ProsAmazingly-low weight; beautiful yet versatile design; solid build quality
ConsOdd right-shift key layout; no SD card memory slot; "optimistic" battery life estimates
Lenovo is the biggest laptop manufacturer in the world by volume, and not surprisingly, it has a huge portfolio of laptops to choose from. What this means, of course, is that some of these models are bound to be less than stellar, while others might get lost in the shuffle. What we have here today is a model that falls into the latter camp. We've had our eyes on the Lenovo Yoga 900S since it was released, and recently had a chance to take it for a spin. For whatever reason, Lenovo just didn't market this model with much gusto, and we're pretty sure it's a poor seller for the company, but based on our hands-on experience, we'd say it should be on anyone's short list when it comes to an ultra-light and ultra-capable PC at a great price.
We purchased our Yoga 900S at retail from the Lenovo website, which is the only reliable source for this system. While it was originally on display at Best Buy stores, it's disappeared from store shelves, and while you can still order one through the Best Buy website, going Lenovo direct offers much better prices.
Description and Features
Lenovo currently sells two versions of the Yoga 900S, each in either silver or "champagne" colors. The lower-end model has a Core M5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB solid-state drive, and a 12.5" 1080p screen and retails for $1,099. The model we looked is the upgraded version with a Core M7 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a 12.5" 1440p screen, and retails for $1299. While the base model has an eye-catching price, the higher-end model is the much better deal overall. We think the limited RAM of the budget model is particularly crippling, and wouldn't recommend it based on that alone. As of our publication date, the high-end model is available for just $849 in the champagne color, which is a simply phenomenal deal based on its component specs.
Of course, you're not buying this based on internal specs alone: what the Yoga 900S offers that no other laptop can is a shockingly-low weight combined with excellent build quality and aesthetics. It inherits the trademark "watchband" hinge first introduced in the larger Yoga 900, and looks great in either color choice. At just 2.2lb. and 0.5" thick, this is by far the lightest 2-in-1 laptop available anywhere at any price, and we believe it's the slimmest as well. No, it's not the lightest laptop ever, but no sub-2lb. model is going to offer a touchscreen, let along a tablet mode. That makes the 900S a whole lot more versatile than its lightweight peers.
The 900S uses a matte plastic finish on its internal surface, and while this may not draw the eye quite as much as the brushed aluminum or magnesium surfaces of other laptops, it's incredibly practical, as it provides a comfortable perch for wrists, while also holding the laptop in place when flipped into tablet mode and placed on a flat surface. Furthermore, it's unlikely to show scratches, although we did notice it would pick up its fair share of dust, due to the tacky surface.
Unlike a lot of ultra-lights, the Yoga 900S offers a backlit keyboard, which you can toggle on and off using the somewhat unorthodox key combination of function-space bar. The lighting is very classy, providing nice visibility even in bright conditions, without looking garish. The keyboard itself offers decent feel, although it has a necessarily shallow keystroke, given the slimness of the system. The mousepad is quite responsive, and while it's a bit small in size compared to the oversized surfaces showing up on many larger laptops, thanks to the trend set by Apple, we think it's plenty big. The one glaring flaw in the 900S input device layout is the placement of the up-arrow key right next to the miniature right-shift key. This is something that a lot of manufacturers do, and it's a mistake every time. And we know that Lenovo can do better, as its older Yoga 700, which we have but never published a review on due to its limited release, dropped the arrow keys down a row to make way for a full-size shift key. This is a clear case of form over function, as it makes the 900S look more symmetrical when viewed head-on.
One of the great things about the low-power CPU used in this system is that it, surprisingly enough, doesn't require much power. The AC adapter shipped with the 900S is barely bigger than your average cell phone charger, making the whole package just that much more portable. As shown in the accompanying photo, the plug uses a modified USB connector. This ensures that you don't accidentally plug the power into a data-only port, but also has the advantage of providing a free USB port when the charger isn't in use.
Speaking of ports, the 900S is a bit limited in that regard, again following the (poor) example of Apple. You get that dual charger/USB 2.0 port, another USB 3.0 Type-A port, and then a USB 3.0 Type-C port, which doubles as the device's only video output. Yes, we know USB Type-C is the future, but the future isn't here yet, and most users are going to end up scrambling for the right video converter to use this with their monitors, projectors, or HDTVs. Also mysteriously missing from the 900S is a memory card reader, a serious drawback for content creators on the go. At least it still has a headphone jack!