The Lenovo Yoga 530 or Flex 14 in the US is a 2 in 1 laptop spilling with features starting at around £400 or $400. There are a number of models in the range, but I’m looking at the entry level configuration with a Pentium Gold processor and a standard, 1366×768 so-called HD screen, rather than the Full HD screen of its more expensive counterparts.
Even this base model has a 14” touch screen display, 128GB SSD storage, 4GB of RAM, a 360 degree hinge that provides no less than four usage scenarios, fast charging, a full sized HDMI port, three USB 3 ports including one modern type C port, a HD webcam and up to 10 hours of battery life. It sounds like it could be the perfect everyday laptop and together with its support for the optional Lenovo Active pen, this could also be an ideal student laptop.
Inside the utilitarian packaging, you get the laptop itself and a 65W charger. There is no supplied user manual but should you require one, Lenovo do at least offer one to download.
The left side of the laptop has the charging port, a full sized HDMI port, a USB 3.1 port which supports charging even when the laptop is off, a USB 3.1 Type-C port and a combo headphone microphone jack.
The right side has a Kensington security slot, another USB 3.1 port, an SD card slot, the power button and a reset switch that you’ll need a paper clip to activate. I wish more laptops had this – it can sometimes be tricky getting to the BIOS or recovery options easily in Windows 10.
The USB ports are all Gen 1 so support a maximum of 5 Gbps, not the 10Gbps of the latest Gen 2, but that’s still plenty quick enough for most accessories you’ll plug in for the time being. The SD card slot is useful but limited to slow USB 2.0 speeds for some reason.
Opening the lid reveals a chiclet style keyboard with no backlight and there’s no room for a number pad.
There’s a decent sized trackpad; 105mm by 70mm. There’s no fingerprint reader on this base model but that, as well as a backlit keyboard, can be found on models higher up the range.
First impressions of the build quality are good. It looks more expensive than it is with its metal coloured plastic lid and base, with what looks like a brushed aluminium keyboard surround.
It measures 328mm x 229mm and it’s fairly slim at around 18mm at its thickest point. It weighs a very acceptable 1545g.
When you first power on the laptop you’ll need to finish off the Windows 10 install as is the norm. This goes fairly quickly thanks to the SSD.
There’s not too much junkware – I uninstalled McAfee, letting the built in free Windows Defender take its place. If you need additional protection I usually install MalwareBytes. There’s also some Lenovo software that I’m keeping for the time being.
There’s a chunky bezel, over 25mm wide, along the bottom of the 14” display. This narrows to less than 10mm around the rest of the screen. The 720p HD webcam sits at the top of the display.
The keyboard feels nice with only a small amount of flex just in the middle. There’s not a huge amount of travel on the keys but I got used to it quite quickly.
The trackpad is smooth and responsive. There’s no rattling and if you choose to click rather than tap, the clicks feel positive.
The 360 degree hinge allows the laptop to operate in an additional three modes, along with the standard laptop mode.
You can rotate it beyond 270 degrees and rest it on the keyboard for Theatre Mode. This is intended when there’s little need for interaction with the screen, like watching a film for instance. I was a bit concerned using this mode would scuff up the keyboard and its surrounding palm rest.
The keyboard and touchpad are automatically disabled as soon as you go past 190 degrees. The first time you do this, Windows will prompt you to enable Tablet mode, which you can opt to be the persistent setting. If you need to switch Tablet mode on and off, just swipe in from the right and tap on Tablet Mode. The touch screen responds well to gestures.
If you rotate the screen all the way around to Tablet Mode, so it lays flat on the back of the laptop, you can use the laptop as an oversized tablet. Autorotate also turns on once you rotate past 190 degrees, so you can also use the laptop in portrait orientation in all these additional modes just by rotating the laptop. It makes most sense in Tablet Mode of course.
The final Tent Mode is meant to be for presentations, where you need to interact with the screen to a degree. This would be a nice mode to use with optional stylus too. I found this the most useful mode, besides the Notebook Mode. The hinge does a good job of supporting the laptop, whatever angle you choose. And it just feels a natural way to interact with a touch screen this size. It does take up a fair bit of room though and the webcam’s position at the bottom of the screen is not ideal.
It is awkward switching between modes and definitely requires two hands, but the hinge is sturdy and it does make the laptop very versatile. It also has the advantage of making the laptop a little more robust – the hinge mechanism is often the weakest point of a laptop – particularly an entry level laptop. The fact that this hinge is designed to go past the usual 120 degrees means that potential weakness is overcome, so long as you’re careful.
Display and performance
The 1366 x 768 screen is a standard TN panel compared to the Full HD IPS panels on the more expensive models. If you’re used to the sharp display of your smartphone or tablet you may be disappointed but it’s perfectly adequate for everyday use. Viewing angles aren’t great and together with its reflective finish, you will find yourself adjusting the laptop or your position regularly as you move around the various configurations.
Using an X-Rite i1Display Pro monitor calibrator, I measured a maximum brightness of 235 candela per square meter which was a little below the spec’d 250 candela per square meter. I found it fine for general use and it was just about usable on a bright day outside with careful placement.
This is not a laptop aimed at photographers but I calibrated the screen, again using the i1Display Pro, to attempt to get the most accurate colours possible from the screen. There was a noticeable improvement, reducing the blue colour cast significantly. The screen also looked less washed out.
I measured the colour accuracy or Delta E of the screen. Delta E is a metric for understanding how the human eye perceives colour difference with a value of less than 1 being not perceptible to the human eye. And a value between 1 and 2 being barely perceptible. I measured an average Delta E of 2.8 which is not too bad and a vast improvement over the 9.94 I got before calibration.
Only 57% of the sRGB colour space was covered, the spectrum of colours that most devices conform to, from phones to TVs to monitors. This is a low result, but again for general use the display is more than adequate and the variation in brightness across the screen, was minimal, passing a final uniformity test.
Battery life was good and I did manage to get 9 hours 30 minutes of very light use with the screen at 75% brightness. Of course with heavier usage; watching videos or playing games for instance, this will be much reduced.
Charging the integrated 45Wh battery with the 65W, 20V 3.25A fast charger provides two hours of light usage with only 15 minutes of charge and a one hour charge brings an empty battery up to 80%. A full charge takes just over 2 hours. The charging LED lights amber while charging until the battery reaches 80% charge and then turns white. The power button has a surrounding LED which indicates the status of the battery going from white to amber when charge drops below 20%.
The dual core Pentium Gold 4415U 7th generation processor runs at 2.3Ghz. The Gold signifies the addition of hyper threading to provide 4 virtual cores, making it more in line with an i3 processor just with slightly less cache. It also has 4GB of the latest DDR4 memory running at 2133MHz. Together with a fast NVMe 128GB SSD drive, the laptop was far nippier than I was expecting. You do need to make sure you adjust the Power mode slider to “Best performance” to get the most out of the laptop, at the slight expense of battery life.
Using CrystalDiskMark I measured the read speed of the SSD at an impressive 1800MB/s. That’s more than 10 times faster than a mechanical hard drive and almost four times faster than a standard SSD. Write speeds were still very good at around 838MB/s.
Boot time to the Windows login screen was around 8 seconds and it woke up from sleep in a couple of seconds, usually by the time I’d fumbled to open the lid.
Running the Geekbench 4 Benchmark gave respectable scores with a single core score of 2692 and a multi-core score of 5123 helped along by the hyperthreading. As a comparison my 2012 Macbook Pro with an i5 processor and 8GB RAM scored 3015 and 5787 for those same tests. The Compute graphics test with the integrated Intel HD 610 scored 11760 versus 5677 for the Macbook Pro with its Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. The internal fans only come on when the laptop is being used intensively and were pretty quiet.
This is certainly no gaming machine, but you could play less intensive games if you wished. Fortnite did run with all settings at their minimum and it was just about playable, but the framerate often dropped to single figures when the scene got more complex.
You could run Photoshop and even Premiere Pro at a push, but I wouldn’t buy this laptop if you needed to use these regularly. Overall I was pleased with the performance when you consider its intended use and cost.
If you’re happy tinkering it is possible to upgrade the RAM and SSD or replace the battery. Lenovo do provide a detailed hardware repair manual.
The dual array microphones either side of the webcam do a good job of recording audio and there are two, 2W Harman stereo speakers at the bottom front of the laptop or conveniently at the back, top in Theatre Mode. The sound is good for laptop speakers. There’s little bass but you can hear the separation and there’s decent volume. There’s even a Dolby Audio app to adjust EQ. For the best experience you’ll need headphones to listen to the following sound test.
Finally there’s 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 and I had no issues with connectivity. The WiFi connection was decent around the house to the very average Sky router. I didn’t quite get the download speeds of my iPhone X but I could still stream YouTube videos quite happily from the furthest points in the house.
The Lenovo Yoga 530 or Flex 14 is available from around £400 or $400 all the way up to over £700 or $700. The higher models face much stiffer competition, but I found this entry level model far more interesting. If you can find the next model up with the 1080p IPS screen for not much more I’d probably go for that, but the screen on this model is still fine for everyday use.
It’s a versatile laptop and even if you rarely use the three other modes, they’re there if you need them. Windows 10 is more usable for touch than it’s ever been and with the optional stylus I’m sure it’d be even better, although I wasn’t able to get the active pen in time for this review.
The big question is whether you need the touch screen and the various modes. If you don’t, you could get an Intel i3 machine with double the RAM and a full HD screen for around the same price.
But for writing documents, browsing the web and watching YouTube videos I found this an enjoyable laptop to use and definitely one to consider. It would particularly suit a student with its versatility, lightweight and budget price.
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