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Lenovo Yoga 3 14 review: This hybrid puts performance, price before high-end design

With better battery life and performance than the Yoga 3 Pro (not to mention a lower price), the Yoga 3 14 is one of the best hybrid deals around.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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4 min read

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 's design, with its watchband-like single hinge constructed of more than 800 individual pieces of steel and aluminum and fanless chassis measuring a mere 12.8mm thick, is strikingly different from its predecessors. The Yoga 3 14, on the other hand, is the computer manufacturer sticking with what works.

lenovo-yoga-3-15inch-01.jpg
8.2

Lenovo Yoga 3 14

The Good

The Lenovo Yoga 3 14 has all the flexibility of past Yoga hybrid laptops, going from clamshell to tablet and back again. The configuration options are very good for its sub-$1,000 price; it gets more than 8 hours of battery life; and has excellent performance for everyday, mainstream use.

The Bad

The display doesn't get very bright, which could be a problem for outdoor use. Its battery life, while excellent, is shorter than similarly configured models from Dell and HP.

The Bottom Line

With better battery life and performance than the Yoga 3 Pro (not to mention a lower price), the Yoga 3 14 is one of the best hybrid deals around.

Like past models, the Yoga 3 14 looks like a standard thin-and-light clamshell, but its two hinges allow you to rotate the screen 360 degrees back, turning it into a tablet. What's new for the line is the 14-inch screen size, which is all the more impressive because Lenovo squeezed it into a body roughly the size of a 13.3-inch model.

Also, instead of the Intel Core M processor found in the Pro, you get a choice of fifth-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors (Broadwell). The Pro's performance with the Core M was underwhelming as was the system's battery life. That wasn't the case here with the Yoga 3 14, which turned in both excellent battery life and performance for a sub-$1,000 convertible.

Configurations start at $799, but the build for this review was $919. In the UK, the pricing starts £650, but is £800 as reviewed. For Australia buyers, the price as reviewed is AU$1,299, though it comes with half the storage with a 128GB solid-state drive. If you can afford to spend a bit more, you can currently get a Yoga 3 14 with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U, 8GB of memory, 256GB SSD and a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 940M graphics card for $1,049. (This configuration isn't available in the UK and costs AU$1,899 in Australia).

Lenovo Yoga 3 14

Price as reviewed $919/AU$1,299
Display size/resolution 14-inch, 1920 x 1080
PC CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz
Graphics 3829MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5500
Storage 256GB SSD (128GB for AU model)
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Design and features

The Yoga 3 14 isn't as thin or as light or as stylish (though that's subjective, of course) as some of its competition or the Yoga 3 Pro. At 18.3mm (0.7 inch) and 1.7kg (3.7 pounds), it's still plenty portable, though.

The screen is a mixed bag. The extra work space is certainly a plus, especially in a body that looks and feels more like a 13-inch laptop. The 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution keeps text and graphics looking sharp and it's an IPS panel, too, giving you excellent off-angle viewing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Unfortunately, the display just doesn't get very bright. That wouldn't be so bad if the screen handled glare well, but it doesn't. While shutting off the system's adaptive brightness feature helps some, in the end anyone needing to use this regularly outdoors might want to pass.

The keyboard is spacious and generally nice to type on, though I found it a bit spongy and there's some slight flex in the middle. Also, to fit the vertical row of Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys, Lenovo shrank the Enter key as well as the right Shift. Touch typists might need some time to adjust. The keyboard is backlit, too, but has just two settings: on or off.

Below the keyboard you'll find one big clickpad with areas for left and right clicks, but no discrete buttons. It gets the job done, but you'll likely want to dive into the settings and fine-tune the sensitivity, palm check and multitouch gesture support to your liking.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the bottom left and right you'll find small speakers. They sound clear, certainly good enough for casual listening in quiet environments. They don't get very loud, even if you flip the keyboard back behind the screen so they fire up. For movie and music enjoyment, you're better off hooking up some headphones or a set of external speakers.

I know this sounds like a lot of caveats and, well, it is. But, for me, none of them are real deal breakers or are so frustrating that it prevented me from using or enjoying the Yoga 3 14. The screen brightness would be the biggest issue, especially if you plan to frequently use it outside.

Ports and connections

Video Micro-HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Optical None

Connections, battery and performance

Despite being bigger and thicker than the Pro version, Lenovo used the same port assortment for the two models. This includes a Micro-HDMI video output that will require either a male Micro-to-full-size HDMI cable or a dongle with a male Micro-HDMI and female full-size HDMI.

The Yoga 3 also has a USB 2.0 port that doubles as the power input, which is both good and bad. It gives you more functionality than a standalone laptop power jack and, since the cable is removable from the power adapter, the adapter can be used for charging other USB devices. A special USB cable is needed for charging, however, and the included one is just 6 feet long; plan on packing an extension cord for longer reaches.

Battery life came in at 8 hours and 5 minutes on CNET's video playback drain test. I was able to get through a full work day on a single charge, which mainly consisted of working inside of Google's Chrome browser while streaming music, with no worries. The harder you drive the system and the brighter you set the display, the less your battery will last.

Taken alone, that's some pretty good battery life. But when next to the similarly configured Dell XPS 13 (non-touch) and HP Spectre x360, it falls way short, with each getting 12 hours on CNET's drain test.

As for system performance, the Yoga 3 14 basically matched those two systems on CNET Labs benchmarks. The non-touch version of the Dell was slower at Photoshop, but that model has only 4GB of RAM, versus the 8GB in the other Broadwell systems.

If you don't run computer benchmarks as part of your daily routine, you'll be happy to hear that the Yoga 3 14 performed very well when doing real-life day-to-day tasks including web browsing with more than a couple dozen tabs open, light photo and video editing, streaming video or music and casual mobile games.

Conclusion

It might not have the style of the Yoga 3 Pro, but the Lenovo Yoga 3 14 more than makes up for it in battery life, system performance and price.

HandBrake Multimedia Multitasking test

Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch) 428Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen) 441HP Spectre x360 476Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014) 478Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) 577Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 682
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

HP Spectre x360 235Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) 238Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen) 243Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014) 253Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch) 263Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 263
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014) 76Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch) 112Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) 113HP Spectre x360 113Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen) 113Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 142
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video-playback battery-drain test

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014) 986Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch) 726HP Spectre x360 720Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) 485Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen) 422Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 346
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

HP Spectre x360 13t Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2015, non-touch) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 2,000MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 128GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014) Apple OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks ; 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U; 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1,536MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000; 128GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y60; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD

lenovo-yoga-3-15inch-01.jpg
8.2

Lenovo Yoga 3 14

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Battery 8
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