The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i is a remarkable and one-of-a-kind laptop with dual screens that offers practicality and functionality in specific scenarios. Unsurprisingly, since its debut at CES 2023 in January, the Yoga Book 9i has created a buzz. Many Microsoft enthusiasts immediately drew comparisons to Microsoft’s canceled Surface Neo product, which is understandable. However, the Yoga Book 9i surpasses Microsoft’s promises by delivering much more. It pushes the boundaries of what a 2-in-1, convertible, or transforming PC, which Lenovo typically markets under its Yoga brand, can do. The two screens of the Yoga Book 9i can be utilized in numerous configurations or usage modes, each catering to various needs.
Design-wise, the Yoga Book 9i heavily revolves around its dual-screen design, and it is evident as soon as you lay eyes on it. The laptop’s design takes center stage and captivates one’s attention, making it a standout feature worthy of focus. Lenovo’s expertise in crafting premium PCs shines through in the Yoga Book 9i, as does its latest premium design language. When closed, the Yoga Book 9i resembles other high-end Lenovo laptops with its sleek Tidal Teal aluminum body, which sports an elegant dark greenish-blue hue, accentuated by curved and polished edges. This design creates an illusion that the Yoga Book 9i is a regular laptop. The two sides that house the screens aren’t uniformly thick, reinforcing this resemblance to a traditional laptop. The side housing the webcam is thinner than the other side, mirroring the usual design of a laptop. However, the Yoga Book 9i is anything but typical.
Upon opening the Yoga Book 9i, you’re greeted with an intriguing sight: the top half of the laptop reveals a 13.3-inch display with its webcam placed within Lenovo’s recognizable “reverse notch.” Simultaneously, the bottom half, which normally hosts the keyboard and touchpad, also features an identical 13.3-inch display. This arrangement is a bit peculiar, and it initially takes some mental adjustment to comprehend. When you open the lid (or left half), the PC awakens and only the top half, which I will refer to as the primary display, shows Windows and the PC’s firmware during boot-up and the sign-in process. This raises the first challenge: how do you sign in to Windows or complete the initial setup if this is your first-time use? The solution is reminiscent of using a tablet: you can employ multitouch on the primary display and utilize the touch keyboard or PIN when necessary (note that an eight-finger gesture doesn’t work on the lock and sign-in screens). Once you’ve signed in, the secondary display (the bottom display in clamshell mode) illuminates. The content displayed on the secondary screen depends on whether you have connected the keyboard and how it is attached. As explained below, you can use the keyboard as a wireless Bluetooth device separate from the PC itself or position it on the secondary screen to mimic a traditional single-screen PC. Let’s explore some of the different usage modes, starting with the familiar clamshell form factor where the Yoga Book 9i imitates a standard laptop.
To achieve the clamshell mode, you position the two displays in an “L” shape, with the primary screen on top and its webcam correctly aligned. Then, you place the bundled Bluetooth keyboard on the top of the bottom screen, where a laptop’s keyboard would typically reside, which is held in place by magnets. With this setup, the portion of the bottom display not covered by the keyboard serves as a software-based touchpad with two buttons. Although the clamshell mode is the most recognizable form factor and the one most users will prefer in confined spaces like airplanes, it has several drawbacks. The keyboard’s elevated position compared to the secondary display feels a bit odd, and the screen-based touchpad presents issues. Tapping often fails to register as a click, and dragging fingers across the touchpad causes friction due to the screen’s surface. However, the most peculiar problem stems from how Windows operates. Despite the keyboard physically blocking over half of the secondary display, Windows still recognizes it as a display in this mode. Consequently, if you launch an app that previously opened on the secondary display, it will appear beneath the keyboard and software-based touchpad. This can be frustrating. Furthermore, if you’ve configured the Taskbar to display app icons only on the respective display, an app hidden on the secondary display won’t provide any visual indication of correct launch. I discovered this after attempting multiple times to relaunch an app, suspecting it wasn’t working until I removed the keyboard and found it. However, removing the software touchpad leaves touch as the sole method for interacting with the app, which becomes challenging in this mode. One solution could be to use the bundled mouse and ignore the software touchpad, which might be the best approach. Alternatively, you can adopt what I consider the Yoga Book 9i’s second most familiar usage mode.
In this mode, you can replicate a traditional clamshell laptop experience, but instead of utilizing the physical keyboard with the software touchpad, you transform the bottom display into a full-screen virtual keyboard and touchpad. To activate this mode, simultaneously tap the bottom screen with all eight fingers, a gesture that is surprisingly easier to execute than expected. In this setup, you type on the screen like you would on an iPad’s virtual keyboard, with the significant distinction that this version occupies the entire display and includes a virtual touchpad. It feels surprisingly natural, but during my attempt to write a section of this review using that approach, I struggled, leading me to believe it’s better suited for occasional typing rather than continuous use. Nonetheless, it is a useful option when no physical keyboard is available. Automatically, when you switch to this mode, any apps previously on the secondary display move to the primary display, which makes sense since only one display is active in this mode.
Of course, the main appeal of a dual-screen PC like the Yoga Book 9i is to fully utilize both displays. The Yoga Book 9i accommodates this with two intriguing choices, both of which require deploying the bundled folio stand. The stand serves as a protective case for the PC’s Bluetooth keyboard and smartpen during travel and can be folded into a triangular shape, allowing the displays to stand upright. Additionally, the keyboard can be secured to its base using magnets. I have experienced the…