Since the moment I saw Windows 8 I’ve been a proponent of the 2-in-1 PC. To me, buying anything that can replace two things seems logical. Instead of spending less money on two different devices, 2-in-1 buyers can pool their resources and get something of better quality. What’s more, there are no intricacies. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to keep your music and documents synced between two devices because there’s just one. Admittedly, while I like 2-in-1s, the notebook that can become a tablet craze has never really made sense to me. It’s why I never expected to like the $949 Lenovo Yoga 3 14.
A man can’t serve two masters, and the same is true of 2-in-1 notebooks. When buying a notebook users expect horsepower and screen real estate. Both of those things are at odds with what we want from a tablet. Tablets are supposed to have long battery life – and above all: be portable. I don’t think the Lenovo Yoga 3 14 necessarily reaches a balance between its two personalities, but it does come closer than most other notebooks have.
Lenovo Yoga 3 14 Review – Design
I’ve only ever owned two tablets: the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Microsoft Surface. I wanted the Kindle because the screen on my smartphone was way too small for me to be reading books on. I wanted a media tablet, something that I could watch Netflix on and cradle intimately as I finished the latest J.K. Rowling novel. Later on, I wised up, acknowledging that getting a tablet closer to what I expect from a notebook would mean productivity on the go. I tell you all this to put an emphasis on just how open I am to the 2-in-1 concept. It’s my opinion that these things – these Windows PCs with morphing powers – are our collective future. Boy does the Yoga 3 14 have some pretty futuristic features.
To be clear, none of those futuristic features involve looks. The Yoga 3 14 comes in black or silver. The black model I tested only really had two design flourishes. The first was a silver-etched Lenovo word mark. The only other thing that stands out are its two silver lid hinges.
The edges of the Yoga 3 14 are gently tapered to make it feel more comfortable in the hand when closed. Its entire body is made of a soft-touch plastic that looks basic, but feels extremely nice in the hand. Every port you need is on the left or right edge surrounded by tiny gently grooved plastic.
Large vents on the bottom cool the Lenovo Yoga 3 14. One set of vents face downward for when you’re in laptop mode. Another set face outward from the back so that the Yoga 3 14 can cool itself when you’ve used those attractive metal hinges to turn it into a tablet.
Opening the Yoga 3 14 reveals its keyboard deck, spacious trackpad and 14-inch display. Above that display is a single webcam. There’s no set of numbers off to the side because Lenovo has graciously used a lot of the keyboard deck to space out every soft, divine letter on its keyboard. The only flourish here is the metal lining around that trackpad.
Lenovo Yoga 3 14 Review – Internals
It’s true that most people buy something like the Yoga 3 14 because they’re looking for a familiar experience. The notebook is a tried-and-true form factor. We collectively understand it and know how to use it.
The Yoga 3 14 looks like a notebook. Perhaps, more importantly it has all the things that a notebook should have inside.
Those gently grooved edges house an army of good-to-have ports. On the right are two USB 3.0 ports, headset jack and a slot for adding or removing media from an SD card. On the right edge sits a power button, some necessary indicator lights, a Lenovo Connect button, a mute bottom, volume buttons, Mini HDMI and another USB 3.0 port. It’s almost as if Lenovo made each side of the notebook specifically for its two form factors. The left side for when you’re using it as traditional notebook, and the right is for when you’re using it for anything else. I’m not a fan of where that power button is, but it’s a personal preference, really. I hit it by accident a few times.
Forget what you know about power cables. For years, notebook users have been stuck tracking down expensive cables that work with nothing else. The Yoga 3 14 doesn’t have a power cable as you’ve ever seen it before. Instead, Lenovo followed what’s happening in tablets and smartphones and opted for a new USB power port. The little wall charger that comes with the Yoga 3 14 will have you thinking about how influential the iPhone and iPad really have been on the entire industry.
Inside the Lenovo Yoga 3 14 I tested was an Intel Core i5 Processor backed up by 8GB of RAM. Apps and games were stored on a spacious 256GB Solid State Drive. Booting the Yoga 3 14 took no time at all. Waking the machine up from sleep took even less time. Moving files or running every program I needed to run – Adobe Photoshop included – ran just fine. As a sort of torture test, I kept my regular Chrome browser regimen, opening at least 7 tabs at the same time. No hiccups, but I did hear a bit of fan noise. The trackpad texture and keyboard were superb. Don’t worry night-time writers, you can easily see both at night thanks to backlit keys and that metal rim around the trackpad.
The Yoga 3 14 comes with a 14-inch FHD LED display. It has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is a numeric way of saying that it looks absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t find myself distracted by too much glare and everything looked sharp and crisp – except Chrome, and that’s Google’s fault. Colors pop and whites are very, very white.
I was less impressed by the touchscreen’s performance. For the first few days, pushing that display into tablet mode worked out great. Over time I started to notice some issues with latency. I’d tap an element on the screen and it’d take way too long for it to register. As time went on, the issue became more noticeable. It all culminated in a software update that practically made the touchscreen unusable. It was disappointing for sure. Restarting did absolutely nothing to fix it, but rolling back the software update did.
Lenovo Yoga 3 14 Review – Experience
Living with the Yoga 3 14 day was mostly great. Again, this machine’s performance is absolutely stellar. Battery life is rated at about 7 hours by Lenovo. I easily hit that day after day. I’m honestly disappointed that I have to go back to my regular machine and chain myself to a power plug every 5 hours or so.
One thing I’ve always worried about with 2-in-1 notebooks is hinges. I always think about whether a hinge has enough tension to hold up to my taps and swipes in notebook mode. Again, not a problem for the Yoga 3 14. I also expected weight to be an issue, but it wasn’t. Any 14-inch tablet is going to be unwieldy, but the Yoga 3 14 wasn’t extra cumbersome.
What became a recurring theme was the buggy nature of the touchscreen and software experience. By now, I’ve become very used to Windows 8.1 and its quirks. What kept bothering me was all the extra software nonsense that Lenovo stuffed this PC with. Harmony is designed to make switching between multiple modes easier, but it just got in my way. Lenovo’s Message Center turned out to be mostly useless. What’s more, the PC had all of these non-essential third-party utilities that added nothing to the experience. Worse, they actually harmed the experience in some ways. First I had to take most of the stuff off. Second, the stuff I left on kept popping up instead of the default Windows apps. Windows has a PDF reader, users don’t need one from a third-party they’ve never heard of.
Lenovo Yoga 3 14 Review – Conclusion
I liked the Lenovo Yoga 3 14, which isn’t as big of an endorsement as loving it, but still decent. If you’re dead-set on the notebook 2-in-1 form factor it’s some decent hardware at a somewhat decent price. I wanted to love the Yoga 3 14, but I simply couldn’t. Issue with that touchscreen and the amount of random junk Lenovo installed had me wishing for a cleaner experience.
The Lenovo Yoga 3 14 is a terrific 2-in-1 Windows notebook. You’ll, just need to spend some time deleting some extras.