The ultraportable space is crammed, including well-known models like the Microsoft Surface Pro 8, the Dell XPS 13, and the HP Specter x360 14. These are all excellent laptops that aren’t outrageously expensive and have the potential to appeal to a very wide audience .
While the $1,729.99 Yoga 9i doesn’t quite live up to those devices in terms of artistry, it’s certainly just as pleasant to use, and it has a somewhat eclectic array of unique benefits that set it apart from the crowd. The most notable is the OLED display, which (thankfully) has switched to a 16:10 aspect ratio, like many of Lenovo’s premium laptops over the past year. Other upgrades over last year’s model include a new edge-to-edge keyboard with an additional row of function keys, a larger touchpad, and rounded corners and edges for more comfortable use and a friendlier design.
Lenovo fixed pretty much every issue I had with last year’s Yoga 9i and I’m very happy with the result. However, the device is currently much more difficult to obtain than it was last year. This is a good laptop that keeps getting better and I wish it wasn’t so difficult to buy now.
Starting with the screen, which is a big part of this laptop’s appeal: it’s an OLED panel with a 2880 x 1800 resolution (non-OLED 1920 x 1200 is also available, as is 4K OLED) and pen support ( but no integrated storage garage, unfortunately). The panel is glossy and reflects remarkably little glare in bright environments, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the texture. It picked up an unusually high concentration of smudges that were difficult to remove during my week or so of use, and wasn’t a particularly smooth glide when used as a touchscreen. That means it gives a great picture with excellent contrast and vibrant colors.
The other big change is that the keyboard is now borderless, with a row of function keys on the right side (much like HP has been doing on various models for a while). You can use them to change power profiles, audio profiles, blur background on video calls, and toggle dark mode. These are handy, but I wish they were customizable – there’s no way to change them as far as I could find, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who could use a dedicated hotkey better than toggling a dark mode . The other thing to know about the keyboard is that the up and down arrows are half size, while the left and right arrows are full size. This doesn’t concern me too much, but I know it will make some of you unhappy.
I really like the keyboard when it comes to typing. Above all, it is very quiet. This has become more important to me as I carry around laptops more often – your typing shouldn’t distract those around you. Lenovo has also increased the size of the touchpad to 3.15 x 5.31 inches. I didn’t have a particular issue with the size of the old touchpad, but sure, I’ll go with a bigger touchpad (and there weren’t any palm rejection issues).
The third big thing that’s new is the looks. The new Yoga 9i is very, very round. The corners are round and the edges are round. Everything is round. That was something I didn’t really notice in the pictures when this device was announced, but it makes a big difference up close. I didn’t realize how much sharp laptop edges can dig into your wrists until I used the Yoga 9i. This device is far more comfortable to carry and use than the sea of sharp-edged laptops out there (especially things with very sharp edges like the Specter range) and now I don’t want to go back. In fact, it seems such a natural design choice that I really hope more laptop manufacturers follow suit.
The friendlier look hasn’t changed the build quality. It’s all aluminum, and it’s impressively strong. There is no flex in the screen or keyboard. The hinge is sturdy and opens and closes easily without observing any screen wobble. The finish is good, no scratches, no fingerprints and no dents after quite a tough week of testing that included a flight and several train rides. The device’s reasonable (if far from) weight of 3.09 pounds also makes it a convenient travel companion.
And the conference call experience has been streamlined. The webcam has been upgraded to 1080p and is significantly better than the camera on last year’s 9i, delivering a clear and accurate image. It has a physical shutter and supports Windows Hello facial recognition. Lenovo’s Smart Assist software (which turns on and off in the Vantage Control Center) can also use it to automatically turn off the device when you walk away.
The rotating, hinged soundbar, long a staple of the Yoga 9i range, now includes speakers from Bowers & Wilkins. It continues to produce some of the best audio in the Windows laptop space. It’s so loud I couldn’t hear anything above 80 percent without feeling bombarded.
Aside from the nitpicks mentioned above, the most notable issue is that – and this isn’t remotely unique in this space – the port selection is limited. You get two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one USB-C, one USB-A, one headphone jack, and that’s it. I’m happy to see the USB-A, which many competitors have ditched, but those looking for an HDMI or SD slot will be living in dongle land.
The built-in microphones were also messed up, disconnecting from my Zoom calls a few times while the device’s battery was running low. Lenovo was unable to replicate this issue, so I may have received a faulty device.
The 9i configuration I have (including an Intel Core i7-1260P, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and the 2880 x 1800 OLED screen) is a best-buy model that Lenovo says will cost $1,729.99 . It’s not for sale there yet. In fact, as of this writing, I haven’t been able to find a 12th Gen Yoga 9i model in stock anywhere, and a quick look at other reviews shows that my experience isn’t uncommon. (I linked the 11th gen model, which you can still buy if that device sounds like your thing.)
It becomes a problem that current versions of these Lenovo laptops are so hard to find. (Lenovo says Best Buy has models in stock and will be back in stock soon, but the company told me the Slim 7 would be back on shelves soon when I checked, and a month later I can I still can’t find it.) I know there are various things disrupting the supply chain in the world right now, but I don’t regularly have trouble finding stock from retailers for most other laptops that are said to be already released became. As good as this laptop is, I feel a little reluctant to enthusiastically recommend it until I know you can actually buy it.
That aside, performance here was as good as you’d expect from a 12th-gen 28W Core i7. This 9i is definitely faster than last year’s 9i. It could handle a Zoom call on a bunch of tabs and apps on the Battery Saver power profile with little heat and very occasional fan noise. Editing a bunch of photos wasn’t a problem at all, although the lack of an SD slot probably makes the 9i a sub-optimal choice for editors.
In terms of battery life, the 9i averaged seven hours and 38 minutes of continuous work use, including a bunch of Chrome tabs with some Zoom calls and Spotify streaming overdone here and there. That’s about what you can expect from ultraportables of this Intel generation. You can probably get through a day’s work with lighter workloads – I got closer to nine hours on a day where I was mostly using Google Docs and not having Zoom calls.
One annoyance: Like many other Yoga laptops, this thing comes with a lot of bloatware. Various McAfee antivirus programs came pre-installed and I kept getting pop-ups. The uninstall took a while and required me to close all my tabs and reboot the system at the end. That feels a little overkill for a device that costs nearly $2,000.
The biggest hit against the Yoga 9i right now is its availability. It’s a real shame that it’s sold out everywhere because otherwise I’d be sending a lot of people out. The speaker issue is also a pretty big annoyance that I hope gets resolved – watch out as it’s likely to affect your score.
In a world where both of those issues are fixed, the Yoga 9i is a great package with a few dings here and there that will cause problems for some, but probably not for most. I’d use it any day over the $3,000 ThinkPad X1 Yoga – the ThinkPad is a technically better laptop, but the 9i is friendlier and more fun.
The 9i has been a great laptop for a while, but the addition of the 16:10 aspect ratio, improved webcam, and consistently exceptional audio take it to new heights in addition to solid performance. Well, if only you could actually buy it.
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