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Lenovo Slim 9i vs. Apple MacBook Pro 14

The 14-inch laptop has seen something of a renaissance lately. It seems that users, or at least manufacturers, see a ton of value in a laptop that’s slightly larger than a 13-inch machine but considerably smaller than 15 inches. There’s a little more room for better thermals and a larger display without creating a humongous chassis.

The Apple MacBook Pro 14 represents state-of-the-art design in 14-inch laptops, with an insanely solid build, strong performance, and phenomenal battery life. But it’s not alone. Lenovo’s Slim 9i is a great laptop in its own right, offering the same level of build quality with good performance and battery life that competes strongly against other Windows laptops, if not against the MacBook Pro 14. So, which of these outstanding premium 14-inch laptops is for you?

Specs

  Lenovo Slim 9i Apple MacBook Pro 14
Dimensions 12.40 inches by 8.44 inches by 0.59 inches 12.31 inches by 8.71 inches by 0.61 inches
Weight 3.02 pounds 3.5 pounds
Processor Intel Core i7-1280P Apple M1 Pro
Apple M1 Max
Graphics Intel Iris Xe Integrated
RAM 32GB 16GB
32GB
64GB
Display 14.0-inch 16:10 OLED UHD+ (3840 x 2400) 14.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR 3024 x 1964
Storage 512GB solid-state drive (SSD)
1TB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
4TB SSD
8TB SSD
Touch Yes No
Ports 3 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
3 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
SD card reader
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
Webcam 1080p with infrared camera for Windows Hello 1080p
Operating system Windows 11 MacOS Monterey
Battery 75 watt-hour 70 watt-hour
Price $1,760+ $1,999+
Rating 4 out of 5 stars 5 out of 5 stars

Price and configurations

The Slim 9 has just two configurations as this comparison is being written, all built around the 12th-generation, 28-watt, 14-core/20-thread Core i7-1280P CPU, 32GB of RAM, and UHD+ OLED display. It’s $1,760 with a 512GB SSD and $1,819 with a 1GB SSD. That’s slightly less than when we reviewed the laptop.

The Apple MacBook Pro 14 offers the same 14.2-inch Liquid Retina display on all configurations, with a choice between various Apple M1 Pro and Max CPUs. The entry-level configuration with an eight-core CPU/14-core GPU M1 Pro, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD is $1,999. At the high end, you can get a 10-core CPU/32-core GPU M1 Max CPU, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SS for $3,299.

The MacBook Pro 14 starts out at more than the Slim 9i’s high-end configuration, making it a significantly more expensive laptop.

Design

There’s no denying that the MacBook Pro 14 is an incredibly well-built laptop, with a chassis that’s constructed of CNC machine aluminum that feels like a solid chunk of metal. There’s absolutely no bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere, not in the lid, the keyboard deck, or the bottom chassis. And the MacBook Pro 14’s aesthetic is the usual extreme minimalism, with blocky lines that somehow manage to exude elegance.

The Slim 9i is also extremely solid with a CNC machined aluminum chassis. It’s equal to the MacBook in this regard. Lenovo covered the lid with glass, which adds an exciting element to both the look and the feel. Its chassis has incredibly comfortable rounded edges that make the Slim 9i more comfortable to hold. It’s a more extravagant aesthetic that’s also elegant.

The MacBook Pro 14 benefits from Apple’s outstanding Magic Keyboard, which has limited travel but still manages to offer a snappy and precise bottoming action that makes for fast typing from the first moment you start using it. And its Force Touch haptic touchpad is large and precise, easily the best touchpad on a 14-inch laptop. The Slim 9i’s keyboard is also low-travel, but it lacks the precision of the MacBook’s version and is not nearly as comfortable. The touchpad is fine but nothing special, especially compared to Apple’s.

Both laptops enjoy passwordless login capabilities. The Slim 9i uses an IR camera and facial recognition to support Windows 11 Hello, while the MacBook Pro 14 leverages a Touch ID sensor built into the power supply. Both worked equally well. The Slim 9i also uses its IR camera to support privacy features like Zero Touch Lock, which turns off the laptop and puts it to sleep when the user leaves the area, then wakes it up and automatically logs in when the user returns. It’s a level of convenience and privacy that the MacBook Pro 14 lacks.

In addition, both laptops have 1080p webcams that provide detailed images in various lighting conditions. They’re both excellent, but the Slim 9i benefits from a switch that electronically shutters the webcam for privacy. Lenovo uses a reverse physical notch to fit the webcam in while retaining relatively slim bezels, while Apple built a notch into the display that’s destracting to some.

Finally, the MacBook Pro 14 offers better physical connectivity, with three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. These are everything a creator needs. The Slim 9i has just three USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support and a 3.5mm audio jack. The Slim 9i has more up-to-date wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 versus Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Performance

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Slim 9i uses Intel’s fastest 28-watt, 12th-gen CPU, and it provides solid productivity performance and enough power to handle some low-end creative tasks. It competes well against the MacBook Pro 14 with the entry-level M1 Pro CPU in our usual benchmarks, running faster in Geekbench 5, our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, and Cinebench R23. The Slim 9i can be switched between balanced and performance modes for quieter and slower or faster and louder operation, and it’s even faster than the low-end MacBook Pro 14 in performance mode.

These benchmarks don’t tell the whole story, though. The 10-core CPU/16-core GPU M1 Pro is about 25% faster across the board, and then there’s the option for the even faster M1 Max that would blow these results out of the water. And in the Pugetbench for Premiere Pro benchmark that runs in a live version of Adobe’s Premiere Pro, the faster M1 Pro scored 911. That’s competitive with the fastest laptops you’ll find, and although we didn’t test the Slim 9i using this benchmark, similar Intel machines with integrated Iris Xe graphics scored around 300. The MacBook Pro 14 benefits tremendously from a CPU (and GPU) that’s incredibly fast in real-world applications, much more so than is apparent in synthetic benchmarks.

For creators, then, the MacBook Pro 14 is a much better performer. Both can handle demanding productivity tasks, although even then, as you ramp up the CPU, the MacBook Pro 14 gains a significant edge.

Lenovo Slim 9i
(Core i7-1280P)
Apple MacBook Pro 14
(Apple M1 Pro 8/14)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
Bal: 1.720 / 10,115
Perf: 1,726 / 11,074
Bal: 1,728 / 9,955
Perf: N/A
Handbrake
(seconds)
Bal: 114
Perf: 95
Bal: 123
Perf:
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,795 / 9,467
Perf: 1,824 / 11,301
Bal: 1,531 / 9,519
Perf: N/A

Display

The screen of the 2021 MacBook Pro.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Slim 9i comes with just one display option, a 14-inch 16:10 UHD+ OLED panel that’s incredibly sharp, bright, and colorful, offering OLED’s inky blacks. It’s among the best Windows displays you can buy. The MacBook Pro 14 also comes with a single display option, a 14.2-inch 16:10 mini-LED panel at 3024 x 1964, which isn’t as sharp as the Slim 9i’s display but still more than sharp enough. It’s much brighter and offers better high dynamic range (HDR) support, with wide colors that fall short of the Slim 9i while being slightly less accurate. Its contrast is even higher, however.

Both displays are excellent for creators, with the Slim 9i having an advantage in wider and more accurate colors. Both are spectacular displays for everyone else, including productivity workers and media consumers (where the MacBook Pro 14 shines, literally). You can’t go wrong with either display.

Lenovo Slim 9i
(Core i7-1280P)
Apple MacBook Pro 14
(Apple M1 Pro)
Brightness
(nits)
389 511
AdobeRGB gamut 95% 89%
 sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.89 1.13
Contrast ratio 24,310:1 35,450:1

Portability

Lenovo Slim 9i side view showing lid and ports.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The two laptops are remarkably close in size, with the Slim 9i being slightly thinner and considerably lighter. Both offer a lot of power and excellent designs packed into reasonably sized chassis and can be carried around without much fuss.

However, even with a slightly smaller battery, the MacBook Pro 14 provides spectacular battery life that’s in a completely different league. In both our web browsing and video tests, the MacBook Pro 14 doubled the Slim 9i’s web browsing longevity and almost doubled its video playback time. The Slim 9i is unlikely to last a full day of typical productivity work on a charge, while the MacBook Pro 14 might last two days. That’s a massive advantage, particularly given the MacBook’s performance.

Lenovo Slim 9i
(Core i7-1280P)
Apple MacBook Pro 14
(Apple M1 Pro)
Web browsing  6 hours, 28 minutes 15 hours, 29 minutes
Video 12 hours, 36 minutes 22 hours, 3 minutes

The Slim 9i puts up a good fight, but the MacBook Pro 14 comes out on top

There’s no doubt that these are two excellent laptops. In terms of their designs, they’re different but equally attractive and well-built. But the MacBook Pro 14 is considerably faster, especially when you ramp up the CPU, and its battery life is out of this world. It also enjoys a better keyboard and touchpad, with the Slim 9i only benefiting from its touch display.

At the same time, the MacBook Pro 14 is also a lot more expensive. That counts in this comparison, but if you have the money, then Apple has the best 14-inch laptop you can buy today.

Editors' Recommendations

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Mark Coppock
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