There’s no doubt hybrid laptops are here to stay. Buyers appreciate the versatility of these devices that look and act like regular notebooks, but have 360-degrees convertible screens, so they can be “transformed” into tablets or stands if the user so desires.
But is this form-factor something you’d want in a full-size 15-inch laptop that weighs 5 pounds? Well, Lenovo thinks some of you will and that’s how the Yoga 500 15-inch was born, also known as the Flex 3 15 in some regions. They are not the only manufacturer offering a 15-inch hybrid these days, as Asus, Dell, HP and Toshiba have their own units in stores as well.
For the most part the Yoga 500 15 is a standard laptop with a good display and keyboard, plus fairly powerful hardware inside. And since it sports a touchscreen, the 4-in-1 form factor actually makes sense. Given how big and heavy it is though, most of you will probably use it primarily as a notebook, but at least you have the alternative of the other modes. However, keep in mind this form factor is several hundred dollars more expensive than a regular clamshell laptop with similar features.
I’ve spent about 10 days with a Yoga 500 15 and I’ve gathered my detailed impressions in this article, so if you’re interested in this hybrid, you’re in the right place. The laptop was sent in by Lenovo for the purpose of this review and went back once I was done with it.
The specs sheet
|Lenovo Yoga 500 15 (Flex 3 – 1570)|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, glossy, touch|
|Processor||Intel Broadwell Core i7-5500U CPU|
|Video||Integrated Intel HD 5500 + Nvidia GeForce GT 940M 2GB|
|Memory||8 GB DDR3L|
|Storage||1 TB 2.5″ 5400 rpm 9.5 mm HDD (Hitachi Travelstar 5K1000) with 32 GB caching SSD|
|Connectivity||Atheros Wireless AC ,Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ45, mic/headphone, SD card reader, Kensington Lock|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Size||385 mm or 15.16” (w) x 255 mm or 10.04” (d) x 23 mm or .91” (h)|
|Weight||2.27 kg or 5.0 lb|
|Extras||no backlit keyboard, HD camera|
The Yoga 500 15 is a good looking and well built 15-incher, with a rather slim body and a total weight of 5.0 lbs, yet a fairly large footprint, as you can tell by the bezel around the display. I have the black version for this review and it shows smudges on both the smooth plastic exterior and the metallic interior, so you’ll have to wipe it clean often. Lenovo also offers a White model and that’s the one I’d go for.
The build quality is pretty solid and I personally like the choice in materials. Lenovo went for a plastic outer-shell, which might not feel premium, but is actually smooth and grippy. The palm-rest and the area around the keyboard are covered in a sheet of dark brushed aluminum, so at least that region is going to satisfy metal-lovers.
The entire left and right sides are made from a hard plastic and the edges are slightly raised above the metallic interior or the glass-covered screen, for two reasons. First of all, it prevents the screen of getting in contact with the keys when the display is closed, and second it acts as a large foot when you’ll use the laptop as a stand or tablet. This way it won’t sit on the aluminum interior, which would otherwise scratch easily.
The plastic rim is a bit sharp though and because it’s taller than the palm-rest, my wrists got in touch with it quite often and didn’t enjoy the encounter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea here, but the implementation could have been a bit more polished.
Anyway, like I said in the beginning, the Yoga 500 15 is a 15-inch laptop with a 360-degress convertible display. It can be used as a normal clamshell laptop, or if you flip the screen, as a tablet, stand or tent. The screen is hold in place by two compact, yet strong, metallic hinges, and the whole process of switching between modes is smooth. However, I do feel these hinges are somewhat undersized for how big the screen is, and as a result the entire display tends to wobble and not sit as firmly in place as on some of the smaller hybrids I’ve tested before. This is especially annoying when poking and swiping the panel in laptop mode.
As a side note, The Yoga 500 15 feels rather uncomfortable to use as a tablet, both because it’s massive, but also because of the laptop’s overall design. As you can tell from the pictures, the concave bottom part and lid-cover lead to a thick and difficult to grab tablet-form. The two sides don’t lock to each other with magnets either, like on some the more premium devices, which adds to the negative impression.
On the practical side, the laptop bundles a proper selection of ports on the sides, with three USB slots, HDMI, LAN and a card-reader. The power-plug is placed on the left edge, where you’ll also find a Kensington Lock. Another aspect worth mentioning are the rubber feet on the belly, which give the laptop a good grip on a flat surface, despite being minuscule. And since we’re talking about the belly, you probably noticed there’s no way to easily upgrade this device, without taking apart the entire back-cover. The battery is encased as well.
Keyboard and trackpad
I enjoyed typing on this Yoga from the moment I got it out of the box. In my first encounter I averaged over 70 wpm with just 2 typos in 3 minutes of continuous typing, which is a spectacular performance.
The Yoga 500 uses the standard Lenovo AccuType layout and includes a NumPad section. The keys are flat and for me offered the right amount of firmness and stroke depth. The keyboard’s frame is very sturdy as well and doesn’t flex when typing, which definitely helps the overall experience.
On the other hand, you should know that the keyboard is not backlit and this can be a deal-breaker for some of you.
Moving on to the trackpad, well, it didn’t meet my expectations. It’s a Synaptics touchpad with many customization options and it has a smooth and glidy surface. It’s quiet and supports gestures well. However, I struggled to find the right balance between speed and accuracy, as it was either too slow, which meant I’d have to swipe several times to move the cursor around the screen, or too fast, which caused major difficulties when it came to gently moving the cursor around to reach a small tick-box or perform any other actions that required precision.
On top of that, I could not get two-finger taps to work (a known problem on Lenovos, which can be fixed through Registry edits). And since that’s how I usually perform right clicks, the experience with this Yoga got often frustrating.
Now, keep in mind that I’ve read a few other reviews of the Yoga 500 and none complain about these issues, so there’s a fair chance this test sample if glitched. Thus take my findings with a grain of salt.
The Yoga 500 15 gets a 15.6-inch touch display with a 1920 x 1080 px AH-IPS panel. It’s not the best IPS panel out there, but I think it’s a proper option for the average user, especially if calibrated with a proper tool (I use a Spyder4, but others will work as well).
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LP156WF4_SPL1;
- Coverage: 68% sRGB, 49% NTSC, 51% AdobeRGB;
- measured gamma: 2.0;
- max brightness in the middle of the screen: 220 cd/m2 on power;
- contrast at max brightness: 530:1;
- white point: 6700 K;
- black on max brightness: 0.42 cd/m2;
- average DeltaE: 1.83 uncalibrated, 0.80 calibrated .
The viewing angles are solid and our test model does not suffer from light bleeding. On the other hand, the poor brightness makes the laptop difficult to use in bright light, especially since this is a glossy display. The color accuracy is not spectacular either, as the panel only covers 68% of the sRGB color space according to my sensor, which is pretty good for daily use, but not good enough for professionals that might require a color-accurate panel. The screen was fairly well calibrated out of the box though.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Out test model is the beefier configuration Lenovo offers for the Yoga 500 series, with a Core i7-5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia 940M graphics and a hybrid storage solution. The latter drags performance down and should be replaced with an SSD if you want to bring the best out of the hardware, but even so, this laptop proved snappy with most everyday tasks.
It handled browsing and Office use well, it handled all sorts of video content (including high-bitrate .mkv files and even 4K clips) and thanks to the dedicated graphics inside, it could run some games as well. Now, don’t expect this to run the latest title on high details, like these gaming ultraportables do, but games like Need For Speed Most Wanted, Tomb Raider and other titles launched in the last few years are playable on the native 1920 x 1080 px resolution with Low details. If you’re willing to go down to 13 x 7 resolutions, you can increase the details to Medium or even High.
It’s worth noting that there’s a fair amount of bloatware preinstalled on this Lenovo, with a handful of Lenovo apps and a few third party programs as well. They don’t affect performance as much, since the hardware is pretty beefy, but I’d still get rid of most of them in order to get a slight speed boost.
Regardless, I ran a couple of benchmarks on our test sample and you can find the result below, if you’re interested in these numbers.
- 3DMark 11: P2393;
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 32892, Cloud Gate –5522, Sky Driver – 3124, Fire Strike – 1394;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2315;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 36.65 fps, CPU 2.47 pts, CPU Single Core 1.41 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 49.84 fps, CPU 225 cb, CPU Single Core 102 cb;
Long story short, the Yoga 500 is a capable 15-inch laptop. It does bundle U-Series Intel processors and only a HDD, but even so this notebook is more than capable of dealing with daily tasks and all sorts of multimedia content.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
After using this laptop as my daily driver for a few days, I can conclude it runs fairly cool and quiet, considering it’s rather thin and packs a Core i7 processor, a mechanical HDD and Nvidia dedicated graphics.
With daily use you’ll hear the HDD’s spinning noise more often than you’ll hear the fan. It is active most of the time from what I can tell, but I hardly noticed it, unless I was using the laptop in a completely silent room. While watching 1080p movies the fan will spin faster, but even in this case the speakers can easily cover its noise. And even when running games or other demanding activities the fan is not going to be an issue.
Lenovo did a good job on the temperatures as well, as nor the internals or the outershell get hot. In fact, as you can see from the pictures below, after playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for more than 30 minutes, which is a pretty taxing title for the hardware in this computer, the back-case would only reach temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius, while the front remains cooler. It’s also worth adding that the hottest area on the front is around the NumPad, which you’re not going to use that often with most games.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in IE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
As a side note, the exhaust is placed on the back of the laptop, behind the screen, pushing hot air away from the user, and I wish all manufacturers would take the same approach. However, you should be careful not to cover the exhaust or the intake grills on the belly when running complex chores, otherwise the laptop will reach higher temperatures.
Connectivity wise there’s Gigabit Lan, Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi AC on this laptop. The Realtek wi-fi module is not very fast, and as a result our test sample could only reach transfer speeds of around 50 Mbps right next to the router. That’s good enough for daily use though and luckily the signal strength remains solid even at 30 feet with two walls in between, while the download speeds barely drop by a few Mbps. In other words, the Wi-Fi on the Yoga 500 is not very fast, but it is reliable and should do well even where the WiFi signal isn’t at its best.
The speakers are placed on the laptop’s belly, one on each side. Acer bundles the laptop with a Dolby sound enhancing app which was active by default on this test unit and impacts the volume, pumping it up to about 82 dB at head-level. However, it also distorts the sound. Turning it OFF drops the volume to a rather low volume, but the audio quality is more decent. Either way, don’t expect much in terms of audio from this Yoga 500.
It’s worth adding that in Tent and Tablet modes the speakers are actually pointing towards us and that has quite a significant impact on how the sound coming out of them is perceived.
Last in this list is the webcam, which is probably the worse I’ve encountered on a laptop in ages. The dual-array microphone does a good job at recording voices though, so this Yoga can handle calls, just that you’ll probably want to keep them to voice only, as the video is unusable in most conditions.
There’s a 45 Wh battery on this laptop and that’s rather small for a 15-incher, especially for one with the specs of this Yoga tested here. As a result, don’t expect more than 3-4 hours of use on a charge, which are poor results by today’s standards.
- 6 W (~7 h 30 min of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 12 W (~3 h 40 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10 W (~4 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14 W (~3 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in VLC Player, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16 W (~2 h 40 min of use) – heavy browsing in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
The notebook comes with a 65Wh power-brick in the pack and a 10 to 100% charge takes a little over 2 hours.
You should know that some of the Yoga 500 15 models only include a 30-Wh battery. Those configurations are however lighter, weighing a little under 4.8 lbs.
The Yoga 500 packs a 45 Wh battery and offer 3-4 hours of daily use on a charge
Price and availability
The Yoga 500 15 is available in a few different configurations. The version tested here, with the Core i7-5500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, hybrid storage and Nvidia graphics sells for around $900 these days.
You can however get a Core i5-5200U model with 8 GB of RAM and Intel HD 5500 graphics for around $650. All these include the 45 Wh battery.
The versions with a 30 Wh battery sell for a little less, but personally I’d stay far away from those, as I couldn’t see myself using a computer that would only last for 2-3 hours on a charge in this day and age.
You’ll find more details about the Yoga 500 15, as well as the latest prices and potential discounts, via this link.
The Yoga 500 15 starts at around $650 for a Core i5 configuration, while the beefier version sells for around $900
There are quite a few 15-inch convertible out there, and you should look into it before deciding whether the Yoga 500 15 is the right pick for you or not.
Among them, the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500 (review) is quite affordable, with a Core i5 configuration with 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD and Intel HD 5500 graphics selling for around $600. This laptop gets a mostly aluminum made 5.0 lbs body, a FHD display and a 48 Wh battery, but potential buyers would have to settle for a non-backlit keyboard and only a TN panel, rather dim and with poor colors and viewing angles. A higher end versions with dedicated graphics is also available in some parts of the world.
Dell has the Inspiron 15 7000 in stores, a 4.8 lbs 15-incher with nice looks, a backlit keyboard and a FHD IPS display. It only gets a 43 Wh battery though and the Core i5 model without dedicated graphics start at $800 at the time of this post. The higher end versions include an UHD display and Nvidia 940M dedicated graphics.
HP offers the Envy 15 x360, but it’s slightly heavier than the others (5.3 lbs) and only packs a TN FHD screen and a 43.5 Wh battery. It’s also rather expensive.
Then there’s the Toshiba Satellite P55W, another 4.8 lbs 15-incher with an IPS display, a 45 Wh battery and a backlit keyboard. It’s rather pricey though and not the most solid-built machine out there, which can be a deal-breaker for a convertible.
Last, but not least, is probably the best 15-inch 2-in-1 of the moment, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 15, with a solid built body, classic design, excellent keyboard and screen, a similar Intel platform with Nvidia 940M dedicated graphics and a massive 66 Wh battery. There’s a catch though: the base Core i5 configuration starts at around $900.
The Yoga 500 15, or the Flex 3 15 as it’s called in some regions, is far from a perfect 15-incher. Still, those of you that need the versatility delivered with the form factor, the solid build quality, the excellent display and keyboard, plus the ability to handle daily chores at ease, won’t find anything better. At least not for the kind of money Lenovo asks for this machine.
Potential buyers will have to settle for a large footprint, an unreliable trackpad and fairly short battery life, but they’ll have to make compromises with all the other 15-inch hybrids that sell for under $1000.
Bottom point, if you want a convertible 15-incher, the Yoga 500 15 is definitely one of your best options available right now. The question is: “Do you really want a 15-inch convertible?”
The Lenovo Yoga 500 15 is one of the best 15-inch convertible of the moment, but are you sure you want a 15-inch hybrid?
After using this Yoga for the last week, and a few other large hybrids in the past, I can’t see myself getting one of these. I find 15-inchers difficult to use as tablets, due to their size and weight, which are also impediments when changing between modes. That’s why I always end up using them as regular notebooks, either on my lap or on my desk. And if I’m getting a computer that’s going to spend nearly all its life in laptop mode, why not save several hundred bucks and get a regular notebook, with similar features and specs?
Anyway, that might be just me. If you feel otherwise, this Yoga is a good buy.
With that in mind, it’s time to wrap this up. Check out my detailed article on the best convertibles of the moment, or this selection of 15-inch ultraportables you should have on your list. And if you have any questions about the Yoga 15 or anything to add to this post, get in touch in the comments section below, I’m around and eager to help.