Lenovo Yoga 300 11.6 review
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 Lenovo Yoga 300 11.6in is the most affordable of the lot. See also: Best budget laptops to buy right now.
Also see: Best Black Friday Laptop Deals
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.
Lenovo Yoga 300 review: Price
This is the version we're reviewing. However, there's an even cheaper one too. If your upper limit is closer to £200, there's a Yoga 300 that has a Celeron processor and 32GB solid state storage instead of a 500GB hard drive. It is likely to feel a bit slower, but the lower price lets it slip into a whole new bargain hunter category. You can buy it from Amazon for £179.99.
However, you won't find this slightly older version on Lenovo's own online store, where the updated 80M100FCUK (the Celeron model) costs £299.99 and has a 500GB hard drive. The white version you see in our photos is available from Lenovo directly, while we could only find the black version on Amazon.
Lenovo Yoga 300 review: Features and design
The Lenovo 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'll 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 Lenovo Yoga 300 has none of the flashiness of the Yoga 900 from the outside, though. It's plastic, and not super-skinny at 22mm thick. It is still ultra-portable, though, weighing 1.39kg and occupying a footprint still radically smaller than a full-size laptop. There are smaller and lighter 11-inch models out there, but this is still something you could take around with you 24/7.
Inside, the Yoga 300 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.
Lenovo Yoga 300 review: Keyboard and trackpad
It is a pity the quality of the keyboard itself hasn't made the transition too. The Lenovo Yoga 300's key feedback is very 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 ends up feeling vague, although once you’ve bedded into this feel the well-sized keys should make accurate typing easy enough.
The Lenovo Yoga 300’s trackpad makes a good mimicry of the more expensive Yogas too, using a plastic surface that feels fairly similar to the frosted glass used in the priciest machines. Lenovo hybrids and ultrabooks routinely have fairly serious driver problems with their trackpads, but we’ve experienced no major problems here.
While smaller than the pad you might see on a 13-inch style laptop, it feels and looks good.
The Yoga 300 doesn’t have all of its drivers nailed down, though. We’ve had major problems with the hybrid’s Wi-Fi. Your experiences may vary, but our Yoga 300 repeatedly refuses to connect to our test router, only succeeding a small fraction of the time. It is frustrating.
Lenovo Yoga 300 review: Connectivity
Attention Lenovo doesn’t put into some of the final software touches are repaid in part with surprisingly comprehensive connectivity. The Lenovo Yoga 300 has three USB ports (one USB 3.0), a full-size Ethernet port, HDMI socket and a full-size SD card slot.
A lot of tiddly laptops use smaller connectors and fewer USBs, while this one has what you might get in a 15.6-inch 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.
Lenovo Yoga 300 review: Screen
While at this price you’ll find tablets with quite excellent screens, the Lenovo Yoga 300’s display quality is much more like that of a cheap laptop. Not good, in other words.
Some retailers describe the laptop as having an IPS LCD screen, but it’s actually just a basic TN LCD panel. This type is hardly ever used in tablets anymore because of its poor viewing angles.
Look at the Lenovo Yoga 300 from some angles and the screen appears all shadowy, 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 really too small for such a task anyway. As a super-portable device it has a fairly dinky 11.6-inch display, of 1366 x 768 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 very clear, but it’s not too obvious if you use the Lenovo Yoga 300 on a desk or table, as you would a laptop.
Colour performance is predictably fairly 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 rather 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 will look grey-ish as long as you’re in a reasonably well-lit room.
The Yoga 300’s native display contrast is very bad at 200:1 anyway, but this dated screen architecture makes the perception of contrast even worse. This is what happens when a touchscreen like the Yoga 300’s is implemented without having enough budget to use air gap-busting screen lamination.
The screen is fairly 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 max brightness of 208cd/m is low too. It’s going to be a chore to use outdoors on a sunny or overcast day.