Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Quick review of Lenovo Yoga 9i laptop

Some time ago I pondered on getting a new laptop. Eventually I bought a Lenovo Yoga 9i, which ticked pretty much all the boxes. I also considered a Dell 9310 but chose against it due to two reasons. Firstly, several reviews say that the keyboard feels bad with too shallow a movement. The second bit being that Dell's web site for Finland does not actually sell computers to individuals, only corporations, and their retailers did not have any of the new models available.

The hardware

It's really nice. Almost everything you need is there, such as USB A and C, touch screen, pen, 16GB of ram, Tiger Lake CPU, Xe graphics and so on. The only real missing things are a microsd card slot and a HDMI port. The trackpad is nice, with multitouch working flawlessly in e.g. Firefox. You can only do right click by clicking on the right edge rather than clicking with two fingers, but that's probably a software limitation (of Windows?). The all glass trackpad surface is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, though.

There are two choices for the screen, either FullHD or 4k. I took the latter because once you have experienced retina, you'll never go back. This reduces battery life, but even the 4k version gets 4-8 hours of battery life, which is more than I need. The screen itself is really, really nice apart from the fact that it is extremely glossy, almost like a mirror. Colors are very vibrant (to the point of being almost too saturated in some videos) and bright. Merely looking at the OS desktop background and app icons feels nice because the image is so sharp and calm. As a negative point just looking at Youtube videos makes the fan spin up. 

The touchscreen and pen work as expected, though pen input is broken in Windows Krita by default. You need to change the input protocol from the default to the other option (whose actual name I don't remember).

When it comes to laptop keyboards, I'm very picky. I really like the 2015-era MBPro and Thinkpad keyboards. This keyboard is not either of those two but it is very good. The key travel is slightly shallower and the resistance is crisper. It feels pleasant to type on.

Linux support

This is ... not good. Fedora live USBs do not even boot, and a Ubuntu 20/10 live USB has a lot of broken stuff, but surprisingly wifi works nicely. Things that are broken include:
  • Touchscreen
  • 3D acceleration (it uses LLVM softpipe instead)
  • Trackpad
  • Pen
The trackpad bug is strange. Clicking works, but motion does not unless you push it at a very, very, very specific amount pressure that is incredibly close to the strength needed to activate the click. Once click activates, motion breaks again. In practice it is unusable.

All of these are probably due to the bleeding-edgeness of the hardware and will probably be fixed in the future. For the time being, though, it is not really usable as a Linux laptop.

In conclusion

This is the best laptop I have ever owned. It may even be the best one I have ever used.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, surprised to hear that native 3d isn't used, all known Tigerlake gpu id's should be supported aiui. File a bug! :)

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    1. I tried the latest Ubuntu live cd and it seemed to work. The mesa-utils was not installable so I could not run glxinfo, but the About pane in settings says "Mesa Intel(R) Xe Graphics(TGL GT2)" so it probably works. Everything else mentioned is still broken including mouse (this machine refuses to boot from USB hub, so the only USB-A slot is taken by the memory stick) so examining further would have been quite tedious.

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    2. Another thing that is broken: sound enables the main sound bar but not the woofers, making the sound incredibly tinny.

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