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Lenovo Yoga C930 review: Lenovo's top 2-in-1 perfected

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Editors' note, Dec. 12: The Lenovo Yoga C930 has received an Editors' Choice Award. The original review, published on Dec. 11, follows.

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9.0

Lenovo Yoga C930

The Good

Lenovo's Yoga C930 puts its 360-degree hinges to work as the two-in-one's speaker system. The included active pen is discreetly housed and charged in the C930's body and its webcam has a physical slider to block it when not in use. Performance and battery life are excellent for its class.

The Bad

The included pen is a little small for extended use and there's no option for discrete graphics, but no real deal breakers unless you object to its price.

The Bottom Line

Excellent performance and a stylish and functional design make the Lenovo Yoga C930 simply one of the best two-in-one laptops available.

Back in August, Lenovo announced it would use the Yoga name that's become synonymous with convertible laptops for premium models of all kinds, including a Chromebook and a regular clamshell laptop. The Yoga C930 is in fact a two-in-one laptop however, and the follow-up to the generally awesome Yoga 920. It should not to be confused with the dual-screen Yoga Book C930 which is interesting, but considerably less awesome.

A signature design piece of past premium Yoga models since 2014 was the watchband-style 360-degree hinge that helped reduce the thickness of the convertible laptop. That hinge has been replaced with a 360-degree sound bar hinge that is eminently more useful than a slightly thinner body (and it still looks cool). There are a couple of other extras that improve usability and performance remains impressive for its size. It is, perhaps, the best ultraportable two-in-one at the moment. But it ain't cheap.

The C930 currently starts at around $1,149, £1,199 in the UK and AU$2,399 in Australia direct from Lenovo. My $1,400 system is available at Best Buy, and while that's not cheap, you're paying extra for the slim, attractive design and premium features. If you care more about components than looks, there are less expensive options such as the Yoga 730 or, if you need more ports and storage, Dell's Inspiron 14 5000 two-in-one. But if you're cool with the price, the Yoga C930 is totally worth it.

Lenovo Yoga C930

Price as reviewed $1,400
Display size/resolution 13.9-inch 1,920x1,080 touch display
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
PC Memory 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
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The C930's hinge hides a speaker set.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That hinge tho

It's pretty rare to come across a laptop with speakers that are actually worth using, especially a laptop as thin as the Yoga C930. As a two-in-one, the C930 has a 360-degree hinge that makes it possible to turn it from a laptop into a tablet. Adding more function to the form, Lenovo worked with Dolby to turn that hinge into a rotating sound bar.

The hinge speakers are paired with another set of downward-firing speakers at the front edge of the keyboard to bolster the overall sound. This also means that regardless of the position you're using the screen in, you get clear audio. However, they do sound a bit thin until you apply some Dolby Atmos magic to them.

A preinstalled Dolby Atmos app lets you quickly tune the audio for whatever you're listening to -- music, movie, game, voice -- or you can set up three personal profiles or set it to Dynamic and let the software do the guesswork. Turning on Atmos adds the punch most laptops this size are missing. You'll still want good headphones or external speakers for thumping bass, but for general listening to music or watching videos, this setup works really well.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

A pen with parking

Lenovo added active pen support to the Yoga 920, but most configurations didn't include a pen. If you did get a pen, Lenovo included a clunky, better-than-nothing holder that fit into the sole USB-A port on the laptop and, when stowed, the pen would block the power button.

The Yoga C930, like the company's high-end ThinkPad X1 Yoga, not only comes with an active pen, but has a garage in the back right edge of the body. The pen has 4,096 points of pressure sensitivity with little to no discernible lag. It charges in its garage and it's always paired and ready to be used.

The pen is comfortable for its size, but it is short and slender. Using it for extended periods might cause your hand to cramp (at least that's what happened to me), but having a pen handy, charged and ready outweighs the small size. If you plan to use it for more than just quick sketches or jotting notes, you might want to invest in one of Lenovo's full-size pens.

Privacy matters

I use my laptop's web cam once or twice a month. The rest of the time I keep a small sticker over it to block it. That's not so much to protect me from hackers, but from accidentally seeing myself on my screen under bad florescent lighting. However, if privacy is a concern for you, Lenovo's trickled down another key feature from its X1 Yoga: A privacy shutter.

Built into the top of the thin display is a web cam fitted with a physical shutter that slides to block the camera. It's perfect if you just want a little peace of mind. Add to that that you can quickly mute your mic with a function key or shut it down entirely in the laptop's settings and you can easily keep eyes and ears blocked while you work.

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The C930's keyboard is comfy like the 920's.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's all good

The pen, the privacy shutter and sound bar hinge are the biggest design changes between the Yoga 920 and this new model. The C930 is a little thicker -- 14.5 millimeters compared to 12.7 at its thinnest point -- but it weighs about the same at 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms). Because it's a 13.9-inch laptop in approximately the same space as an older 13.3-inch model, it feels hefty for its size. Still, it's far from a burden and slips easily into bags made for 13.3-inch laptops.

The full HD display I tested delivers a pleasing picture for office work and entertainment. Its color gamut coverage is good enough for general use, but if accuracy is critical, you'll want to keep looking. Brightness is shy of 300 nits, which is to say it's bright, but working outside or around office windows will leave you battling reflections.

The backlit keyboard looks (and feels to the best of my recollection) like the 920's. It's comfortable with decent travel and a pleasing bounce to the keys to keep it from feeling mushy. Considering the system's thinness, it's impressive and the precision touchpad is reliably excellent as well. A fingerprint reader to the right of the touchpad lets you sign in quickly with Windows Hello.

The 930 has a minimal port assortment and they're all on the left side. You won't find a direct video output like HDMI or an SD card slot, for example. However, the system has two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports that can power the laptop and support up to two high-resolution external displays, data transfers at up to 40Gbps and fast charging. There is also a headphone/mic combo jack and one standard USB 3.0 port, the latter of which supports always-on charging so you can keep your phone or tablet juiced up even when the computer is off.

Performance is solid, too

Like the Yoga 920, the C930 is available with Intel's eighth-gen Core i-series processors, either a 1.6GHz Core i5-8250U or a 1.8GHz Core i7-8550U. My review system's Core i7 paired with 12GB of memory and a speedy 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD drive delivered generally excellent performance on our benchmark tests and in actual use with no real bottlenecks for processor-intensive tasks. Buy the memory you need upfront, though, as it's on board and can't be expanded. The SSD can be upgraded, though.

This isn't a system for demanding graphics tasks or games. It would be nice to eventually have a low-end discrete graphics option in this line, but you could do some casual gaming on the system's integrated Intel graphics if you play at low detail settings. Squeezing in a couple Fortnite matches between meetings or classes isn't out of the question and neither is minor processing of image files or doing simple video edits.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

In our online streaming battery test, the C930's battery life is impressive at 12 hours and 26 minutes. With mixed use with the display at 70 percent brightness, I was able to work all day off and on for 8 hours and still had some battery to spare. Your results are going to vary depending on what you're doing, but the results are nonetheless impressive. Keep in mind, though, that my C930 had a full HD display. Getting the 4K display will result in less runtime.

Best premium 2-in-1 around

The Lenovo Yoga C930 shows the years the PC maker has spent refining its premium two-in-one formula. The redesign might be subtle, but none of it is without value. The watchband hinge might have looked nice, but swapping it for speakers is brilliant. The additions of the active pen garage and the camera's privacy slider are nice touches, too. It's pricey for sure, but not overpriced and offers flexibility and features beyond its immediate competition.

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Geekbench 4 (multi-core)

Lenovo Yoga C930 13978Dell XPS 13 (2018) 12855Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 11983Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 7870Acer Swift 7 6027
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multi-core)

Lenovo Yoga C930 635Dell XPS 13 (2018) 629Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 589Acer Swift 7 263Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 253
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

Lenovo Yoga C930 746Dell XPS 13 (2018) 738Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 671Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 646Acer Swift 7 561
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Lenovo Yoga C930 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2018) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB
Acer Swift 7 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-7Y75; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD
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9.0

Lenovo Yoga C930

Score Breakdown

Design 10Features 8Performance 8Battery 9