Lenovo Yoga 900 review - Practically as thin but this hybrid is now far more powerful
Processor: 2.5GHz intel Core i7-6500U, RAM: 16GB, Dimensions: 324x225x14.9mm, Weight: 1.3kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 3,200x1,800, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD Graphics 520, Total storage: 256GB SSD
It wasn't the fastest laptop around but we liked last year's Yoga 3 Pro with its smart-looking “watchband hinge” it combined cutting-edge design with practicality. Now Lenovo is looking to patch its one flaw with this more powerful version, which comes with the latest intel Skylake proccessors.
Lenovo Yoga 900 review: Design
Externally, Lenovo hasn’t done much to change the recipe. The laptop is still ultra-thin – the “thinnest Core i convertible laptop”, according to the company – and Lenovo has stuck to its guns with the ostentatious watchband hinge. That’s a good thing, too, since that was one of the previous model’s strengths.
The hinge is constructed from 812 interlinking pieces of aluminium and steel, and just like last year's model, all the tiny links work together to provide enough resistance to make a very effective hinge. As with all of Lenovo’s convertible laptop designs, it also allows the laptop to be posed in a number of different positions – contorting all the way from laptop to tablet and everywhere in between – but the weight remains a very reasonable 1.29kg.
There have been a couple of small changes to the overall design. The hinge is now colour-coded to match the chassis (the laptop is available in orange, gold and silver), and the hinge mechanism itself has been refined, delivering a smoother opening and closing action than on last year’s model. It's a highly impressive feat of engineering, even if not everyone will find it especially pretty to look at. To my mind, it’s more peculiar-looking than cutting-edge.
Elsewhere, in place of the rubber carbon fibre-effect plastic surrounding the keyboard and touchpad of last year, the Yoga 900’s palm rest is now clad in real leather. Not that you’d notice: it is a touch softer and warmer when you rest your wrists on it, but it’s indistinguishable from textured plastic until you actually touch it. And what will it look like after a couple of years’ use? Scruffy, probably, rather like my long-suffering wallet.
In more practical-minded changes, the touchpad of the original has been enlarged, following criticism that the Yoga Pro 3’s was too small, and the function key row has been reintroduced along the top of the keyboard. The laptop has no native video output port this time around, but you do get a USB Type-C connector, which can output a video signal via an adapter. Frustratingly, Lenovo doesn’t include one in the box, although it has at least resisted the temptation to use the Type-C port to power the laptop. As with last year, the Yoga 900 charges up via a dual-purpose USB socket.
Lenovo Yoga Pro 900 review: Performance and battery life
While those refinements are all well and good, there are more important upgrades afoot here, and they address the only problem we had with last year’s Yoga 3 Pro: performance. Where that laptop was only able to muster a lowly Intel Core M processor, and one that suffered from throttling issues at that, the new version goes right up to Core i7, and it comes with the very latest Skylake generation of processors. The Yoga 900’s chassis has had to expand by a couple of millimetres to accommodate the processor’s extra heat output, but the increase in power is dramatic.
Currently, only one model is available in the UK, and this is the fully-loaded Yoga 900. This machine has a 2.5GHz Core i7-6500U Skylake processor, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and the 13.3in touchscreen sports a pixel-perfect 3,200 x 1,800 resolution. As you’d expect, this all makes for a very quick, luxurious-feeling laptop. Windows 10 flies along, while boot and restart times are quick thanks to the SSD.
It’s not all fantastic news, however. Lenovo has made a big deal of the Yoga 900's new cooling system, and while the pair of fans do a decent job of quietly expelling hot air, overall performance lags behind similarly specified rivals. The Dell XPS 13, for instance, has exactly the same processor and half the RAM, yet proved 10% quicker in our video transcoding tests, and 16% faster in the demanding multi-tasking section of our benchmarks.
It turns out the Yoga 900 has inherited one of its predecessors traits: CPU throttling. Push the processor hard and, after a spike of activity at full speed, the clock speed starts to oscillate up and down every ten seconds or so, varying between 2GHz and 2.7Ghz as it butts up against its (presumably thermal) limits. The CPU doesn’t get especially hot – I saw peaks no higher than 76℃ – but the throttling clearly has an effect on the overall performance in benchmarks. Whether this will have an impact in everyday use depends entirely on what applications you’re using, though.
One big improvement, at least on paper, is a significantly larger battery. This year, the Lenovo Yoga 900 has a 66Wh battery, which compared with the Yoga 3 Pro's 44Wh battery is a full 50% higher in capacity. The result is very decent battery life. With screen brightness set to 50%, the Yoga 900 kept playing full-screen video for 11hrs 26mins before giving up the ghost.