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Lenovo Yoga 9i 7th Gen review: The best 2-in-1 laptop, if you can buy it

Lenovo Yoga 9i 7th Gen review: The best 2-in-1 laptop, if you can buy it

Lenovo Yoga 9i 2-in-1s are a fascinating breed of computers. They’re flexible enough to satisfy users who waver between traditional laptops and the touchscreen portability of tablets. This freedom of usability often comes at a cost, and Lenovo Yoga 9i (2022) is a prime example.

Starting at $1,229, the Yoga 9i ushers in the seventh generation of Lenovo’s ever-popular line of 2-in-1 convertibles. It flexes a new Comfort Edge design, an updated Intel 12th Gen processor, and, perhaps its biggest differentiator, a 14-inch 16:10 OLED display. With noticeable improvements across the board, the new Lenovo Yoga 9i is arguably the best 2-in-1 laptop that you can buy right now. However, availability remains scarce and you may have to settle with pricier configurations for the time being.

Specifications
Dimensions 318x230x15.25 mm
Weight 1.4 g (3.09 lbs)
Display 14” FHD LCD (1,920 x 1,200), 14” 2.8K OLED (2,880 x 1,800), 14” 4K OLED (3840×2400)
Processor 12th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-1260P (2.1 GHz / 12 Cores / 18M Cache)
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Memory 16GB LPDDR5-5200 RAM with 512GB
Operating system Windows 11 Home 64-bit
Battery 75Wh Li-Polymer with Rapid Charge Boost
Camera 2MP fixed focus camera with FHD 1080p video
Connection ports 1x USB 3.2, 1x USB-C 3.2, 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack

By the numbers, the Lenovo Yoga 9i is as good as non-gaming Windows-powered laptops get. The 3-pound aluminum casing houses a 14-inch FHD LCD, 2.8K OLED, or 4K OLED, depending on which configuration you buy. (My review unit has the 2.8K OLED panel with a 60Hz refresh rate.) Under the hood are 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 512GB of storage, and the latest 12th Generation Intel Core i7, making the Yoga 9i one of the first laptops in 2022 to run the P-series processor. There’s also a bevy of ports, including a USB-A, three USB-C (one 3.2 and two Thunderbolt 4), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Design

When it comes to hardware, the Yoga 9i dons a new rounded design language that Lenovo Yoga 9i calls “Comfort Edge.” Unlike traditional laptops — including last generation’s Yoga — which are sharp and flat on all sides, this laptop has curved corners and edges. Visually, this doesn’t have a big impact. But when holding the Yoga 9i for the first time, I immediately noticed how much smoother and better the 3-pound device felt. The change is even more noticeable in tablet mode.

Even with the rounded edges, the Yoga 9i lives up to the premium expectations that past models have set. Its full-body aluminum construction is sleek, cool to the touch, and does away with the leather lid option from last year. There’s no noticeable creaking or sound of loose parts whatsoever. Barring some fingerprint smudges on the top cover, I have no complaints about the build quality and materials used here and have felt confident enough to drop the Lenovo Yoga 9i in a backpack without a case.

A total of five ports flank the left and right sides of the Yoga 9i, including a USB-A, three USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. For casual use, the selection is more than enough. And, frankly, it’s nice to see Lenovo Yoga 9i sticking with the USB-A port when other manufacturers are going all-in on USB-C. Still, I would’ve loved to have seen greater variety here, like an HDMI port or an SD card slot. After all, 2-in-1s make for excellent portable laptops, and having those options built in would benefit professionals and creators who are on the go.

Like previous Yogas, Lenovo Yoga 9i bundles an stylus with the 9i. However, unlike older models, the new laptop does not have a dedicated storage space for it. This isn’t the biggest deal if you don’t plan to integrate the stylus within your workflow, but for those who do, the need to carry it separately is an inconvenience. On the plus side, the stylus this year is much bigger, easier to hold, and offers an impressive 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. That’s in line with competing touchscreen pens.

Display

Lifting the lid reveals a new 14-inch 16:10 touchscreen display in either FHD LCD (1,920 x 1,200), 2.8K OLED (2,880 x 1,800), or 4K OLED (3,840 x 2,400). (And yes, you can lift the laptop cover with one hand.) The model that I’ve been testing is the 2.8K OLED and arguably the best option for most people. It’s significantly sharper than the base model and the color reproduction of OLED is bar none. The 4K option, while seemingly superior, will consume more power and battery.

With a 16:10 aspect ratio, the Yoga 9i display is taller than last year’s 16:9 and much more efficient at displaying browsers and windows. There’s minor letterboxing when watching videos (especially movies), but for general tasks, the extra screen space is greatly appreciated.

The Lenovo Yoga 9i display gets plenty bright (up to 400 nits) and just as dim. At its max, I was able to clearly read through lines of text in broad daylight, while the glossy coating did a surprisingly adequate job at limiting reflections. At the lowest brightness, any passerby would assume that the Yoga 9i was turned off — which is a good thing.

The bottom half of the laptop sees key improvements in all places, from the new rotating speaker bar that’s now tuned by Bowers & Wilkins to the expanded keyboard layout to a touchpad that Lenovo Yoga 9i says is 45% larger. Even with these changes, the Yoga 9i still feels on-brand, retaining a monotone and industrial look that’s suited for work and play.

Keyboard

At the expense of mushy feedback, the new edge-to-edge keyboard is superbly quiet to type on. It also features a column of 1-Click functions that serve as shortcuts for changing power modes (Performance, Balanced, and Quiet), turning on and off background blur in video calls, adjusting audio profiles, and swapping between light and dark modes. While the keys work as intended, it’s unfortunate that you can’t program them to perform other functions. How often does one toggle between light and dark mode anyway?

Performance

The Yoga 9i offers a step up in CPU performance by operating on a new 12th Gen Intel Core i7 processor. Based on a hybrid architecture of four Performance-cores (P-cores) and eight Efficient-cores (E-cores), the new Lenovo Yoga 9i can handle multitasking and heavy workloads gracefully. During day-to-day testing, the laptop, with its 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, was able to power through split-screen windows of eight-plus tabs, while apps like Slack and Zoom were operating in the background. The Windows 11 experience felt refreshingly smooth.

Speaking of Zoom, the improved 1080p webcam captured video well, and the native background blur feature did a sufficient job at keeping me in focus. There’s also Windows Hello support now and Lenovo Yoga 9i own Smart Assist. The latter is a facial recognition feature that keeps the laptop awake when it detects a face, or in sleep mode when you turn your back against it.

Out of curiosity, I decided to run moderate- to high-graphics games on the Lenovo Yoga 9i and was met with modest, unsurprising results. After some rounds of Fortnite or NBA 2K22, the laptop would throttle between power modes and become unmistakably warm. (Keep in mind that the device only has an integrated GPU and a 60Hz refresh on select models.) At best, the Yoga 9i operates between low to medium graphics settings and bounces between 25 to 55 frames per second. While I wouldn’t recommend the laptop for gaming, it can handle power-friendly titles like League of Legends and Fall Guys.

One major complaint that I have with the Yoga 9i is the bounty of ad pop-ups, notifications, and bloatware. Unless you manually switch off the notification settings, McAfee Live Safe will constantly nag you to register and activate a subscription, all the while Window’s native Defender Antivirus is already active. I ended up uninstalling the unwanted software and so should you.

In general, the performance of the Lenovo Yoga 9i 9i is on par with the rest of the flagship convertible laptop market. In fact, I’d say that for entertainment and multimedia, it’s better than the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft’s Surface line. The OLED screen portrays videos and text with great depth and color accuracy, and the Bowers & Wilkins-tuned soundbar — which is paired with bottom-firing subwoofers — greatly lifts the audio experience.

Battery

On paper, the 75 watt-hour battery on the Yoga 9i is class-leading, edging out the 50-60 WHr range of other 2-in-1s. However, the laptop only averaged eight hours of battery life per charge with normal use. That’s good, but not “class-leading” by any means. Sure, there are power-saving modes available to limit performance but, for what Lenovo Yoga 9i promised, the Yoga 9i underdelivers.

I will commend Lenovo Yoga 9i for making the 65W charging brick compact and portable. It’s easily one of the smallest laptop chargers I’ve seen and can provide up to two hours of use with a 15-minute Rapid Charge Boost.

Bottom line

Ultimately, the Lenovo Yoga 9i improves on most, if not all, the shortcomings of its predecessor. That makes it one of the best 2-in-1 laptops that we’ve tested and is well worth your consideration if you’re on the convertible market. Still, there’s one major setback that may sway your wallet elsewhere: stock and availability.

At the time of writing, Lenovo Yoga 9i only has one configuration available for sale, though a spokesperson has told me that more options will arrive in Best Buy this month. So unless you’re content with the 4K OLED, 16GB RAM, and 1TB model, stick around for alternatives.

Alternatives to consider

The Dell XPS 13 is possibly the closest competitor to the Lenovo Yoga 9i. It features one of the cleanest, ultraportable designs on the market and a sharp IPS touchscreen display that includes a 4K configuration. My ZDNet colleague Charles McLellan named last year’s model the “ultraportable to beat” in his full review.

Another 2-in-1 option, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 takes a “tablet-first” approach by bundling a detachable keyboard. ZDNet’s Jason Cipriani recently reviewed the hybrid computer and praised the Surface for its portability, on-the-go LTE connection, extensive battery life, and great value. It nearly converted him from his Apple-centric workstation.

Perhaps a 2-in-1 is more than what you need. If you can do without a touchscreen and/or a convertible display, then the 14” Apple MacBook Pro is arguably the best mid-sized laptop that money can buy. It features Apple’s new M1 Pro chip, exceptional sounding speakers, and a notched display that’s nearly bezel-free.

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