The Lenovo Yoga 920 Vibes with glass front and metal casing is the best looking convertible right now.
The design is well-complemented by the latest hardware peripherals, including an 8th gen Intel Core processor.
The keyboard does not offer a great clicky experience and audio prowess is limited.
“What’s the best laptop in the market?”
This used to be the most commonly asked tech query across tech talks, technology forums and even messaging boards. If you are a resident geek then you would probably know that this question came up regardless of whether a person planned to buy a new laptop or not.
While the question has disappeared with the shift in technology innovation, it has been replaced with a more suitable one, “What laptop should I buy?” showing a significant change in market spending. People these days buy a computer (whether a laptop or a desktop) only when they absolutely need one. The industry itself has changed its product offerings and has diversified them into multiple ones like:
1. Cheap and Entry level options for beginners
2. Mid-Level notebooks aimed at students and creative professionals
3. Powerful yet portable devices aimed at business users
4. Convertibles and detachables for those who do want to do different things with their machines
5. Gaming notebooks for those who can’t stay away from their games
While every segment mentioned here has a leader, the convertible and detachable is a segment that only Lenovo can call as it’s speciality. The company has been building such shape-shifting devices (call them transformers) even before chip maker Intel started aggressively pushing the segment. The segment itself has shown significant appeal among consumers who see enhanced use cases for such devices and mostly like the overall form factor.
The convertible market is so big for Lenovo that it even has a series called Yoga catering to the segment. The testimony to the success of Yoga series is the fact that the lineup has been extended to ThinkPad machines as well. The latest addition to Lenovo’s Yoga series is the Yoga 920, a premium convertible that aims to offer the best of both worlds – performance and portability.
Lenovo first announced the new Yoga 920 at IFA 2017 in late August and it is bringing the machine to India in only one variant: Yoga 920 Vibes. The major difference between the standard Yoga 920 and the Yoga 920 Vibes is the extensive use of glass and top-end specifications. I have been using the Rs 1,50,000 Yoga 920 Vibes as my primary notebook for both work and play for a while now, and here is my review.
An experience of any consumer electronic device starts with unboxing and Lenovo has left no stone unturned to make it worth a memory. The moment you open the box, the notebook lifts itself up a bit just to make it easier for you to pull it from the sleeve. It reminds me of Land Rover expanding its suspension by a few millimetres right before hitting the dirt – it’s a classy touch.
That design detailing doesn’t stop at the box and it goes all the way to the manufacturing of the notebook as well. The Yoga 920, as you would expect, is crafted from a monolithic piece of aluminum and the Vibes model has some extra tricks up its sleeve. The Yoga 920 Vibes swaps the metal front for glass and it is unlike any other notebook that we have seen before. The glass panel up front has ‘Yoga’ branding and behind it is a pattern that seems to resemble the sine wave or a space fabric.
The Yoga 920 Vibes is the most distinctive looking laptop in the world and it is designed to look luxurious and force people around you to notice. Design is a subjective thing and I am not sure whether having that glass up front is necessary but this model serves as a song of praise for Lenovo’s engineering division, which has made the whole device look exuberant and subtle at the same time.
I am a skeptic of using glass everywhere because they make the products more delicate; the Yoga 920 Vibes is no different. The other day my colleagues where looking at a picture of a broken glass window at the back of a Pixel 2 online and I couldn’t stop but wonder what would happen if this notebook drops by mistake. Yes, it would be damage worth around Rs 1,50,000 and I will never be able to live with it.
Apart from the use of glass at the top, Lenovo Yoga 920 Vibes also uses company’s trademark watchband hinge that first debuted almost four years ago. The convertible design gives additional opportunity for PC makers to innovate by designing an intricate piece of hinge. Only Lenovo with its watchband hinge and Microsoft with its fulcrum hinge have done something extraordinary.
The watchband hinge includes a number of tiny mechanical parts that seems to wrap around the device just like a watchband (such as a milanese loop) does on a wrist watch. In comparison with a traditional hinge, the watchband hinge offers four points of articulation and ensures the display does not wobble much in different modes. It is the most practical hinge design yet and ensures the device remains sturdy whether it is in laptop, tent stand or tablet mode. It also adds extra flexibility especially when you tilt the display just a bit more in the stand mode.
I was hoping that the Yoga 920 Vibes would be the Maserati of Italian cars but technically, it feels like the Bvlgari of Swiss watches. It has a clean design with subtle touches of design ingenuity thrown all around but it is definitely not perfect. The edges of the notebook are chamfered in such a way that they are sharp enough to scratch your skin. The USB 3.0 port is positioned in such a way that it is rather difficult to connect or remove a flash drive. To conclude, the Yoga 920 Vibes is the best designed convertible notebook in the market right now if only you overlook those minor issues.
A quality display is not the most important factor for while buying a laptop and its the reason why the Apple MacBook Air is still selling in huge numbers. However, in the case of a convertible laptop, the display is as important as the design and hardware internals itself. The Yoga 920 Vibes features a 13.9-inch Ultra-HD display with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.
The 4K panel means that you are looking at over 8.2 million pixels spread around a 13.9-inch canvas and it is stunning to look at, to say the least. Since switching to the Yoga 920 Vibes, I have seen YouTube defaulting to 4K playback whenever possible and that additional detail is a delight to watch. The display has very good color accuracy and also covers 99 percent of the sRGB color gamut. However, the display is rated at 300 nits and it does not get very bright even when it is set to 100 percent brightness.
Despite the use of such high resolution panel, the colors tend to seem warmer and less saturated, which is contrary to our liking for saturated displays and ones that adapt to our media consumption habits. The display also supports multi-touch which is as responsive as the existing breed of smartphones. My only gripe with the display is that it isn’t as bright as I would have liked and I found it especially painful while watching some dark-themed shows on Netflix.
Lenovo is not known for shipping computers with a really clean build of Windows and it often loads it with ton of bloatware. But now, it seems a profound change is coming. With the Yoga 920 Vibes and some other notebooks, Lenovo allows you to boot your system with minimal bloatware or only a handful of factory-installed software. I think it’s a very promising change especially when we don’t need those extra antivirus or clean-up software packages that tend to come pre-loaded on OEM devices.
In the case of the Yoga 920 Vibes, Lenovo is shipping the device with Windows 10 Home, which is a bummer for a laptop that costs this much money. While you get all core Windows 10 features such as a redesigned interface, a dedicated personal assistant in the form of Cortana, a refreshed taskbar, a useful inking system, Windows Hello and trusted boot, you will still miss out on more sophisticated features such as Bitlocker, remote desktop, business deployment support or Windows Information Protection.
Otherwise, the machine works flawlessly with the base operating system. It boots really quick, almost as quickly as a smartphone. Lenovo has added three utility apps that help manage software updates, control power management and assign keyboard layout. I think these utility tools are less bloatware and more useful software components. There is also a one year licensed version of McAfee Security suite with firewall and real-time threat detection as well.
The Yoga 920 Vibes runs Windows 10 with latest Fall Creators Update, which gives access to new Inking features, system integrated sticky notes and the ability to sketch on a white canvas. I am not an artist but if you are one then you will definitely appreciate the stylus which has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and works as well as the Surface Pen. The stylus also includes quick toggle buttons which can be setup to function as a quick launch key. While the Surface Pen latches on to new Surface devices via magnets, it is not easy to store Lenovo’s Active Stylus 2 and it comes with a holder to lock it onto the USB 3.0 port. You will lose access to that port if you do this, though.
The Yoga 920 Vibes has four far-field microphones for Cortana and I could make her listen even from another room. But the problem here is that I don’t have much business to do with Cortana anymore. I rely on Google Assistant and my phone for tasks like checking what’s on my calendar, what’s the weather or checking traffic before leaving home. However, it is useful to dictate emails and read back notifications from a connected device and if you are into that sort of thing then Cortana and the four-microphone system on the Yoga 920 Vibes will come handy.
Keyboard and TrackPad
I write for a living and I’ll say this right away: this keyboard on Yoga 920 Vibes won’t be my choice for writing a similar review. It suddenly seems that PC makers have taken a pledge to make their devices thinner without considering that the keyboard is one of the most crucial input devices.
Since Yoga 920 Vibes is extremely thin, Lenovo had little scope to pack keys that offer good travel and tactile feeling. Everytime I hit the keys, I do know that I’ve hit the actuation point but the travel is so shallow that I often ended up pressing the key once again. Also the sound that the keys make feels like a pseudo-clicking sound and is definitely not satisfying. Despite the shallow travel, Lenovo offers two stage back-lighting on this keyboard which is pretty good for this design.
Lenovo has also tweaked the keyboard with the function keys giving quick access to options such as disabling the microphone or camera and changing the brightness. The function row can be changed to One more thing that affects the overall typing experience is those sharp edges that could scratch the surface of your skin.
I’ve always liked the trackpad on Lenovo machines and the one on the Yoga 920 Vibes is no exception. Since it supports Windows precision drivers, the overall experience just gets significantly better. Simple gestures like the three-finger swipe from the bottom to see the task view and then swiping two fingers from left or right to scroll through open windows worked reliably every time. If you are not into gaming then I would say, this trackpad is good enough for you to not need a separate mouse.
Performance and Battery Life
The Lenovo Yoga series has not been the champion of performance in the past but this Yoga 920 Vibes get all the latest hardware currently possible packed into its compact chassis. We are looking at the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8550U mobile processor clocked at 1.8GHz, Intel Graphics 620, 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD storage.
In terms of sheer performance, the Yoga 920 Vibes is a beast. It can handle most basic things like browsing the web, playing back hi-resolution video files or multitasking with multiple background apps without breaking a sweat. In synthetic benchmarks, the Yoga 920 Vibes falls only short of devices that have dedicated graphics processors.
The lack of a graphics processor becomes evident while trying to edit videos on Adobe Premiere Pro. It took more time to render a Full-HD video compared to a similarly configured machine with dedicated graphics. With Intel having announced the 8th generation Core H-series CPU with integrated AMD Vega graphics, I think consumers planning to do light video editing should wait for models with that chipset instead.
My work day usually involves multiple web pages running on Chrome, constant notifications on Slack, a podcast playing some music streaming platform and some occasional videos. While the task may not be taxing, it does take a toll on battery life of these computing devices. With my sort of usage, I could gauge 7 hours of use from Lenovo Yoga 920 Vibes with display set to ‘brighter’ setting. One could actually make the device last for nearly nine hours with the brightness set to the suggested setting.
I also managed over 12 hours of continuous video playback with display set to maximum brightness and the device disconnected from the internet, which came through with some juice left. The Yoga 920 Vibes does not offer the best battery life but it is on par with similar thin convertible notebooks available in the market.
The choice of ports is what makes Yoga 920 Vibes unique, it has a decent mix of ports with two USB Type-C ports and a USB 3.0 port. The USB Type-C ports support Thunderbolt 3.0 and USB power delivery meaning it can be charged through a compatible power bank and can charge secondary USB-C smartphones like the Google Pixel 2 quickly. It also functions as a display port and can drive up to two 4K displays at once.
In addition to the USB Type-C ports, the Yoga 920 Vibes also features a regular USB 3.0 port with always-on charging allowing users to charge any USB peripheral even when the device is turned off. As I noted earlier, since the notebook is quite thin, plugging in and removing a USB device like pendrive is not a smooth affair. While it lacks a SD card reader, it includes 3.5mm headphone jack and it doesn’t take any courage to retain the proprietary audio port.
Since we are talking about audio, I must add that the bottom-mounted JBL speakers sound underwhelming. In the laptop mode, the sound feels tinny while in tablet mode, the audio seems to get stuck out altogether. In tent mode, the audio bounces off from the other side leading to a grainy sound profile. Yes, it would be better to have a separate speaker connected if you want a good audio experience with the Yoga 920 Vibes.
The Lenovo Yoga 920 Vibes is for those who have design as the first and second major reason for buying a new laptop. The design is the primary USP of this notebook while software and hardware are just secondary. It is only fortunate in this case that the software and hardware work phenomenally well as an overall package.
The Yoga 920 Vibes is designed so well that it would be hard to overlook it but for the asking price, one can walk home with a far better notebook. With a budget of around Rs 1,50,000, the redesigned Dell XPS 13 showcased at CES 2018 and the Touch Bar MacBook Pro serve as solid alternatives. But, none of them are in the same league when it comes to design, and if you are rolling around in a Mercedes-Benz then the Yoga 920 Vibes will be a far better fit than any other notebook.