Lenovo Yoga 900S Hands-on: Nice to look at, but can it run?

Stitching together the worlds of laptop and tablet is tricky business, as some companies have found out the hard way. We’ve seen every manner of fun-house spinning tricks, sliding displays, complicated magnetic balancing acts. Lenovo, meanwhile, brings sturdy, simple design to its Yoga computers, a trademark of the tank-like ThinkPad line.

And indeed, the Yoga 900S has slimmed down even further for the new year. Lenovo says it’s the thinnest of its kind at just a half an inch thick, and I have a hard time providing evidence to the contrary. It’s powered by a Core M processor, a compromise that promises some benefits in other key areas of the system.

All dressed up

Lenovo’s 360-degree watchband hinge doesn’t just look great, it also works quite well. It holds the screen firm even during heavy use. The lid clamps shut below about ten degrees, keeping it from opening accidentally, but lifting easily for use. Flipping from laptop to tablet is smooth, and it’s comfortable to hold in tablet form.

Apart from the hinge, the other striking feature of the laptop is its light weight and razor thin chassis. It measures just half an inch thick when closed or folded into tablet mode. At 2.2 pounds, it’s not the lightest system in its size bracket, but it doesn’t feel unnecessarily dense or heavy. 

The downside to the system’s focus on portability is a keyboard that lacks travel. It’s extremely similar to the Apple MacBook, which has the same problem. When a system becomes this thin, there’s little room for keys to move, resulting in stiff experience. To some, it’s like typing on a board, rather than proper keyboard. 

As fast as you’re likely to need

In order to reach that slim size, the 900S is powered by a Core m processor. Before you scoff, we recently reviewed the Asus UX305CA, powered by a Core m3 chip. While it struggles with stressful tasks like 4K video encoding, it doesn’t stall or hang while multi-tasking. In fact, it’s the laptop editor Matt Smith brought to CES, despite a base clock of just 900MHz.

That makes the Lenovo’s m7 option look all the more appealing, with up to 8GB of memory. It has plenty of room for music and movies with up to 512GB of SSD storage, and a 12.5-inch, 1440p display to watch them on, with Lenovo Active Pen support for taking notes or drawing. It also claims up to 10.5 hours of battery life on a single charge, the result of the power-sipping core m processor.

A decent all-in-one with a few compromises

 The Yoga line, meanwhile, kicked off in 2013 with a painfully simple idea – flip the screen all the way around. It worked, but hardware at the time wasn’t as power efficient as it is today, and that meant Yoga devices were often rather bulky. Like a student just showing up to college, it was full of promise, but awkward and unsure.

Now, two years later, the  Yoga 900S is a junior. It knows where all the good parties are, and doesn’t have any class on Fridays. It’s still keeping it simple, with a 360-degree hinge, but the improved watchband adds a bit of flair. It’ll be back just in time for spring break, in March of 2016 starting at a tuition-friendly $1,100.

However, the Yoga hasn’t graduated yet, so it still has room for growth. The Core m processor isn’t the quickest, and more importantly, the keyboard will frustrate users who have to do a lot of typing. If you can get past these points, though, this new model seems reasonably priced given its slim size.

Pros:

  • Solid design
  • Elegant hinge
  • Very thin

Cons:

  • CPU not fit for heavy workloads
  • Keyboard isn’t great
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