This is my review of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro-1370 after six weeks as my primary computer. The Yoga 3 Pro is Lenovo’s interesting and convertible premium laptop/tablet/tent hybrid.
I bought the laptop during the Lenovo malware/crapware scandal. Lenovo has since promised to stop bundling third-party malware on their laptops that can put their users’ security at risk. Good for them. For my purposes, I chose to reinstall Windows 8.1 Professional to get a clean system. I ran with that for three weeks and have since done another clean install of Windows 10. Which should give this review some unique perspectives.
It looks and behaves like a normal laptop. Lounging on the couch, you can wrap the screen around on the back of the laptop and use it as a tablet. Grabbing it out from your bag, you can jot down a quick note using the touchscreen without needing a place to set it down to use the full keyboard. Or put it standing up on a table as a “tent” to watch Netflix or show a presentation without needing table space for the laptop’s base to rest on. The Yoga 3 Pro offers a lot of options and is a strong competitor for productivity tasks to any tablet or even your phone on-the-go.
The exterior chassis comes in a variety of colors. I went for the gray magnesium-like option as I think it looked the most elegant. The braver orange was a strong contender. The surface feels solid but gives off an unsatisfactory hollow sound when tapped with a fingernail. The outer edges along the screen and the front of the base camouflages a protective bumper coating. I haven’t dropped the laptop yet, but I sure will appreciate it.
The main inner surface surrounding the keyboard is covered in a rubbery material with small round indentations in it. After a month of use, it’s clear that the small indentations are there to collect palm grease and dust. As an added inconvenience they make it harder to clean the surface than most laptops. On the flip-side, it’s a much more comfortable hand-rest than the cold aluminum bodies of a MacBook Air or the cheapest-possible-plastic of most comparable laptops. (More on this in the touchpad section.)
The display is gorgeous. It features a 3200×1800 pixels high-resolution 29.5 × 16.5 centimeter glossy LED screen. The display has a responsive multi-touch screen supporting up to ten-touch points simultaneously. Thanks to the unique hinge, the display can be folded back and the laptop used as a tablet. Lenovo also promotes other convertible options like stand mode and tent mode. These are kind of ridiculous, except maybe for the tent mode: The laptop is folded open like a tent, and the screen is automatically rotated 180°. This comes in handy when used as a movie watching screen for a group of people.
When in the tablet or tent modes (keyboardless modes) you switch between apps with the swipe gesture common to all Windows tablets. You can also start new activities by clicking on the Home button underneath the screen. Not being part of the actual touch sensitive screen surface, however, the Home button isn’t very responsive and can require both force and prayers. It’s definitely a capacitive touch button, but of a completely different build quality than the screen itself. I’ve to push the thing hard with the whole surface of my thumb centered on the button for it to react. Sometimes I imagine hearing the plastic or maybe the hinges crack a bit from the pressure required to operate the button. I’ve learned to swipe in from the left to find the Start button instead of using the Home button. Owners of the first Microsoft Surface models might recognize this experience.
One noteworthy drawback with the convertible design is that I’ve almost snapped one MacBook and a ThinkPad X1 Carbon in half trying to convert them to tablets for reading. Getting a convertible laptop with a foldable screen is a decision that will be hard to move away from once you’ve gotten used to it.
Lenovo should have stuck a microfiber cleaning cloth for the screen in the box. The touch screen gets dirty and greasy quite easy. It’s easy to clean off, but it would have been a nice low-cost gesture.
Connecting or disconnecting a Micro-HDMI results in the laptop being unusable for half a minute while it tries to detect displays and reallocates graphics resources. This is the one place with daily use that you’ll notice a drawback with the high-resolution display on the underpowered-for-the-purpose Intel HD Graphics 5300 chipset.
The Intel Core M Processor (M-5Y71 1.20GHz 1600MHz reviewed) performs great for most normal tasks you can throw at it. The more limiting factor will probably be the graphics card. This can be mitigated by lowering the screen resolution, if you’re willing to sacrifice beauty for performance for games and video/batch photo editing. I saw much improved battery life and more beautiful graphics while streaming games to the laptop from a more powerful computer using the Steam game platform’s In-Home Streaming feature.
Windows 8.1 requires the Lenovo Settings app from the Windows Store. The Settings app will prompt you to install a Driver Dependency Package before most of the tablet hybrid functions work. (The dependency package contains Lenovo’s ACPIVPC drivers, for those looking for them.) Some things you’ll get with the app is automatic disabling keyboard and backlit when switching to tablet mode, automatic screen rotation to fit all the different use modes, and always-on USB power charging. On Windows 10, these functions are handled by the operating system, but installing the app and driver package will provide the remaining subset of functionality. I dislike locking down drivers and hardware functionality to the Windows App Store, as a Microsoft Account will be required to download it.
Of the other bundled software, the only one worth a second look is the Lenovo OneKey Optimizer. It can perform some standard clean-up and performance tasks on the system. It can also suggest and perform some tune-ups to Windows settings that will give you better performance and batter life. More interestingly, it can perform battery calibration and maintenance tasks. If you never disconnect your laptop from the charger, OneKey Optimizer can also put the battery in a conservation mode to give it a longer expected lifetime. The conservation mode keeps the battery at a 50 – 60 percent charge, which is a better operating condition for the battery chemistry. Finally, the program can put the battery in long-term storage mode if you don’t intend to use the laptop for a while. Given the relatively high price tag and on and thus commitment to this laptop, the latter modus is probably not that relevant for this model.
The physical power button continues the disappointing hardware button trend on the Yoga 3 Pro. It is smallish and located on the right side of the base. Unfortunately, it’s positioned right beside the volume up and down keys, which feels exactly the same to the touch. As you lift the device up to convert it into one its fancier modes or if you just want to carry it around in the current mode: you’re very likely going to push the power button by accident. A quick push will send the laptop into sleep mode, but if you’re unlucky and you’ve to carry it from one room to another you may hold it in long enough to make it power off entirely. I can only assume Lenovo user tested the Yoga 3 Pro exclusively on users who lift their laptops from the left edge and not the right edge.
The three USB ports are all USB 3. Meaning they provide fast data transfers and charging speeds from your devices. No more hunting for the one fast charging port as with my old first-generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon! (Or pretty much any other laptop featuring only one USB 3 port amongst many lesser ports.) This is kind of a small thing, but it’s a big thing when you realize that your phone only has half a charge because you stuck it in the wrong port for the little time you’d available to charge it. Using the Lenovo Settings app you can also enable always-on USB which allows you to charge devices off the laptop even when it’s turned off or sleeping.
One of the USB ports also doubles as the charging port. Leaving you with an effective two USB ports while charging. The charging port has a little unstandardized shape to prevent you from sticking the charger into any of the other two ports. It will only fit in the one intended for charging. Any other USB cable will fit and work in the charging port. Unfortunately, the battery takes hours to charge using this practical charging port.
The keyboard is backlit when in laptop mode. There’s nothing bad to say about the keys themselves. They are a bit harder than is common amongst laptops these days. They have no bounce at all and make a satisfactory little tap noise when pressed. The Space key can occasionally get stuck and may require some extra mashing to crush whatever particle of dust is stuck underneath it. The keys rest in a recessed area of the main inner surface. They are widely spread instead of made larger as on most keyboards you’ll find on this sized laptops. This makes the keyboard quite easy to clean.
The row of function keys is entirely missing. Instead you’ve to hold the Function key and use the top row of numbers. Special purpose keys like Home, End, and volume controls are also relegated to other keys.
On the Norwegian keyboard layout, this also results in some other oddities like the pipe key being located on the far right of the keyboard instead of the far left as is normal. This makes shell work and programming a bit weird but isn’t a big problem. After a month, though, it still takes me a few seconds to locate the key. On Norwegian keyboard layouts, the Right Alt key is used as a composition key. You hold it pressed along with another key to produce some special letters. Unfortunately, Lenovo has stuck the Print Screen button right next to the Right Alt key. Needless to say, my Pictures folder is full of accidental screenshots as I’m busy trying to type an é.
I’m not a fan of having the Shift key positioned immediately beside the Up key. Both key faces has an arrow up icon and are roughly the same size. It’s easy to press the wrong one from quickly glancing down and scanning for the up icon.
Right-clicking on the touchpad in Windows can be hard even when pressing on the zone marked for right-clicking. It seem to much prefer left-clicking. This seem to be a Windows-only problem, as this behavior cannot be seen when running Linux. I’m not deducting any points for it as it could be a configuration issue but it’s hard to tell. An unexpected productivity boost came from having a distractedly different texture on the touchpad and surrounding surface. On an all-aluminum MacBook or a cheap-plastic touchpad and cheap-plastic base surface laptop, I find myself rubbing the wrong surface and not noticing it. This no longer happens as I now feel the difference right away. I’ve got slightly reduced fingertip sensitivity due to 25-years of fingertip glucose tests. So thanks for — possibly accidentally — thinking about accessibility, Lenovo!
Some long-time Lenovo laptop fans might miss the pointing stick usually found smack in the middle of classic Lenovo keyboards. The Yoga series doesn’t have one, and I’ve never liked using them. They don’t make much sense on a laptop with a good touchpad anyway.
It’s a great laptop hybrid for anyone who spends a lot of time with their laptop. It’s absolutely overkill for the casual user, as the Pro name would suggest. It’s a solid and good design with many details that makes it worth the price. It’s definitely a Lenovo laptop; in other words.
- Laptop/tablet touch hybrid done right
- USB 3 all the way
- Gorgeous display
- Backlit keyboard
- Slow to charge
- Power button placement cause accidental power cycles
- Home button below the screen is unresponsive
- Underpowered CPU/GPU given the premium price tag
There will be a follow-up article with how the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro fares under Linux. I dual-boot and have made notes on some of the issues I ran into along the way. Keep an eye out for that early next week. Update: It’s out!
Update (): It’s been three years and the Yoga 3 Pro haven’t fared too well. Read all about it in my three-years later re-review!