Lenovo's Yoga 9 is flexible at home, but stretches the friendship at work
Rotating sound bar sounds better in theory than in practice
Desktop Tourism With working from home and bring your own device both now established practices in many workplaces, The Register's Desktop Tourism series decided it was time to take a consumer machine for a trip.
We chose the eighth-gen Lenovo Yoga 9i – a machine boasting an Intel Core i7-1360P that includes Iris XE graphics, plus 16GB of LPDDR5-5200 memory and a 1TB m.2 SSD.
Lenovo's gimmick for this machine is what it claims to be the world's first rotating sound bar – packed with a pair of tweeters to compliment a couple of woofers in the body of the laptop.
The sound bar has somehow been smuggled into the hinge of the laptop, as illustrated below.
The hinge is a 360-degree affair, and Lenovo's logic suggests the soundbar will twist as you pirouette the laptop through its range of movement.
But it's not well-executed. In tent mode, the soundbar points upwards – away from your ears.
The machine commits other aural offences as well. For one, it's too loud for its chassis: it thrummed and rattled on my desk while playing music or movies. For another, makes the poor design decision to place the headphone jack at the rear of the machine – perilous as it means cables are left with just a little less slack, and a little closer to pulling tight and causing complications if I forget I'm tethered to a laptop and decide to stretch or swivel in my office chair.
Folks buying this one to hear it in action won't be impressed.
The lack of an HDMI port is also an irritating omission – Lenovo deflatingly includes a thunderbolt-to-VGA-and-HDMI dongle in the box.
The glossy screen was almost too colorful: with brightness turned down low its intensity felt false, and at higher light levels it was almost startlingly colorful.
It's otherwise pleasingly speedy and slick. The video-centric Cinebench tool rated it at 8378 – a solid score. It screamed through the test we apply on every desktop tourism jaunt – downscaling five minutes of 4K video to HD – in 2:18. The last machine we took on a Desktop Tourism trip – Intel's latest NUC mini-desktop – sports the same CPU and did the job in 1:52. The extra 16GB of RAM in the NUC probably helped.
The machine Lenovo supplied ran Windows 11 Home, which is missing support for virtual machines and doesn't have Microsoft’s own Hyper-V hypervisor ready to invoke. VMware Workstation Pro ran, but so slowly as to be unusable – so we couldn’t repeat the Handbrake test in a VM as usual.
That experience reminded us that BYOD needs guidelines if it's to work well.
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At 1.37kg the machine is very totable, but also too heavy to use in tablet mode. Between that weight, and Microsoft giving up on delivering a decent tablet mode in Windows 11, the 360-degree hinge's utility is dubious.
The touch screen and accompanying stylus are pleasantly responsive, even though I can't imagine they'll get much use. The keyboard has unsettlingly short travel and won't please gamers. Rapid and/or prolific typists will reach for external replacements. The capacious touchpad offers pleasing feedback with each click.
The single USB-A socket, at version 3.1, is very welcome.
The 720p camera, allied to Windows Hello facial recognition logon, delivered the usual hits and misses that quickly had me reverting to a PIN when logging in. It handled video conferences just fine, without standing out for video or audio quality. Battery life ticked past six hours while streaming video.
If you buy this machine for personal use, you'll part with around $1,700 and bring home a pretty, slick, and pleasing machine that won't particularly delight and probably won't disappoint. I do worry that its silvered edges will scratch.
If your staff suggest it as their BYOD option, it seems sensible to steer them towards something that ships with Windows 11 Pro, and a higher-resolution webcam. I also worry that the gimmicky soundbar won't last: extra moving parts never feel like a good idea. And they'll regret that missing HDMI port as they connect it to the monitor you sent home during COVID. ®