Lenovo’s Yoga Book 9i is designed for a two-screen lifestyle.

Lenovo's Yoga Book 9i is designed for a two-screen lifestyle.

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i: A Dual-Screen Marvel

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

Two screens at the same time. That is the whole appeal of Lenovo’s Yoga Book 9i in a nutshell, as best as I can tell after using the device for a couple of weeks. The $1,999.99 9i is a dual-screen clamshell touchscreen laptop that eschews the traditional keyboard deck for a second touchscreen on the bottom half. Lenovo has been experimenting with nontraditional laptop designs for years, from foldable ThinkPads to twisting laptops with E Ink displays and virtual keyboards, and it hasn’t always gone well. High prices, awkward software, and unconventional designs have kept them from really being anything you should buy.

The Yoga Book 9i is not without some of those compromises. Still, it is Lenovo’s best execution of the dual-screen form factor and doesn’t feel nearly as much like an experiment as Lenovo’s earlier ideas. Having two screens at the same time is a very compelling pitch for a lot of people accustomed to working at a desk, and there are certain use cases where the 9i’s unique form factor presents an advantage over other laptops.

A Unique Design with Clever Tricks

From first glance, the 9i doesn’t look all that different from Lenovo’s other Yoga models or even any other 2-in-1 convertible laptop. It’s about the same thickness as my MacBook Pro when closed, with an extra lip on the top half to make opening it easier and provide room for the Windows Hello-compatible webcam. The chassis is a handsome dark blue aluminum with rounded, polished sides and just three ports — all Thunderbolt 4 USB-C. The thing I missed the most from the port selection is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Crack it open, though, and the 9i’s difference becomes apparent. The two 13.3-inch, 2880 x 1800 OLED panels with 16:10 aspect ratios light up and give you two equally sized Windows desktops to play with. They’re colorful and punchy like OLED screens should be, and the 400 nit peak brightness is plenty for most situations outside of direct sunlight. Happily, the screens are well color-matched, too.

Different Postures, Different Experiences

Like prior dual-screen devices, such as Microsoft’s Surface Duo phone, the Yoga Book 9i is all about different postures. The first one is the default clamshell mode, where you’d try to use it like a standard laptop. This is also the worst way to use this device.

Tapping eight fingers on the bottom screen pulls up a virtual keyboard. Below it is a virtual trackpad that can span the entire width of the screen or be constrained to a typical trackpad size. Typing on the virtual keyboard goes about as well as you might expect: I could make it work at about half my normal typing speed and with a lot more errors. Lenovo built some light haptics into the system to provide some feedback, but it’s not something that replaces a physical keyboard. The virtual trackpad also works and supports the typical multi-finger Windows gestures, but the glass makes it feel sticky, and it isn’t nearly as smooth to use as an actual hardware trackpad.

One clever use case is writing notes on the bottom screen while referencing the top.

The most productive posture of the 9i, and my preferred way to use it, involves that Bluetooth keyboard and a folding stand and mouse that also come with the computer. Using the stand, which conveniently doubles as a travel case for the keyboard, you can prop the 9i up almost vertically, allowing you to easily see both screens at the same time.

This turns the 9i into a multi-monitor productivity machine. Windows views it as two separate displays, just like it does with two monitors on a desktop, which opens up a lot of practical use cases. I can have my browser or active window up at almost eye level on the top display while I keep an eye on chat apps or email on the bottom screen. Or I can participate in a video call on the top screen and reference or take notes on the bottom one. It’s like having a separate USB-C portable display built right into the laptop itself.

The 9i can also be rotated 90 degrees so you have two portrait-oriented screens side by side. Some might find this useful for comparing two documents at the same time, but I much preferred using the 9i with its screens in landscape orientation.

Performance, Battery Life, and Conclusion

Unfortunately, the 9i isn’t really powerful enough to enable intense workloads or gaming experiences. It’s still a sub-three-pound thin and light laptop with a U-series Core i7 chip. Performance in day-to-day productivity workflows is not an issue, but it scored quite low in benchmarks for gaming and creative work.

Battery life, on the other hand, is better than expected. Despite powering two full-size screens all the time, the 9i manages between six and seven hours of use between charges. And since the best way to use this computer is on a table or at a desk, it’s likely you won’t be far from a power outlet anyway.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that Lenovo loads up this computer with a lot of bloatware, which can be frustrating. These unnecessary additions tarnish the experience of a $2,000 computer.

The Verdict: A Marvelous but Limited Device

The Yoga Book 9i is not the portable computer you buy for focused, intense work. It’s for multi-all-the-taskings, for not compromising on your multi-monitor setup when you’re away from home. More screens, you demand, and the 9i provides.

But at the same time, it’s hard to recommend it to the typical laptop buyer. The traditional clamshell design has been around for so many years because it works — you can put it on a table or use it on your lap, with reliable input devices in both positions. The 9i, although providing more when you’re at a desk, requires compromises in less formal positions. It’s not as comfortable to use casually on the couch, and taking it to a coffee shop or other location requires bringing along a keyboard, mouse, and stand, in addition to the computer itself.

Moreover, the cost of the Yoga Book 9i is high compared to other laptops that offer similar or better functionality. It may be more practical to opt for an excellent laptop and an external USB-C display, saving money and providing flexibility in different scenarios.

Still, the Yoga Book 9i allows me to be nearly as productive from the coffee shop as I am at my desk at home, provided I remember to tote along all the necessary accessories to make it work. That alone might be worth the compromises elsewhere.

Agree to Continue: Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

To start using the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i, you’ll need to agree to the following:

  • Microsoft Software License Terms (Windows operating system)
  • Software license agreements and Lenovo Limited Warranty

You can also say yes or no to the following:

  • Privacy settings (location, Find My Device, sharing diagnostic data, inking and typing, tailored experiences, advertising ID)
  • Provide your name, region, and email address to add the device to your Lenovo ID profile

That’s three mandatory agreements and seven optional agreements for the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i.