One of the few things the otherwise-excellent Lenovo Yoga 920 2-in-1 convertible laptop is missing is a convenient place to store its digital stylus. That’s fixed with the Yoga 920’s replacement, the Yoga C930 (starts at $ 999, $ 1,299 as tested). Instead of an awkward plastic stylus holder that plugs into a USB port, the Yoga C930 comes with a pen “garage,” a small channel built into the back edge that holds the active stylus when it’s not in use. Several other minor improvements, including a revamped hinge and an HDR display, help make the Yoga C930 even better than the Yoga 920 it replaces, earning it an Editors’ Choice award for best convertible laptop.
The Yoga Line, Redefined
The Yoga C930 derives its name from Lenovo’s new naming convention. The “Yoga” family name originally signified the ability to rotate the laptop’s screen 360 degrees to transform it into a tablet, once a novel feature. Now that convertible laptop designs are commonplace, Lenovo bestows the Yoga moniker on its entire line of premium consumer laptops, even if the product happens to be a conventional laptop without a rotating hinge.
In fact, that very rotating hinge, which is a piece of luxury-watchband-style bling on the Yoga 920, is now a more ordinary-looking single piece of metal on the Yoga C930. But the new hinge has its own charms. Not only does its housing make room for the stylus holder on the upper right edge, but it houses a speaker grille that conceals two tweeters, giving it a pleasingly perforated look.
The new speaker position should theoretically result in better sound, since the tweeters face outward regardless of whether the laptop is in laptop or tablet mode. The Yoga 920’s downward-firing speakers on the bottom of the chassis means that they’re most powerful when you use the Yoga 920 in Tent or “A-frame” mode, so that the speakers face you. In that case, in tablet and laptop configurations, the sound is a bit muffled.
In practice, however, the Yoga C930’s sound still isn’t as good in Tent mode as it is in Laptop mode, especially when you’re listening to music. There’s a noticeable muffling effect when you flip the screen over. The Yoga C930’s base features two additional speaker grilles that deliver bass.
When you do flip the screen over, the laptop transforms into a tablet, albeit an unwieldy one given the 3.1-pound weight of PCMag’s review unit. The Yoga C930 shares this unwieldiness with pretty much every other convertible laptop of its screen size. If you plan on using your device primarily in Tablet mode, you’ll want to opt instead for a dedicated Windows tablet like the Microsoft Surface Pro; some such machines come with a detachable keyboard for occasional laptop use.
The Yoga C930 measures 0.57 by 8.9 by 12.68 inches (HWD), which is par for the course for a 13-inch laptop or convertible. The 13-inch MacBook Pro measures 0.59 by 11.97 by 8.36 inches, for instance, while the Dell Inspiron 13 5000 2-in-1 (5379) measures 0.77 by 12.76 by 8.85 inches. What’s impressive about the Yoga C930 is that it fits a larger screen (13.9 inches) into this form factor. Even more impressive: Its dimensions are barely different from those of the Yoga 920 (0.55 by 12.72 by 8.8 inches), despite the addition of the integrated pen slot.
The spring-loaded pen slot, located in the right corner of the laptop’s rear edge, is a nifty feature. Its main benefit is helping you not lose the included stylus when you’re transporting the laptop, but it also serves as a means of charging its built-in battery. The stylus itself is easy to use and quite precise, thanks to tilt detection and pressure sensitivity. The only downside is that Lenovo reduced it in size to fit in the small garage, which means it’s considerably smaller than the Yoga 920’s marker-like digital pen.
Alexa Will Hear You Now
In addition to the new hinge and the integrated stylus holder, other improvements in the Yoga C930 include new far-range microphones that will work with voice assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. Lenovo has been at the forefront of Alexa’s integration with Windows 10, first announcing support at CES 2018 in January. But that integration has proven to be a slow process, with Alexa’s full capabilities finally arriving in August.
To enable them on the Yoga C930, you can type “Alexa” in the search field on the Windows 10 taskbar. You’ll first be prompted to sign in to your Microsoft account, then your Amazon account. Once everything is set up, you can say “Hey, Cortana, Open Alexa.” The Yoga C930 will then function just like an Amazon Echo speaker or other Alexa-enabled device. Your spoken commands are even displayed on the screen.
Thanks to the laptop’s far-field microphones, the Yoga C930 picked up voice commands and understood what I was asking no matter where I was in a large room of about 900 square feet. That means it should function very well in an open-plan apartment or the living and dining area of a small house. You can configure the microphones so they’ll wake up the laptop from sleep mode when you utter a Cortana command, but to speak with Alexa, you’ll have to log in to your account first.
A fingerprint reader on the Yoga C930’s keyboard deck should make that Windows sign-in easier, but it failed to recognize my fingerprint about a third of the time over several days of use. Some versions of the Yoga C930 will include infrared (IR) sensors to let you log in using face recognition, but either way, you’ll still have to walk over to the laptop, which could be inconvenient if, say, you’re trying to look up something while you’re cooking.
If you don’t opt for the IR sensors, you’ll instead get a camera with a built-in sliding shutter to provide peace of mind if you’re worried about hackers spying on you. Picture quality from the 720p webcam is decent for casual video conferences, though it’s lacking compared with high-end smartphone cameras, many of which can shoot in 4K. I appreciate that the webcam also has an unobtrusive built-in physical sliding door, which prevents you from having to use a snip of masking tape to thwart potential privacy-invading hackers. The shutter and its lever are so small and well-integrated that I eventually forgot they were even there.
The Yoga C930 comes in several different color options besides gray, and Lenovo also plans to offer an option to add a futuristic glass display lid. I didn’t particularly like the blue wavy glass lid the company showed me during a brief demo, however. It would certainly raise eyebrows in a conference room.
Two Screen Options
Most of the other features of the Yoga C930 remain unchanged from its Yoga 920 predecessor. Processor options include energy-sipping 8th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, full HD (1,920 by 1,080) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160) touch screens, two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, and a headphone jack. Unfortunately, there’s no memory-card reader, not even a microSD card slot. Wireless connectivity options include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The unit I tested is equipped with the full HD display option, which offered excellent picture quality in Laptop mode. If you’ve ever used a higher-resolution tablet like an Apple iPad, you might want to step up to the 4K version, though. I definitely noticed graininess when holding the Yoga C930 up close to my face in Tablet mode. Either resolution option comes with support for Dolby Vision, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology that can display a wider range of color and contrast.
You’ll only notice the difference if you’re watching a video or playing a game that also supports Dolby Vision, and the wider color range is more apparent on a 4K screen, but even so, I certainly noticed the difference while watching some short nature clips on YouTube in HDR at full HD (1080p) resolution.
Storage options are plentiful, ranging from 256GB to 2TB, and each capacity uses the cutting-edge PCI Express SSD interface for fast data access. The test model I have in hand has a 256GB drive.
The buttonless, clickable touchpad and backlit keyboard feel quite sturdy, but clicks and button presses are shallow. The depth of the key plunge is not nearly as luxurious as with the keys on Lenovo’s ThinkPad lineup, which are the most comfortable laptop keys I’ve ever typed on.
A Modest Performance Increase
For slightly less money than the configuration of the Yoga 920 I tested last year, PCMag’s Yoga C930 includes most of the same internal components. That includes the 8th Generation “Kaby Lake R” Intel Core i7-8550U processor (a quad-core chip) and its built-in Intel UHD Graphics 620. But the Yoga C930 eked out slightly better performance on many of our benchmark tests than its predecessor did, a feat for which the C930’s increased 12GB memory complement is mostly responsible. (The Yoga 920 unit we tested had 8GB of RAM.)
I noticed a modest bump of a few hundred points on the all-encompassing PCMark 8 benchmark (3,284 for the Yoga 920; 3,575 for the Yoga C930) using the Work Conventional preset, which simulates web browsing, video conferencing, and other common office tasks. Anything above 3,000 on this test is a solid score.
Similarly small performance improvements occurred on the Cinebench 3D and the Handbrake video-rendering tests, although the Yoga C930 took slightly longer to apply a series of images in our Photoshop CS6 test than the Yoga 920 did (2 minutes and 54 seconds vs. 3:04). Still, the results here show that the Yoga C930 is a reasonable alternative to a mobile workstation or a tricked-out Apple MacBook Pro if you need to do some light video editing or image manipulation in the field.
In terms of overall feel, the laptop never felt sluggish, even with multiple browser tabs open, some with streaming video. Unfortunatley, the laptop ships with bloatware from Microsoft (Minecraft, Candy Crush, and similar games), as well as a free trial of McAfee LiveSafe, complete with pesky upgrade reminders.
The Yoga C930 is not a reasonable alternative to a gaming laptop, as the graphics performance results clearly indicate. The only laptop shown above in our comparison set that performed reasonably well on these tests is the Asus ZenBook Flip 14, thanks to its modest GeForce MX150 dedicated GPU. Don’t try to play anything other than browser-based games on the Yoga C930 unless you’re willing to dial down the game’s screen resolution and quality settings to their minimums.
At a bit less than 19 hours on our rundown test, the Lenovo Yoga C930’s battery gave out slightly sooner than the Yoga 920’s, which lasted for more than 22 hours. Still, any laptop than lasts for more than 15 hours has a good chance of getting you through an entire workday or an entire cross-country flight without plugging in. This is a superb result.
An Excellent Convertible Laptop
The Lenovo Yoga C930 gets even more right about the convertible laptop form factor than its predecessor did. That’s no small achievement; the Yoga 920 set the bar very high. If you’re looking for a Windows laptop that you can occasionally use as a tablet for drawing or watching movies, it doesn’t get much better than this.