Lenovo Yoga 300

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

£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.

De­sign

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.

Con­nec­tiv­ity

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.

Dis­play

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.

Per­for­mance

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.

Au­dio

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.

Bat­tery life

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.

Verdict

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.

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