An Ultrabook for Web & Graphic Design

LENOVO YOGA 920

Our choice for the best portable laptop for Web Development & Graphic Design.

After patiently waiting for the Yoga 920’s release, it’s finally here in my hands and my newest obsession.  After researching and testing out several of the top performing ultrabooks, the Yoga 920 really grabbed my attention, and while a bit pricey, I feel ok with the price considering the beauty and performance of this laptop.  The Microsoft Surface book was another I was considering for about a year, but had a hard time the justifying their high prices. (about $1k more for similar configuration).

Model: Lenovo Yoga 920
1TB SSD, 16GB RAM, 4k uhd display, Bronze color  
Price Paid: $1799 ($1999 sticker), direct from Lenovo in October 2017

Ordering Tip:  Lenovo has been floating different deals around, but I ordered via their Chat and they offered me a 10% discount.  Also Best Buy offers a configuration that Lenovo doesn’t, so check them out too.

View the Yoga 920 on the Lenovo Site

I won’t bother with any benchmark tests or geeky numbers here.  No video showing someone opening a box.   Just a real world analysis on what is awesome about this laptop, and what could use some work.

The short answer is, if the price doesn’t scare you, just about anyone will love this laptop.  Get the 16GB of RAM, unless this is just for Office, email, and web browsing.   I wish I had a FHD (non-4k) display to compare.  While the UHD 4k screen is very nice, I am finding some applications are barely usable due to tiny GUI elements.

The Yoga 920 is amazing and exactly what I was looking for in a lightweight, super portable, and high performance laptop.  This is not my primary workstation.  No designer would be using a laptop as their primary workstation, but a laptop that can smoothly handle all the applications is still a necessity.  I’m actually finding myself comfortably doing a significant amount of work on the Yoga 920, where my last laptop was just for meetings, travel and emergency work only.

What I Wanted In a Laptop

  • Lightweight & Portability
  • Performance – Ability to smoothly run Adobe Creative Cloud applications.  Mostly Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Lightroom, InDesign.  Also handle a large amount of browser tabs and multi browsers.
  • 14″ Screen size.  This is the Goldilocks size for me….Just Right!
  • Quiet & Cool – low fan noise
  • Stylish & High Build Quality
  • Backlit keyboard and Quality touchpad
  • Long term support – drivers, bios, system updates.
  • 2-in-1, was originally not a high priority, but it would be now that I’ve used one.

The Best Features of the Lenovo Yoga 920

  • Performance

    The overall performance running Adobe Creative Cloud apps has been excellent and seems to blow away my current Dell XPS 27″ All-in-one primary workstation.  Applications load much quicker and so far a flawless performance on everything I’ve thrown at it.

  • Design & Build Quality

    It looks great.  It feels great. It performs great.  It’s purely enjoyable to work on no matter where you are and for me, the perfect size for what I was looking for.

    I’ll be honest, it was love at first site.  I first went to check out a Surface Book and prepping to pay the ridiculous prices for a Surface Book and possibly the Surface Studio to replace my 27″ Dell all in one.   I spotted the Lenovo Yoga 910 and after a quick hands on test has just about decided the Yoga was for me.   It was close to the release of the 920, so I’ve been patiently waiting for a few months and ordered one a couple days after the release.

  • Fn+Q = Performance vs Quiet Mode

    I love this switchable feature!  Fan noise is a big problem on many laptops trying to cram a lot of power into a tiny space.  My old HP Envy was so loud that I couldn’t even use in a meeting room or office without some apologizing and embarrassment.  I had read about loud fan noise issues with the Yoga 910 and that was a concern.

    Lenovo added a genius feature that will switch between Quiet Mode and Performance Mode.  Simply press Fn + Q to switch back and forth, and it really works.  It’s nearly silent in quiet mode.  Even in Performance mode under a heavy processing load the fan noise was tolerable and not on a steady full blast.

  • Lightweight and Slim, yet Sturdy

    At about 3 pounds, the Lenovo Yoga 920 is small and light enough to bring everywhere without that “ugh, do I really want to bring my laptop..” feeling.  It’s easily carried with one hand.  It has enough weight to feel sturdy when working on it both on a desk/table or on your lap.

  • Keyboard & Touchpad

    The keyboard had a nice feel to it.  Spacing feels great to me.  Responsiveness and tactile feedback is excellent.  It’s backlit, which is a requirement for me as I do a good amount of work at night in dimly lit rooms.  The Shift key is the size and location it should be.  (that was a huge complaint of the Yoga 910, and would probably drive me nuts.  The new condensed Up and Down arrows are very usable and I surely prefer this configuration vs the Yoga 910 layout.  One thing that really annoyed me with MS Surface Book was the lack of contrast on the keyboard.  The letters and key colors are too similar.  It was hard to see even under bright lights.   Not an issue on the Yoga (or any other non-Surface laptop really).

    The Touchpad is one of the smoothest I’ve used.  I’d say it’s close to the Mac books, which probably have the best touchpad in the industry.

  • 2-in-1 Design & Functionality

    The 2-in-1 functionality of the Yoga 920 is actually very useful and fun to use.  My past experience with touchscreen laptops, stylus applications, and working on tablets left little to be desired and this was a low priority for me.  I figured maybe it would come in handy some day.

    I have found it very functional and useful with the stylus when used with Ink to annotate on screens.  The pen strokes aren’t all jittery and digtal.  They are smooth and natural.  The stylus is very responsive and natural feeling and the 360 degree hinge allows you find the perfect position for the screen.  I liked it both in tent mode and fully flipped to tablet mode.  Resting your hand on the screen while writing doesn’t affect it either which is great.  I haven’t explored other apps yet, but will.

    It is all very usable in tablet mode and comes in especially handy for the nights when I do casual work or browsing while in bed.

Where it Falls Short

I really haven’t found any serious flaws and none of these are enough to not love this laptop.   Things may change as time goes on, but for now if I had to find some issues with the Yoga 920 here are a few.

  • No SD Card Slot, Only 1 USB Port

    I regularly use SD Cards, probably more so than USB ports, so not having an onboard SD Card reader means using a dongle USB-C to SD Reader adapter.  I picked one up for $10 on Amazon which works fine, but it’s one more thing to carry around and lose and I’m sure it’s one of those things that is never handy when you actually need it.

    I’m ok with only a single USB port for 90% of the time, but that 10% of the time I need to 2 or more the single USB 3 port will be an issue.    I sometimes use my laptop for music recording or editing with Pro Tools, which requires at least 3 USB ports (1 for external hard drive, 1 for Audio interface, 1 for iLok.  I bought the Antopm Multiport adapter from amazon for around $50. It’s very small & light and has any port I may need.  So far it works great and it’s small enough to leave in the case.  http://amzn.to/2j5g0Ad

    I understand we can’t have both an ultra-slim 3lb laptop and load it with every port.  I prefer the lightweight and portability, so I’m ok with needing the multiport adapter.  The SD Reader is the only thing I wish they were able to squeeze in.

  • Small Icons in some applications with 4k display

    I believe this isn’t a Yoga specific issue, rather a Windows/Adobe issue.  Due to the high resolution screen and the zoom scaling going on there is an issue in some applications, including all the Adobe CC apps, where the directory browsing icons are tiny and barely usable.  Titlebars are also very small.

    Directory browsing icons are very small in some Adobe CC applications.

    Directory browsing icons are very small in some Adobe CC applications.

    Tiny fonts in the ProDPI ROES application with 4K display

    ProDPI Ordering app is tiny and unusable with the 4k display and out of the box settings.

  • Battery Life is OK, not great.

    I’m neutral on the battery life.  It seems highly variable depending on the use.  For the first couple of days it was working hard downloading about 500GB of One Drive data, downloading & installing Adobe CC apps, and syncing up my inbox.  During this time it was only getting 2 or 3 hours, and the base was running very hot.

    After things settled in though the battery life gets around 8 hours for light use of email & web browsing with some misc tasks thrown in there.

    It’s significantly better than my last laptop and should be plenty for my needs.  I haven’t had a comparable model to compare it to and I don’t really trust the published numbers.

    For now, I’d say I average about 6 hours and I keep the screen pretty dim.  Brighter screen would probably be significantly less.

  • Base can get very hot during heavy processing

    For the most part the heat isn’t an issue, but at times the base gets very hot.  It’s kind of to be expected with high performance ultra books.

  • USB-C Charger Sticks Out and Seems Prone to Damage

    The USB-C charger might be better as a right angle, even better would be magnetic.   I’ve lost a couple laptops in the past from the charger jack breaking due to either tripping on the cord or pressure against the plug.  The Yoga 920 charger sticks out to the side when plugged in and doesn’t feel very sturdy.  With everything else about this laptop being designed with great though & care, it would have been a nice touch to have a durable and unobtrusive input jack.

    Also note the charger input jack is on the left side.  I’m used to it being on the right, and for some reason almost every time I need to plug it in the outlet is on the right side so the cable has to wrap around the back.  I suppose it doesn’t matter and should be 50/50, but personally I prefer it on the right.

  • Front edge where wrist lay is a little on the sharp side

    The USB-C charger might be better as a right angle, even better would be magnetic.   I’ve lost a couple laptops in the past from the charger jack breaking due to either tripping on the cord or pressure against the plug.  The Yoga 920 charger sticks out to the side when plugged in and doesn’t feel very sturdy.  With everything else about this laptop being designed with great though & care, it would have been a nice touch to have a durable and unobtrusive input jack.

    Also note the charger input jack is on the left side.  I’m used to it being on the right, and for some reason almost every time I need to plug it in the outlet is on the right side so the cable has to wrap around the back.  I suppose it doesn’t matter and should be 50/50, but personally I prefer it on the right.

  • Lenovo Customer Support

    I’ve dealt with Lenovo’s support department a few times so far.

    1. Return a duplicate canceled order that had shipped.
      1. 1st attempt, rep set up the return and said everything should be all set. I waited for about a week without any sort of email or call with instructions on the return.
      2. 2nd attempt, I explained and when they looked into it had found that the return had been denied for some reason and there was zero attempt to inform me of that.  The rep started a new return, which worked out fine in the end.  They supplied a return shipping label and provided a full refund.  (NOTE:  Lenovo has a 15% restock fee on returns unless it’s their fault.  There isn’t even a 30-day customer satisfaction window.  This alone almost prevented me from ordering direct from Lenovo, but it wasn’t available at BestBuy or retail stores yet.)
    2. Contact tech support another time to try to find out what the 2 small coin batteries are for that came with it.  They seemed to go with the active pen, but the main battery compartment is for a AAA.   After waiting for about 10 minutes I was connected with a rep.  Then waited another 5 minutes for them to respond.  Then had to answer all sorts of questions, SN, address, phone, email, order #, etc.  That took another 5 minutes.   Then I was able to ask my question again about the batteries.  A couple minutes later I got a response, “please hold while I research our technical documents” or something along those lines.  I waited for a while. After about 30 minutes, they just disconnected the chat.
      1. Note:  I asked the question on the Active Pen product page on Amazon and someone replied with nice detailed instructions on where they go.  (hint: it’s in a secret compartment in the top section of the pen.)
    3. My order was done through the sales chat.  It was actually a decent experience, however I wanted the darker greyish originally and when I asked about it and reference the photo showing the 3 colors, he said it wasn’t available and they aren’t sure if they are going to make it.  I thought this was odd, and we went ahead with the silver.  Then after looking into it more, saw that the Bronze is the darker color and is certainly available and for sale.  So I reordered the bronze later that day and canceled the silver.  For anyone interested, the Bronze is really more of a Charcoal grey than what you might consider bronze.  It’s a great color.

    These aren’t major issues, but my concern is that should a real issue arise I have little confidence in getting it resolved efficiently through Lenovo. Hopefully the day will never come, but solid customer service is very important to me.  I’ve had my share of computer hardware issues over the years.  Some manufacturers handle it well.  Others not so much.

    I used to be a frequent HP customer, but have given up on them for continuous horrendous support.  Both their inability to troubleshoot and resolve issues, and the lack of hardware support (firmware, driver updates) on computers that may be a couple years old.