Lenovo Yoga 900
Stylish - Powerful - Ultraportable
Being a Lenovo Community Advocate, as well as a Lenovo INsider, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-release version of the Yoga 900 back in October. At that time, I had been using my Yoga 3 Pro for nearly a year, and even though I really like the machine, it had several shortcomings which impacted its usability for my line of work.
First and foremost, the Core M processor wasn't as powerful I had hoped, and felt a bit sluggish when running professional applications, multitasking and even playing some 1080p videos, specially when streaming. It also didn't meet my expectations on battery life, given that this is a fanless, ultra low power CPU, but the Y3P gave me somewhere around 4-6 hours on battery on mixed workload. A bit underwhelming, for sure, as it is a premium device.
Another really annoying shortcoming of the Yoga 3 Pro was the 5 row keyboard. I'm a die-hard, old-school ThinkPad user, first and foremost, and the omittance of the top-most F-key row very much crippled the usability for me.
One thing that can never be said about Lenovo, is that they don't listen to their users. Because they really do. ThinkPad users can surely attest to this, and now, we have the successor to the Yoga 3 Pro, which right out of the box, has every single one of my grievances with the predecessor fixed, without any compromise to the premium looks and feel of it. It is truly a marvel of engineering.
Immediately upon opening the machine up, (I hadn't gotten all the technical details before I received it), I was truly elated to see the missing 6th row on the keyboard re-instated. The model I got is a Platinum Silver colored model, which looks all-business and sleek, whereas the new Clementine Orange and Champagne Gold versions look more festive, with the colored inserts in the watchband hinge.
The Yoga 900 fired up the Windows 10 Pro edition that came with it in just a couple of seconds, powered by the new Skylake series Intel i7-6500U CPU, equipped with 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD (non-PCI-e unfortunately, for now in my machine, but I will upgrade it), the machine felt fast-fast-fast. Logging into Windows for the first time got me presented with a very cool, new Lenovo OEM build of Windows 10, which has absolutely minimal amount of bundled software. The only thing I removed was the bundled virus protection from McAfee, because it is rubbish and I prefer the very solid Windows Defender, but the Lenovo support tools package, greatly enhanced by the upgraded versions of Lenovo Support and Companion, I felt no necessity to remove, as all of them are useful. This again emphasizes Lenovo's ability and willingness to listen to their customers, as most, if not all, are getting fed up with these 3rd party programs, many of which are useless, security flawed, sign-up required junk which belongs in the digital landfill.
Immediately upon logon, I was greeted by the superbly crisp and colorful quality of the 10 point multi-touch QHD+ resolution (3,200 X 1,800 @300 nits) IPS display. The Y3P display was really good, but this one just pops, in every conceivable way. Very few ultraportables can boast such tremendous display quality. Nothing has been spared in this department.
Elegant yet powerful and perfect for professional applications, and the battery life will amaze you!
Did I mention the machine is fast, fast, fast? The new Skylake i7-6500U feels supremely quick and snappy, coupled with the new Intel HD Graphics 520 GPU, you have an astoundingly powerful ultrabook, capable of pretty much everything I threw at it, be it multiple VM's, audio, video and image manipulation, large multitasking monitoring processes and yes, gaming. Oh my. It was a wholly different level of usability for a machine of this type, and venturing into the professional type of work on it was absolutely delightful. I was keen to see how much Lenovo had improved the battery usage on the Yoga 900, as it was a very key grievance on the Yoga 3 Pro, but I figured that since I have this immensely powerful i7 version of the Yoga 900, compared to the ULV Core M on the Y3P, I would have been very content with 5-6 hours. To my astonishment, this high-end version manages to stretch your battery time to 8-10 hours in mixed usage, easily. That is a vast improvement for sure, and this will make the Yoga 900 a very cool travel companion. (I took mine on a 4 day trip to Scandinavia last weekend, used it quite a lot and only charged it twice!)
Connectivity-wise, you have 2 x USB Type A 3.0, 1 x USB Type C 3.0 with video out, 1 x DC input with USB 2.0 functionality, 4-in-1 card reader and an audio combo jack, which is plenty for a laptop this size, but for other external controls, you have the power-button and the rotation-lock button. Strangely, Lenovo decided to remove the volume-rocker button, which I found very handy when operating the Y3P in stand, tent and tablet modes, as all disable the keyboard and thus you have to use the Windows speaker icon in the notification area, (or volume controls in each respective media player while running full screen videos), through the touch-screen functionality, and that can be rather clumsy often times.
And speaking of sound... the Yoga 900 also comes with great JBL speakers, stationed at the bottom-front of the machine, as the predecessor did, and these carry the same crisp, punchy sound quality, and are remarkably loud for such a small laptop. I haven't put my Y3P and Y900 into a "dance-off", albeit mine will be a "mosh-off" competition, as I am an extreme metal enthusiast, comparing sound quality, but both are really excellent in sound reproduction.
The beautiful new watch-band hinge serves a cooler purpose.
The very clever Lenovo engineers behind the Yoga-series made some adjustments to the wonderfully innovative, and practical watch-band hinge. They tightened it up a bit, so it doesn't rattle as it did on the Y3P, and they made it sturdier. Picking the machine up on by the corner of the display does not flex it as much as it did before, and you have to pick it up rather harshly for it to shift shape. But the most remarkable advancement on the hinge is that since the Yoga 900 now incorporates the Core i processor Skylakes, instead of the ULV Core M, it needs active cooling. That is provided by a couple of very ingenious new, ultra-thin cooling fans, placed on each side of the back of the machine, and their intake and output is directed through the watch-band hinge. Thus the hinge now serves as an extension to the fans heatsinks, and you can feel it when running the machine on heavy applications, as the whole hinge gets a little warm. This cooling system works so amicably, the fans never even stretch higher than to a quiet and comfortable whisper, which is a first for an i7 machine in my possession.
Being an old, dusty technician, and a ThinkPad enthusiast, I like best machines that are built like tanks, with the aesthetics and pleasantness of a bulldozer, but getting acquainted with the Yoga 3 Pro, and specially the Yoga 900, I've now found machines that can serve me well in my line of work, and I really enjoy prancing around with them, and showing them off, as they are fully capable in performing large tasks which are often reserved for my vastly bulkier ThinkPads, albeit, I will never substitute my W-series for one of these when it comes to raw power. But finding a good balance in laptops, when everything is becoming smaller and thinner, the Yoga-series are bridging the gap between portability and power in a most exemplary way. Bravo Lenovo. Bravo!