Introduction and design
The Lenovo Yoga 3 14 (starting at $799, £649.99, AU$1,299) is a more powerful version of the incredibly popular Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro (starting at $1,099, £1,099, AUS$1,254). Both laptops feature a 360-degree hinge that can be rotated from a closed position to a fully open tablet position.
This flexibility, which Lenovo helped pioneer, created a new category of 2-in-1 or hybrid laptops that can be used in a traditional manner (i.e. with a keyboard) or as a standalone touchscreen tablet. The hybrid market, which is full of incredible laptops, is led by the stellar Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799, £639, AU$979), and other notable devices, like the Asus Transformer Book Chi T300 ($899, £601, AU$1,156).
Not to be outdone, Lenovo has a slew of fantastic devices that offer hybrid functionality, including the 11.6-inch Lenovo Yoga 11S (starting at $799, £599, AU$1,299) and the business-class Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 ($845, £558, AU$1077).
Somewhere in the middle of this crowded marketplace sits the Yoga 3 14, a device that is as pretty as any of its competitors, but too heavy and too weak to outclass the field.
The Lenovo Yoga 3 14 is built with a sleek plastic chassis that comes in a black, silver and white that feels ruggedized. Although the shell does gather plenty of dust and fingerprint smudges, it is gorgeous to look at and pleasant to touch. You probably won't want to drop this laptop – it only feels ruggedized – but it's definitely sturdy enough for everyday use and constant transport.
At 3.52 pounds (1.58kg), you likely won't want to lug this thing around with you to every appointment or meeting. Competitive devices on the market, such as the Surface Pro 3 (2.4 pounds with keyboard), Yoga 3 Pro (2.6 pounds) and the Transformer Book Chi T300 (3.14 pounds with keyboard) are noticeably lighter.
Don't be fooled though: the Yoga 3 14's larger format is also one of its virtues. At 13.18 x 9.03 x 0.72 inches (35 x 22 x 1.8cm, W x D x H), the Yoga is about an inch wider than the Chi and two inches wider than the Surface Pro 3. This will serve as a benefit to anyone who has to use the Yoga for work, or anyone who flips it over into tent mode or stand mode to watch movies or presentations on the crisp and vibrant full HD (1,920 x 1,080) screen.
The two metal hinges that allow you twist and bend the Yoga back and forth from tablet to laptop mode are sturdy and smooth. You won't need the Tin Man's grease to help you change positions, but you also won't feel as if one over-caffeinated nudge will send the upper panel flying off of the hinges.
Unfortunately, at 3.5 pounds and 13.18 inches, this device is way too heavy and wide to be used comfortably as a tablet. Don't worry: once you play with the device's keyboard and ClickPad, you won't feel the need to go into tablet mode. I've often been very critical of Lenovo's keyboards and pads, specifically the keyboards and TrackPads of the ThinkPad lineup, but you won't hear any complaints coming from me here.
This backlit beauty features chiclet-style keys that take up about half of the lower panel. The other half is dedicated to the flat and smooth ClickPad, which is outlined by a silver trim. Both the keys and the ClickPad are delightful to touch and view (in other words, they're light years ahead of the ThinkPad design).
Specifications and value
What separates the Yoga 3 14 from the Yoga 3 Pro is its fifth-generation Intel Core i5 processor. In order to make the Yoga 3 Pro as slim and light as it is, Lenovo used a fanless Core M processor, which isn't as powerful or fast as the Core i5. Later in this review, I'll further explore the difference between the two processors and whether Core i5 dramatically improved the Yoga 3 14's performance.
Here is the Lenovo Yoga 3 14 configuration sent to TechRadar for review ($949, £799.99, AU$1,350):
- CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U (Dual-core, 3MB cache)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
- RAM: 8GB DDR3L (1600MHz)
- Screen: 14-inch FHD LED AntiGlare Multitouch (1,920 x 1,080)
- Storage: 256GB SSD
- Ports: 2 USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 4-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, SDXC, SDHC), HDMI out, audio combo jack
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 A/C WiFi
- Camera: 720P webcam
- Weight: 3.5 pounds (1.58kg)
- Size: 13.18 x 9.03 x 0.72 inches (W x D x H)
Unlike the Surface Pro 3, the Transformer Book Chi T300 and the Yoga 3 Pro, the Yoga 3 14 only comes with a full HD screen. The Yoga 3 Pro outclasses all of these laptops with a 3,200 x 1,800 WHD+ screen. Aside from the Yoga 3 Pro, I doubt you'll really notice the difference between any of these screens, unless you're a photographer, videographer or graphic designer.
The Yoga 3 14 features the most up-to-date graphics card of the bunch (the Yoga 3 Pro and the Transformer Book Chi come with Intel HD Graphics 5300, while the Surface Pro 3 comes standard with a 4400 chip). Its wide selection of ports is comparable to the Yoga 3 Pro, but it's a tangible improvement over the Transformer Book Chi T300, which only has one micro USB 3.0, one mini HDMI and one microSD card reader.
Performance and features
I wanted to love the Yoga 3 14's performance. It's such a good-looking laptop, and I enjoyed performing casual tasks with it. However, when I went to run it through our gauntlet of benchmarks, the machine froze during 3DMark's Ice Storm test, which has never happened to any of the devices I've tested. I hoped this was an anomaly and that the suite of tests would prove this device worthy of even the most arduous tasks, but I was disappointed. Although the Core i5 processor put this device slightly above its competitors in some benchmarks, it wasn't able to offer enough of a tangible performance boost to make it stand out from the crowd.
Here's how the Yoga 3 14 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,468; Sky Diver: 39,315; Fire Strike: 572
- Cinebench CPU: 203 points; Graphics: 23 fps,
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,199 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 40 minutes
In our suite of benchmarks, the Yoga 3 14 performed on-par with the Yoga 3 Pro and the Surface Pro 3 in terms of gameplay. The Yoga 3 14 outperformed the Yoga 3 Pro and Surface Pro 3 in the 3DMark graphics test, with a Fire Strike score of 572, compared to the Yoga 3 Pro's 329 points, and the Surface Pro's 347 points. Unfortunately, this was only slightly better than the Transformer Book Chi's 516-point performance on the same test.
In the PCMark 8 test, the Yoga 3 14 finished with a speed that merited only 2,199 points. That's more than double the Yoga 3 Pro's 1,147 score, but just narrowly edges out the Surface Pro 3's 2,190 points and actually narrowly loses to the Transformer Book Chi's 2,273 points.
For gamers, the Cinebench graphics test proved that the Yoga 3 14 was capable of producing 23 frames per second, which is just slightly worse than the Surface Pro 3 (25 fps) and the Chi (25 fps), but better than the Yoga 3 Pro (13 fps).
The battery life on the Yoga 3 14 is better than its lightweight competitors. It scored a rating of three hours and 40 minutes on PCMark 8's battery life test, which is just slightly better than the Transformer Book Chi (3:37). However, that's much better than the Surface Pro 3 and its fourth-generation Core i5 processor (2:38), as well as the Yoga 3 Pro (2:57).
In terms of real-life usage, the Yoga 3 14 was able to play a YouTube video on 50% screen brightness and 50% volume for 7 hours and 30 minutes. This should encourage business users who would like to perform at least basic tasks during a workday without running to a socket every few hours..
Few laptops are going to look as good on your desk as the Lenovo Yoga 3 14 will. However, if portability is a major concern, and you don't want something weighing down your backpack, then you might want to purchase another hybrid laptop. Although the Yoga 3 14 is outfitted with a better processor than its competitors, its performance boost is negligible at best.
Other than the Dell XPS 13, there isn't another laptop out this year that looks as good as the Yoga 3 14. Its exterior is a gorgeous plastic that looks and feels rubberized. Its backlit, chiclet keyboard is a pleasure to use and stare at.
The laptop's metal hinges are smooth and sturdy, allowing you to rotate between laptop, tablet, tent and stand modes easily and without caution. And you'll love the laptop's long-lasting battery, which should help get you through the day while performing basic tasks.
Unfortunately, the Yoga 3 14 compromised the light weight of the Yoga 3 Pro for a bigger screen and a more powerful processor that, well, doesn't provide much more power.
For most users, the difference in performance between the Yoga 3 14, Surface Pro 3, Yoga 3 Pro and Transformer Book Chi T300 won't even be noticeable. So, unless you want a giant screen, it won't make sense for anyone to purchase a laptop that is significantly heavier.
Call me superficial, but I was rooting for this laptop the second I took it out of the box. It's so pretty and versatile that I wanted everything to go right, so that I could rush and tell my family and friends to order it.
Unfortunately, beneath the hood, this device performs on par with similarly priced hybrids that weigh a lot less. If you're like me and love the Yoga 3 14's design, you're probably better off spending a little bit more money on the lighter and slightly less powerful Yoga 3 Pro.