Earlier this year, at CES, Lenovo presented a very unusual laptop called the YogaBook 9i. I’m not even sure that “laptop” is the right term (although the company positions it that way), because the device has two screens, an external keyboard, and a stand that allows it to be used in different modes. Ever since the announcement, I’ve been very interested in trying this model, and finally I got it, albeit in the form of an engineering sample. This makes it impossible to do a full review, but it is quite possible to share my impressions, which I will do in this article.
Laptop or tablet?
Laptop manufacturers are constantly experimenting with this form factor, so it’s hard to surprise users with something original today. Transformer laptops are already commonplace, models with a flexible screen are a reality, but dual-screen versions have not caught on very well. However, this does not mean that the idea of using them does not deserve further development, as Lenovo has tried to prove.
The YogaBook 9i has a format where instead of a keyboard and touchpad, another touchscreen is added to the body of a traditional laptop, which can show their virtual counterparts. In principle, this could have been enough, as Lenovo has already done with the Yoga Book C930, in which the second display was monochrome and was intended for drawing. However, the developers decided to expand the capabilities of the novelty by adding a functional stand and an external keyboard.
This approach has radically changed the functionality of the YogaBook 9i design, because the second display can be used not only for displaying a virtual keyboard or drawing, but also as an additional screen. And in two modes at once: vertical and horizontal.
In both cases, it’s quite convenient to work with different amounts of information: in horizontal mode, you can compare data, work with tables or code, while in vertical mode, you can keep the information in front of your eyes.
The latter option is especially useful during video meetings, because, firstly, the webcam can be positioned at eye level, and, secondly, you can see your interlocutors on the first screen and display a document or presentation on the second.
The two 13.3-inch OLED touchscreen displays with 2.8K resolution, 400 nits brightness, 16:10 aspect ratio and 100% DCI-P3 color space coverage are well suited for both creative and everyday tasks. They have the same calibration and excellent viewing angles, so there is no dissonance when you shift your gaze from one to the other.
Both screens can be used as separate screens, or they can be combined into one, for example, to browse the web in a browser. Of course, the rather massive hinge with a speaker grille won’t give you the feeling that it’s one screen, but for some scenarios, like using the same browser, it can be useful. But, as for me, the main advantage of this format is the ability to have two displays side by side when you need them.
The body of the YogaBook 9i is made of anodized aluminum, and the screens are covered with protective glass, which affected the weight of the model, which is slightly larger than modern 13.3-inch laptops and weighs 1.34 kg. But the thickness in the closed position is 15.95 mm, which is quite typical for this class. Despite all the complexity of its format, Lenovo YogaBook 9i remains a compact device that is easy to carry around in a backpack or bag.
The manufacturer even thought of turning the stand into a cover for an external keyboard, so they take up less space. Unfortunately, the included pen is not magnetized to either the YogaBook 9i body or the keyboard, but it can be attached to the cover.
Overall, we have a somewhat reimagined format of a dual-screen transforming laptop that offers several interesting modes of operation.
YogaBook 9i platform and its features
The YogaBook 9i is built on the Intel platform using the Intel Core i7-1355U processor, which I am familiar with from the ASUS Zenbook S 13 OLED and other ultrabooks.
It’s a fairly fast chip with relatively low power consumption and a thermal package that means less heat generation. This processor still requires an active cooling system for normal operation, but in general it is not very hot and quite economical, which provides both comfortable operation without excessive heat and good battery life.
The processor is complemented by 16 GB of LPDDR5X RAM and a 1 TB 4th generation PCIe SSD. As expected, the graphics in this model are built-in, using the standard Intel Iris Xe solution with 1 GB of memory.
In general, the YogaBook 9i platform is quite fast, even though the processor and graphics are responsible for processing data for two monitors. There is no lack of power when working with a browser, office programs, or a graphic editor.
The laptop has three Thunderbolt 4 ports, two on the right side and one on the left, which can be used for data transfer and for connecting a monitor and power supply. And these are all the connectors that can be found on the body of the model; Lenovo decided not to use the standard 3.5 mm audio output. It seems that the developers decided that wired headphones would spoil the futuristic image of the model, because the thickness of the case is quite enough.
However, not everyone will need headphones with the YogaBook 9i, because the laptop has a very loud Bowers & Wilkins system with two 2W speakers and two 1W speakers. They are located in the display hinge, so when using the YogaBook 9i in almost any configuration, they will be directed towards the user. They deliver loud and truly surround sound with Dolby Atmos technology.
Another interesting thing is that on the right side, next to the power button, there is a physical webcam switch that allows you to disable it at the hardware level. And that’s not the only security feature, YogaBook 9i can use an infrared camera for face recognition to log in to Windows 11 via Windows Hello.
In a dual-screen model, the issue of heating is logical, because all the main electronics are hidden behind the second display, and in the case of constant strong heating, it will negatively affect the durability of the OLED panel. Lenovo has thought this point through quite well. The Intel Core i7-1355U processor is not too hot on its own, and paired with an efficient cooling system, it ensures minimal heating of the case.
In the AIDA64 system stress test, the laptop showed no trotting, the processor temperature did not rise above 60 degrees Celsius, and the average frequency reached almost 2.3 GHz. The case was barely warm. So we can say that the cooling system is quite efficient.
In terms of battery life, even with two screens at once, the laptop’s battery life is at a typical level for modern ultrabooks, and you can expect 8-10 hours of use depending on the load.
Two YogaBook 9i screens in action
I’ve already touched on the topic of interacting with two screens at once in this model, but in this section I’ll talk about this experience in a little more detail. YogaBook 9i requires a little training from the very beginning, because the format is really not typical for users. Lenovo even made a separate program for Windows called Yoga Book 9 User Center, which, in addition to the basic settings, also added a whole section with scenarios for using the laptop.
Essentially, they can be divided into three formats: the first is when two screens are used to display information (vertically or horizontally), the second is when the second screen is used to enter information (via a virtual keyboard or stylus), and the third is when only one screen is used. I’ve already described the first one above, which is quite convenient. If you don’t need to work on the go, you can simultaneously display different information on two displays at home at your desk or at a cafe table.
The bundled Bluetooth keyboard is great for typing long texts, and Lenovo doesn’t cheat on itself in this regard. The only thing is that to work in this format you will have to carry a mouse with you, which is unlikely to be a big problem.
For studying, taking notes on lectures or meetings, or drawing, the second format is suitable using the bundled Base Pen 4.0 stylus, which allows you to display the necessary information on the first screen and a program for handwritten notes or something like Adobe Fresco for creating illustrations on the second. Input with the stylus works perfectly, with no noticeable lag and high accuracy.
If you need to write a response to a letter or message instead of taking notes or drawing, the second screen of YogaBook 9i can be easily turned into a virtual keyboard and touchpad. Lenovo has come up with a cool gesture for this – you need to touch the second display with both fingers (there must be at least 8 of them for the gesture to work), and you can immediately type and control the mouse cursor.
I should note that the virtual keyboard has a pleasant vibration response that can be adjusted within three values. It simulates keystrokes quite well thanks to the use of a linear motion drive rather than a vibration motor, as in flagship smartphones. In my laptop version, the virtual keyboard was not localized, which is a bit strange, given that this is probably one of the easiest tasks in this device. However, this did not prevent me from actively working with it, and part of this text was written with its help.
I can’t say that typing on a virtual keyboard is very comfortable, as the vibration can’t fully compensate for the lack of physical feel of the keys. This is somewhat compensated for by the size of the virtual keys, which allows you to get used to typing over time without looking at the location of the buttons on the screen every second. However, the virtual keyboard is generally not designed for typing long texts.
The situation with the touchpad is a little more strange, for some reason Lenovo decided to make it with imitation of individual physical buttons that occupy the lower part of its not very large area. In laptops, physical buttons were one of the stages of touchpad development, and not the best. At that time, touch panel technology was quite expensive and not very accurate, so additional physical keys were supposed to at least provide the user with the ability to quickly click on the desired interface element or access its menu. Modern touchpads very accurately recognize the location of not just one, but several fingers at once, support gestures, and do not require separate buttons.
Similarly, they were not needed in the YogaBook 9i virtual touchpad, because they cannot be separated in any way, it is one big screen. Therefore, almost every time I tried to use the virtual touchpad, I accidentally pressed something in the Windows 11 interface, because my finger simply hit one of the virtual buttons without any obstacles.
This can be somewhat compensated for by the ability to hide the keyboard and enlarge the touchpad to cover the entire 13.3-inch screen. But it’s not convenient to work while typing, which happens almost always during the working day. I really hope that this will be fixed in future YogaBook 9i software updates.
The latest format of working with a laptop is to use only one screen, while the second screen can be used to put the bundled wireless keyboard and type. YogaBook 9i automatically recognizes its installation and removes the virtual keys from the screen, leaving only the touchpad. The latter is just as inconvenient, but in this mode, you can generally type long texts more comfortably when working away from your desk. Although this is, of course, the most boring format for using the YogaBook 9i.
With the YogaBook 9i, Lenovo has tried a bolder design for a transforming laptop that has several formats of use at once. After working with this model, I can’t say that the experiment was completely successful, the developers still need to work on the software, but it can’t be called unsuccessful either. After all, the ability to use two screens in a laptop does have its advantages, although it does require additional accessories, such as a separate stand and a wireless keyboard. In general, it will be interesting to see how this line develops if Lenovo decides to continue it.