Review

Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 review: All black with a leather lid, Lenovo finally focuses on style

Lenovo's Yoga 9 series is always one my my favorite all-around convertibles. It had a rotating Dolby Atmos soundbar in the hinge, a built-in pen garage, a 4K Dolby Vision display, and more. And none of those things are even new for this year's 14-inch model.

To me, the biggest change in this model is style. It's all-black, and it comes with a leather lid. In this reviewer's opinion, it makes a big difference. While I've long considered Lenovo's premium consumer convertibles to be some of the best, they certainly haven't been the sexiest, usually coming in a dull, gunmetal gray type of color, or a basic silver. This year's model is a big change.

But of course, that's not all that's new. The Yoga 9i 14 actually doesn't have a proper touchpad. Yes, you read that right. It's all-glass, so it's a haptic touchpad with no cut-out for it. The same goes for the fingerprint sensor. If you've ever used Lenovo's Yoga Book, then you know what you're in for here.

Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-1185G7
GPU Intel Iris Xe
Display 14.0” UHD (3840x2160), IPS, 500nits, VESA HDR 400
Body 12.57x8.53x0.6-0.64in (319.5x216.7x15.3-16.5mm), 3.17lbs (1.44kg)
Ports (1) USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
(2) Thunderbolt 4
(1) 3.5mm audio
RAM 16GB LPDDR4x, 4266MHz
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe
Connectivity Intel Wi-Fi 6 802.11 AX 2 x 2 + Bluetooth 5.0
Audio Rotating Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos Speaker System certification
2W x 4 (2x woofer, 2x tweeter)
Input 6-row, multimedia Fn keys, LED backlight
Buttonless glass surface multi-touch touchpad, supports Precision Touchpad
Battery 60 Wh, Rapid Charge Express
Color Shadow Black
Material Display cover: AL stamping + leather (Palm rest: Glass)
Bottom: AL Stamping
OS Windows 10 Home
Price $1,699


I was actually only able to find this configuration on Best Buy for $1,699.99. For a customized unit on Lenovo.com, it's $1,789.99.

Day one

Design

The last PC that I reviewed that was made with leather was the HP Spectre Folio, and I really love seeing OEMs use materials other than what we're used to seeing. I'm also really happy to see Lenovo step out of its comfort zone when it comes to laptop design. The all-black look with the leather lid is a change of pace.

At 3.17 pounds, it's about what you'd expect for such heavy materials. Aluminum is one of the heaviest metals that you'll find in a laptop, and leather is even heavier than that. For comparison, if you go for the variant that's all-metal, it weighs in at 3.04 pounds. I really do think that Shadow Black is the way to go though.

Other than that, not much has changed about the design. It's still got the rotating Dolby Atmos soundbar in the hinge, but now that's black too. On the Mica-colored one, it's still the same chrome-colored soundbar. The design of the hinge is so that no matter how you're using it, you'll always have powerful sound firing out at you.

Another thing that you'll find on the back of the laptop is a pen garage, something that I always appreciate. It's an easy way to always have the pen with you, and always have it charged. The one downside is that it's not a full-size pen, but if you don't like it, you can get any variety of third-party pens.

On the right side is where you'll find the power button, and nothing else.

On the left, it includes a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, which is nice, considering that the 15-inch model that I reviewed had USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A. There's a 3.5mm audio jack, and two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Thunderbolt 4 is one of the key new features of Intel's new processors, and therefore of the new Yoga 9i 14. Each port can power up to two 4K displays, one 8K display, get data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps, and more. Yes, Thunderbolt 3 could do all of this too, but Thunderbolt 3 had a minimum spec where OEMs could use two lanes instead of four for half of the bandwidth. Now, it's a lot easier to know what you're buying.

I love the new Shadow Black color on the Lenovo Yoga 9i. It's a big departure from where I've seen the Yoga lineup before, and that's a good thing. I've often criticized the lineup for just being bland, and I don't feel that way about this machine.

Dolby Vision display and Dolby Atmos audio

The Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 has a 14-inch 16:9 display. First off, I like 16:9 displays. I'd rather see a wider screen that's more suitable for splitscreen apps. But that's just my personal opinion, and it wouldn't be fair if I didn't point out that the industry is moving elsewhere. Dell is using 16:10 in its XPS lineup, HP has a 3:2 Spectre x360, and even some of Lenovo's new ThinkPads, like the X1 Nano, have taller displays.

There are two options for the screen. There's a 400-nit FHD panel and a 500-nit UHD panel, both of which support Dolby Vision HDR. Lenovo sent me the latter, which is definitely my preference because I prefer a higher resolution screen compared to the better battery life that you'll get from FHD.

The colors are accurate, the screen is pretty, and it's bright. At 500 nits, it can actually get the job done wherever you are. I mention outdoor use a lot in reviews, because it's actually important. A lot of companies ship these PCs and seem to forget that we might use a portable PC outdoors. The Yoga 9i 14 gets the job done beautifully, just like previous generations of the 9-series.

It comes with narrow bezels on all sides, with a larger chin. The top of the screen has a reverse notch, which became part of Lenovo's design language since it debuted in the Yoga S940.

However, in the S940, it actually served more of a purpose. The Yoga S940 had very small bezels and it packed a bunch of sensors into that tab. Now, it pretty much serves as an easy way to open the lid. Indeed, this machine doesn't even offer a configuration with an IR camera for facial recognition.

Now, let's talk about audio, because Lenovo's Yoga 9 series convertibles have the best sound quality out there. Inside of that Dolby Atmos sound bar, there are four speakers, including two woofers and two tweeters. Not only does it sound clear, it's loud; loud enough to fill the room with sound.

So yes, this is an excellent media consumption machine, whether you want to be immersed in a movie or you want to listen to music at your desk while you work. And of course, it's also great for calls. Many of us are working from home now, so a proper video call setup without external peripherals is certainly optimal, and audio/video on the Yoga 9i is top (reverse) notch.

TrueStrike Keyboard and touchpad

The Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 has what Lenovo is calling a TrueStrike Keyboard, something that we first saw on its Legion gaming laptops. The keys are meant to be more comfortable, quieter, and frankly, better. It was developed by Lenovo's team in Japan.

Lenovo says that each key has a larger aperture in the baseplate, giving it more of an area for shock absorption. It's faster and more responsive, while still maintaining comfort and accuracy. I quite like it, but then again, I like most of Lenovo's keyboards.

And then there's the touchpad, which is no longer a mechanical touchpad like we see elsewhere. When you press it, it gives haptic feedback to make it feel like something is being pressed, but it's not. If you power down the machine, you'll realize that there are no moving parts at all. Lenovo says that one of the advantages to this is that the whole palm rest is completely smooth, but really, it's about streamlining the design. There are no physical cutouts like you'd find on a regular touchpad, and the mechanics don't have to be there either, freeing up space for other things.

The problem is that it's actually not very good. You'll probably find that it works just fine 99% of the time, because 99% of the time, you're doing basic tasks. It's that 1% of the time when it's an issue. Being what's basically a touch panel with haptic feedback, it's not nearly as good at recognizing pressure sensitivity as a traditional touchpad. You'll find yourself having issues with dragging and dropping. Also, multitouch is horrible when dragging and dropping.

If you've ever dragged with one finger and then used another finger to keep dragging, it just won't work here. You have to remember that the mechanics are totally different. Previously, you were using that second finger to hold down a mechanical touchpad. With this, it's a multitouch operation.

Lenovo is trying to reinvent the wheel here. We've seen attempts like this in Lenovo's Yoga Book, and I'd have hoped that it would have learned more before putting it in a premium convertible.

Performance and battery life

First of all, the Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 comes with an Intel Core i7-1185G7, and that's a rare CPU. The only other option is the Core i5-1135G7. The Core i7-1185G7 is rare because most companies are using the inferior Core i7-1165G7 in their products instead. Lenovo isn't even offering the Core i7-1165G7 in this product.

The two CPUs aren't wildly different. The one being used in this PC has a higher clock speed of 3GHz instead of 2.8GHz, and the graphics max frequency is 1.35GHz instead of 1.3GHz. Still, I appreciate Lenovo being the one OEM not to skimp on this, or at least one of few.

It's from Intel's 11th-generation 'Tiger Lake' family, which is the company's second-generation 10nm lineup. While Ice Lake has Iris Plus Graphics, Tiger Lake comes with Iris Xe. And Iris Xe is legit. As Intel promised, you can definitely do some FHD gaming on here. You can also edit 4K 30fps video with few issues if you want, and that's all really impressive on a chip that's engineered for productivity.

This is not a machine that's designed for video editing and gaming. In fact, the 15-inch Yoga 9i is much more suited for that. However, it certainly could do it as Intel continues to focus on the integrated graphics in its CPUs.

As far as battery life goes, I got about five hours of real-world work out of it on a regular basis, and up to six on some occasions, and that has nothing to do with video editing or gaming. That's not actually bad news though. It's even a little bit better than I expected considering the 4K display. If you want better battery life, go for the FHD model; that's why it exists.

For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8 and PCMark 10.

Yoga 9i 14
Core i7-1185G7
Yoga C940 14
Core i7-1065G7
Dell XPS 13
Core i7-10710U
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7
Ryzen 7 4800U (25W)
HP Envy x360 13
Ryzen 5 4500U
PCMark 8: Home 3,867 3,398 3,501 4,566 4,087
PCMark 8: Creative 4,762 4,084 3,966 4,861 4,247
PCMark 8: Work 3,473 3,258 3,342 3,926 3,687
PCMark 10 4,861 4,541 4,314 5,252 4,679


It's worth taking note of the more graphics-intensive tests, like the Creative test or even the all-in-one PCMark 10 test, where Intel made great gains.

Conclusion

Lenovo has never let me down when it came to its premium Yoga 9 series, going all the way back to the Yoga 920, the first one that I reviewed. But I have to say, in a world where these products have historically been some of the best, it's hard to recommend this laptop with the touchpad being in the state that it's in. My other two complaints are the usual: there's no IR camera and no 4G LTE.

Other than the touchpad, it's a lovely PC, and it's probably my favorite design of any Lenovo consumer laptop that I've ever seen. Seriously, the black color makes it look so much better than the bland shades of gray that I've been looking at for years, and the leather lid makes it even better. I didn't talk too much about it in the review, but even the glossy black soundbar is a nice touch.

Speaking of the Dolby Atmos soundbar, that's one of the things that's always sold me on Lenovo's 9 series, or at least since the Yoga C930 when it was introduced. Sure, the 4K Dolby Vision screen is great, and the keyboard is phenomenal, but I could list a half dozen laptops off the top of my head that meet those two qualifications. That rotating soundbar in the hinge is a real, meaningful differentiator.

As I mentioned earlier, you can find this unit on Best Buy's website here for $1,699.99. It's definitely worth checking out.

 

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