If the tablet craze still hasn’t won you over and you prefer a laptop with plenty of space, Lenovo is taking the best of both worlds and cramming them together in the Yoga 500.
Two-in-one computers are becoming the new norm, and Lenovo’s Yoga 500 keeps it up with a 360 degree hinge, one of the more obvious ways to make a hybrid machine.
There’s more than a special hinge in this computer, though, and Lenovo has spec’d it up to be quite modern, because you need that to sell a computer these days.
As such, you’ll find one of Intel’s sixth-generation Core processors in the Yoga 500, one from the most recent generation of chips also known as “Skylake”.
Depending on the unit you go for, you’ll either find an Intel Core i5 6200U (2.3GHz) or a Core i7 6500U (2.5GHz) with 4GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive, with Microsoft’s Windows 10 installed to the computer out of the box ready to go. Our review unit featured the Core i5 variant, but that’s the main difference found in the Yoga 500, with processor model making up the changes.
Connections are otherwise quite standard for a 2016 computer, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac access for WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 for your other wireless connections, while wired ports are handled through one USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, a lone HDMI port, an SD card slot, and interestingly an Ethernet jack for those who still like wired networks.
All of this sits in a body made for a 14 inch screen, and that’s exactly what you get, with a 14 inch HD screen supporting touch, complete with a high definition camera built into the frame above the display.
For a while now, computer bodies have been pushing back against the basic black boxes that for a long time were seen as the only way you could buy a computer.
There’s something about black that makes it professional, and for as long as we can remember, if it was black, there was a good chance Lenovo or IBM before it had made the computer you were using.
Building on that heritage, the Lenovo Yoga 500 is black, plastic, and relatively professional with a simple matt finish.
Fingerprints are a bit of a problem with the simple plastic finish, but only really on the inside where wipe downs tend to still leave fingerprints behind. Fortunately the outside can look schmick, though this never helps with the machine feeling thick and weighty, sitting at 21.5mm of thickness and sitting on the scales at a little under 2 kilograms.
Essentially, Lenovo’s Yoga 500 is a standard computer, the same sort you’re used to seeing for ages with very little to it from an individual point of view.
Switching the laptop on, it’s pretty easy to get right into using the machine, with a large 14 inch screen staring back at you, reflective and all, and a keyboard and mouse sitting perpendicular underneath.
This is a computer, and the modern specs make it capable enough to handle writing, web surfing, emails, and the like, though not quite powerful enough for games or anything remarkably creative, a fact that is shared by the lowly HD resolution in the spec sheet.
But while the Intel processor can certainly handle its own, the inclusion of only 4GB RAM hasn’t helped things, and as we typed our review on the Yoga 500, we found ourselves wanting desperately to switch to another computer just to the lag and slowdowns typing would often create.
Perhaps it’s the program we’re writing with — Evernote — and perhaps it’s the lack of memory, but we think the latter as we saw some slowdowns switching applications and trying to get instances of others started up.
It’s not a serious issue that will affect everything you do. Rather, it’s more one that gets stuck in when you’re trying to run multiple applications, as the specification just doesn’t lend itself to serious productivity, and more just for file storage.
Listening to a lot of music? This will have the space. Surfing the web a few tabs at a time? Lenovo’s Yoga 500 has you covered.
Working on a lot of documents at once and want the system to perform as smoothly as whipped butter? That’s just not this computer.
Unfortunately, the display is one area where Lenovo really drops the ball, equipping the Yoga 500 with one of the weakest screens we’ve seen in years.
While other manufacturers are pushing on past standard high definition, equipping computers with screens with at least Full HD’s 1920×1080 (and then some), the Yoga 500 keeps things positively low-grade with a 14 inch display only capable of showing 1366×768, also known as merely “high definition” or “HD”.
If that wasn’t mediocre enough, the panel Lenovo has opted for keeps things positively low, offering disastrous viewing angles and obvious colour washout when you move in your seat ever so slightly changing your position.
Seriously, this is the sort of screen you expect to see on a budget computer given the obvious quality, or lack thereof. You don’t expect it on a computer hitting a retail price of $1299, and that’s kind of the problem.
Not helping this bizarrely budget screen is the fact that the 360 degree hinge essentially turns the Yoga 500 into a tablet, albeit one with a resolution that makes holding a weighty 1.8 kilogram tablet close to impossible when you’re trying to work out how to situate it in your lap and still view the screen in a way that doesn’t make it wash out.
About the only positive feature of the screen on the Yoga 500 is the inclusion of touch, something that isn’t as relevant as it once was now that Windows 10 doesn’t require touch as much as its Windows 8 sibling.
At least that’s something to like about the screen, and probably the only thing.
Keyboard and mouse
Not as bad as the screen, the keyboard and mouse certainly don’t feel as firm or solid as your typical Lenovo keyboard and mouse.
Granted, these aren’t as bad as that travesty of a display, but from using the Yoga 500’s keyboard as the way of writing the review, we can tell you that you’re going to need to strike the keys pretty hard with a loud clack for the Lenovo Yoga 500 to pick up on your key strokes.
We’ve seen worse — Toshiba’s Click 10 certainly wins that award right now — but Lenovo’s Yoga 500 not only need particularly hard strokes, but also feels like the keyboard is too wide, as you may find your left hand inching towards Caps Lock or your right hand hitting the up arrow instead of the right Shift key at points.
Again, it’s not bad, but Lenovo can and has done better in the past. Basically, this is no ThinkPad keyboard, but it will do someone who is used to slamming the keys, because that’s where the Yoga 500 feels perfectly at home.
The mouse on the other hand is just as ordinary, but offers surprisingly quick multi-touch gestures and a large space for your fingers, though a shallow button press that doesn’t feel as good as it could.
But hey, at least you get a touchscreen.
Battery is one area where Lenovo has managed to pull together something decent, and that’s partly due to the inclusion of a sixth-generation Intel Core processor, with the “Skylake” generation of CPUs helping to keep the battery life around five to seven hours.
That’s not amazing life, but it’s not bad either, and since the hard drive isn’t one of those fancy solid-state drives designed to save battery power and is, rather, a large 1TB moving part conventional drive, a maximum of seven hours in our testing isn’t terrible, either.
If you baulk at the idea of having to forgo storing things on your laptop because larger solid-state drives just cost too much, the inclusion of a 1TB drive will definitely make you happy, even if it cuts the possible battery life down by an hour or two on this machine.
Value could be the one area where Lenovo’s Yoga 500 wins back some points, and that’s partly because what you get for the price isn’t bad, but also isn’t amazing.
Rather, it’s just an ordinary computer for a thoroughly ordinary price, and some might even view the $1299 minimum price tag as too heavy for what you’re getting.
We certainly think it should be lower, but it’s quite normal to see machines with similar specs sitting around this price range. It’s not overwhelming value, though, and is merely ordinary, something Lenovo could surely do better with.
Unfortunately, that sense of “ordinary” is one that permeates the Yoga 500 at every turn, with very little to save it.
Maybe we’re just immune to the idea of a hybrid computer being special, or maybe we’re just sick of seeing sub-par computer parts being passed to customers for prices that feel like they don’t make a lot of sense.
Whatever it is, Lenovo’s Yoga 500 isn’t the shining example of technology that we’ve seen from the company in the past, and as good as the Yoga laptops normally are, and as beautifully engineered as the ThinkPad series is, the Yoga 500 isn’t either of these.
Instead, it’s just a mediocre box designed to look like everything else, perform like a lot of what’s out there, and isn’t spec’s particularly well when matched to its $1299 price.
There are much better computers out there, some even made by Lenovo. We’d only consider this if the price were to drop dramatically, and advise shopping around before even considering this option.