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Lenovo Yoga 900 review: A hybrid laptop with some serious muscle

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The function key row at the top puts useful features within easy reach, including volume, brightness and airplane mode controls. Tap F8 and you'll get a view of all your open apps and windows. There's an onscreen icon for that in the Windows 10 task bar, but it's great to have this "task view" labeled on the keyboard as well.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Many PC makers load their systems up with custom software for media organizing, security and system management. Most are generally pretty useless, but in this case, I liked the Lenovo Settings app, which puts display, input device and other settings in a single app. However, Windows 10 does a much better job of making system settings easy to find and use than previous versions of Windows, so having a standalone app is a bonus but not a necessity.

The 13.3-inch display has a native resolution of 3,200x1,800 pixels -- not quite 4K, but pretty close. Most Windows software scales well to this higher resolution, and the traditional 1,920x1,080 resolution is starting to feel more like a floor than a ceiling, with more and more higher-res laptops arriving all the time.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The display looks clear and bright, although the top coating was glossy enough to catch a lot of reflected light. In the settings menus, there's an option for what Lenovo calls "paper display," which uses the webcam to "detect ambient light conditions" and adjust the brightness and color temperature for optimal reading. It mostly just turned the screen a slightly yellowish hue, so I kept it off after a few test drives.

Ports and connections

Video Via external dongle only
Audio Combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0,  1 USB-C, SD card reader
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections and performance

For a slim laptop, you get a decent selection of ports, including two USB 3.0 ports, a rarely seen USB-C port and an SD card slot -- but no dedicated video output. For that, you'll need an adapter. The orange power port can also double as a USB 2.0 port in a pinch.

As each Yoga 900 configuration includes a new sixth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, you shouldn't see degraded performance if you opt for the less-expensive versions. In our single-app benchmark tests, the Yoga 900 and its 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U CPU beat high-end systems like the 13-inch MacBook Pro and Microsoft's new Surface Book (which both have Core i5 processors), as well a Core i7 systems such as the Toshiba Radius 12 and LG Gram 14. In a multitasking test, the MacBook and Surface Book were faster, but only by a small margin. In most cases, all the machines mentioned were very close in performance.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

One system the new Yoga 900 handily beat out was last year's Yoga 3 Pro, which was held back by a slower Intel Core M processor. Any complaints we had about sluggish performance in last year's Yoga have been erased here.

Also getting a serious boost is battery life. The 2014 Yoga 3 Pro ran for 5 hours 46 minutes in our video playback battery drain test -- acceptable, but not impressive. This year's Yoga 900 ran for 8 hours 56 minutes on the same test, which is a huge improvement, and makes this an all-day laptop. There's still room for improvement, however, as both the MacBook Pro and Surface Book still offer hours more battery life.

Conclusion

The latest version of Lenovo's Yoga hybrid laptop is easily the best yet. It takes the excellent revamped design from the previous model and adapts it to work with higher-end components, showing a significant real-world improvement in both performance and battery life.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

But beyond the scores, I appreciate that it includes the most important of those better components, the Core i7 processor and a big 256GB SSD, in even the lowest-end configuration, at least in the US. This isn't an inexpensive laptop by any measure, but especially at its $1,099 starting price, it's a great value.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015)
505
Microsoft Surface Book
552
Lenovo Yoga 900
586
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
614
LG gram 14
879

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

Lenovo Yoga 900
212
LG gram 14
214
Microsoft Surface Book
214
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
236
Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015)
261
Lenovo Yoga Pro 3
263

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Lenovo Yoga 900
95
Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015)
99
Microsoft Surface Book
101
LG gram 14
105
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
127
Lenovo Yoga Pro 3
142

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video playback battery drain test

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015)
946
Microsoft Surface Book
684
Lenovo Yoga 900
537
LG gram 14
348
Lenovo Yoga Pro 3
346
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
300

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

Lenovo Yoga 900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64.bit); 2.5GHZ Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD 520 Graphics; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel 5Y60; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3,839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD
LG gram 14 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Book Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM ; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 512GB SSD
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64.bit); 2.5GHZ Intel Core i7-6500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD 520 Graphics; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2015) Apple OSX 10.10.2 Yosemite; 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-5257U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1,536MB Intel Iris Graphics 6100; 128GB SSD

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