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Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro: Very good Ultrabook (review)

This new laptop is the very definition of the term Ultrabook.
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1 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Yoga 3 Pro by Lenovo

Ultrabook is the term Intel coined for thin, light laptops that are designed for the mobile professional. The term has faded somewhat with the appearance of hybrids or 2-in-1 laptops, but most are still familiar with what makes an Ultrabook.

The Yoga 3 Pro from Lenovo is the very definition of an Ultrabook, at half an inch thick and weighing less than three pounds. To achieve the svelte form, Lenovo made three interesting choices in the design.

Lenovo is pushing the envelope with the Yoga 3 Pro, a thin laptop with a high-resolution screen that rotates 360 degrees. The laptop is a joy to use due to the portability and good performance.

Three wise design choices

To get the Yoga 3 Pro down to the desired size, Lenovo made two unique design choices and another common one that work together to keep the laptop as thin as possible.

Having used the Yoga 3 Pro for a while, it is apparent that Lenovo made the right call with the Core M.

As a premium Windows laptop, buyers expect decent performance. Most OEMs go with an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, but that requires good heat dissipation and usually takes a toll on battery life. To deal with this, Lenovo has put an Intel Core M processor in the Yoga 3 Pro.

The Core M processor is designed by Intel to be a better mobile solution for laptops. It generates less heat than the more powerful Core ix processors, while still providing performance that is adequate for most applications.

I've used the Yoga 3 Pro for a while and it is apparent that Lenovo made the right call with the Core M. While it's not a fast processor, it handles typical work tasks with ease. It does this while generating very little heat, a big advantage over the Core ix processors.

Lenovo has confirmed to me that the laptop has a small fan, but it's either so quiet (or rarely comes on) that I haven't detected it during use. I thought the Core M in the Yoga must be fanless, it's so quiet. Operation has only generated a slight amount of heat, so little that it's never been a concern in my testing.

The other unique design choice by Lenovo is the "watch band" style screen hinge. Having six hinges for the lid allows Lenovo to keep the Yoga 3 Pro as thin as it is without compromising durability. The unique appearance of this hinge evokes either a love or hate reaction from those who see the laptop. I find it to be OK.

Operating the lid through the supported 360 degrees is smooth and feels very durable. The screen rotation permits using the Yoga as a laptop, stand, and tablet, as well as the tent mode that Lenovo is so proud of in its Yoga product line. The tent mode is an inverted V configuration that is comfortable for watching video and making presentations.

The third design choice that makes the Yoga 3 Pro work so well is the large bezel around the display. This is what allows Lenovo to spread the internal components around to keep the laptop so thin. This also yields a good space around the keyboard, which comes in handy when using the Yoga as a tablet.

Lenovo has covered the keyboard space with a textured rubbery material, which enhances the grip in tablet mode. It also supports handling the tablet without touching the exposed keys, which some folks don't like.

The big bezel makes the Yoga larger than many 13-inch laptops. When I first took it out of the box I thought the display must be 14 inches, and not the 13.3-inches I knew it to be. It's a good tradeoff, however, for the reasons stated.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro specs as reviewed:

Processor Intel Core M 5Y70 (1.1Ghz)
OS Windows 8.1
Display 13.3 inch (3,200 x 1,800); IPS
Memory 8GB
Storage 512GB SSD
Camera 720P (front)
Communications Wi-Fi (ac); Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 2- USB 3.0; microHDMI; audio; SD slot; DC-in w/ integrated USB 2.0
Audio JBL speakers (1.5W x 2)
Battery 44 WHr; 7.2 hours
Dimensions 13 x 9 x 0.5 inches
Weight 2.6lbs

The display on the Yoga 3 Pro is impressive. It displays at a resolution of 3200 x 1800. It's bright at 300 nits, although highly reflective. The IPS display has wide viewing angles to support using the laptop in virtually any environment.

The screen is one of the reasons the Yoga 3 Pro works so well as a tablet. It's easy to see and to work by touch. The thin form and light weight play a role in this, too.

The keyboard on the Yoga 3 Pro is typical of Lenovo. The keys have enough travel to provide tactile feedback for touch typists. The key layout yields no surprises. It is better than the keyboards found on most laptops, although not the best from Lenovo.

The trackpad is large enough to be good for operating the interface. It works smoothly and the clickability is decent. The combination of trackpad and touchscreen make operating Windows 8.1 slick and easy.

While the Core M provides better battery life than the Core ix processors, the battery life on the Yoga 3 Pro is on the borderline of acceptable.

The number of ports that Lenovo was able to cram in such a thin laptop is impressive. These include two USB 3.0s, microHDMI, SD card slot, and audio in/out. The special USB port used with the power adapter for charging is also a USB 2.0 port. The charging cable and port are notched to prevent accidentally plugging it into the conventional USB ports.

The 512GB SSD in the review unit is very fast. Large file operations zip along at an impressive speed. The Yoga 3 Pro is also available with a 256GB SSD at a reduced cost.

While the Core M provides better battery life than the Core ix processors, the battery life on the Yoga 3 Pro is on the borderline of acceptable. Lenovo claims 7.2 hours, and testing shows slightly less with real-world usage.

That's long enough for typical daily use, but travelers may find the Yoga running empty at the end of long days on the road.

Good for mobile professionals

Battery concerns aside, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is a good fit for mobile workers spending a lot of time out of the office. The thin and light laptop is easy to carry, and a versatile Windows Ultrabook. The display is outstanding, and the ability to use the Yoga 3 Pro as both a tablet and laptop is a bonus. The other two configurations possible with the screen’s ability to rotate 360 degrees allow efficient use in almost any situation.

The mobile processor keeps the Yoga running smoothly, even though it's not as powerful as other processors from Intel. This also keeps the laptop running as long as possible, although not as long as I’d like.

The Yoga 3 Pro is priced at $1,749 as reviewed, and a cheaper model is available with a 256GB SSD for $1,349. It is available from Lenovo and Best Buy.

Pros:

  • Good build quality
  • Extremely thin and light
  • Beautiful display
  • Four modes provide good versatility in the field

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Battery life needs to be longer

Reviewer’s rating: 9 out of 10

See also:

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2 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

From the side view you can see the extra space around the keyboard and just how thin the laptop is. The space around the keyboard is covered with a rubbery, textured material to make gripping it in tablet mode very secure.

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3 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro stand mode

Stand mode is good for watching video, particularly on trays during flights, and for giving presentations.

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4 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro tablet mode

While 13-inches is large for a tablet, the Yoga is surprisingly comfortable to use given its light weight and thin form.

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5 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro tent mode

Tent mode is good for watching videos, especially during flights.

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6 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro hinge

Borrowing a design from watch bands, Lenovo has added six hinges for added durability. A closeup of the hinge is on the following slide.

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7 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro hinge closeup

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Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro hi-res screen

The high resolution (3200 x 1800) of the Yoga screen makes it a joy to use.

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Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro keyboard/trackpad

The backlit keyboard is good, typical for Lenovo laptops.

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10 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ports, left side

It is impressive how many ports Lenovo was able to cram into this thin laptop. Ports on the right side are shown on the next slide.

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11 of 13 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ports, right side

The power port is compatible with USB, and doubles as a USB 2.0 port. This makes a total of three USB ports on this laptop.

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Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

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Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro flat out

The lid rotates a full 360 degrees, making it possible to lay it out flat as shown. Note how reflective the glossy display is on the Yoga.

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