Lenovo Yoga 300
£299 inc VAT • lenovo.com/uk
Asus may have established itself as the master of budget hybrids whose screens pop off, but Lenovo has staked a similar claim on hybrids whose screens flip around. There’s a whole dynasty of Yoga laptops of this design, and the 11.6in Lenovo Yoga 300 is the most affordable of the lot. It’s not flashy and expectations of screen quality need to be realistic to avoid disappointment. However, few hybrids or tablets can cope with deal with the limited space of train and airplane tables as well as the Yoga 300.
The Yoga 300 is the most laptop-like of the two very broadest of hybrid categories. Its screen doesn’t detach, but the hinge lets it flip around almost 360 degrees, turning a laptop into a chunky tablet. Don’t think of this as just a laptop plus a bizarrely chunky iPad, though. Part of the appeal is that the screen can sit at all sorts of angles in between. It will sit at the right angle for you to watch TV in bed, or in its ‘tent’ arrangement will even fit on one of those tiny train seat tables.
A fixed hybrid may be more useful than you might imagine. The hinge is solid, as is the rest of the build. Rubberised sides around by the connections should also make it a bit less prone to damage from bumps, and there’s no serious flex to the keyboard.
The Yoga 300 has none of the flashiness of the Yoga 900 from the outside, though. It’s plastic and thick at 22mm. It is still ultraportable though, weighing 1.39kg and occupying a footprint still radically smaller than a full-size laptop. There are smaller and lighter 11in models out there, but this is still something you could take around with you.
Inside, this Lenovo looks surprisingly similar to the much more expensive Yoga laptops. There’s a certain character to the design of the keyboard and trackpads that’s pleasantly consistent, and the keyboard surround is metal rather than plastic. Among sub-£300 laptops, it’s a plush interior.
Keyboard and trackpad
It’s a pity the quality of the keyboard itself hasn’t made the transition too. Key feedback is soft, leading to an unsatisfying typing feel. This is a problem when having a full keyboard is one of the only reasons to buy this over a normal tablet. Granted, it is still much better than a virtual keyboard, but the Dell 11 3000 laptop has a much better one. Typing feels vague, although once you’ve bedded into this feel the well-sized keys should make accurate typing easy enough.
The trackpad makes a good mimicry of the more expensive Yogas too, using a plastic surface that feels similar to the frosted glass used in the priciest machines. Lenovo hybrids and ultrabooks routinely have serious driver problems with their trackpads, but we’ve experienced no major problems here. While smaller than the pad you might see on a 13in style laptop, it feels and looks good.
The Yoga 300 doesn’t have all its drivers nailed down, though. We’ve had major problems with the hybrid’s Wi-Fi. Your experiences may vary, but our review unit repeatedly refused to connect to our test router, only succeeding a small fraction of the time.
Attention Lenovo doesn’t put into some of the final software touches are repaid in part with surprisingly comprehensive
connectivity. The Yoga 300 has three USB ports (one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0), an Ethernet port, HDMI socket and an SD card slot.
A lot of diminutive laptops use smaller connectors and fewer USBs, while this one has what you might get in a 15.6in laptop. This one is ready to become the brains of a desktop PC, although we’d recommend looking for something with a Core i processor if you want anything that feels remotely like desktop-grade power.
While at this price you’ll find tablets with excellent screens, the display is much more like that of a cheap laptop. It uses a TN LCD panel, which is hardly ever used in tablets anymore because of its poor viewing angles. Look at the Yoga 300 from some angles and images appear full of shadows, with distorted colour. This restricts the appeal of the 360-degree hinge a little, but it tends to look reasonable when you’re the only viewer. Just don’t expect this to act like a satisfying mini movie screen.
It’s too small for such a task anyway. As a portable device it has a dinky 11.6in display, with a 1366x768-pixel resolution. As with the panel type, this is poor compared with almost any standalone laptop, but sits perfectly happily among budget laptops. Up close pixellation will become clear, but it’s not too obvious if you use the Lenovo Yoga 300 as a laptop.
Colour performance is predictably bad, covering just 57.3 percent of the sRGB colour gamut, 39.5 percent of Adobe RGB and 40.6 of DCI P3. This is acceptable given the low price, but means the Yoga 300 doesn’t look hugely punchy or vivid.
The most obvious screen limitation here is one that isn’t explained with figures and display benchmarks, though. Thanks to its dated screen architecture, the actual base tone of the screen appears grey rather than black. This is nothing to do with traditional LCD screen contrast, which is more about how dark the display backlight can appear while the rest off the screen is lit, but that tiny air gaps in the display construction reflect ambient light. Even when the Yoga 300 is turned off, the display looks grey-ish if you’re in a reasonably well-lit room.
The native display contrast is bad at 200:1, but the screen architecture makes the perception of contrast even worse. This is what happens when a touchscreen like the Yoga 300’s is implemented without using screen lamination.
The screen is poor. We also wouldn’t recommend this device for outdoors use. The glossy, low-contrast isn’t a good place to start from anyway, and maximum brightness of 208cd/m2 is low, too. It’s going to be a chore to use outdoors on a sunny or overcast day.
Unfortunately, Lenovo sent us the slightly older version of the Yoga 300 for review. This has just 2GB RAM and an Intel Pentium N3450 CPU. You can also still buy the old Celeron N3050 version with 2GB of RAM, a setup that in our experience delivers poor performance with Windows 10. If that’s all you can afford, expect to have to put up with basic lag, slow web browsing and an experience that requires some patience.
The latest Yoga 300 has 4GB RAM and an Intel Pentium N3700 (or 3710), a quad-core 1.6GHz (2.4GHz Turbo) processor from the new Braswell range. Unusually, this has a much slower base speed: 1.6GHz versus 2.16GHz for the older Pentium N3450. As a guide, in Geekbench 3 multicore tests, the new model scores 2570, while the older system is over 20 percent faster with 3135. However, those results aren’t from the Yoga 300, and things are complicated by the fact that the later models have twice as much RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
The bottom line is that with the model we tested, there’s still some lag in day-to-day operation. Updated version or old: this is not a fast machine, but nothing like what you’ll probably experience with the Celeron-based Yoga 300. After all, it has four cores while the Celeron model has two. However, at £299 we’re entering territory that means the performance is only just good enough. There are significantly cheaper models that use the Intel Atom x5-8500, a simpler processor but one that will likely offer most buyers similar real-world results.
It’s not hard to find the Yoga 300’s limits. A PCMark 8 result of 1457 points shows we’re still a way off the productivity power of an Intel Core i3 system, not that you’ll find such a processor in a small, low-cost hybrid like this. As has been the case for years, it’s a little hard to get excited about Pentium/Celeron processors when they are half-way houses between the true mobile CPU world and the altogether more capable Core i crowd. It’ll do just fine for browsing, writing documents and emails, though.
We usually run Thief (2014) and Alien: Isolation (2014) to test a laptops’s gaming abilities to their limits, but even with the 500GB version you shouldn’t expect either to be remotely playable. Even with resolution set to 720p and the graphics settings dropped to their minimums, the frame rate will be too low to be enjoyable.
Despite the hybrid style, the Yoga 300 doesn’t make a terrific media machine in general. As well as having a poor screen, the speakers aren’t as weighty-sounding as the best tablets. They sit at each end of the laptop’s underside, so there is an appreciable sense of stereo, and the sound is quite clear. However, it’s also a little thin and smallsounding, and prone to some distortion at top volume. Small, slightly weak sound is probably better than a flat-out ugly tone, though.
As in almost all other respects, the Yoga 300’s battery doesn’t do well if compared with tablet rivals. That includes some hybrids, such as those of the Asus Transformer range, too. It’s much more comfortable among its laptop relatives. Playing a 720p MP4 video on loop the Yoga 300 lasts six hours 34 minutes at 120cd/m2 brightness. This is a light task, so will be similar to (or slightly more than) what you’ll see when using the laptop to do basic work. While not enough for a full day’s work, it’ll last through the most interminable of meetings, and for transatlantic flights if you also squeeze in a movie or a power nap. This is ultimately an unremarkable performance from what is an ultra-portable mobile device, though.
The Lenovo Yoga 300 hinge and size earn it plenty of flexibility points, but it pays a bit too much attention to its interior decor, and not quite enough on screen and keyboard quality. If you’re still determined, bear in mind that the entry-level Yoga 300 is also likely to feel very slow in use so we’d highly recommend avoiding it.