Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro: Australian Review

Laptops just made a quantum leap. Intel's new Broadwell chips make it possible for notebook makers to create incredibly thin devices with fanless designs, and these notebooks are finally starting to hit the market. Lenovo's new Yoga 3 Pro runs brand new top of the line hardware, and has an amazing hinge that lets it flip from laptop into tablet mode, or anything in between, at a moment's notice.

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What Is It?

Specifications
  • Screen Type: IPS LCD, 3200x1800 QHD+
  • Screen Size: 13.3-inch
  • CPU: Intel Core M-5Y70
  • GPU: Intel HD 5300
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3L
  • Storage: 256GB/512GB SSD
  • Battery: 44.8 Watt-hour
  • Connectivity: 3.5mm headset, 2x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, SDXC, microHDMI
  • Audio: 2x 1.5-Watt, JBL Audio

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, starting at $2099 and extending to a $2299 for a larger 512GB SSD variant, is a super thin laptop. Its 13.3-inch screen and bezel, along with its 60 per cent chiclet keyboard, push the Yoga's overall dimensions to 330x228mm, and when closed its maximum thickness is a MacBook Air-beating 12.8mm (the comparatively tubby 13-inch Air is 17mm thick). Nearly half of this comes from the screen, which has to be slightly bulkier to accommodate a touchscreen array, so when you open the Yoga 3 Pro prepare to be impressed by just how thin it is.

The Yoga 3 Pro doesn't disappoint when it comes to its external connectivity, although it does make a couple of compromises due to its size. You still get a full-size SD card reader, two USB 3.0 ports and a multipurpose combined headphone/microphone 3.5mm jack. Power, volume and screen rotation buttons are grouped on the Yoga's right side (in laptop mode). Those compromises are that the Yoga uses a microHDMI connector for A/V output — you'll have to carry an adapter with for presentations — and that the third USB port is actually also the laptop's DC power jack. There's also no mobile broadband connectivity built in.

This barely-there size and weight comes courtesy of Intel's latest fanless Broadwell mobile processors, which are very light on power usage while still offering everyday Ultrabook-esque computing performance. The Yoga 3 Pro runs a Core M 5Y70 processor, and these are no low-grade Atom chips; they're proper CPUs, with grunt roughly comparable to an Intel Core i5 like the one seen in the similarly convertible Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

Lenovo offers the Yoga 3 Pro in a few different finishes, and two price points for either 256GB or 512GB SSD storage variants. I road-tested the basic and business-friendly Platinum Silver, while a Clementine Orange alternative is available at the same $2099 price point. If you want Champagne Gold, you'll have to spring for the $2299 512GB SD, which is also possible to buy in the standard silver.

What Is It Good At?

Lenovo's 'watchband' hinge has to be the biggest talking point of the Yoga 3 Pro. With a mix of the same brushed metal as the laptop's lid and machined rotating links — like a fancy metal watchband — the hinge rotates nearly a full 360 degrees, transforming the Yoga 3 Pro from regular ol' laptop to super-skinny tablet in one consistent motion, allowing the not-so-useful 'tent' and 'stand' permutations along the way. It's that first 180 degrees of motion — from closed laptop to entirely flat display — that are by far the most useful, but tablet mode might come in handy if you want to watch a movie or TV show while commuting. The hinge is an engineering marvel, and while I was a bit worried about its durability it feels secure and stable during everyday use.

If the hinge is its largest talking point, the hardware hidden away inside the Yoga 3 Pro is an extremely close second; it's the first convertible tablet-laptop I've seen using the brand new Intel Core M processor and associated chipset. The CPU inside the Yoga is a Core M 5Y70, running at a maximum frequency of 2.6GHz for surprisingly quick performance, while being designed with a utterly frugal 4.5 Watt TDP.

It runs perfectly silently, and only gets acceptably warm during heavy use, but with results of 49,875 in 3DMark 1.2 Unlimited it's no slouch — beating out the 47,564 of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. This chip has roughly equivalent performance to a last-gen Ultrabook's Core i5 processor, but at less than one third of the power consumption and heat output; these are incredible results when we're talking about power efficiency and general computing performance. For everyday productivity — Web browsing, video watching, photo editing — the Yoga 3 Pro is perfectly suited.

The internal hardware of the Yoga 3 Pro really is top-notch. The internal 802.11ac Wi-Fi is the fastest I've tested in any non-Killer Wi-Fi laptop; I clocked 52MBps transfer rates from a Linksys WRT-1900AC router, which translates to excellent performance for everyday network file transfers and Web browsing. Having the power jack be a multipurpose USB 2.0 point comes in handy more often than you'd think.

Oh, and the screen. The 13.3-inch, 3200x1800pixel, multi-touch, glossy, super-bright screen. It's surrounded by a bezel that is thicker than I would have liked, but that's necessary to allow you to hold the Yoga 3 Pro in tablet mode; apart from that small inconvenience it's a nearly flawless display. Viewing angles are excellent, colour saturation and accuracy is great out of the box sans calibration, and over the ten steps from minimum to maximum brightness you get a hell of a lot of versatility. (This high maximum brightness and high resolution does take a big toll on battery life, but having the potential when you need it is the important part.)

What Is It Not Good At?

Lenovo has always had a tiny skew towards business users, so it's slightly disappointing to not see a 3G/4G mobile broadband modem integrated into the chassis of the Yoga 3 Pro. I'm the kind of person that always carries around a Wi-Fi hotspot, and I'd happily do away with that if I could use that SIM directly in the Yoga instead. Maybe in a future model, Lenovo? (Hint, hint.) Similarly, I found SD cards to fall out easily from the side-mounted SDXC slot. Otherwise, build quality, fit and finish are excellent.

Windows laptops' trackpads are rarely excellent, and are often the weakest point in any thin and light design. The same is true of Lenovo's Synaptics-derived ClickPad on the Yoga 3 Pro — it's functional, but doesn't have the same brilliance and effortless ease of use that is the hallmark of any Mac or MacBook touchpad. At roughly 90x60mm it's perfectly sized for everyday use, and has a tactile click across the entirety of its surface area, but there are a few niggles to its usability — swipe and you won't be able to tap the trackpad straight away, for example. It's OK, but there are better trackpads out there.

Being so thin and so light, this isn't a laptop that you can extract an entire day's full-power battery life from. If you lower screen brightness to its minimum level, it's possible, but in more realistic settings you're going to be able to extract moderate battery performance. The Yoga 3 Pro clocked 6 hours and 42 minutes in our battery Torture Test, where we loop a 720p video at half screen brightess with Wi-Fi enabled, but the Torture Test Extreme cut that in half to a not-so-impressive 3 hours and 15 minutes.

When Ultra Power Saving Mode is enabled, you really do notice the hit to the Yoga 3 Pro's performance as the system tries its utmost to eke the longest usage possible. Type a sentence fast and you'll notice the cursor lags very slightly behind; this is the Core M processor saving clock cycles and making the most of its minimum power state. It's very useful, but when it automatically enables at the 20 per cent you won't be doing any serious work unless you disable it.

Should You Buy It?

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
85

Price: from $2099

Like
  • Incredibly thin body.
  • Capable everyday performance.
  • Excellent screen, build quality.
Don't Like
  • Mediocre trackpad.
  • High brightness kills battery life.
  • No integrated 3G/4G.

The $2099 Yoga 3 Pro is, when you pick it up and type on it and use it, an amazing piece of computing hardware. The new Core M CPU is surprisingly powerful given its utterly miniscule power output, and the integrated GPU is no slouch compared to previous Intel offerings. All of this, in a design that doesn't get hot and burn your lap, is a pretty attractive package.

Battery life is pretty damn impressive as well in its context, when you consider that there's barely more volume than a Surface Pro to hide away a similarly sized nearly-45Wh cell. Where the Yoga 3 Pro makes its mark is with how incredibly efficient it is with that power in its processing and computing — this is a laptop where battery life is almost entirely determined by the brightness of the screen. If you're willing to work with a dim display, you can eke Macbook Air-beating figures out of the Yoga's equally svelte body.

Even the keyboard is excellent, which is a godsend given the thinness of the notebook and given Lenovo's storied history in this area. If you don't mind chiclet keys, the typing experience is excellent. (I typed this entire review on the Yoga 3 Pro, and didn't stumble nearly as much as usual as on other thin and light laptops.) The trackpad is less brilliant, but a little bit of software tweaking fixes most of its issues quickly.

At the start of this year, I bought the LG Ultra PC — a MacBook Air for the everyday Windows user — because of its ultra-slim chassis and the simplicity of its design. Ten months on, I have a new object to focus my affection upon, and that's the Yoga 3 Pro. There are a few small things that I'd change, but they're minor at best and don't stop me from giving Lenovo's newest top of the line laptop my most wholehearted recommendation. It's expensive, but you get what you pay for.


Comments

    Why do PCs like this even bother with a trackpad any more? It's got a touchscreen FFS! Trackpads are worthless, always have been.

      I use a wired mouse or wireless trackball and would like an option of a keyboard without a trackpad.

        I'd be spewin' if I didn't have a track pad, I don't want to keep poking the screen all the time it's inefficient.

          No, it is far more efficient.

            no its far more inefficent to touch the screen. Obviously you have never used a fully fledged laptop with a touch screen. It takes large, slow long distance movements to interect with the screen. With a touch pad you only move your finger in a fraction of a second, not your whole bloody arm!

    So this vs the Surface Pro 3, where do you guys sit? Anything that completely blows the other away with? Just looking to see why I would get this over the SP3 or vice versa.

      OK, honestly, for me it is a really tough decision.

      I'm an unabashed Surface fanboy, I had one of the first Pros in Australia. I really like the form factor. I have a Pro 2 lying around here somewhere along with a bunch of Touch and Type Covers.

      But if I was buying a device today, I'd choose the Yoga 3 Pro over the Surface Pro 3. It has a much newer processor, a larger screen, an equally large battery, the convenience of an attached keyboard. It's just a little bit more practical. And dat hinge.

        I don't know how practical it is but the hinge looks stupid. Still, I think the extra USB 3 port alone would be enough to tip the balance in favour of this over an SPro 3.

          Have to agree, the hinge is ugly. If you want to see a beautiful hinge, look at the Thinkpad Yoga (http://shopap.lenovo.com/au/en/laptops/thinkpad/yoga-series/?ipromoID=auow_pub_mml_yogaseries) - that's elegant, strong, and functionally identical (full 180 degree rotation).

        Does the Yoga have digitizer support?

        I've owned a new Yoga pro 3 and returned it after one week. Although the design and build is very good the cpu and battery performance are terrible. For me it was unusable. Happily back to a surface pro 3.

        Dude, I'm still rocking a surface pro 2, you should send me all your covers. Yes.

        All joking aside, I've never really liked the fully-attached convertables, although I had a play with this laptop the other day and I'm suitably impressed. I think though, I'd still choose the Surface Pro 3 over it. I REALLY prefer not having buttons flexing under my fingers when I'm holding my computer in tablet mode, and being able to prop it up without having a huge footprint is something I really like (Like when I'm cooking, I can fit my surface pro 2 on my windowsill out of harm's way - with a laptop, it would be half hanging off, with all the weight hanging OVER the sill. Not ideal.)

    I've been waiting for Core M Ultrabooks to arrive for awhile now, but this one isn't it..! From memory the battery has only 3 cells, and doesn't last much longer than a few hours because that high spec screen just chews it up. The ASUS Zenbook UX305 Core-M has 6 cells and last a lot longer. Hoping for a review soon Campbell..! :)

    I start twitching every time I see one of your review photos of shiny new tech sitting on some kind of wall or pavement x.O

      Oh, I was throwing this thing around as I was walking back to the office. Almost dropped it, too.

    Actually looks really nice, but that price is a bit too high :(

      That's just it, looks nice but don't try using it for any type of serious work.

    I'm in love with the Clementine Orange version. The Yoga design had always appealed to me (I have an 11" Dell that unashamedly ripped off the Yoga form-factor) and that 3200x1800 screen sounds gorgeous. Sadly the price is a bit too high for me to justify purchasing one just yet. I'll be interested to see what street prices are like though. As soon as its on sale somewhere it will be mine!

    I have waited for a laptop like this for a while now. So I bought one a couple of days after they were available.
    Things to note:
    -There is a fan, small and tiny and no vents on the bottom but there is a tiny vent and noise near the hinge.
    -The track pad rattles a bit it is quite loose, annoying but half the track pads in JB also did it..
    -The super high res is awesome and sharp except when it's not.. Some apps have blurry icons as they don't scale.. Skype and youtube are very small as they don't scale..

    The weight and strength are pretty impressive though!

      trackpad on mine is seemless and its 4 days old as i write this. sorry to hear about yours :-(

    Yet another crappy trackpad? Why can't manufacturers incorporate good trackpads?

      Amen. These giant button click-pads are horrible.

      IT HAS A TOUCHSCREEN!!!! Why do they bother with trackpads at all? They are all absolutely horrible because they don't map 1:1 with the screen.

    For those who are interested I went to the effort of going and playing with one of these yesterday as I'm looking to pick up a new Ultrabook before Feb next year. Major points in no particular order:

    * Trackpad is annoying as hell (I think apple have ruined us all for trackpads I'm afraid)
    * Balance/placement of keyboard is wrong (possibly again because of the trackpad)
    * Finishes are quality and cool
    * Very light and solid feeling
    * Hinge only suits the orange one (but is kind of funky)
    * You dont actually notice the hinge that much unless you're really looking
    * Keyboard on the back when folded (tactile single key give) absolutely ruins it as a tablet
    * Balance of the bezel on the front makes it look wonky as a tablet
    * No digitiser... I'm pretty sure.

    I wont be buying it. While it promised to be an awesome design, they get the balance of features wrong. It seems to be the way with these devices that are trying to be super funky. Maybe next time around :).

      Did you check the battery size and configuration..? Three cells, make for a crappy battery life..! And the price..? :)

      Last edited 07/11/14 8:07 am

    Have you seen Microsoft's add for this comparing it to a MacBook Air? Great ad. Don't know whose doing these for MS but man do they work. Beautiful machine but that price tag is going to do it in.

      That ad is for he Surface Pro 3, not this, so it's obviously not as effective as MS would hope.

      I have owned both and recently returned the Y3P. Looks great and has a hinge but isn't even close to a MBA in performance or battery life. You're much better off with a surface pro 3.

    No mention of the missing separate function key row on the keyboard, when there's oodles of space for one? As a heavy Excel user, combining the number key row with the function key row was a deal-breaker for me. Ended up with a Surface Pro 3 instead.

    Having not owned either, how is the touch capability on this and the surface? From memory I saw a guy present in a meeting with a Yoga (unsure of model) and he struggled to click on the icons and folders... thoughts?

    like majority of the comments above, i cannot justify spending this much money on a laptop (not for my work/personal usage anyway)

    Just bought the yoga 3 pro and my initial impressions have been good. But there is one thing niggling at me; lenovo claim that the keyoard deactivates after screen is tilted back (approximately) 180-190 degrees - my keyboard doesnt deactivate until its literally almost fully around in full on tablet mode! :-/
    Anyone else had/having this problem??

    1. It turns off by itself frequently and there's nothing you can do about it
    2. Battery life is NOT what it says it is. It will last a max of 2-3 hours if you do what you do on an average computer
    3. IT WILL FREEZE EVERY FUCKING TIME YOU MOVE IT a liiiittle jostle and poof! u gotta restart :)

    These are the major problems but ohhhh boy u will find more once u buy this fucker ;)

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