Yoga 9i (15′) 2-in-1 Laptop
“The Yoga 9i is very fast for a 2-in-1, and with the right display could work well for creative professionals.”
- Excellent performance
- Solid build quality
- Very good keyboard and touchpad
- Outstanding audio performance
- Attractive aesthetic
- Battery life suffers from a small battery
- Display has poor contrast
Lenovo recently renamed its Yoga line, changing the Yoga C940 15-inch 2-in-1, for example, to the Yoga 9i. This is purely a marketing move — the Yoga 9i is the same as the C940 with updated components inside. Some other new Yogas are a bit more innovative, such as the Yoga 9i 14-inch with a leather cover, but Lenovo decided to play it safe with its largest and most powerful convertible laptop.
I received a $2,000 Yoga 9i review unit equipped with a 1oth-generation six-core Intel Core i7-10750H, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), a 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU. The Yoga C940 was already a fast laptop with a mediocre display and poor battery life that held it back from a higher rating. Does the Yoga 9i fix what was ailing the laptop and elevate it to a more competitive offering?
Since the upgraded CPU is the primary difference between the Yoga C940 and the Yoga 9i, we’ll start there. And it’s a suitable place to start because the Yoga 9i makes the most of its components.
In Geekbench 5, the Yoga 9i scored 1,285 in single-core mode and 5,551 in multi-core mode. That’s moderately faster than the Yoga C940’s 1,106 and 5,117 scores, and it beats out its closest current competition, the HP Spectre x360 15 at 1,237 and 5,013. The Dell XPS 15, a logical clamshell competitor, managed 1,314 and 7,549 with a much faster, eight-core Core i7-10875H.
Moving on to Handbrake, our test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, the Yoga 9i took 2.4 minutes to complete the test. Like many recent laptops, the Yoga 9i has a utility for adjusting performance by altering fan behavior, and the Yoga 9i dropped just eight seconds in its high-performance mode — not terribly impressive. The Spectre x360 15 required 16 seconds more than the Yoga, and the XPS 15 finished in just over two minutes. I’ll also mention HP’s Envy 15 with its Core i7-10750H, which beat the XPS 15 by two seconds in its HP Command Center Performance mode, and it was five seconds faster than the Yoga 9i in normal mode — HP’s utility made a more significant impact on performance, and the Envy 15 was the overall fastest at the Handbrake test among this group.
In Cinebench 20, the Yoga i9 scored 2,625 in multi-core mode and 481 in single-core mode. That compares to the Spectre x360 15’s 2,523 and 469, the XPS 15’s 3,582 and 488, and the Envy 15’s 2,593 and 436. All of these were in the laptop’s normal performance mode. The Yoga 9i and Envy 15 did show a slight increase in their respective performance modes, but not enough to catch up with the XPS 15 with its extra two cores and four threads.
Finally, I ran our Premiere Pro test that encodes a two-minute 4K video, and here’s where the Yoga 9i surprised. It took four minutes and 51 seconds (in both normal and performance modes, oddly enough), which beat out the more powerful XPS 15 that took just over five minutes. The Spectre x360 15 was the laggard here, taking 7.5 minutes to complete the test, and the Envy 15 was the performance leader when in Performance mode, finishing in just three minutes and 53 seconds. It matched the XPS 15 in normal mode.
That’s a lot of data to digest, so let’s simplify things. The Yoga 9i is the fastest 15-inch 2-in-1 we’ve tested, and we suspect it’s the fastest you can buy. It can also be upgraded to a Core i9-10980H, and if you want to spend the money, you can get even more performance out of this 2-in-1. From that perspective, the Yoga 9i makes for not just a great productivity laptop with the flexibility of a 2-in-1. It’s also a candidate for creative professionals who need fast photo and video editing. Whether the Yoga 9i truly lives up to that standard depends on its display, which we’ll cover next.
My review unit was equipped with Lenovo’s 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display rated at 500 nits and supports Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR). Lenovo also offers a 4K IPS display that also rates at 500 nits.
According to my colorimeter, Lenovo’s brightness claims are a little overblown. I saw 351 nits, which is well over our preferred 300 nit threshold but of course nowhere near 500 nits. Colors were average for premium displays today at 97% of sRGB and 75% of AdobeRGB, and the color accuracy of DeltaE 1.42 was good but not great (less than 1.0 is indistinguishable to the human eye and considered excellent). And gamma was perfect at 2.2, meaning photos and video won’t be too light or too dark. You’ll find that most Full HD displays are similar today, and you have to step up to high-quality 4K IPS and OLED displays to get better. For example, the Spectre x360 15’s 4K OLED display came in at 426 nits, 100% of sRGB and 98% of AdobeRGB, and a DeltaE or 1.21. The XPS 15’s 4K IPS display was even stronger at 442 nits, 100% of both sRGB and AdobeRGB, and a DeltaE of 0.65.
Where the Yoga 9i’s display fell behind was in its contrast, where it managed only 670:1. That’s a poor score for a premium laptop today, many of which approach or exceed our preferred 1000:1 threshold. The Spectre x360 16’s OLED display was the typical ridiculous 426,180:1, and the XPS 15 was great for an IPS display at 1480:1. Such a low contrast made the Yoga 9i’s display appear a bit washed out at times compared to its main competition, especially with black text on white backgrounds.
Even so, I enjoyed using the display, for the most part. I’ll admit that I like high-resolution and high-contrast displays for the sharpest text possible, and so I would have preferred a 4K panel — as a writer, the Yoga 9i’s display was never going to make me completely happy. But if you don’t mind Full HD in a larger display, then you’ll find it will get you through your productivity work without any problems. I will note that its support for Dolby Vision HDR means that Netflix HDR content is superior to most other Full HD displays — very bright and with dark scenes that show more detail than on most other displays.
We haven’t tested the Yoga 9i’s 4K display, but typically these have wider and more accurate colors and better contrast. Whether the 9i is a bona fide creative workstation depends on whether that 4K display can meet their color needs. Unfortunately, that’s not a question we can answer at this point.
I usually lump audio performance in with the display section, but the Yoga 9i’s audio system deserves some special attention. Rather than slapping a pair or two of speakers somewhere in the chassis, Lenovo built a soundbar into the 360-degree hinge that houses custom tweeters with vibration buffers to reduce distortion, and a pair of downward-firing woofers underneath the chassis. By placing the soundbar in the hinge, you get the benefit of the Dolby Atmos-tuned speakers in all orientations, including media mode where you’re most likely to benefit from it. And it’s some excellent audio, with tremendous volume that never distorts, clear mids and highs, and even a touch of bass. You can use the Yoga 9i for binging Netflix all by itself with no need for headphones or external speakers, even when sharing with a friend, and that’s unusual for a Windows 10 laptop. The Yoga 9i can’t quite match the latest MacBooks for the best laptop audio, but it’s pretty darn close.
The Yoga 9i’s design is unchanged from the Yoga C940’s. First and perhaps best, that means the chassis is very solid with no flexing, bending, or twisting in the lid, the keyboard deck, or the chassis bottom. It’s made from machined aluminum and enjoys outstanding fit and finish. Little touches like a hinge that easily opens with one hand while remaining in place during use abound, giving an overall impression of very high quality. The Dell XPS 15 and HP Spectre x360 15 have nothing on the Yoga 9i when it comes to build quality.
Aesthetically, the Yoga 9i fits Lenovo’s very conservative overall look. The angles are clean overall, and the rear of the chassis and bottom of the lid enjoy matching rounded surfaces that work well with the rest of the machine. It’s a solid dark grey, except for the rotating Dolby Atmos soundbar built into the hinge area, which has a bit of a copper tone. The Spectre x360 15 is a much more striking laptop with its gem-cut design and copper accents, but if you’re into a cleaner, simpler look, then you’ll love the Yoga 9i.
Like the Spectre x360 15, the Yoga 9i enjoy small bezels all around, while the Yoga uses an inverted notch to give something to grab onto when opening the lid and to make room for the webcam. The Yoga 9i’s thickness ranges from 0.69 to 0.78 inches, given a slight taper, and it weighs 4.41 pounds. That compares to the Spectre x360 15 at 0.79 inches and 4.24 pounds. The Yoga is a bit wider and deeper than the HP, which ultimately gives it a little more size to carry around and more keyboard deck to work with, and a taller touchpad. That’s a tradeoff that you’ll either love or hate. Both 2-in-1s are larger than you’ll want to use as a tablet unless you have it propped up on a surface.
Connectivity is middling, with a proprietary power connection, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, a 3.5mm audio jack along the left-hand side, and a single USB-A 3.2 port along the right-hand side. Surprisingly, there’s no SD card reader, which is a real disappointment, especially for creative professionals. The Spectre x360 15 adds in a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and connects to more displays without a dock. Wireless connectivity is via Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Yoga 9i’s keyboard looks exactly like the one you’ll find on every other Yoga. It has large, sculpted keys with plenty of space between them and less travel than I like to see. On this model, though, Lenovo pulled over the “TrueStrike” technology from its Legion gaming laptops that uses a “soft-landing” switch to create a snappier bottoming action. I admit that I liked this version better than the others I’ve tried, which were never my favorite, finding it more precise and responsive. The Yoga 9i’s keyboard still doesn’t match up to my favorites, the HP Spectre line’s keyboard on the Windows 10 side, and Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks. Most people, though, will love this keyboard, and it will have them typing at full speed in no time.
The touchpad is nicely sized, not as large as the Dell XPS 15’s but still larger (or at least taller) than the Spectre x360 15’s touchpad. It enjoys a glass covering that makes it extremely comfortable for swiping, and its Microsoft Precision Touchpad drivers mean it’s responsive and supports all of Windows 10’s multitouch gestures.
The touch display is responsive, as pretty much all touch displays are today. And it supports Lenovo’s active pen, which comes docked on the right side of the chassis for both charging and making sure you don’t lose it. The downside: It’s smaller than a “real” pen, and so it takes some getting used to. The pen supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and in this version, it has an elastomer tip that is intended to better emulate a pen’s feeling on paper.
Windows 10 Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader that was quick and accurate. And, the Yoga 9i has the usual Lenovo privacy shutter for the webcam — slide it over, and it physically blocks the camera from would-be spies.
The biggest problem with the Yoga 9i’s battery life is that it could be so much better if only Lenovo had packed more battery inside. As it is, there are just 69 watt-hours to power a 15.6-inch display and some powerful components. As we’ll see, that results in battery life that’s not terrible but could be so much better.
First, the Yoga 9i lasted close to 3.5 hours in our demanding Basemark web benchmark test, which is about average for laptops with 45-watt CPUs. The Dell XPS 15 with its faster CPU and 4K display lasted for two minutes less, though, meaning that Dell’s inclusion of 86 watt-hours of battery capacity paid some dividends here. The Spectre x360 15 with its power-hungry OLED display lasted 44 minutes less than the Yoga 9i with its Full HD display (not that the display plays that huge a role in the Basemark test).
In our web browsing test, which best emulates productivity performance, the Yoga 9i lasted for just over 7.5 hours, 40 minutes longer than the XPS 15 and almost 90 minutes longer than the Spectre x360. And in our video looping test that plays a Full HD Avengers trailer until the battery runs out, the Yoga 9i lasted for just over 12 hours — a good score that benefitted from the Full HD display. The XPS 15 lasted for under 7.5 hours and the Spectre x360 15 for 6.5 hours.
All in all, this is decent battery life for a powerful 2-in-1 with a 15.6-inch display, and the Yoga 9i lasts longer than its predecessor. It’s possible to get a full day’s work out of the laptop if you go easy on the CPU and GPU, but if you’re going to do demanding work, then you’ll want to carry the power adapter with you. I still can’t help but wish that Lenovo had included a larger battery because then battery life could be a real strength.
The Lenovo Yoga 9i is even faster than the Yoga C940, which was already among the fastest 2-in-1s you can buy. Lenovo worked some magic with the thermals to squeeze out every ounce of performance, and it shows. The 2-in-1 is well-built, attractive, and offers excellent sound.
The biggest downside is the display, which exhibited poor contrast that detracted from the overall experience. Creative professionals will want to look at the 4K display option, which will have an impact on battery life but will likely offer wider and more accurate colors. And I might be repeating myself here, but I wish there was a bigger battery inside.
Are there any alternatives?
The Dell XPS 15 is a direct competitor to the Yoga 9i in the 15-inch clamshell market, and it’s a strong one. It has a better display, at least as far as we’ve tested, and therefore offers a better option for demanding creative pros. The XPS 15 is also less expensive than the Yoga 9i, currently almost $200 less for an equivalent configuration.
A direct alternative is the HP Spectre x360 15, which offers the same configuration as the 9i for $300 less (on sale). The Spectre x360 15 is a much more striking 2-in-1 aesthetically and offers slightly better connectivity. But the Yoga 9i is faster and can be upgraded to a Core i9 to really blow the HP out of the water.
Finally, you could consider the HP Envy 15, which is a whopping $650 less than the Yoga 9i as configured. And for $250 less, you can get a spectacular OLED display and an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU that makes the Envy 15 a much more powerful and pleasant laptop.
How long will it last?
The Yoga 9i is built like a tank and will last forever. Okay, maybe not forever, but for as long as you’ll need it to last. The one-year warranty is industry standard and too short, as always.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Yoga 9i is the fastest 2-in-1 we know of, and it offers outstanding audio quality and a great design. But consider the 4K display if you’re going to be using it for photo or video editing.