If you’re after an everyday convertible laptop and have a rather limited budget at your disposal, you should have a look at Lenovo’s Yoga 500 series, also known as the Flex 3 in the US and some other regions.
We talked about the 15-inch model in a previous post, and this time we’ll analyze the more compact version, the Yoga 500 14, which comes with a 14-inch display. Our configuration also includes a Core i7-6500U processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Nvidia 920M graphics chip and a FHD IPS touchscreen, selling for around $750 at the time of the post in the US and around 700 EUR over here, across the pond. The base model with a Core i3 processor starts at $550.
The 14-inch Yoga is in most ways similar to the 15-inch model, but of course more compact and lighter. So if you do want a computer for everyday use in a smaller and easier to carry around package, this might be the one for you. It’s not without flaws though, so stick around to find out all you should know before deciding if this Yoga 500 14 is a good buy or not.
The specs sheet
||Lenovo Yoga 500 14ISK (Flex 3 14 -80R30009US)
||14.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, IPS, glossy, touch
||Intel Skylake Core i7-6500U CPU
||Integrated Intel HD 520 + Nvidia GeForce GT 920M 2GB
||8 GB DDR3L
||500 TB 2.5″ 5400 rpm HDD (Hitachi Travelstar 5K1000)
||Intel 3165 Wi-FI AC, Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0
||2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ45, mic/headphone, SD card reader, Kensington Lock
||340 mm or 13.39” (w) x 230 mm or 9.06” (d) x 21.6 mm or .85” (h)
||1.95 kg or 4.3 lb
||backlit keyboard, HD camera, stereo speakers
Lenovo went with a simple, sober design for this laptop. The vast majority of the case is black, with only a few silver accents on the hinges and two shiny Lenovo logos, one on the lid and the other under the screen. That’s for the version we have here, as there is also a red and silver model available, in case you want a
touch bucket of color on your machine.
Aesthetics aside, the laptop is well built and feels solid in hand. A matte soft plastic is used for the entire outer case. It’s not the rubbery kind used on the Thinkpads and some other lines, thus the finishing doesn’t feel as nice, as premium, but at the same time there’s no extra coating that could wear off in time, so I believe this choice is a safe bet and ensures the laptop would age well. The sides on the other hand are made from a somewhat grippier type of plastic, which helps when grabbing the laptop and also has a protection role.
You probably know by now that this is a convertible laptop, with a 360 degrees foldable screen. That means you can use it as a regular notebook, resting on its rubber feet placed on the belly, but also as a tablet or in Stand and Presentation modes. And here’s where the rubbery sides come into play, at they act as support points in the Stand mode, but also protect the laptop’s interior in Tablet and Presentation modes, as they are slightly raised over the palm-rest and act as feet for the whole device.
That’s both good and bad. Good because the interior is made of brushed metal, which would otherwise scratch easily. Bad because the raised edges are somewhat sharp and my wrists didn’t like them when having the computer on a desk. That’s a complain I have with all the Yoga 500 models and hopefully Lenovo will smoothen them out on their future updates, cause I like the idea of having protective raised edges, but the implementation is not what it should be.
Anyway, that aside, the laptop is comfortable to use in most situations. Tablet mode might not be ideal, since this device weighs around 4.3 lbs, so it’s not easy to hold in your hands for long, but reading documents and browsing in Portrait mode, with the computer leaned on my legs, was actually an enjoyable experience.
The hinges are well built, and that’s a crucial aspect on the hybrid. You’ll need both hands to lift up the screen and switch between modes, but they work fairly smoothly and offer the support the screen needs. There’s still some wobbling when poking and swiping the display in laptop mode, so they could have been stiffer, but the experience is not bad overall.
On to some practical aspects, the palm-rest is wide and offers good support when typing. It’s filled up with annoying strikers though, and you will probably want to peel them off. The ports are lined on the sides, where you’ll find 3x USB ports, HDMI video output, a Lan connector and an SD card-reader. A volume rocker and the Power button are placed on the sides as well, but they are stiff enough so you won’t accidentally press them when you grab the laptop, like with some previous Lenovo models. And you can also deactivate the Power Button from the settings, so it doesn’t do anything if pressed when the computer is on.
The back edge houses two cooling grills, one of them being passive and the other connected to an exhaust fan. Air is sucked through the grills on the bottom and pushed through these rear exhausts, and as a results this computer runs cool and mostly quiet. We’ll talk about that in a bit.
Let’s turn our attention on that screen for now.
Lenovo went with a decent IPS FHD panel on this configuration. It gets wide viewing angles and solid blacks and contrast. It’s also pretty well calibrated out of the box, but with a strong Blue hue, so you might want to use our calibrated profile that can be found here.
Other than that, the gamut coverage is average, with 67% sRGB and only 50% Adobe RGB. The maximum brightness of only 175 nits can be a deal breaker though, as the screen is glossy and simply unusable in strong light. So you’ll have to keep this device indoors, and even here pump out the brightness to about 80% to reach 120 nits of brightness, which I consider adequate for interior use.
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LP140WF6-SPB1 (LGD04A4);
- Coverage: 67% sRGB, 48% NTSC, 50% AdobeRGB;
- measured gamma: 2.1;
- max brightness in the middle of the screen: 175 cd/m2 on power;
- contrast at max brightness: 600:1;
- white point: 7800 K;
- black on max brightness: 0.29 cd/m2;
- average DeltaE: 2.38 uncalibrated, 1.35 calibrated .
I should also add that the Yoga 500 14 gets a touchscreen, which works pretty much flawlessly, so nothing to complain on this front. There’s no Active Digitizer or support for Active pens.
Keyboard and trackpad
Where your hands go you’ll find a full-size keyboard with a pretty good layout. Our unit comes with the European arrangement, hence the small left Shift and tall Enter, but all layouts actually get that extra row of keys on the most right-side, which will take some time to get used to. On the other hand, I appreciate the full-size arrow keys, something most other 14-inch laptops don’t offer.
Layout aside, this keyboard types quite well and is very quiet, once you get used to it. The keys are soft and feel nice, but at the same time they pose little resistance and have a shallow stroke, which means the typing experience might not be that good for everyone.
I’m coming from the Dell XPS 13, so I’m already used to shallow keyboards and this one is even shallower, so while I was able to type really fast on this laptop from the beginning, the accuracy suffered. A couple of thousands of words later though, I dig this keyboard, but again, if you’re not into short-stroke feedback, this might not be for you.
The keyboard is also backlit, with two illumination options to choose from by hitting FN + Space.
As for the trackpad, well, it’s not that good. On one side it’s large enough and feels smooth, despite being made out of plastic. On the other it’s not consistent. Sometimes it works well, yet sometimes it skips badly. When that happens, a computer restart would bring it back to Earth, but only for a limited time, as it would start skipping again after a while.
This looks like a drivers’ glitch. I’ve been reading through the forums and many are complaining about the defective trackpad. Some said that installing different Realtek Audio drivers will address the issue, although that makes little sense, and some reverted to Windows 8.1 in order to get a consistent experience. I did try a couple of different Elan compatible drivers, but none made any difference, so I gave up trying in the end. Either way, this is something Lenovo must address in a future update.
That not all though. If you’re a tap-person like I am, I couldn’t find a way to enable two-finger taps on this Elan surface, which meant I had to use the physical clicks for right-clicks. The physical clicks though don’t always register commands, unless you make sure to press them very firmly and not in their corners, but about 1 cm away from the middle. Damn annoying!
Overall, for the time being, this trackpad is extremely frustrating, so if you end up getting on of these computer, do yourself a favor and use a mouse.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Hardware wise, we have the higher-end configuration of the Yoga 500 14 for this review, with a Core i7-6500U processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB HDD and Nvidia GT 920M graphics.
First of all, the slow HDD poses a bottleneck on performance, but it’s actually easy to ditch for an SSD if you want to. You have to unscrew the back panel to get access to the internals, where you’ll find the storage bay, the Wi-Fi module and the RAM slot. The RAM is however hidden behind a metallic shield, and you’ll have to bend its metal latches in order to get to the DIMM and replace the existing stick with a larger one. It’s not complicated, but do it at your own risk! As for the storage bay, it looks like Lenovo put a sticker on one of the cage’s screws (top-right), so if you attempt to remove it yourself it might void warranty.
Bottom point, upgrades are possible on this laptop, but you’ll probably want to ask an authorized service to perform them for you, or live with the loss of warranty.
Now, that aside, let’s focus on performance. The HDD takes its toll, and there’s also a fair amount of bloatware preinstalled that doesn’t help the cause either. Once you clean it up though, the laptop is able to handle everyday tasks easily, from browsing with multiple tabs open to playing any sort of video content. But, bit but, it’s again inconsistent and at times doesn’t perform as smoothly as some of the other similar Skylake ULV configurations I’ve tested lately.
It works fine for a while after a restart, and then it starts to struggle and choke, for no apparent reason, as nor the CPU, the RAM or the HDD are bottle-necked when that happens. The issue seems somewhat tied-up with the trackpad becoming unresponsive, and also leads to some popping sounds coming from the speakers, even when these are muted, all while performing casual tasks like scrolling in a browser. A restart is going to fix all these, but again, only for a while.
I wish I could tell you what causes these random issues, but I can’t really find an explanation. Initially, I was thinking I ran into a dud, but people on online shops and forums are also complaining about the loss in performance and speaker pops, so this is not an isolated case.
I also ran a couple of benchmarks on this laptop and a few games. The results are around 7-15% lower than what the other Core i7-6500U configurations I’ve tested before scored.
- 3DMark 11: P1839;
- 3DMark 13: Cloud Gate – 5291, Sky Driver – 4018, Fire Strike – 1060;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2303;
- Cinebench 3 32-bit: Single-Core: 2535, Multi-core: 5838;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 23.32 fps, CPU 3.36 pts, CPU Single Core 1.08 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 30.58 fps, CPU 303 cb, CPU Single Core 113 cb;
- x264 Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 102.88 fps, Pass 2 – 20.02 fps.
As for the games, this computer comes with Nvidia 920M graphics, which is an entry level dedicated chip, only about 20% faster than the integrated Intel HD 520 solution within the Skylake Core i7 CPU. In games, it made even less of a difference, especially on our unit which doesn’t always work at its full potential.
|Need for Speed: Most Wanted
So one might argue whether the 920M chip is actually worth buying or even implementing, and if you ask me, it’s not. But Lenovo doesn’t offer then Yoga 500 14 without it or with a more powerful graphics option, so you’ll just have to live with this one if you go for this computer. It’s not like it’s no good, but it only has a minor impact on gaming performance.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers and others
That aside, the Yoga 500 14 keeps cool and fairly quiet in most situations. There’s a fan inside and it’s active all the time, even when performing everyday activities or when the computer sits idle, but it’s barely audible in this case. In fact, you’ll probably rather hear the HDD then the fan.
When running games or other more demanding tasks, the fan ramps up to a maximum noise level of around 43 dB at ear level, which can be annoying if you’re playing games with the speakers muted, for instance, but otherwise can be easily covered by the speakers.
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in IE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed Most Wanted for 30 minutes
Speaking of those, the two stereo speakers on this laptop are actually surprisingly loud and not that shabby in terms of audio quality either. They do lack bass and sound a bit tiny, but they are above average in their class of a mid-range ultraportables.
As for the connectivity, this computer comes with Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Our test sample bundles an Intel Dual-Band 3165 wireless AC chip, which is however slow, capable of maximum throughput of up to 72 Mbps. It barely reached download speeds of around 60 Mbps in our practical tests, but it was capable of maintaining full signal-strength and speeds at 30 and 50 feet away from the router, with walls in between, something many other computers in this class struggle with.
However, the biggest concern are the occasional disconnects. The Wi-Fi chip switches off out of the blue and becomes invisible in Network and Sharing Center. At that point, I could either wait, and it would reappear after a random amount of time, or again restart the computer to get it to work again. This happened to me at least a dozen times in the two weeks I’ve spent with this computer.
One of the final aspects to address here is battery life. Lenovo puts a 45 Wh battery on this computer, which is a fair-size for a 14-incher. However, the laptop is not very efficient in daily use once you multitask between different apps, and we had to set the screen’s brightness to 80% in order to reach the 120 nits brightness we use for our tests. As a result, here’s what to expect in terms of battery life:
- 5.5 W (~8 h 10 min of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 8 W (~5 h 40 min of use) – very light browsing and text editing in Google Drive, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.5 W (~6 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7 W (~6 h 30 min of use) – 1080p fullscreen .mkv video in VLC Player, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14.5 W (~3 h of use) – heavy browsing in Internet Explorer, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
The computer is bundled with a 65 Wh charger and a full recharge takes under 2 hours.
Price and availability
Then there’s the price. The device tested in this post is available worldwide, either as the Lenovo Yoga 500 14 series in Europe and other regions, or as the Lenovo Flex 3 14 in some others.
In the US, the base model with a Core i3 Skylake processor, 8 GB of RAM, the 500 GB HDD and the FPD IPS panel sells for around $550 at the time of this review, while the Core i7 model sells for $730, with the Core i5-6200U configuration sitting somewhere in between.
That’s a very competitive price. Follow this link for more details and potential discounts at the time you’re reading this post.
In Europe the Core i3 versions start at around 600 EUR, but make sure you choose a configuration with the FHD IPS panel, as some of the entry level models are paired with a much crappier TN HD display and you’ll want to stay away from it.
Based on my experience with the model reviewed here, I can’t recommend buying a Lenovo Yoga 500 14 right now, due to its subpar performance, plus the wireless and trackpad being so glitchy. And that’s a pity, cause the laptop is pretty good otherwise, well built, with a nice keyboard and a decent display. But unless there’s clear evidence that the issues mentioned have been dealt with, getting one of these is a lottery and might end up being a very frustrating experience.
If the performance gets addressed, you’ll still have to live with the poor trackpad and short battery life, and also probably have to replace the Wi-Fi chip, which is an easy job though. That could be an option for those of you that absolutely want a 14-inch hybrid, because there aren’t many alternatives available in stores.
There is one solid contender though, the Acer Aspire R14 R5-471T (reviewed here), which is an overall better device imo and only somewhat more expensive, but also smarter configured. $699 can get you a Core i5 Skylake processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage, a great combo for everyday use, that would require no further upgrades.
I feel that buying one of these Yoga 500 14s right now is a lottery, and I’d rather stay away until there’s clear evidence the multiple issues have been addressed
So at the end of the day, the Lenovo Yoga 500 14 remains an option only if you’re on a tight budget and interested in the base model with the Core i3 processor, where the Acer Aspire R14 does not compete. Even so, beware of what might go wrong and perhaps consider the Toshiba Radius 14 and the Acer Aspire R14 R3-471T instead, with Broadwell hardware.
With that in mind we’ll wrap this up here. Let me know if you have any questions about this Lenovo Yoga 500 14 or anything to add to this post in the comments section below, and make sure to check out our other reviews and our detailed posts on the best 14 and 15-inch ultraportables that are worth buying today, but also our selection of recommended 2-in-1 convertibles.
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