Lenovo Yoga Book 9i hands-on: the dual-screen futureThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first saw pictures of Lenovo’s new dual-screen Yoga Book 9i. I have tried folding and dual screens abundance, and while many of them are usable, many also have serious limitations. But this is the first dual-screen laptop I’ve ever tried that I can see myself actually buying. And that’s because Lenovo has clearly done the necessary software engineering to make sure it can address many of the somewhat…obvious concerns buyers might have with such a device.
The first objection is obvious: there is no visible touchpad on the Yoga Book i9. That’s what first occurred to me when Lenovo announced the device, which is a spiritual successor to a laptop Microsoft’s Surface Neo — essentially two 13.3-inch, 16:10, 2.8K OLED screens stacked on top of each other with a hinge in the middle and a removable keyboard. “How on earth does one navigate this?” I wondered as I looked at the keynote.
It turns out there are a bunch of ways, and they all seem to work. First, you can tap the screen. Second, you can use the stylus (which lives very securely in the sleeve on the back of the device). And thirdly, in Lenovo’s software settings, you can download a virtual touchpad right on the screen. This touchpad has haptic buttons that, with their physical feedback, they actually feel decently similar to real buttons. You can resize this touchpad. You can move it. The world is your oyster. At first I found it odd to have a touchpad on the screen, but it’s something I imagine you’ll get used to.
You can too fold this device 90 degrees and use it as a regular 13-inch laptop. This is a feature of single-screen foldables as well, but the deal with them is that it usually makes the screen you’re working with much smaller (since you’re taking a screen you’ve previously used horizontally and halving it lengthwise).
Folding the Yoga Book into clam mode obviously reduces your available screens from two to one, but the size change doesn’t feel as drastic as when you fold, say, Asus’s Zenbook 17 Fold in half. You’re still looking at a standard 13.3-inch laptop screen with the same aspect ratio as before. (The bottom half where the keyboard attaches isn’t particularly narrow either, another common problem with foldable devices.)
Either way, when you fold the Yoga Book 9i into clam mode, a virtual keyboard and touchpad automatically pop up in the places you’d expect them to be. This touchpad is also tactile, and although I generally hate using on-screen keyboards, this one is probably the most clicky and comfortable I’ve ever used. You can also place the physical keyboard right on top of the virtual one, with the touchpad staying in the same place if you do.
These all seem like very workable solutions to the missing touchpad problem. OEMs have been wrestling with where to put touchpads on dual-screen laptops since time immemorial, and we’ve seen a number of front-mounted keyboards and tiny, crappy touchpads in the space. In previous reviews of Asus’ dual-screen models, I suggested that their trackpads were so terrible that Asus would be better off ditching them all together. Lenovo made that leap, and frankly, I respect that.
The Yoga Book does not use a special version of Windows 11 (RIP Windows 10X), but with all the various gestures Lenovo has added to optimize interactions for the dual-screen form factor, it looks like it could be. There are many ways to move your windows and apps around, and it all takes about four seconds to master.
My favorite is the movie. Press and hold any app or browser tab, then drag it and it flies to the other screen. There’s also an instant layout feature customized for this device, which will probably be much more useful to many people in the Yoga Book form factor than on standard Windows laptops.
A five-finger tap on your tab or window also expands it to fill both screens, in the aptly named “waterfall mode.” I can see this being fun to use, although having a giant hinge in the middle of your waterfall detracts somewhat from the aesthetics. If you’re using the laptop in clamshell mode, pulling down on the keyboard with eight fingers pulls up a small control panel with quick access to weather forecasts, CPU usage and performance statistics, Outlook and other applications. (However, this gets rid of the touchpad that’s down there, so it’s more of a quick reference thing than something you’d want to leave open – unless you have a mouse plugged in.)
I’m sure there are thousands more cool things that Lenovo has built in here. (The Lenovo reps were eager to show us more tricks, but our time was limited.) I’m also sure I haven’t covered every possible position you can use this device in, and that buying this will require some research on the beginning.
In particular, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about landscape mode and whether you can use the two screens side by side. The answer is yes you can, but it’s a little weird. As you can see from the picture above, the screens are tall and thin when placed this way, and the result looks a little more like a storybook than a working setup. It’s something you could I do, but it can take some getting used to (and sometimes creative resizing).
Another question I’ve heard a lot about: Does the yoga book wobble? The answer is: yes. If you touch the screen and the laptop is completely vertical, the top screen is a bit wobbly. I don’t see this as a huge issue, though, because I imagine I’d want to do most of my navigation on the non-wobbly bottom screen, which would be closer to me and easier to reach.
Finally: How powerful is the thing and can you edit video on it? The processor inside is a 13th generation Intel Core i7 U-series chip, and you know what, it’s not terrible. It’s designed for thin and light devices, so you won’t have an amazing editing experience, but you could probably finish a project on it if you’re out and about.
It’s true, though, that whether this device ultimately succeeds will depend on Lenovo’s ability to create an excellent software experience. The company did not achieve much success with ThinkPad X1 Fold, which was quite awkward to use. The Yoga Book 9i feels better, although my test time was limited. I didn’t have any problems navigating the web or jumping between tabs during my short time with the device; and although there was reports of the device shows a blue screen while testing other people, I haven’t experienced it myself. I will have much more impressions when I get hold of a final number.
But my main impression is that I think someone may have finally figured out the right way to create a dual-screen device. That’s a really good idea. It manages to combine the portability benefits of foldable devices with the fun flexibility of dual screens without many drawbacks that I can see. While you should be fine with a hinge in the middle of your workspace – and coughing up at least $2,000, which is just the starting price.
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