To my frustration, there aren’t too many big-name gadgets that get my heart racing these days. The iPhone 6S and Moto 360 2 turned my head, and I wouldn’t exactly complain if I received them as birthday gifts (wink, wink), but they just don’t get my juices flowing. Call me old-fashioned, but two of the major new products I’m most excited about at the moment -- the Lenovo Yoga 900 and Surface Book -- happen to fall in the laptop category. Aren’t those things supposed to be on the way out?
You haven’t come here to read yet another tribute to the Surface Book, so I’ll spare you that much. I will confess, however, that I’m a real fan of the Yoga brand. Each entry in Lenovo’s line of funky tablets and slinky laptops has made me sit up and take notice. It’s partly why I was so utterly, utterly disappointed with the Yoga Pro 3.
I like to call it the supermodel of the tech world. Undeniably beautiful, but substandard in almost all other respects. Slow, with rubbish speakers, a frustrating trackpad and weak battery life, Lenovo has had plenty to work on, in order to get Yoga back in people’s good books.
The company reckons the Yoga 900 is the machine to do just that. The Windows 10-toting convertible has just been unveiled, and it looks like Lenovo’s listened to the Pro 3’s detractors. The first thing you’ll notice about the new model is that, at 14.9mm thick, it’s chunkier than its older brother (12.8mm). While this makes the 900 less visually stunning, we think it’s a sensible move, as the older model felt flimsy. The 900’s a touch heavier too, weighing 1.29kg instead of 1.19kg. The difference is noticeable when you pick it up, but we can accept the slight weight gain if it translates to peace of mind. After all, it's no fat monster.
While it may sound like Lenovo’s taken the Yoga backwards, that’s only because the Pro 3 represented too ambitious a leap into the future. The 900 is still a fine-looking specimen, coming in silver (cor!), orange (phwoar!) and gold (meh) variants. The wonderful aluminium and steel watchband hinge is here again, though it’s a little less garish now, as Lenovo’s colour-matched sections of it with the body. Why it hasn’t done it for the entire thing, however, is beyond me.
The hinge apparently allows for a smoother opening and closing action too, though I didn’t notice anything major here. When positioned in tent mode, I was able to prod away at the touchscreen without the entire thing shifting -- that’s sturdy enough for me. The other major thing to note is that it includes a range of special vents too, which Lenovo says allow for better airflow and overall cooling. We’ll see if that claim stands up to scrutiny with further testing.
Similarly untestable at this stage are battery life and performance, though Lenovo says it’s really buckled down in these two areas, and boy has it had to. After all, if the 900 performs to a similar level as the Pro 3, it’s simply not worth buying. #justsaying. Nine-hour stamina is the claim of the day, thanks to a denser and higher-capacity battery, and I hope the figure proves accurate. What’s less likely to break my heart is the combination of a sixth generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM in the top-spec model. That pairing should deliver blisteringly good results. Think Usain Bolt having a baby with Usain Bolt, and raising that child on nothing but pure energy and love. That flagship model squeezes in 512GB of storage too, though we’ve been told that a model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will also be available.
The 900 packs a 13.3-inch, 3,200 x 1,800 display that’s everything you’d want it to be. It’s sharp, bright and responsive, reacting to taps and swipes instantaneously. We’re in no doubt that the Yoga 900 would serve as a very good machine for watching high quality movies and TV shows on. Whether the JBL-tuned stereo speakers can match up to the screen remains to be seen.
We’re not all about fun and games over here though. The 900’s trackpad and keyboard need to be just as impressive as its screen for it to warrant an over-enthusiastic thumbs-up. While one of these things certainly looks to have improved, the other may have just gone backwards. Lenovo’s made the trackpad larger on its latest Yoga laptop, which is exactly what it needed to do. The Pro 3’s version was cramped, making for a pretty horrific scrolling experience. I’m afraid, however, that Lenovo seems to have failed to pay the same sort of attention to the keyboard. While the keys are large, well-spaced and backlit, they’re also shallow. Uncomfortably shallow. Infuriatingly shallow. We hope Lenovo irons out this problem before bringing the 900 to market, because it’s a major worry. The keyboard and trackpad are surrounded by a leather palm rest, which feels like a high-quality affair. Is it tough enough to survive being scraped across desktops, beds and floors though? That'll become obvious in time.
Refreshingly, Lenovo’s decided to keep things clean and simple in the software department. The 900 comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 (obviously), but there’s very little else to report. Companion and Photo Master 2 are the only other pre-installed programs, so you won't have to embark on a lengthy bloatware-cull when you first fire the 900 up.
In short, the Lenovo Yoga 900 looks like everything the Yoga 3 Pro should have been, but wasn't. Unusually, it's not quite as drop-dead gorgeous as last year's model, but that's fine with me as long as the brand new brains make up for it.