In September, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) announced its next-generation low-power processor known as Core M. This chip, according to the company, is aimed at fanless clamshells and two-in-one systems. One of the first systems to feature the Core M processor -- the Lenovo (NASDAQOTH:LNVGY) Yoga 3 Pro -- received mixed reviews, particularly due to a regression in performance relative to the prior Haswell-based Yoga 2 Pro.
To be fair, it should come as no surprise that a 4.5-watt processor (that was later discovered to be configured to consume only 3.5 watts in the Yoga 3 Pro) would have a hard time competing with a 15-watt processor, especially if the chips are separated by just one manufacturing technology generation.
The Core M was the wrong chip for the Yoga 3 Pro, but it appears there is a new Lenovo machine in the pipeline that could finally be a good showcase for the chip's capabilities.
"I call him ... mini me"
Liliputing recently published initial details of what appears to be an 11.6-inch variant of the Yoga 3 Pro known as the Yoga 3. According to the site, this smaller machine is expected to pack between four and eight gigabytes of RAM, between 128 gigabytes and 256 gigabytes of flash storage, and Core M processors. The system should be a rather compelling showcase of what the Core M processor can do in a two-in-one, but it's not clear if Lenovo has addressed a number of the shortcomings that plagued the device's larger sibling.
What does Lenovo need to fix in the Yoga 3 relative to the Yoga 3 Pro to have a truly standout device?
The trio of complaints to address
I know of three major complaints levied against the Yoga 3 Pro in various reviews and blogs:
- Too many pixels per inch
- Short battery life
- Noisy fan
The first complaint (which I first saw in this YouTube review) was that the Yoga 3 Pro's very high-resolution display was actually a detriment to the user experience. One reviewer said he would have preferred a 1920-by-1080 display for this screen size for usability purposes. For Windows users, there really is such a thing as too many pixels per inch.
The second issue, which is tied to the first complaint, is that the device's battery life is too short. While the new Intel chip draws less power than its predecessor, it has been widely noted that Lenovo lowered the battery size from 50 watt-hours on the Yoga 2 Pro to just 44 watt-hours on the Yoga 3 Pro.
If Lenovo had opted for a lower-resolution display, the smaller battery size might not have been an issue. However, the combination of the lower power/performance chip, smaller battery, and similar display as the Yoga 2 Pro led to an uncomfortable decline in battery life. Given how much users seem to value battery life (as Apple MacBook Air sales show), this might not have been the best decision on Lenovo's part.
Finally, while the Core M processor has been advertised to offer "Core performance in a fanless envelope," the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro comes with a fan. Given that users are already dealing with reduced performance in going from a Core i5/i7 in the Yoga 2 Pro to a Core M in the Yoga 3 Pro, having a fan there just adds insult to injury.
Since Lenovo is apparently going with the Core M for these smaller Yoga 3 laptops, it should try to keep it fanless. If Lenovo sticks a fan in there anyway, why not just keep the device a little thicker, include a larger fan, and use a 15-watt chip to get much better performance?
Lenovo had better get this one right
If Lenovo makes the right technical decisions with the smaller Yoga 3 model, then I think it could be a great laptop and showcase for the Core M processor. However, if Lenovo chases specs to the detriment of the user experience and other Windows PC vendors follow suit, then expect Apple to keep crushing the competition with its pragmatic MacBook Air and Pro families of laptops.
Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.