Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch) review: Sleek design and great performance with some compromises

For $1,529.99, the Yoga 9i delivers on its promises of a stylish 2-in-1, despite having some odd drawbacks.

Lenovo Yoga 9i
Pros
Premium design with leather cover
Beautiful 4K screen
11th-gen Intel processors
Comfortable keyboard
Fantastic sound quality
Cons
Touchpad is very hard to get used to
Fingerprint scanner is hard to find
Battery life is underwhelming
Not the lightest laptop out there
7.9

Late last year, Lenovo introduced the Yoga 9i, the successor to the company’s well-reviewed C940. I’ve historically been a big fan of the company’s C series of laptops thanks to their excellent build quality, great performance, and tremendous sound quality. So when I was sent a 9i to review, I was pretty excited.

What excited me more was when I found out I got the Shadow Black model to review. This is Lenovo’s classiest consumer convertible to date with its leather lid, glass palm rest, and elegant black finish. It came equipped with an 11th-gen Intel processor which gives it Intel Evo certification, a large soundbar for excellent sound quality, a pretty decent I/O lineup, and even a stylus for writing and drawing.

It’s a complete package, and I’ve enjoyed the review process thoroughly. It’s got some problems, as every laptop does, but it’s certainly a laptop to consider if you want something just a bit nicer than what you might be used to.

Design

The Yoga 9i’s Shadow Black façade isn’t limited to its dark, elegant paint job, although that would be reason enough to consider it over Mica. Instead, Lenovo dives much deeper than it ever has into the world of luxurious laptop design, and it mostly pays off.

The lid of the laptop is covered in leather, making it feel way more premium than if it were just aluminum. In the box, Lenovo includes care instructions for the leather if you’d like to get as much life out of it as possible. I’m very curious as to how long it would last – my guess is a good while if you’re careful enough. If I get to spend an extended period of time with the machine, I’ll let you know.

When you open the lid of the Yoga 9i, the luxuries continue with a frosted glass-coated palm rest and trackpad. If you’re not used to it, the glass on your wrists can feel a little strange, but it still gives you that cold sensation you look for from aluminum. It’s a lot silkier, but relatively comfortable nonetheless.

I did say “mostly pays off” when it comes to these classy design touches, and it’s due to that glass palm rest. Lenovo decided to include a sheet of glass that stretches the width of the Yoga 9i below the keyboard. There’s no real advantage to that beyond aesthetics, and it also means the trackpad gets locked in place. When you click on the trackpad, it doesn’t physically move, instead emulating a click with a pressure-sensitive haptic motor. It’s similar to what Apple does on the MacBook, but it’s not as good.

During my testing, I got a good number of false clicks. They occurred sometimes when I had my palm on the trackpad, I had multiple fingers on it, or I was scrolling. Things get even worse when you try to select text since you need to keep consistent, harsh pressure on the trackpad while moving your other finger. Single clicks were pretty accurate and so were two-fingered clicks, but you’ll undoubtedly feel more random vibrations than you may expect.

It’s also a superbly different sensation compared to a standard trackpad. I’ve found myself wanting to use a Bluetooth mouse with the Yoga 9i more than any other laptop I’ve reviewed, so you might want to pick one up if you plan to use the laptop for extended periods.

At the end of the day, I didn’t get used to the trackpad, and I don’t think many people will.

Lenovo also placed the fingerprint scanner below the glass which makes it incredibly difficult to find. In fact, the only thing they did to highlight the placement of the sensor and the trackpad is add a couple of glossy borders. You can barely feel these borders, let alone see them. If you want any chance of knowing where the fingerprint sensor is, you have to keep its accompanying sticker.

As for the rest of the Yoga 9i, aluminum is the name of the game. It’s extremely well built and feels very solid when you pick it up. It weighs quite a bit at 3.17 pounds, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that weight in my backpack. However, it’s overall tolerable, especially since the weight actually makes the laptop feel premium.

Around the device, you’ll find a USB-A port, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, and a power button. There’s also a garaged pen in the back of the laptop for drawing and signing documents, one of my favorite qualities of Lenovo’s laptops.

Rounding things off, you also get a 2-in-1 hinge design that lets you flip the screen 360 degrees to turn the laptop into a tablet. It’s a weighty tablet, mind you, so I’ve preferred using it in laptop and stand mode.

Display

The Yoga 9i is available in both 14-inch and 15-inch sizes. I received the 14-inch for review with a 4K resolution at 3840×2160.

Much like every other 4K laptop I’ve reviewed from Lenovo, the 9i’s display is absolutely beautiful. Colors are vibrant, contrasts are spectacular and produce inky blacks, and there’s a decent amount of brightness at 500 nits.

The Yoga 9i’s screen is also Dolby Vision HDR certified so you can play back HDR content which looks simply stunning. The bezels are also good and narrow on the top, left, and right, although the bottom chin could use some work since it isn’t proportionate.

At the top of the screen sits a reverse notch which houses the web cam and privacy shutter. It comes in handy for opening the lid with one hand, and it’s become a staple on Lenovo laptops.

Really, my only problem with the screen on the Yoga 9i is the fact it’s 16:9. Having more vertical room than horizontal is much nicer, and Lenovo is working to provide that on its newer laptops that all either ship with 16:10 or 3:2 screens. I get the appeal of the 16:9 aspect ratio (two apps side-by-side fit better and videos usually fill up the whole screen), but I’m definitely more a fan of taller displays.

Keyboard

The TrueStrike keyboard that sits below the display is a fantastic one. Lenovo knows how to build a comfortable keyboard you can spend the day typing on, and the Yoga 9i is perfect proof. Granted, the keys aren’t as deep as what you’ll find on a ThinkPad, but they’re not too shallow and are plenty sturdy. On its more consumer-centric laptops, Lenovo even ships the Ctrl and Fn keys in the right spots, with the former on the left and the latter on the right.

The 9i also has backlighting for the keyboard which offers two brightness settings. I’ve stuck with the brightest setting more often than not since it offers the perfect amount of light without being blinding at night.

Sound

Potentially the biggest advantage to buying one of Lenovo’s consumer Yoga laptops is the rotating sound bar. Every time I get one of these machines in the mail, I get super excited to listen to music.

The Yoga 9i does not disappoint by any means. Any type of music you play on the 9i will sound fantastic thanks to the soundbar. It’s tuned by Dolby Atmos and can be further optimized through the Dolby Atmos app. I’ve played everything from Logic’s No Pressure to Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album to Frank Sinatra’s Ultimate Sinatra and it all sounds wonderful. Bass is nice and punchy, mids are even, and highs don’t get too loud or pitchy at max volume.

This is truly some of the best sound quality I’ve ever heard in a laptop. If this is an important aspect of a laptop to you, you should be looking at the Yoga 9i.

Performance & Battery Life

Lenovo sent me a Yoga 9i with a really nice spec list. It’s not the most powerful 9i you can get since the 15-inch variant has some additional GPU options, but my 14-inch model won’t disappoint.

My unit has an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 clocked at 3.0GHz. This chipset isn’t too common in laptops since many manufacturers opt for the slightly slower 2.8GHz 1165G7. For the Yoga 9i, Lenovo didn’t wanna skimp out, and day to day operations showcase that.

The 9i handles my workload nicely by juggling multiple Edge tabs, Spotify playing, Newton Mail, Microsoft Word, and sometimes Adobe Lightroom all at once. My unit shipped with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of PCIe NVMe storage so opening and closing apps is a breeze. You probably won’t want to do anything graphically intense, however, since the Intel Iris Xe GPU isn’t very powerful. It can handle photo editing and some light video work, but anything more and the machine will start choking.

Thanks to the 11th-gen processor inside the Yoga 9i, Lenovo received Intel Evo certification. If you’re unfamiliar, the Intel Evo program promises any machine that’s part of it gets at least nine hours of battery life with a Full HD screen, instantly wakes up, has Wi-Fi 6, supports Thunderbolt 4, and includes Intel Iris Xe graphics. The added smoothness and instant wake times are probably my favorite qualities of Evo-certified machines like the 9i since they simply make the experience better.

Of course, given the fact my Yoga 9i came with a 4K screen, I didn’t achieve anywhere near nine hours of battery life. On a full charge, I could get through about six and a half hours of usage if I was careful. If I didn’t pay attention to battery life, I was able to kill the 9i in just five hours. Toning down the performance setting, reducing the screen resolution, bringing down the brightness, and only running a couple apps at a time will help you get longer battery life, but at that point you’re stripping all the great qualities of the machine in favor of endurance which is never fun.

Luckily, the 65W charger Lenovo includes with the 9i can power up the machine pretty quickly, so when you inevitably run out of juice, it won’t take long to get back to work.

Conclusion

The combination of Lenovo’s modern design and Intel’s latest chips makes the Yoga 9i a laptop you can’t ignore if you want something premium and different. The overall experience of using it day to day is fantastic. The screen’s gorgeous, performance is wonderful, the Intel Evo feature set is great, the leather cover and black finish are classy as hell, and the soundbar is truly incredible.

Granted, if you want all of this, you have to put up with a hard-to-get-used-to trackpad and underwhelming battery life. I wouldn’t let those setbacks stop you from at least checking the machine out, however. There are far too many good things here to get excited about.

Pried at $1,529.99, the Yoga 9i in Shadow Black is worth a look if it’s in your price range. It’s a delightful machine, one that’ll pave the way for more experimental machines from Lenovo in the future.