The concept of the 360-degree convertible is still relatively new, and Lenovo has quickly become one of its biggest proponents. The firm's Yoga series now encompasses an array of back-flipping laptops, spanning a multitude of prices and target markets.
The Yoga 900, announced in mid-October, is very much a high-end addition to the range and UK pre-order listings price it at £1,400. To find out whether it's worth it, we went hands-on at an Intel-hosted event in London.
The Yoga 900's flexing abilities come from the 'watchband' hinge, an intricately segmented, outward-rolling mechanism first seen on 2014's Yoga 3 Pro and quite possibly an inspiration for the Microsoft Surface Book's Dynamic Fulcrum hinge.
It's surprisingly sturdy for a hinge only several millimetres thick, while enabling the screen to slip around without needing to apply much force. The screen can wobble if poked and prodded too hard, though. It's a common problem with convertibles that Lenovo has seemingly yet to solve.
Indeed, the Yoga 900 feels at its best in a standard laptop configuration. Despite slightly shallow key travel, the keyboard and trackpad are comfortable and responsive, and we've never really been fond of using a fully-rotated convertible as a handheld tablet anyway; they're just too big and heavy compared with a regular slate.
That said, the Yoga 900 is impressively slim even after managing to fit in three USB 3.0 ports and a full-size SD card reader. It's noticeably lighter and more portable than, say, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 although, unlike on that device, the keys aren't physically locked from depressing, resulting in a disconcerting amount of key-mashing when using the tablet mode.
At 3200x1800 resolution and 276ppi the Yoga 900's touchscreen is beautifully sharp, and text, images and videos all look crisp and clear. Colour balance is mostly fine as well, although blues and purples sometimes aren't as vibrant as the rest of the spectrum.
This might worry designers and artists who require full colour accuracy, but for most people the Yoga 900 is very well suited for general content viewing. That high resolution is especially impressive, as many laptops and convertibles don't even break the 200ppi mark.
Operating system and software
Lenovo will launch the Yoga 900 with Windows 10 Home, the ‘basic' version of Microsoft's latest operating system. This means that it won't benefit from the security enhancements of Windows 10 Pro, such as AppLocker and BitLocker encryption, but Windows 10 Home is still a fine fit, mainly for the Continuum feature.
This allows the Yoga 900 to switch between a traditional desktop view and a tile-based tablet view, based on whether it's in a laptop or tablet configuration. What's more, it can be set to change automatically as soon as the screen is sufficiently rotated, and seems to detect configuration changes very near instantly.
Unfortunately, Lenovo couldn't resist tossing a few of its own pre-installed programs onto the hard drive. These include dubiously useful additions like SHAREit, which is effectively just an app for emailing files, and REACHit, a fairly basic cloud storage service that doesn't offer anything that more established commercial services don't.
The model we tested included a fairly beefy Core i7-6500U from Intel's 6th-generation Skylake family. It's a dual-core chip clocked at 2.5GHz - 100MHz faster than the Broadwell Core i7-5500U it replaces - and has been partnered with 8GB of RAM.
A Samsung-built SSD supposedly provides 512GB of storage, but a quick jaunt into Windows Explorer revealed that only 400GB of a 432GB partition was free.
Hands-on events aren't great for judging capacity, as vendors will often add software and files for demo purposes even if they won't appear on the device once it hits the market. Even so, that's a solid fifth of the maximum drive capacity out of use, which is a lot for what should just be the operating system and some firmware.
Still, 400GB is quite a lot, especially for those who mostly work with small files. The speed benefits of an SDD, as opposed to an HDD, shouldn't be underestimated either.
The £1,400 remains intimidating, but the Yoga 900's sharp screen, speedy performance and skinny profile has gone a long way towards winning us over.
It's certainly a cooler, trendier alternative to the ThinkPad Yoga 12, although this comes at the cost of the latter's business focus. At best, this is a solid consumer device that might suit SMBs, but doesn't include the management and security tools of the ThinkPad series. That may prove more offputting than the cost.
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