Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Review

Posted on May 1, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 11 with 15 Comments

The Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 is the first PC I’ve reviewed that utilizes Intel’s 12th-Gen Core chipsets and it arrives with a stunning new design.

Design

The Lenovo Yoga 9i is one of the most attractive PCs I’ve ever used. It’s a convertible laptop design with an all-aluminum CNC body, but the big change this year is the new “comfort edge” design where the outward edges of the display lid and keyboard base are curved rather than hard-edged.

I’m especially happy with the rounded and polished edges on the keyboard base, which resemble the edges of the iPhone 6/7/8/X/11-series smartphones and have the same shiny sheen. It’s a pretty look, for sure, but it’s also functional: the curved edges make the PC much more comfortable to use and carry. I very much prefer it to the sharp, angular look of HP’s Spectre x360 line.

The display hinge is almost magical. You can easily open the display lid with a single hand, and when you position the lid as you prefer, it stays there solidly. The hinge is also hidden behind a unique rotating speaker bar, which adds a bit of visual flourish.

As with several other recent Lenovo laptops, the Yoga 9i 14 utilizes an angled housing for the webcam that barely rises above the natural top of the lid. I’m mixed on the look, but this sort of “reverse notch,” for lack of a better term, allows Lenovo to use a higher-quality webcam, and that’s always a good thing. This angular housing also serves as the natural place to place your thumb to open the display lid. Which, sadly, can get a bit covered in fingerprints.

Display

I’m incredibly grateful to see PC makers finally embracing 16:10 aspect ratio displays, as this format neatly splits the difference between 16:9 displays, which are optimized for video playback, and 3:2 displays, which are most appropriate for tablets and portrait mode usage. It’s the right choice for most portable PCs, and it’s the right choice for the Yoga 9i, which most people will use as a laptop most of the time.

There are three display panel choices, all of which are 14-inches in size with 60 Hz refresh rates, 400 nits of brightness, and multitouch capabilities: Full HD (1920 x 1200) LCD IPS, WQHD+ (2880 x 1800) OLED IPS, and WUXGA (3840 x 2400) OLED IPS; the latter two offer Dolby Vision HDR capabilities as well. The review unit arrived with the latter option, and it is a stunner, with stunning crisp graphics and text and rich, vibrant colors and the deepest-imaginable blacks.

The display is framed by very small bezels on the sides and more traditional bezels on the top and bottom. And in addition to multitouch, it supports smartpens, including the bundled Lenovo Precision Pen 2.

Internal components

The Yoga 9i is the first PC I’ve reviewed that’s powered by Intel’s new 12-Gen Core P-series mobile chipset. This hybrid architecture offers both performance cores and efficiency cores, similar to ARM-based chipset designs, marking a major departure from Intel’s mainstream previous-generation Core microprocessors. Intel brands these new core types as Performance and Efficient, and the Core i7-1260P processor in the review unit has four Performance cores and 8 Efficient cores, for a total of 12. (You can also configure the device with a less costly Core i5-1240P processor.)

In another sharp break from the past, Intel has also split its mobile-oriented Core chipsets into 15- and 28-watt variants, whereas previously we only saw 15-watt versions. The new P-series chips that power the Yoga are of the 28-watt variety—Intel still uses the U-series designation for 15-watt chips—and the basic difference is that the P-series can hit much higher base and max Turbo frequencies. (From what I can tell, the U- And P-series both support the same memory speeds and capacities.) In short, PCs powered by P-series chips like the Yoga 9i are powerful, thin, and light, whereas those powered by U-series chips are just thin and light.

I spent a bit more time than I had hoped to in evaluating the performance of the Yoga 9i because I saw some odd results in early testing. (Ditto for the battery life, see below.) That is, it performed normally and as expected for the most part, whether I was performing my normal productivity task or using more demanding creation apps like Visual Studio 2022 (software development) and Adobe Premiere Elements 2022 (video editing). Granted, a dedicated GPU would probably make a big difference as well, at least with Premiere.

Early on in the review process, I would also occasionally experience strange performance hitches of the sort I never see aside from on low-end machines like the Surface Go line. This was puzzling and concerning, and hard to reproduce. And I spent a lot of time experimenting with different Power modes (a Windows feature) and the Smart Power configuration that’s specific to Lenovo to see if that had something to do with it. In the end, however, the problems seemed to simply disappear on their own, and I sat on this review for an extra week to make sure it was consistent.

From a noise and heat perspective, the Yoga 9i is generally quiet with just a bit of fan noise when I’m working normally using the default Balanced power mode and with Lenovo’s Smart Power set to “Extreme Performance.” It has never run hot.

The Yoga 9i is also the first PC I’ve tested that meets the criteria for the new 3rd-generation Intel Evo specification, which, among other things, has targets for instant wake capabilities, AI-based noise suppression and other audio/video support, immersive audio, and more in addition to the previous performance, battery life, and hardware support (Wi-Fi 6E, Thunderbolt 4, and so on) requirements. One of the most impressive things about this PC is how quickly it wakes up from sleep: if the display lid is open, a proximity sensor fires up the display as you approach. But even when you have to open the lid, the display comes on before it’s positioned correctly.

Beyond the new chipset, which utilizes Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, the Yoga 9i can be configured with 8 or 16 GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB of M.2-based PCIe Gen 4 x4 SSD storage. The review unit was maxed out in both specs.

Note that the Yoga can be easily opened up, and it’s possible to replace the SSD, but not the RAM, which is soldered.

Connectivity

The Yoga 9i offers Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity, both of which are as modern as is possible here in 2022. But there’s no cellular data, even as an option.

Ports and expansion

Given its thin and light design, the Yoga 9i provides a reasonable collection of modern and legacy ports. You’ll find a full-sized USB-A 3.2 port and two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports on the left.

And on the right, Lenovo provides a single USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, along with a combo microphone/headphone jack and the Power button, so that it is accessible no matter which orientation you’re using.

Audio and video

The Yoga 9i features a unique Bowers & Wilkins stereo speaker setup than delivers stellar sound no matter which orientation you choose. There are four speakers in all, with two 2-watt tweeters in the Yoga’s rotating hinge and two 3-watt woofers in the keyboard base that fire to the sides.

Add to that its Dolby Atmos support, and the Yoga provides a stunning multimedia presentation with terrific clarity and bass. Videos look and sound amazing.

The bundled 1080p webcam is excellent for a built-in unit, with 2 MP of resolution and a manual privacy shutter. It also supports IR for Windows Hello facial recognition. If you enable that feature, it will work with the Yoga’s incredible presence detection to fire up the display and sign you in instantly.

Keyboard and touchpad

The Yoga 9i’s keyboard experience is mostly excellent, with short and quiet key throws. There is almost no flex to the keyboard, which is impressive. And unlike with ThinkPads, the Ctrl and Fn keys are at least in the right places.

But one simple design change almost ruins everything: instead of placing the Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End buttons in the rightmost column of keys in the keyboard, Lenovo has instead added a second set of function keys, each with its own indecipherable keycap icon. This was a huge mistake, and I hope that Lenovo recovers quickly and doesn’t inflict future Yogas with this design.

I know what you’re thinking. If this is the only laptop you use, you’ll get used to those weird extra function keys on the right. Maybe, but that’s not the only problem. For these keys to be used enough that you’d even remember what they do, they would have to be useful, not just occasionally but more often than that. And they are not. From top to bottom, the keys are Smart Power, Background Blur, Audio Profile, and Color Mode. What. Why?

And if you tap one by mistake—I constantly hit the Color Mode key, which I wish was End—the pop-up overlay doesn’t even explain what you’ve done. It just displays an icon that is as indecipherable as the icons on the keycaps. And that Color Mode key I keep hitting shows icons for “sun” and “moon,” which doesn’t seem like a color mode to me, so I keep wondering what it is.  As bad, the performance is super-slow. So when I mis-tap the Color Mode key and see the moon icon, I want to hit it again quickly to toggle it back to normal. Nope. You need to wait a second. Grr.

We have a place for function keys, Lenovo. If any of these other functions are that important, you can find the space there. And looking over what is there, I certainly see some I’d get rid of, like Calculator, Airplane Mode, and PrtSc, the latter of which is often integrated into another key.

One keyboard feature I really like is the built-in fingerprint reader, which is found in the bottom right corner of the keyboard. It looks like a key but doesn’t press down, of course, and it is both fast and reliable.

The Yoga 9i also features a very large touchpad—Lenovo tells me that it’s 45 percent bigger than the version on its predecessor—but I found it no more error-prone than most modern touchpads. That said, it was no less error-prone either, and I configured Windows to ignore 3- and 4-finger gestures since I almost always trigger them by mistake.

Portability

At 3.09 pounds and 0.6 inches thick, the Yoga 9i 14 is indeed thin and light for what is essentially a 14-inch Ultrabook convertible. As noted, I wasn’t able to travel with it.

Lenovo reports that my model of the Yoga 9i is capable of about 7 hours of battery life in normal productivity usage or up to 13 hours with local video playback. (Versions with lesser displays can hit up to 10 and 20 hours, respectively.) I had hoped to take this PC to Mexico City in mid-April to test the battery in real-world conditions, but that opportunity was squandered when my wife and I were forced to delay that trip. And what I’ve seen using the PC around the house very regularly is mixed, with some interesting and unexplainable spikes. (Some good, some bad.) Overall, however, it appears that I averaged about 5:30 on battery. Not great.

In the good news department, you can fast-charge the Yoga 9i’s large 75-watt-hour battery, and I was able to charge it over 30 percent in just 15 minutes.

Software

The Yoga 9i comes with Windows 11 Home, and Lenovo adds Amazon Alexa, several Lenovo-branded utilities, plus a few from Dolby, Intel, and Realtek. The only stinker in the bunch is McAfee LiveSafe, which I always remove immediately.

That said, I question the need for so many Lenovo utilities. Some are truly useful, of course, like Lenovo Vantage, and anyone who buys a Yoga 9i should spend the time to explore what’s available. But three of the utilities—Lenovo Smart Appearance, Lenovo Smart Noise Cancellation, and Lenovo Voice—are clearly pandemic-era responses to our new work-from-home and hybrid work needs, and would perhaps be better featured as part of Lenovo Vantage.

But one, Lenovo Hotkeys, is truly useless: I had expected to use this utility to change the terrible Smart Power, Background Blur, Audio Profile, and Color Mode function keys to Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End, respectively, but all this app does is identify where these and the other special keys are on the keyboard. Spare me.

Pricing and configurations

The Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 starts at $1450 for a model with a Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM, and it can quickly escalate to about $2000 as you add upgrades. The review unit is priced at a bit over $1700, which seems a bit high to me. At that price level, I recommend comparing with ThinkPad and the HP EliteBook x360 and Spectre x360 series.

There are two colors available, Oatmeal (gray) and Storm Gray (dark gray). The review unit is the latter color and would be my choice.

Recommendations and conclusions

The Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 is so close, but the superfluous extra function keys, so-so battery life, and expensive price tag are bumming me out. I love almost everything else about it, from its gorgeous new design with the curved edges to its bright and beautiful 16:10 display plane, surprisingly powerful sound system, and 1080p webcam. I’m not sure what to take away from my first real experience with a 12th-Gen P-series chipset; aside from the initial hiccups, it seems to perform no better or worse than its predecessors in normal productivity app usage. I assume there will be further optimizations.

If you can live with the issues I raised, you won’t be disappointed.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Gorgeous design
  • Terrific performance
  • Bright, colorful 16:10 display panel with Dolby Vision
  • Instant-on capabilities are impressive
  • Killer sound with Dolby Atmos
  • 1080p webcam for the win
  • Ample ports

Cons

  • So-so battery life
  • Superfluous extra function keys should be programmable
  • Too many Lenovo utilities
  • Expensive

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Review”

  1. harrymyhre

    what were they thinking

  2. rob_segal

    The battery life is disappointing, but I wonder how much effect the OLED display has on that. Even if an IPS display added an extra hour to an hour and a half, it's still disappointing. Lenovo chose a bad option for the extra keys on the right side of the keyboard. HP's layout is good with home, end, page up, and page down located there. Macro keys would have been better. Even media keys (play, pause, previous, next) would have been more useful.

    • Paul Thurrott

      OLED definitely impacts the battery. But the battery is also bigger now (75-watt-hours vs. 60) and Lenovo's battery life estimates for the non-OLED are about 10 hours vs. 7 for OLED. I'm guessing that 6.5-to-7 hours is possible real-world. And that's ... fine. It's not exceptional.

  3. wright_is

    I'm not sure about the retro, 1970s style rounded, chromed edges to the case. It sound like they might be practical, but it makes the machine look somehow dated.

  4. hrlngrv

    Half-height Up/Down keys is a deal killer for me. Inverted T or nothing.


    OTOH, damn good it's 16:10. Maybe 16:9 and wider make a little sense on desktop monitors, but they suck on laptops, especially 1366x768 (proof there is a Devil).

  5. Ruvger

    The keyboard layout is a deal breaker for me

  6. ikjadoon

    The battery life is like getting hit with a sack of bricks, even if we’re generous and assume the IPS panel gets 1-2 more hours.


    Curious why Intel’s big. LITTLE arrangement didn’t help efficiency hardly any. That felt like a 24 months of hype for nothing. Alder Lake was supposed to be something huge for laptop efficiency.


    Performance is of course good. Nobody was too upset with Intel laptop performance. But the efficiency, my God. What happen to the efficiency?


    Waiting for Intel efficiency is turning into waiting for Intel 10nm: it’ll take an unbelievably long time, it’ll launch in limited SKUs, and Intel will have denied problems throughout the delays until the final earnings call when they can’t.


    I was surprised Intel is still blaming Apple’s loss for their weaker Q2 2022 revenue. Huh? Still? It’s been 18 months now!

    • Paul Thurrott

      I suspect this will be improved via drivers and then, more dramatically, via subsequent processor updates.

  7. Chris_Kez

    A minor nitpick on Intel’s naming convention for cores— why mix a noun (Performance) and an adjective (Efficient)? Just call it an “Efficiency” core!

  8. red.radar

    The rounded corners are definitely appreciated. That greatly improves the comfort factor and would help minimize the need for docks and other accessories.

  9. yaddamaster

    I like the rounded corners but the price! That is a ridiculous price.

  10. Nic

    Lost me at the 16GB max memory and I remained lost at the lack of dedicated home/end keys. Guess I'll make my XPS13 last another year.

  11. timeslippa85

    I purchased the 8gb 1080p version and I love it. I'm getting 8-9 hours of battery life. The oled version is gorgeous, but it has to be drawing a lot energy.

  12. harrymyhre

    those keys on the side - another instance of designers not asking the users what they want.