Lenovo Yoga 900 Laptop Review
We think you'll flip for Lenovo's latest bendy Yoga laptop.
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The original Lenovo Yoga concept was so deceptively simple that it feels like it's been around forever. Instead of using latches, magnets, or kickstands, Lenovo just made hinges that let you flip a laptop's screen all the way around to the back. No muss, no fuss, no docking, no clicking, no clacking.
The latest top-tier Lenovo Yoga, the Lenovo Yoga 900 (MSRP $1,199), takes the idea back to its roots. Instead of slumming it with a lower-power processor, Lenovo's packed a fast Intel Core i7 into this Yoga's flexible frame.
But while we loved its crisp QHD+ touchscreen display, excellent keyboard, impressive hinge, and robust design, the Yoga 900 isn't without its flaws. Its trackpad is far behind the pack, and an overly aggressive installation of McAfee (along with other Lenovo apps) made the experience less-than-ideal for its asking price.
How We Tested
We strive to put every laptop we review through a thorough examination. With the Lenovo Yoga 900 this included our usual series of synthetic benchmarks, which test things like gaming prowess, portability, battery life, and general performance.
We also use the laptop to accomplish many of our day-to-day tasks, including writing the review you're reading right now. This gives us a view of not only into the system's peak abilities, but into what you can expect during day-to-day life.
The Lenovo Yoga 900 comes in a bunch of different configurations, but we were actually quite happy with the base model we tested. It's competitively specced out to compete with other Windows ultrabooks, and it holds its own against the weakly-armed MacBook Air. The base configuration comes with:
•6th Generation Intel Core i7-6500U dual-core processor
•8 GB DDR3 RAM
•256 GB SSD
•Intel HD Graphics 520
•13.3-inch QHD+ (3200x1800) glossy touchscreen
•WiFi 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0
The most expensive option comes with the same processor, but with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD for around $1,500. Previous Yogas have had replaceable M.2 SSDs, so you might be able to upgrade the built-in drive later on down the road. RAM is soldered in place, unfortunately.
This year's Yoga comes in champagne gold, platinum silver, and our perennial favorite Yoga color, clementine orange.
What We Liked
As flexible as you want
Since it was developed to serve as both an ultrabook and a tablet, the Yoga 900 has been fine-tuned to take advantage of its slick hinge. Unlike other hybrid designs that are topheavy or limited to only a few awkward screen angles, the Yoga remains stable and balanced no matter how you use it.
Conveniently, Windows 10 asks if you'd like to switch to its more touch-friendly tablet mode whenever you fold the screen over behind the keyboard. While tablet mode doesn't work perfectly with all apps, it's a good enough solution to let you switch between full-screen apps, or use two apps side-by-side without a keyboard or mouse.
The stylish watch band-style hinge works as advertised, letting you easily use the Yoga 900 how you want. As a tablet and a laptop, Lenovo has taken all its modes into consideration. The screen and keyboard sections are both rimmed with a grippy rubber that acts like a foot for when you're using it on a table as a tent. Tent mode also lets the Yoga 900 take up a lot less space on a cramped tray table than competing convertible notebooks. The keyboard is inset into the base so that the keys don't get messed with if you have the keyboard face-down on a surface.
Competitive, quick guts
Lenovo Yoga 900 comes pretty well equipped to handle most tasks, from ordinary work stuff to even some light HD video editing and a little gaming. Unlike Microsoft's Surface Pro or Dell's XPS ultrabooks, the Yoga 900 backs up its premium price with good specs, even if you buy the cheapest version—you can't buy this laptop without at least 8 GB of RAM and a Core i7 processor, both of which will cost you $1450 to get in the latest MacBook Air. It's good to see Lenovo raise the bar for what you get by default.
Even though it comes with an Intel i7 processor, the Yoga 900 still manages to be super sleek. Its thin metal and plastic body feels nice to carry and hold, and its fan is relatively quiet. Only when the speedy processor is taxed heavily will you hear the fan kick up to annoying levels of noise. You also get three USB 3.0 (one of which is the new Type-C) ports, a bonus USB 2.0 port (it does double duty as the charging port) and a full-sized SD card slot so the thin Yoga can hook up to just about anything you have.
A bright, crisp touch display
A dim, bad-looking screen can really diminish the enjoyment of using a device like a tablet, but it's great that the Lenovo Yoga 900 packs a pretty, bright screen that delivers a sharp image, coming in at 3200 x 1800. Colors looked pleasing to the eye, and the backlight was just bright enough to overpower glare in most environments. It's not the greatest screen you can get in a notebook computer today, but it's better than the MacBook Air by a long shot.
Though the Yoga 900 is super slim, Lenovo has packed a great little keyboard into it. Without being weird and shallow like Apple's 2015 MacBook, this keyboard gives enough travel and feels precise to use for long bursts of typing. It's backlit, and unlike the prior Yoga 3 Pro, it has a row of function/media keys at the very top.
Good battery life
Using the Yoga 900 on and off for a few days really impressed us. We were able to work for about a day and a half between charges. In our intensive battery test using PCMark's Home battery benchmark, we were able to get around four hours of runtime. While it's not as impressive as the Dell XPS 13's battery life which scored 5.5 hours, we'd say that the Yoga's roughly in line with other high-resolution, super thin ultrabooks in 2016.
What We Didn't Like
Wide screen great for movies, not for work
Even though we listed the screen as a positive up above, there's one thing about the screen that we didn't like. Unlike a lot of other laptops out there, the Yoga 900's screen is a 16:9 aspect ratio, like a TV. While that's great for movies, for productivity it's not awesome. We think that a taller 16:10 display would be a better compromise.
McAfee rears its ugly head
As we've seen in some other recent laptops, McAfee's antivirus software can really clutter up an otherwise fine computing experience. Lenovo might include this software thinking it's a perk to users, but having the nosy software constantly bug you to manage your passwords, scan USB drives, and renew your subscription, is so 2001. Modern users expect a clean, uncluttered computer for the cost of the Yoga 900. If that sounds good to you, the Microsoft Store offers up its bloatware-free version of this Yoga for the same cost as the ordinary model.
No optional pen
With the rise of the Surface and iPad Pro, digital inking is cool again. Even just as a mouse replacement, having a stylus can be super useful. Lenovo's more expensive Thinkpad X1 Yoga has pen support, but the ordinary, run-of-the-mill Yoga 900 does not. Seeing how HP and Dell can offer the pen as an extra accessory, we think Lenovo should do the same. It's a glaring shortcoming when cross-shopping with other 2-in-1 devices.
While Windows PCs have come a long way as far as trackpad performance goes, we'd say that the Lenovo Yoga 900 trails the pack. The Dell XPS laptops we've tested in the past year both had more accurate, more responsive trackpads in our opinion. This Yoga's trackpad was imprecise, not great at reading gestures like scrolling, and required a harder press to register a click reliably. In a vacuum, the Synaptics-sourced trackpad is usable once you adapt, but it pales in comparison to its competition.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best convertible PC notebooks you can buy today. Without resorting to gimmicks like the Surface Book, the Yoga 900 is able to be both a good laptop and a nice tablet. Moving from one mode to another is effortless and works well every time. That said, we really wish that Lenovo offered an active stylus option, because the Yoga 900 would be great for notetaking and annotation.
That aside, Lenovo has stuffed the Yoga 900 full of some of the best technology out there. Even the base model comes well equipped with enough power to keep most people happy. Especially when compared with the category-defining (but weakly spec'd) MacBook Air, the Yoga just gives you more for your money. It's a tablet, it's a powerful ultrabook, and it's competitively priced.
We only wish that the trackpad were as good as Dell's XPS lineup, and that Lenovo would cut out the annoying software it preloads on the system. If both of those ever become the case, this transforming notebook would be a complete no-brainer, even if its neat hinge isn't of interest. If you want a great ultrabook experience with a twist of tablet, Lenovo's Yoga 900 is high up on the list.
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