Lenovo Yoga 900 First Impressions

Posted on November 2, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 0 Comments

Lenovo Yoga 900 First Impressions

The Yoga 900 introduces a new naming convention for Lenovo’s excellent 2-in-1 lineup, but it also marks a return to form, eschewing last year’s controversial Core M choice and returning home to comforting and familiar Core i-series of processors.

It used to be so easy. For the past couple of years, the Yoga Pro—now called Yoga 900—has run neck-and-neck with another Lenovo device, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, in the market for premium convertible 2-in-1 PCs. (That is, 2-in-1s with which the screen does not detach from the keyboard, or what I sometimes called transforming PCs.) But this year, things changed. The Dell XPS 13 (and now 15), HP Spectre x360, and, most recently, Microsoft’s Surface Book (which, yes, does have a detachable screen, I know), have all chipped away at a market Lenovo once pretty much had to itself.

But let’s not forget that Lenovo pretty much invented this market with its YOGA line of products, which started off as IdeaPads and have since evolved into something much, much nicer. So it is with some interest that I behold the latest rendition of this magnificent machine. Lenovo needs to get it right this time.

And to be clear, it appears they have. This makes my job harder, as I can now longer just point to a couple of machines and explain the trade-offs of each. But it’s so much better for the PC market as a whole. And the Lenovo Yoga 900 can soar or sink on its own merits.

I think it’s going to soar. If you take a gander at my Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro Review from January, you will find that I highlighted a number of issues, each of which I will examine on the new device to see if they’ve been fixed: A Core M processor that still required a fan, a smallish screen given the form factor, and a merely good keyboard with no ThinkPad-style TrackPoint pointing stick.

But last year’s Yoga 3 Pro excellent overall, with a rock-steady watchband-style hinge, a thin and light form factor, a power port that doubles as an extra USB port, a wonderfully grippy wrist rest, and of course the transforming screen functionality that first gave Yoga its name.

power

For the Yoga 900 to be truly successful, these positive notes need to have carried forward as well.

The amazing watchband hinge carries forward to the Yoga 900.

The amazing watchband hinge carries forward to the Yoga 900.

Just looking over the device, I can answer a few of my own questions.

First, the Core M processor is gone, and while I never had an issue with its performance, I always felt like the payoff should be a completely fanless (and thus silent) design, and the Yoga 3 Pro did not deliver that. So with the Yoga 900, Lenovo has returned to the Core i chipset, and my review unit ships with a 2.6 GHz Core i7-6500U, a properly powerful engine. I will need to test things before I know about fan noise, of course.

core-i(Other core specs on the review unit include 16 GB of RAM, a huge 512 GB SSD, and Intel Wireless-AC. There is no Windows Hello-compatible camera.)

The screen appears unchanged, it’s a 13.3-inch unit that runs at 3200 x 1800. But while the size of the bezel is a bit onerous, especially at the bottom towards the hinge, the screen is simply gorgeous. Still, I’m surprised Lenovo didn’t cram a 14-inch display in there.

A nice touch: Bottom-mounted speakers.

A nice touch: Bottom-mounted speakers.

The keyboard and clickpad have both been updated. And while I will need to test them to see whether they’re improved, it appears that the keyboard has been recessed somewhat so that the keys don’t touch the desk when you flip the screen around and use the device in stand mode. Oddly, Lenovo removed the grippy, dimpled wrist rest surface from the previous version, and the new matte finish seems cheaper and less premium.

kb-click

Lenovo continues to sell the Yoga 900 in a unique orange color and a more pedestrian gray. I would choose orange if I were paying, but the review unit is gray and will go unnoticed by most. And don’t forget the stunning new gold version. The watchband hinge seems unchanged and continues to be rock solid and is less bouncy than the screen on the Surface Book.

So we’ll see how this one goes. I still really like the Yoga form factor, and feel that a non-detachable screen is the more reliable way to go on a laptop-type device. And at $1200 to $1400 depending on configuration, the Yoga 900 also nicely undercuts the Surface Book.

More soon.

 

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