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Lenovo Yoga Book 9i hands-on: The future of dual screens

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I admit I was skeptical when I first saw images of Lenovo’s new dual-screen Yoga Book 9i. I have foldables tried and dual screen in abundance, and while many are usable, many also have serious limitations. But it’s the first dual-screen laptop I’ve ever tried that I can see myself buying. And that’s because Lenovo has clearly done the necessary software engineering to ensure it can address many of the somewhat…obvious concerns buyers might have with such a device.

The keyboard attached to Lenovo's Yoga Book 9i in vertical mode.

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The first objection is obvious: there’s no visible touchpad on the Yoga Book i9. That’s what first struck me when Lenovo announced the device, which is a laptop-sized spiritual successor. Microsoft Surface Neo – essentially two 13.3-inch, 16:10, 2.8K OLED screens stacked on top of each other with a hinge in the middle and a detachable keyboard. “How the hell are we gonna navigate this?” I wondered while watching the keynote.

It turns out there are a bunch of ways, and they all seem to work. First, you can touch the screen. Second, you can use the stylus (which lives very securely in a pocket on the back of the device). And third, in Lenovo’s software settings, you can display a virtual touchpad directly on the screen. This touchpad has haptic buttons which, with their physical feedback, feel decently similar to real buttons. You can resize this touchpad. You can move it. The world is your shell. It was weird at first to be a touchpad on a screen, but it’s something I imagine you’ll get used to.

The stylus on the back of the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i kickstand.

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You can also Fold this device 90 degrees and use it like a regular 13-inch laptop. This is also a feature of single-screen foldable devices, but the problem with those is that it usually makes the screen you’re working with much smaller (since you’re taking a screen you used to use horizontally and that you reduce it by half longitudinal).

Folding the Yoga Book into clamshell mode obviously reduces your available screens from two to one, but the change in size doesn’t seem as drastic as when you fold, say, Asus Zenbook 17 Fold half. You’re still looking at a standard-size 13.3-inch laptop screen with the same aspect ratio as before. (The bottom half, where the keyboard attaches, isn’t particularly cramped either, another common problem with foldables.)

Either way, when you fold the Yoga Book 9i into clamshell mode, a virtual keyboard and touchpad automatically appear where you expect them to be. This touchpad is also haptic, and while I generally hate using on-screen keyboards, this one is probably the most clicky and comfortable I’ve ever used. You can also place the physical keyboard right above the virtual keyboard, with the touchpad staying in the same place if you do.

This all seems like a very handy solution to the missing touchpad issue. OEMs have wrestled with the question of where to place touchpads on dual-screen laptops since time immemorial, and we’ve seen a number of tiny, crappy front-mounted keyboards and touchpads in the game. ‘space. In previous reviews of Asus’ dual-screen models, I’ve suggested that their trackpads are so terrible that Asus would be better served by ditching them all together. Lenovo took that step and, frankly, I respect it.

The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i folded into laptop mode with the keyboard attached.

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The Yoga Book does not use a special version of Windows 11 (Rip Windows 10X), but with all the different gestures Lenovo has added to optimize interactions for the dual-screen form factor, it looks like it might. There are plenty of ways to move your windows and apps around, and it takes about four seconds to master.

My favorite is the movie. Press and hold on any app or browser tab, then swipe it and it flies to the other screen. There’s also a custom layout feature for this device, which will likely be much more useful to many people in the Yoga Book form factor than standard Windows laptops.

A five-finger tap on your tab or window also expands it to fill both screens, in the aptly named “waterfall mode.” I can see this being fun to use, although having a giant hinge in the middle of your waterfall hinders the aesthetics somewhat. If you’re using the laptop in clamshell mode, pulling the keyboard down with eight fingers opens a small control panel with quick access to weather forecasts, CPU usage and performance stats, Outlook, and other apps. (This, however, removes the touchpad that’s over there, so it’s more of a quick reference thing than something you’d want to leave open – unless you have a mouse plugged in.)

The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i in horizontal mode with the keyboard attached.

I’m sure there are a thousand other cool things Lenovo has packed in here. (Lenovo reps were eager to show us more tricks, but our time slot was limited.) I’m also sure I didn’t catch all the possible positions you could use this device in, and the buying would require exploration at the beginning.

I specifically received a lot of questions about the horizontal mode and the possibility of using the two screens side by side. The answer is yes, you can, but it’s a little weird. As you can see in the image above, the screens are tall and thin when placed this way, and the result looks a little more like a storybook than a working setup. It’s something you could do, but it may take some getting used to (and, sometimes, some creative resizing).

Another question I’ve heard a lot about: Does the Yoga Book wobble? The answer is yes. If you press down on the screen and the laptop is fully vertical, the top screen is a little wonky. I don’t see this as a huge problem, however, as I imagine I’d like to do most of my browsing on the non-flickering lower screen, which would be closer to me and more comfortable to reach.

And finally: How powerful is the thing, and can you edit video on it? The processor inside is a 13th Gen Intel Core i7 U-series chip, and you know what, it’s not terrible. It’s designed for thin and light devices, so you won’t have an amazing editing experience, but you could probably do a project on it if you were on the go.

It is true, however, that the success of this device will depend on Lenovo’s ability to create a great software experience. The company did not quite succeed with the Foldable ThinkPad X1, which was quite tedious to use. The Yoga Book 9i feels better, although my testing time was limited. I had no problems browsing the internet or jumping through tabs during my brief stint with the device; and although there was reports of the blue screen of the device in other people’s tests, I didn’t experience it myself. I will have many more impressions when I get my hands on a final unit.

But my main impression is that I think someone may have finally found the right way to make a dual screen device. It’s a very good idea. It’s managed to combine the portability benefits of foldables with the fun versatility of dual screens without a lot of the downsides I can see. Although you must be ok with a hinge in the middle of your workspace – and with coughing up at least $2,000, which is just the starting price.

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