we’ve seen.
And our new Editors’ Choice for high-end convertiblehybrid laptops.