The Lenovo Yoga 920 succeeds the Yoga 910, a rather impressive laptop that we rated at 9/10 when we reviewed it in April of this year. This new laptop comes with Intel’s latest 8th Generation processor of course, as Lenovo made the series evolve to the latest technologies, but the company also solved nearly all the friction points we pointed out in the 910. Let’s take a closer look at the new Yoga 920 to see how good it is in the real world.
Specifications as tested
- Intel Core i7 8550U (4-core), 16GB RAM
- Windows 10 Home 64, Digitizer Pen included
- 512GB SSD PCI-e (450GB C: + 25GB Lenovo partition for drivers and restore)
- 12.7 x 8.8 x 0.55 inches, 3.05 pounds
- Note: I can’t find the price of the exact configuration we are looking on Lenovo.com, but the closest model is the 80Y70062US which has 1TB of SSD storage for an MSRP of $1999.99 and an actual price of $1799.99 “after discount”. Note that most of the time there is some kind of discount on the official site. More information below in the “Configuration” section.
The Yoga 920 upgrades the 910 model in a number of ways, many of which are very significant.
- Thunderbolt 3 support: this means that you can connect multiple 4K monitors, and use a one-connector dock for power and data. This is hugely convenient for anyone who wantss to have the freedom to turn this laptop into a more comfortable workstation.
- The Webcam is back at the top of the screen: it is undeniable that webcams located just above the top bezel provide a more natural viewpoint, and although we understand how hard it is to have a camera integrated into a thin bezel, the Yoga 910 bottom camera didn’t provide the best experience. Fixed.
- Better battery life: the most visible part of which is the new Intel Gen8 processor ability to get multithreaded work done quickly and go back to sleep (one of the major battery life pillars).
- Digitizer Pen (Wacom): it was noticeably missing from the previous model, but now present as an option with the Yoga 920. More on that below.
The Lenovo Yoga 920 industrial design looks great and pushes the minimalist approach of the 910 a little bit further. The laptop feels smaller and heavier, but the looks can be deceiving because it is just a tiny bit smaller, and actually 0.01 lbs heavier.
The general build quality has been slightly improved and polished, with the metal on the side receiving a better polish. The seems at various places are tighter and the laptop generally feels better built than the already very nice predecessor.
Lenovo improves on what was an already very good keyboard. As usual, the Yoga 920 features backlit U-shaped keys, which tend to redirect the force towards, the center, thus helping avoid typos by accidentally tripping nearby keys. The plastic used for the keys induces enough friction not to make the keys slippery.
They feel dry and clean, even after extended typing. The 3-level backlight of the keyboard makes it more agreeable to work in total darkness without having the keyboard blinding you. This is great because you can dim screen and keyboard to very low levels of brightness, that helps prolong the battery life.
The actuation feels a bit sharper than the Yoga 910’s. This is subtle, but it has a tiny bit of mechanical feel, although probably being a membrane-based keyboard. The key travel (1.3mm) is deeper than the Macbook (0.5mm). Most people find a longer key travel to be more comfortable, but you can imagine how such thin laptops make long key travel design challenging. The action force of this keyboard is said to be 68g (actuation force).
The Lenovo 910 had already started a trend at Lenovo to come back to a more classic Keyboard design (from the Yoga Pro series), but some people did ask for a larger “Right-Shift” button. This is now done, and Lenovo has listened to that feedback. I agree that it is for the better, at least for me. That said, I want bigger arrow keys too, lol (please).
The trackpad is 4.1 x 2.7-inch (11.07 square inch) which is very comfortable, although probably not the absolute biggest you can find. The (glass?) surface is very smooth, and using it is agreeable. It is compatible with the Windows Precision Touchpad standard, and although it does not mean that it is better or worse than the previous model, this sets a certain level of quality which is actively verified and enforced by Microsoft.
Three USB ports may seem like a lot these days, with small laptops featuring a single USB-C port. The Yoga 920 has two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left side. They are particularly powerful because of their extreme speed. Thunderbolt 3 is fast enough to allow connecting to multiple 4K displays with no performance penalty. External storage can run faster than internal desktop SATA drives.
In theory, it might be possible to connect an external GPU, but I keep this as a “maybe” because there are still a lot of compatibility issues. I would recommend waiting for independent tests or Lenovo’s confirmation before embarking on this.
USB-C is also the charging port of the laptop. We really love using USB-C chargers because they are more interoperable. You might not be able to charge at maximum speed with a non-Lenovo USB charger, but at least it should work. If you lose your original charger, it is possible to use another one from a friend, or at least find one more easily. But beware, this is not a sure-shot as USB-C chargers and devices aren’t all interoperable, and there’s no way to know which will work.
It is possible to open the rear back cover and have access to the battery and other components. However, the SSD is not readily accessible without removing a bunch of stuff (which would probably void your warranty), and the RAM is most likely soldered to the motherboard. The conclusion is: you can open it, but this is designed for repair technicians, not consumers.
The right side of the laptop also features a standard 3.5mm audio port. Talking about audio, there are two speakers located at the bottom of the laptop. They are designed to bounce the sound off a table, so this is when the sound is best – with you sitting right in front of the laptop. If you wander around in the room, it’s okay too, but the sound quality decreases a little.
The speakers are relatively small (like most laptops this size), but there was no distortion even with the maximum volume. I thought that the sound had a nice body and it was even a bit surprising for a computer this thin to output this kind of sound. I can imagine that a more prominent USB or BT speaker can do better, but this is another story.
The Yoga 920 has a 13.9” display (sometimes described as 14”), which offers a generous display real-estate for a size that is traditionally a 13.3” chassis. The extra display area is particularly welcome when using the pen. In general, people write larger letters when using a digitizer, so any extra space will help write more comfortably.
The bezels measure ~5mm on the left+right sides, and ~8mm at the top. The bottom bezel size doesn’t really matter because it has to be big enough to accommodate the chassis’s height, which is itself defined mostly by the keyboard, trackpad and overall “human” ergonomics.
Our unit had a 2160p (3840×2160 or “4K”) resolution, which is the only version which is compatible with the pen. There is also a 1080p screen available if you don’t need the extra sharpness or the pen. The benefit of 1080 is that it consumes much less power (maybe as much as 30% less)."THE COLORS AND BLACK LEVELS LOOK GREAT"
In any case, the colors and black levels look great. The display should hit 100% sRGB and 81% Adobe sRGB. In both cases, it is very nice, and more than sufficient for productivity work, and pretty decent for casual graphic design work. That said, in this category, thin and light computers at a similar price range from Dell or HP will probably land within ~5% (give or take) of this color performance. In short, the industry has gotten very good.
Some people have asked me if the display has some flex. If you grab each corner with one hand, you can bend it a little by applying some force. However, with one-hand use, it stays very rigid and doesn’t feel flimsy at all. With only a couple of millimeters in thickness, it would be hard to imagine something entirely rigid.
We measured the display brightness at 466 NITs using a standard light meter. Interestingly enough, we had to disable the “Change brightness automatically when lighting changes” option in Windows to “really” control brightness. With that setting ON, the brightness would not go beyond 260 NIT because we were working in a dim lit room at the time. 466 NIT is very bright for a laptop, and allows you to work comfortably on a sunny day.
I took this photo of the screen at full brightness, outdoors, on a bright Californian day. I oriented the screen towards the sky, which is a bad situation already. The surrounding brightness was measured at around ~1300 LUX at the screen. This will give you an idea of what to expect.
The screen is glossy, and typically, this means that the image will look a bit better indoors. Colors tend to “pop” more, and the glossy treatment allows the sharpness to show its full glory. Mate displays colors are a little duller and it’s hard to make ultra-sharp mate screens. However, the glossier and the more reflections you get.
With the laptop closed on a table, it is possible to open the display with one hand. This is a common question we get often, so there you go.
The 720p webcam is decent for this kind of laptop. Computers use better front cameras in general – in fact, many phones have better selfie cameras than even high-end laptop. However, it seems like the market isn’t “demanding” something much better. Something with 1080p resolution would be nice to start with.
The two far-field microphones on either side of the webcam are quite interesting. With two microphones, it is not only possible to do things such as noise cancelling, but Lenovo is using it for far-field audio, which means that the microphone is able to hear you well, even from a distance. Normal PC microphones are optimized for video chats. With this, you will be able to ask questions to Microsoft Cortana’s from anywhere in the room.
I tried using it from far away, and didn’t the Cortana far-field “hearing” performance to be nearly as good as the original Amazon Echo. I’m not sure if the far-field audio isn’t performing as well, or if Cortana isn’t very good at hearing, but in the end, I don’t think that I will be using this feature very much.
Lenovo Active Pen 2
In the box, there was a stylus organizer which attaches to the full-size USB slot on the right. It is nice, but it might not be pragmatic for people who use that port often. Ethernet to USB or just a USB key might be something that is commonly used. Of course, the pen size made it out of the question to store it inside the laptop. Maybe a clip or even an adhesive to the side would have worked. Samsung does that with its Galaxy Tab S3 Android tablet.
The Active Pen uses Wacom (Active ES) technology with 4096 levels of pressure, and and is only available with the 4K version of this laptop.
I’m no designer, and I don’t use the Pen very often. However, I can say the the Active Pen 2 quality is very good. If you are particularly picky about how the pen feels, I will invite you to try the Surface Pro pen for a comparison. I don’t think that the two computers would even compare, but at least, you will know if the Lenovo pen works for you. I think it’s nice, and that the lag is low on simple applications like Sketchbook or Sticky Notes.
On the official Lenovo site, you can find three main configurations, and from what I can tell, you cannot select different hardware option, but other configurations may exist depending on where and when you buy one. In any case, here they are:
- $1196.99 | i5-8250U Processor (1.60GHz 6MB), 8GB RAM, 256GB PCIe SSD, 1080p Touch. No Pen
- $1394.99 | i7-8550U Processor (1.80GHz 8MB), 8GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD, 1080p Touch. No Pen
- $1799.99 | i7-8550U Processor (1.80GHz 8MB), 16GB RAM, 1TB PCIe SSD, UHD Touch + Pen (Bronze or Silver)
They all come with Windows Home 64, a 1-year warranty, Intel HD 620 integrated graphics, 70 Whr battery capacity, a backlit keyboard and the Lenovo 2×2 AC WiFi.
For maximum battery life, you opt for the 1080p display (at the expense of maximum RAM and storage). If you need the pen, you have to opt for a UHD display as the 1080p version does not work with the pen.
Intel’s 8th Generation of processors has generated some controversy because the single-core performance was not that much better when compared to the 7th Generation. However, many mobile CPUs have seen their count of physical core double, and that is the case for the Core i7 8550U that is on our test laptop."THE DIFFERENCE IN SPEED CAN BE FELT"
The comparable 7th Generation model had two cores, and the 8th has Four cores. That makes a noticeable difference: I test a lot of different laptops, and the difference in speed can be felt. The laptop is more responsive than laptops with a Gen 7 processor, and activities that benefit from multi-cores (web browsing is the most common one) are speedier. With companies like Mozilla building massively multi-threaded browsers such as Firefox Quantum, having four cores is more important than ever for just about everyone.
You may have heard that more cores are not always better, but in this case, is it. There are always ~150 system processes running in the Windows background. Secondly, it is not difficult in a PC environment to use 4 to 8 cores. Given that this laptop has the same 15W envelope than last year’s yoga 910, you are getting much better performance-per-Watt. (note 15W refers to the TDP or thermal design point, but heat dissipation and power consumption typically correlate)
There are more applications that will benefit. Any kind of heavy graphics workload (light CAD, video editing/rendering, games…) will benefit directly from this increase in core counts. Even a somewhat complicated excel spreadsheet operation will benefit from the extra cores.
The Lenovo Yoga 920’s SSD drive (512 GB SAMSUNG MZVLW512HMJP-000L2) offers good performance in this category, with a score that reaches beyond 5000 points in the PCMark 8 Storage Test 2.0 (5032 points). However, this is not much different from last year’s systems. Storage simply doesn’t evolve as fast, especially in more realistic tests.
Despite a powerful CPU, this laptop uses the Intel Integrated graphics unit embedded in the processor. The performance is very decent for productivity applications, but you should not expect the latest games to run fast on it. Games from a few years ago should be playable if you don’t want to use the maximum graphics options.
Cooling, fan noise, and thermal management
The Yoga 920 has a better cooling system as the 910, and the fan design has apparently changed. I ran 3DMark and checked the temperature of the laptop’s bottom, and the hottest spot was at ~43C (ambient at 21.5C). While hot, this is not burning hot either.
The fan kicks in naturally to keep the temperature around that level, but the noise level was quieter than what I saw on the Yoga 910.
With a 70 Wh (watt-hours) battery capacity, the Lenovo Yoga 920 has an exceptionally large battery in this category. Of all the laptops that we deemed within range (size, quality, and Core i7 Gen8), none matches the sheer capacity of the Yoga 920’s battery.
The HP Spectre 13 (model af051nr) has a 43.7 Whr battery. The Dell XPS 13 (model 9360) gets 60 WHr of capacity, and the Razer BladeStealth tops 53.6 Whr. Of course, these laptops run on a similar Core i7 Gen8 platform and share a lot of the same power characteristics. Also, they have their own pro and cons based on their specific designs. However, when it comes to battery life – size does matters.
The Lenovo Yoga 920 is a formidable thin and light laptop that refines all the work done with the Yoga 900 series in the past couples of years. Lenovo has iterated fast and to the point based on real-world user feedback. This laptop brings the Yoga 900 series to near-perfection and addresses all the friction points of the 910 model.
The result is a 14-inch 3.05 lbs laptop that is a fantastic productivity performer with a 15W envelope and an excellent battery life (especially the 1080p version). The more extensive display differentiates the Yoga 920 from otherwise able competitors, and the Wacom-based digitizer pen could be a sway factor for creative users.
The Yoga 920 navigates the technical challenge masterfully, and while you might want something a little more compact with a 13-13,3” screen, or something a bit lighter (by ~160g, or 5.65 oz – the weight of phone), these are personal preferences that don’t affect the technical qualities of this product. We have no problem recommending the Lenovo Yoga 920 to people who want a high-performing, well-built, thin and light with a large display