New improvements include a brilliant OLED screen, a curvier design and more.
SAM RUTHERFORD: Lenovo is one of the first companies to really nail two in one design. And ever since, it’s been refining the formula for its top notch convertibles. And while there are a couple of small variables I’m not fully on board with for this year’s edition, there’s no doubt the new 14-inch Yoga 9i is continuing Lenovo’s excellent track record.
You get superb battery life, clever and surprisingly powerful speakers, good performance, plenty of ports, and even an optional OLED display. In short, if you’re looking for a light, long-lasting, and very adaptable 360 hybrid, this thing belongs at the top of your list.
Now, I have to admit, when I first unboxed the Yoga 9i, there was something about its design that just didn’t look right to me. Now, for thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized Lenovo’s attempt to create a luxury aesthetic doesn’t quite go far enough. Check it out. Most of the laptop is constructed out of matte aluminum, including its lid, deck, and bottom. While other ports like its keyboard and touchpad have been painted to match.
Lenovo calls this particular color oatmeal, which isn’t particularly flattering, although I must say the addition of subtle brown tones looks better in person than its name suggests. So pretty normal so far. Nothing that unusual. The issue is that for 2022, Lenovo rounded out the Yoga 9i sides to make the laptop more comfortable to hold, which it is, and it feels great.
But then the company polished those edges to a mirror finish, which would look fine in isolation. But when viewed next to its satin finish, things look a bit awkward. Then you add in the fact that the only other bit of shiny metal on the entire system is its combo hinge/speaker bar. And you’re left with something that doesn’t quite give off the same vibes as high-end jewelry while also missing the more minimalist appearance you get on competitors, like a Surface or MacBook.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So if you think the 9i looks great, feel free to ignore everything I just said. And aside from its appearance, the Yoga offers great build quality with very little flex across its entire chassis. Other small improvements include a larger touchpad, some handy new media and video calling keys on the right, and a subtle notch around the webcam that makes the lid just a touch easier to open.
I also appreciate the dedicated fingerprint reader in the bottom right. My only remaining nitpick is the feel of the keys. They don’t have a lot of travel, and their light actuation weight leaves the whole affair feeling a bit lifeless, which is kind of a shame. And having used countless thinkpads over the years, I know Lenovo can do better. By default, the Yoga 9i ships with a 14-inch 1920 by 1080 LCD display with a new and slightly taller 16 by 10 aspect ratio, up from 16 by 9 on the previous model.
But on our $1,500 review unit, we have a 2880 by 1800 old screen that’s simply a joy to look at. Not only does it feature visa display HDR 500 True Black certification, on our light meter, it pumped out just shy of 400 nits of brightness. So you get rich, vivid colors in addition to excellent screen readability regardless of the conditions.
If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, this is a great component to upgrade. As for audio, the Yoga 9i features Lenovo’s signature speaker bar hinge. So in addition to boasting an innovative design that ensures sound is directed at you, in practically any mode, instead of away from you or down to a table like some laptops like to do, the yoga pumps out great audio with some of the deepest bass I’ve heard from a laptop this size.
Look, you’re not going to rattle your neighbors China cabinet, but this is one of the few times. I’m not going to complain about a notebook lacking low-end thump. And another small but very welcome upgrade from the 720p resolution on last year’s model, the 9i comes with a new 1080p webcam that also supports Windows Hello. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. 1920 by 1080 should be the bare minimum for webcams on modern laptops.
And while I admit its image quality can be a tiny bit grainy in low light, it’s still plenty of sharpness for all your video calling needs. And if you look closely, you’ll notice there’s even a physical shutter you can close when it’s not in use. That’s a nice touch for some extra peace of mind. When it comes to performance, the Yoga 9i packs a new 12th Gen Intel Core I7 1260p CPU, up to 16 gigs of RAM, and a one terabyte SSD.
Promising plenty of speed for all your standard productivity needs. Among ultraportables without discrete graphics, it posted top tier scores in Geekbench 5, PCMark 10, and Cinebench. However, its Intel Iris integrated GPU means that even though it posted a solid time of 37 seconds in our 4K video encoding benchmark in HandBrake, you’re still going to want something a bit more substantial if you’re looking to do a lot of heavy photo or video editing.
Moving on to battery life. Even with its above average performance, the Yoga 9i still turned in an excellent time on our local video rundown test. It lasted 14 hours and 22 minutes, which is the second longest mark we’ve seen this year, only behind the Surface Laptop Go 2’s time of 14.43. And in the real world, I had no problems making it last throughout an entire workday on a single charge.
On top of that, because the laptop supports charging via USB-C, even if you forget your power brick at home, there’s a good chance you can borrow an adapter from a friend or a colleague in a pinch. Finally, I want to give credit to Lenovo for finding room for four USB ports, one type A and three Type-C, including two with Thunderbolt 4.
Even among standard clamshells, a lot of laptop makers have started equipping systems with just two or three ports. So it’s really nice to see the corner cutting hasn’t hit the Yoga line yet. Not counting my admittedly subjective complaints during the Yoga 9i design, this thing is a nearly ideal two in one.
It offers good performance, great sound, and even better battery life in a well-built and adaptable chassis. Heck, Lenovo even throws an active stylus and the laptop sleeve in the box, the latter of which you can use to stash the stylus while traveling. Its display is also now 16 by 10, which gives you a little bit of extra screen space for productivity.
And thanks to its curvy edges, this thing is noticeably nicer to hold than last year’s model. You even get two different options for biometric login. The only real issue is its somewhat shallow and mushy keyboard. But given the rest of the 9i’s strengths, that’s probably not a deal-breaker unless you’re a truly discerning typist.
And while the starting price of around $1,250 isn’t cheap, our review model with its old screen costs just $1,500, which kind of feels like a deal. I should also mention that at least in the US, the old model is a Best Buy exclusive. Regardless of which version you go for, what you’re getting is a quality product.
And considering the pedigree of Lenovo’s Yoga line, it’s hardly a surprise that this year’s 9i fairs well by almost every metric. So if you’re looking for a premier, all-rounder with great longevity, there aren’t a lot of systems that do it better than this. I’m still kind of hoping that Lenovo goes back to those bright orange paint jobs they used to have back in the day. But that’s just me. Tell me what you think. So don’t forget to comment, like, and subscribe for more video reviews and hands ons from Engadget.