- Good keyboard
- Plenty of storage
- Ethernet port
- Screen rotates through 360 degrees
- Moderate-quality screen
- Average battery life
Lenovo's Yoga 500 range of laptops starts at £339.99 (inc. VAT, or £283.32 ex. VAT) -- a price that might have significant appeal to businesses looking to rein in their IT spending over the coming year.
The Yoga brand needs no introduction, with the stunning Yoga 900 earning our plaudits, and the innovative Yoga Tab 3 Pro also impressing us in recent months. Does the convertible Yoga 500, with its 360-degree screen hinge, generate similarly positive vibes?
It's probably no surprise, given the price, to learn that the Lenovo Yoga 500 is short on 'wow factor'. It's no brick by any means, but it does weigh 1.8kg (3.96lbs), making it quite a hefty travel companion.
It's thin enough at 21.5cm, but there are fair-sized bezels surrounding the screen. Our review sample was the 14-inch version (there is also a 15-inch model available), with bezels measuring 14mm at the sides and 24mm at the top and bottom.
The reason for the bezel size, we assume, is because of the 360-degree hinge mechanism that allows you to turn the screen right over and face it outermost to work in tablet mode (as well as 'tent', 'stand' and conventional laptop modes).
A sizable bezel means that your fingers don't prod the screen while you're holding the Yoga 500 in tablet mode, but it's unlikely you'd want do this for any length of time. That 1.8kg is too much to carry tablet-style for long, and the overall footprint of 340mm by 235mm is too big for ergonomic handheld tablet use. It's considerably taller and a fair bit wider than an A4 pad, making tablet mode impractical.
The wide bezel is irritating when working in laptop mode too. We found it quite visually distracting.
Still, what the bezel does do is give the laptop a relatively wide base, and that means there's plenty of room for the keyboard. The Fn keys are half height, but no problem to use. The distinctive main Lenovo keys, with their overhanging belly giving a slightly enlarged profile, are comfortable to use, although the heavy-handed typists will notice a bit of flex in the keyboard base. The touchpad is large and we found it responsive. It can be disabled with one of the function keys.
A keyboard backlight with two brightness levels can be toggled using the Fn key and spacebar.
There's a brushed-metal finish to the base, but don't let that fool you: the whole chassis is made from plastic. There's a bit of give in the wrist-rest area, but it's nothing more than we'd expect to see. Both the wrist rest and the reflective screen bezel attract finger-grease, so if you like a clean machine you'll be reaching for a cloth regularly.
There's a bit of give in the lid and we'd recommend a carry case or bag with a separate compartment to help keep this laptop safe in transit.
While the insides of our review sample were black, Lenovo sent us a review unit with a pearly white lid and base. There's also a red version and, you may be pleased to know, a more demure black one.
The hinges are quite tight, which means opening the Yoga 500 to get working is a two-handed job. It also means that the lid stays put when you have it at wide angles or propped up in 'tent' mode.
Our review unit's 14-inch touchscreen had a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, which is the maximum available (the entry-level £339 model comes with a 1,366-by-768 pixel display). It's very reflective, which we found rather distracting; also, viewing angles are not the best, and the maximum brightness level is lower than we'd like.
The Yoga 500 suffers from poor weight distribution between the lid and keyboard sections, so that when working in standard laptop mode even quite light prods of the screen cause the whole unit to want to tilt backwards. Moreover, heavy-handed screen tapping on the lower third of the screen may push the whole laptop away from you.
The processor in our review sample was a 2.3-2.8GHz Intel Core i5-6200U with 8GB of RAM. Depending on the configuration you choose, this can be raised to a 6th-generation Core i7, although you can't boost the RAM beyond 8GB.
Our review unit came with Windows 10 Home and had a generous 1TB SSHD. If you need a laptop for belting out high-volume audio presentations then the Yoga 500's stereo Dolby Home Theatre speakers might appeal. These deliver plenty of volume, and there's an equaliser with presets for movie, music, gaming or voice as well as the ability to personalise settings and even simulate surround sound. Audio quality is pretty good, although you do lose bass tones when at full blast.
It's surprising, and pleasing, to find a wired Ethernet connector on the Yoga 500. There are three USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0, a full-size HDMI port and a headset jack. There's also a SD card reader. When the keyboard is covered because you're working in tablet mode, you can use a very narrow volume rocker and a small screen rotation lock button on the left edge.
Battery life is reasonable but ultimately disappointing. Half a morning's steady work reduced the charge level to 65 percent, at which point we were told there were 2 hours 21 minutes remaining. At this rate you might make it through a working day -- depending, of course, on how demanding you are of the processor and how long your working day is.
You can't expect a top-notch laptop for the price Lenovo asks for the Yoga 500, particularly at the entry level. There's plenty of storage, the keyboard is comfortable to use, and the ability to rotate the screen through 360 degrees may appeal. However, the display resolution isn't great, build quality is average, and some might find that the battery life comes up short.