Introduction and design
Last year, Apple pulled off a revolution in engineering to make the MacBook the world’s thinnest and lightest laptop, leaving many Windows 10 machines looking considerably flabby. Since then, notebook manufacturers have struck back with even thinner and faster systems, like the HP Spectre 13 and Asus ZenBook 3.
Lenovo itself has come out with the Yoga 900S, a 12.5-inch 2-in-1 laptop that’s even thinner than the MacBook but doesn’t sacrifice full-sized USB 3.0 ports. Beyond being thinner, this capable hybrid laptop comes with a faster processor, sharper screen and amazing battery life to boot. However, with a $1,099 or £999 (about AU$1,481) starting price, Lenovo’s thinnest 2-in-1 comes at a demanding premium.
You would be right if you guessed the 12.5-inch Yoga 900S is essentially a slimmed down version of the 13.3-inch Lenovo Yoga 900. The laptop’s overall design bears a striking resemblance to Lenovo’s flagship hybrid from the magnesium shell, leatherette interior and the watchband-inspired hinge.
Completely lifting the Yoga 900’s design isn’t a bad thing, though. Lenovo practically doesn’t have to make any major changes because it has already mastered the 2-in-1 format.
Lenovo’s high-end hybrid is among the few notebooks that are luxurious without having to resort to obnoxious rhinestones or a tacky gold finish. Although this is the third Yoga notebook to feature the company’s exquisite watchband hinge, it’s still an amazing feat of design that this mechanism seemingly defies gravity, holding the screen up despite of how thin it is.
Measuring in at just 0.5-inches (12.8mm) and weighing 2.2 pounds (0.99kg), the Yoga 900S a tenth of an inch thinner and lighter than its predecessor. That’s a hair thinner than the new MacBook, though a tad heftier.
And keep in mind, those are the 900S measurements with a touchscreen, which Apple continues to argue would add unnecessary thickness to the MacBook.
The Lenovo Yoga 900S has quite a few other things over the MacBook, including full-sized USB 3.0 ports in addition to USB-C connectivity. What’s more, the touchpad actually clicks when pressed, and the laptop houses a keyboard with slightly deeper key travel.
That said, the Yoga 900S’ touchpad is a bit on the small side – at least it offers a smooth, glass-lined surface. Similarly, the keys on the keyboard are a bit on the small side, but they’re spaced far apart and offer a decent amount of travel given the laptop’s thin frame.
Personally, the typing experience on this 2-in-1 is only slightly more tolerable than Apple’s low-pile keyboard. However, you would be better served with plugging in or connecting a dedicated keyboard if you’re trying to do serious work with either machine.
The hybrid you want as a tablet
I’ve honestly never been a fan of the Lenovo Yoga 900; its 13.3-inch screen is simply too big to use as a tablet. By comparison, the 12.5-inch Lenovo Yoga 900S is a few notches thinner and narrower while being almost an inch shallower.
These might sound like small reductions, but they add up and help make the 900S a much smaller pseudo-slate. It doesn’t feel as much of a giant sheet of glass and magnesium as it predecessor does. And, it’s noticeably less unwieldy given its smaller size, which allows me to hold it up for longer stretches.
All the while, it’s still large enough to use as a notebook without feeling like it’s about to slip out of your lap or being quite as cramped as smaller 10 to 12-inch laptops.
Specifications, performance and features
With a starting price of $1,099 (about AU$1,481) the Lenovo Yoga 900S comes at a surprisingly high standard considering the base configuration includes a Core m5 processor, 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and a 1080p screen – or a QHD+ screen in the UK for £999.
For the fifty fewer clams, you could get an Intel Core i5-powered Dell XPS 13 with double the memory and storage. Alternatively, the HP Spectre x360 starts at an even more affordable rate, with the same specs as Dell’s Ultrabook and an all-metal, transformable shell.
That said, the higher-end version of the Yoga 900S is more tantalizing and better justifies its $1,149 (about £810, AU$1,549) price. It comes with a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution display, a faster Core m7 processor as well as twice the memory and storage compared to the starting configuration.
And, considering the upgraded model is a mere $50 more, I would highly suggest picking it up unless you’re trying to maximize battery life.
Here is the Lenovo Yoga 900S configuration sent to techradar for review:
- CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
- RAM: 4GB LPDDR3 (1600 MHz)
- Screen: 12.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 FHD IPS LED glossy multi-touch display
- Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD
- Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0, USB Type-C, headset jack
- Connectivity: Lenovo AC Wireless (2×2) + Bluetooth 4.0
- Camera: 720p webcam
- Weight: 2.2 pounds (9.99g)
- Size: 12.01 x 8.19 x 0.5 inches (W x D x H) (3.05 x 2.08 x 1.28 cm)
More and more thin laptops are abandoning Intel’s Core M platform due to the bad reputation the chip developed in its early days. The Yoga 900S missed out this revolution when it was announced at CES 2016. However, even with only a Core m5 processor, I never feel like the Lenovo Yoga 900S is struggling to keep up.
In fact, I’m able to play Hearthstone with the graphical settings on high. And, I can Photoshop a few images without major hitching despite running five other programs at the same time.
Again, this is with the Core m5 model. I can only imagine the Core m7 version would run even faster.
Here’s how the Lenovo Yoga 900S performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 3,609; Sky Diver: 1,909; Fire Strike: 479
- Cinebench CPU: 160 points; Graphics: 23.32 fps
- GeekBench: GeekBench: 2,248 (single-core); 4,532 (multi-core)
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,203 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 6 hours and 29 minutes
- Battery Life (techradar movie test): 7 hours and 21 minutes
Sadly, on paper, it seems the Lenovo Yoga 900S runs a little slower than other contemporary Intel Core m5 machines. The Dell XPS 12 and Apple MacBook both returned higher Geekbench scores bubbling over the 6,000 mark, whereas the Lenovo’s 2-in-1 only scored 4,532 points.
The Lenovo Yoga 900S also looks to be deficient on the graphics end. In the Cloud Gate 3DMark test – which stresses the integrated graphics components – the hybrid scored 3,609 points, while the XPS 12 scored 300 points higher and the ZenBook UX305 finished with 4,228 points.
Keep in mind the machines compared above were running with the same processor when tested. However, this Yoga 900S model is outfitted with half as much RAM as the others – this could be the root cause of the lower numbers.
Battery to last
Most 13-inch laptops get an average of six hours of battery life, the Lenovo Yoga 900S smashes that average with nearly seven and a half hours of screen-on time. The notebook ran for 7 hours and 21 minutes while playing TechRadar’s standard movie battery test on loop. Even against the grueling PCMark 8 benchmark, the 12.5-inch hybrid kept chugging along for 6 hours and 29 minutes.
On an average workday full of chatting on Slack, editing documents in Microsoft Word and Google Drive, listening to Google Music and the occasional YouTube video diversion, the Yoga 900 lasted for 7 hours and 16 minutes. Throwing in some more serious Photoshop image editing cut the astounding run time to 5 hours and 57 minutes.
This is an impressive showing for a laptop that only weighs a little over two pounds, and it only takes the machine 2 hours and 45 minutes to fill back up from empty.
Screen and speakers
With a long battery life and gorgeous screen, the Lenovo Yoga 900S is an excellent streaming video companion. The display renders vibrant colors with blacks deep enough to make you forget about the thick bezels around the edge of the machine.
However, I wished Lenovo went with a brighter panel, as glare is apparent even if you’re sitting far away from a window on sunny day. I also have to regularly max out the screen brightness while working with documents or just reading up on webpages.
The speakers are a little less noteworthy, as they lack power and are merely serviceable. Due to being located on the bottom of the laptop and downward firing, the audio quality can vary between passable on a desk to muffled on your lap. Switching the machine into tablet mode makes the listening experience slightly better, but only slightly.
If you’re looking for the best aural experience, plug in a pair of headphones.
With the Yoga 900, we saw Lenovo master the 2-in-1 laptop and now, with the Yoga 900S, we’re getting a refined version that’s thinner and lighter. I’m personally not crazy about the short keyboard travel or the undersized trackpad, but a stunning screen and stellar battery life make this 12.5-inch hybrid a solid choice.
The Lenovo Yoga 900S is easily one of the lightest, and thereby most comfortable, 2-in-1 laptops I’ve ever used. It’s lighter than a MacBook while featuring stronger specs for a lower price – that includes a sharper screen and faster processor.
More than seven hours of battery life on a laptop this thin is baffling. The Yoga 900S will never leave you in a lurch, and it performs well even with some strenuous tasks, like gaming and Photoshop. Plus, the inclusion of full-sized USB 3.0 ports means you can leave that USB-C adapter at home – unlike all the other ultrathin laptops in fashion these days.
If you’re looking for the best performing machine, this probably isn’t it. The 2-in-1 scored worse in every benchmark test save for battery life in its category. While I didn’t feel like the Yoga 900S was ever power-deficient, you’ll likely run into bottlenecks sooner with this machine than other Core m5-powered systems.
The keyboard and touchpad also aren’t the most comfortable inputs ever seen on a notebook. Whether you want larger keys or a larger pointing device, there’s definitely some room – and available space – for Lenovo to work with here.
The Lenovo Yoga 900S isn’t anywhere near perfect, but the sum of its strengths outweigh its flaws. It’s a genuinely beautiful laptop that’s been assembled with the closest attention to detail. Weighing in at just over 2 pounds, it’s also one of the lightest hybrid laptops – and it’s actually usable as a tablet.
Despite not putting out the best scores on our benchmark tests, this laptop performs well with everyday tasks and even some of the most demanding applications. What’s more, this 2-in-1 machine is easily one of the longest-lasting Windows 10 systems I’ve seen. With all of that mind, it’s easy to appreciate the Yoga 900S despite its blemishes.