Lenovo Yoga 900S Review: A 2-in-1 With Lightweight Performance

by Reads (11,529)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 9
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 5
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 9
      • Performance
      • 5
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 6
      • Total Score:
      • 7.14
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Impressive battery life
    • Beautiful lightweight design
    • Nice FHD display
    • Good keyboard
  • Cons

    • Weak Core m5 performance
    • Unimpressive touchpad
    • No Pen included

For more than a decade every PC manufacturer in the world has attempted to create its own version of Apple’s most popular MacBooks. While the current 12-inch MacBook is one of the thinnest and lightest laptops on the market, the new Lenovo Yoga 900S might just give potential Apple customers a better Windows 10 alternative.

This Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 is a 12.5-inch laptop that’s even thinner than the MacBook and still somehow manages to include two full-sized USB 3.0 ports. Unfortunately, the starting price of $1,099 means that Lenovo surrenders one additional advantage to Apple … making a laptop that’s better than a MacBook look a little worse when it comes to price. Let’s take a closer look in this Lenovo Yoga 900S review.

Lenovo Yoga 900S

Lenovo Yoga 900S review unit

Build and Design

At first glance the 12.5-inch Lenovo Yoga 900S looks like a thinner, lighter version of the 13.3-inch Yoga 900 right down to the iconic watchband-style 360-degree display hinge. Lenovo doesn’t earn any points for originality here, but recycling the same design isn’t a bad thing when you consider that the Yoga 900 and earlier Yoga 3 Pro are among the best looking 2-in-1 laptops.

That previously mentioned watchband hinge is one of the few design elements you’ll find on premium thin-and-light notebooks that doesn’t look like a tacky attempt to convince wealthy customers to buy an overpriced laptop. You won’t find 24-carat gold plating or Swarovski crystals here. This is the third Lenovo notebook we’ve seen that features the watchband hinge design but it remains nonetheless impressive considering this is one of the thinnest screen hinges on any notebook yet it holds the screen firmly in place through the full 360 degrees of rotation.

Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 watchband hinge

The eye-catching watchband hinge

The Yoga 900S tips the scales right around 1 kg (2.2 pounds) and measures only a half of an inch (12.8mm) thick when closed. Those measurements make the Yoga 900S barely heavier than a MacBook and just a bit thinner. Although we could easily complain about the Yoga failing to best the weight of the MacBook, those measurements are all the more impressive when you consider that the Yoga 900S includes a touchscreen, two full-size USB ports and a 360-degree hinge … all while Apple is content to offer none of those things with the MacBook.

Ports and Features

Lenovo engineers weren’t content to simply deliver a premium 2-in-1 that’s thinner than a MacBook. The Lenovo Yoga 900S offers the same USB-C port you’ll find on a MacBook but also includes two full-sized USB 3.0 ports (one of which doubles are the AC power jack).

The right side of the notebook also contains a standard headphone/microphone/headset combo jack and the main power button. You won’t find a dedicated video out port here and we’re somewhat disappointed that Lenovo didn’t include a USB-C to HDMI adapter in the box. That being said, Apple never includes free adapters either.

Lenovo Yoga 900S ports

Lenovo Yoga 900S ports

Lenovo Yoga 900S ports

Lenovo Yoga 900S ports

Screen and Speakers

If we had to choose a single feature of the Lenovo Yoga 900S that makes it a significantly superior 2-in-1 compared to the previous generation premium Yoga hybrids that single feature is the smaller screen. The main reason to purchase a 2-in-1 instead of a more powerful notebook is that you want a laptop that can double as a tablet. The simple truth is that 13.3-inch screens are too large for most people to use comfortably as tablets. The 12.5-inch FHD screen in this Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 hits that “Goldilocks” zone; not too large, not too small, but just right. 

DSC03790DSC03799
DSC03793DSC03796

The display resolution is a typical 1920 x 1080 pixels and the IPS touchscreen panel delivers good contrast, excellent color accuracy and wide viewing angles … which is even more important when you’re using the Yoga as a tablet and viewing the screen at odd angles.

Our only minor complaint about the display is the maximum brightness setting. The panel brightness is noticeably limited compared to the 13.3-inch display in the old Yoga 3 Pro. The screen is bright enough for you to see it indoors under bright lights but isn’t strong enough to overpower direct sunlight.

Lenovo Yoga 900S speakers

The speakers are weak and poorly placed.

If the screen is one of the best features of this Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 then the speakers are one of the worst. The stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the notebook chassis and fall woefully short of the power needed to overcome this less-than-ideal location. The audio coming out of the Yoga 900S sounds weak and muffled if the notebook is resting on your lap or any cloth-covered surface. You can improve the sound quality of the downward-firing speakers if you flip the Yoga into tablet mode or “tent” mode whenever you’re streaming a movie or TV show. Still, your best option for getting high-quality sound from this 2-in-1 is to plug in a good set of headphones or external speakers.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Thankfully, Lenovo has a solid track record of creating great notebook keyboards and the Yoga 900S is no exception. The Chiclet-style are slightly smaller than full size but are adequately spaced apart to prevent excess typos. Surprisingly, the keyboard delivers an impressive amount of travel with a relatively deep throw to each key when pressed despite the thin profile of the chassis.

The LED backlight has three settings (off, low, and bright) and the keys are easy to see in a dark environment. That said, the white text is hard to spot on the champagne-colored keys when you’re indoors under bright lights or outdoors under direct sunlight.

 

Lenovo Yoga 900S keyboard and touchpadLenovo Yoga 2-in-1 keyboard and touchpad

The touchpad on the Lenovo Yoga 900S is notably smaller than the touchpads you’ll find on most 13-inch notebooks, but the matte glass surface is smooth and delivers a good experience with accurate cursor movement and precise gesture detection.

Our only issue with the control interface here is that a 12-inch hybrid device just begs for a digital pen to be included. When this Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 is in tablet mode it feels almost like a legal notepad in your hand … so it’s only natural to want to write on the screen with a pen.

Performance

The Lenovo Yoga 900S might look better than the Apple MacBook, it might even offer more ports and a convertible touchscreen design, but at the end of the day it suffers from many of the same weak performance issues thanks to the use of Intel’s Core m5 processor. The Core m5 is a SoC or “system on a chip” that combines a dual-core processor and integrated graphics on a single die. The big advantage of a SoC is low power consumption and a smaller footprint that fits inside increasingly smaller and thinner devices.

Sure, you can play Minecraft or Hearthstone while streaming YouTube videos with minimal problems, but that is about the most “intense” computing activity you can expect here.

This Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 has a starting price of $1,099 for the base configuration with a Core m5 processor, 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and a 1080p screen. This isn’t bad compared to the Apple MacBook, but you can spend less money and get a significantly better 13-inch notebook like the HP Spectre x360, the Dell XPS 13, or even the Acer Aspire S 13 … you just have to be able to live with a larger screen.

Lenovo Yoga 900S review unit

Lenovo Yoga 900S review unit

Our Lenovo Yoga 900S review unit features the following technical specifications:

  • Windows 10
  • 12.5-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS LED glossy multi-touch display
  • 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 (4MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Intel HD Graphics 515
  • 4GB LPDDR3 (1600 MHz)
  • 128GB PCIe SSD
  • Lenovo AC Wireless (2×2) + Bluetooth 4.0
  • 720p webcam
  • Dimensions: 12.01 x 8.19 x 0.5 inches (3.05 x 2.08 x 1.28 cm)
  • MSRP: $1099

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):
Yoga900Swprimechart

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
Yoga900SPC8chart

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer DirectX 11 benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
Yoga900S3DMFireStrikechart

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
yoga900scdm

Battery Life

Most premium 13-inch notebooks and 2-in-1s claim they offer “all-day battery life” but the real world battery life is generally somewhere between 5 and 8 hours depending on your usage. In addition to our casual use battery life tests we also use Futuremark’s Powermark synthetic benchmark test to drain the battery in a fraction of that time. We found that the Lenovo Yoga 900S review unit ran for 4 hours and 41 minutes during the Powermark benchmark that simulates intense usage. Our casual battery drain tests showed that the battery inside the Yoga 900S typically lasted for between 7 and 8 hours of casual use.

The battery life of the Lenovo Yoga 900S review unit is all the more impressive when you consider the high-voltage USB power adapter that is included will charge a completely empty battery to full charge in less than 3 hours.

Powermark battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
Yoga900SPowerchart

Conclusion

The Lenovo Yoga 900S is a beautiful 2-in-1 lightweight PC with plenty of battery life and enough performance for general web browsing and casual video streaming. Unfortunately, this notebook lacks enough muscle to handle just about anything else.

The only performance advantage that the Intel Core m5 brings to the table is exceptional battery life. If you don’t care about how fast a processor is or how quickly it allows you to render freshly edited videos then the Core m5 might not be a problem. If you plan to do anything other than browse websites at a coffee shop, type up a Word document, or stream Netflix then this 2-in-1 isn’t going to give you what you need.

That said, this Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1 offers marginally better real-world battery life than the Apple MacBook, and it is more portable. People who buy MacBooks usually aren’t looking for good performance, so if you just want a thin-and-light laptop with good looks and great battery life then the Lenovo Yoga 900S might be exactly what you want.

DSC03784Pros:

  • Impressive battery life
  • Beautiful lightweight design
  • Nice FHD display
  • Good keyboard

Cons:

  • Weak Core m5 performance
  • Unimpressive touchpad
  • No Pen included



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2 Comments

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  1. sooomitin

    I don’t know what’s wrong with the Windows laptop/hybrid OEMs. Since I am in quest of a 2-in-1 (detachable), I have been reading the reviews here; and apparently, other than MacBook (which is not a hybrid though) and Surface Pro 4, all are having objectionable flaws, one or the other(s). If Apple and MS can do it, why not the others given they are getting the chance to improve indeed? These OEMs have been making notebooks for years (or even decades), and still their so called flagship models have something like weak CPU, unimpressive touchpad, terrible keyboard, average display, or passable battery life?

  2. RobertMunnings

    Looks like a great laptop. Nice to see 2 USB ports.

    The review could have mentioned that this laptop is also available with the QHD display? [ “Our only minor complaint about the display is the maximum brightness setting.” ]
    The QHD might have higher brightness levels as well?