Lenovo has pushed its Yoga line forward once again with the Yoga Pro 3, a lightweight laptop with a stunning design that features a 360-degree hinge to double as a tablet.
The earlier Yoga 2 Pro introduced super-high resolution screens into a small form factor, which has been taken to the next level in the third-generation model thanks to plenty of power under the hood courtesy of the fanless Intel Core M chipset.
But while the specs, design and fancy new hinge arrangement sound great, just how flexible is this Windows 8 laptop, and is it worth dropping £1,295 of your hard-earned cash on?
It's very difficult to fault Lenovo on the design front, as it's a delight. At just 12.7mm thick when closed shut, the Yoga Pro 3 gives tablets a run for their money and certainly undercuts Microsoft's Surface 3 by a hefty chunk.
The outer frame of the screen and laptop underside are shielded by brushed metal that feels premium and strong. This runs with few deviations for a smooth finish that won't catch when sliding it in and out of bags or a cases. Despite the metal it doesn't feel too heavy, but at 1.2kgs offers a reassuring heft.
The special skill of the Yoga 3 Pro is that hinge mechanism, which has been designed from scratch and is comprised of more than 800 pieces of steel and aluminium to deliver a laptop-meets-tablet experience. It's flexible, like you've got to be for yoga exercises, get it?
The result is a hinge that allows you to open the laptop to any given angle where it remains, rigid, in its chosen position. Like other Yoga models the 3 Pro features four distinct positional "modes" - laptop, stand, tent, tablet - which all have their uses when working on the go. The hinge makes it really easy to assign these various positions, it's a triumph in modern laptop design.
The Yoga 3 also intelligently learns where the screen is in relation to the keyboard and switches the display accordingly. So in tablet mode that means the keyboard is shut off allowing easy handling like a tablet without activating keys on the back by mistake. This is a nice touch, but was sometimes slow to catch-up with the orientation of device.
To its sides the Yoga 3 Pro houses with 2 USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, micro HDMI and a headphones port as well as a power adapter port. Subtle volume up/down controls and the power button are also nestled to the side.
Display and sound
The 13.3-inch display clearly wants to dazzle by packing in the resolution. This IPS panel, which makes for decent angles of view, sees the Apple MacBook Air look archaic thanks to the Lenovo's 3200 x 1800 resolution on offer. That's the standard resolution whichever model you buy. Sure, it's not quite 4K - but going back to any other laptop with a lesser resolution feels almost like wearing someone else's glasses, it's not nearly as crisp.
The display looks fantastic and offers a 72 per cent colour gamut which gives punch, but it lacks a little in brightness. The top-end output is certainly less bright than some competitors and when out in daylight this can hinder viewing - especially when you start catching reflections, which plagued the photography process of this very review. That said, use the laptop indoors and there are few issues, as the brightness is more than good enough.
JBL takes care of the audio with its own built-in speakers (as the embossed logo in the rubberised interior shows), backed by MaxxAudio for tuning. The result is a decent sound - it won't beat a good Bluetooth speaker, but if you're without one and want music to fill a room it can manage that - although the speakers are on the bottom of the device (in laptop form) which isn't always ideal. Stand the Yoga 3 Pro in tent mode and that helps to maximise clarity.
Power and performance
The specs squeezed into this slither of a device are impressive. Whichever option you choose the processor, graphics, RAM and screen resolution are the same throughout.
That means Intel's latest Core M processor is on board, revving up at 1.1Ghz, which is backed by a whopping 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, Intel HD Graphic 5300 and 256GB of SSD storage. There's the option for a 512GB SSD also available.
But what does that mean in real terms? For standard use, even when in economy power mode, the Yoga 3 Pro keeps up with those day to day tasks. Jumping between a browser with over five tabs open, Microsoft Word, and with Adobe Photoshop open and images eating into that RAM, proved to be child's play. The laptop didn't glitch out once. Watching HD video with all that running can cause a ripple in performance, but nothing that'll really slow you down, but goes to show that Core M isn't quite Core i7 in its ability.
For more intense tasks the super-high resolution screen may seem somewhat mismatched with the Intel Core M processor too. You're not going to get top-spec games running at a workable frame-rate, for example, so only buy the Yoga 3 with the right expectations in mind. Part of the point of Core M is to shrink possible thickness, remove fan noise, and deliver ample power - but not the very most power available in today's laptop world.
The Yoga 3 Pro features the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi which means superfast download speeds are possible; we actually got faster downloads over the same connection as our MacBook Air. The hard drive may be a factor here too as the SSD on board is capable of 554MB/s read and 261MB/s write speeds. Lovely stuff.
Thanks to Intel's latest Core M processor the power efficiency of the Yoga 3 Pro lives up to Lenovo's claims of 7-hours on a single charge. The battery capacity is a step down from the Yoga 2 Pro, but longevity is greater on the 3 Pro thanks to that Intel chip. Smaller size, better performance - can't argue with that.
We found that with brightness turned down and battery saving mode switched on we actually got more than 7-hours of use. We were confident taking the Lenovo out for a day of work without the charger, which is kind of all you need, right?
For a slim laptop with such a high-resolution screen, we're fairly impressed, although the Lenovo still can't compare to Apple's 12-hour efforts from the MacBook Air. Less than 10-hours is current standard, so it will depend what's more important for you: something flexible, ultra-slim and with stacks of resolution, or something that can't offer such perks but which can go the extra mile when it comes to productivity.
Touch and type
The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro runs Windows 8.1, ideal for using via keyboard and trackpad, or making the most of the touchscreen. The versatility of multiple positions allows you to take full advantage.
The keyboard is plastic as usual and sits a little deeper set into the body. The result is a very flat typing experience which is to be expected from a laptop. The keys are responsive and well spaced for a totally natural experience that really is impressive for the slim form of the device.
The trackpad offers multi-touch responses but this did have its issues. This was one area where we realised how much more responsive the MacBook Air trackpad, that we use regularly, is. Often a two-finger click or scroll would take several attempts for the trackpad to recognise, which was frustrating but did leave us simply using the touchscreen instead.
Seeing Windows 8 run at such a high resolution has its benefits. Snapping screens in a line for multi-tasking was one of the best offerings, and something not as easily achieved on lower resolution panels. All programs ran smoothly even with multiples on screen at the same time.
Yoga Harmony is a built-in software which suggests programs to download for the various positional device modes. While this is a nice idea - suggesting mouse-friendly apps like Facebook in laptop mode but screen focused ones in stand mode, like YouTube - it's all a bit unnecessary. That said this does work well when opening a photo in, say, laptop mode and then switching to tent where it will automatically appears in full screen. A further extra that's not needed is your statistics of use, in each mode, compared to other Lenovo users.
There's certainly no shortage of extras pre-installed on the Yoga 3 Pro. You get - take a deep breath - McAfee LiveSafe, Lenovo Reach, Lenovo OneKey Recovery, Lenovo OneKey Optimizer, Lenovo Veriface Pro, Zinio, Amazon Kindle, Evernote and Yoga Chef. Now breathe.
While there's lot of stuff on there, the only software we used was Amazon Kindle and Yoga Chef. But just to try it in the case of the latter - we'd likely find recipes online in the long run.
Despite all this you can easily turn off or uninstall the various software so this bloat isn't too annoying. It's just effort that perhaps wasn't needed - having the software available to download and install if you want it might be a better way of doing things in future.
The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro shows off the company's new do-it-all hinge design and is a triumph in terms of versatility. But it's also a pricey bit of kit, tipping the scales at close to £1,300.
Considering the super slim design, the Yoga 3 Pro crams in impressive Intel Core M specs and flexes its muscles where it matters. The only exception is that battery life could go a little further - but it does the job for most of the day without the need to lug a charger about.
If you're looking for a versatile, super-slim device with few compromises, then the Yoga 3 Pro could well be for you. Yes there are the MacBook Air and Microsoft Surface devices of this world, which while more affordable, ultimately lack the flexibility of this Lenovo.
There's plenty to admire about the Yoga 3 Pro, assuming you have a large chunk of money spare for your laptop needs and don't need top-line Intel Core i7 specs. It's a design delight, and that will see it score big points with the masses.