This article is about the Lenovo Yoga C930, Lenovo’s top-of-the-line consumer convertible laptop and a follow-up of the popular Yoga 920 and 910 from previous years.
It’s been available on the market for a few months now, so we were able to test if Lenovo smoothed out the initial bumps with software updates.
Compared to the Yoga 920, the C930 gets a few interesting updates, like a much-improved speaker system or a silo for the included stylus, but its battery has lost some of its size, no longer being that decisive buying factor of the previous models. The excellent build, the IO and the larger 13.9″ touchscreen are still here, having carried on over generations, yet the competition has intensified at the top-end now, and the C930 might no longer have what it takes to be the appropriate choice for some of you.
We’ve spent three weeks with a final retail version of the Yoga C930, and gathered our impressions in the article below, with the strong parts and the quirks that you should be aware of before taking the plunge.
Specs as reviewed
||Lenovo Yoga C930-13IKB
||13.9 inch, 3840 x 2160 px, IPS, touch, glossy
||Intel Kaby Lake-R Core i7-8550U CPU
||Intel UHD 620
||16 GB DDR4 (soldered)
||1 TB SSD M.2 NVMe – Samsung PM981
||Wireless AC (Intel 9260), Bluetooth 4.2
||1x USB-A 3.0, 2x USB-C 3.1 with Thunderbolt 3, mic/earphone
|60 Wh, 65 Wh charger
||322 mm or 12.68” (w) x 227 mm or 8.94” (d) x 14.9 mm or 0.59” (h)
||3.1 lbs (1.4 kg) + .77 lbs (.35 kg) charger and cables, EU version
||white backlit keyboard, fingerprint sensor, HD webcam with physical cover, DolbyAtmos quad speakers
Design and first look
For the first time in many years, the top-series Yoga no longer uses that watchband design, which in all honesty was a marvelous piece of kit, but took a fair bit of space without providing much in return. This time around Lenovo opted for a split bar-hinge that integrates the branding and a set of front-firing stereo speakers, making it some sort of laptop soundbar, and the improvements in audio-quality are significant.
In fact, the Yoga C930 now packs four different speakers, two in the hinge and two more on the bottom, where speakers were usually placed on the previous iterations.
Not much else has changed with this newer model in terms of build or aesthetics. Metal is still used for the entire case, and the overall construction is sturdy and premium. This laptop is however still larger and heavier than the competition, on one hand, because it packs a larger 13.9-inch screen, while devices like the HP Spectre x360 or Asus ZenBook Flip UX362 only get 13.3-inch displays, but also due to those bezels around the screen, especially that thick chin at the bottom. I was hoping for a smaller footprint now that the watchband hinge is gone, but that didn’t happen. It’s also worth mentioning that in the past Yogas used to have big 70+ Wh batteries which justified the extra weight, but that, unfortunately, is no longer the case with this generation, that only gets a 60 Wh battery.
For me, the C930 makes more sense as a laptop, despite the fact that it’s a convertible with a 360-degrees screen and can also be switched into a tablet. As a notebook, you’re not going to notice the weight or proportions as much. In fact, this device sits sturdily on a desk thanks to its updated bottom rubber feet, gets a spacious palm-rest and a decent screen doubled by excellent sound and a webcam at the top, with a discrete physical privacy cover. Even that big chin actually helps with the ergonomics in this case, to some extent, pushing the screen higher in front of your eyes.
You’ll mostly need both hands to adjust the display though, as the hinge gets a bit stiff past 90-degrees, in order to hold it in place, which it does fine; there’s still noticeable wobble when pocking at the screen in laptop mode. On top of that, the sharp front lip and lack of any crease make the process of gripping and lifting the screen a bit awkward.
The inner edges are also sharp and bity, just like on the previous generations, and your wrists will feel them in certain conditions, but the large palm-rest actually helps here. Either way, I’d prefer more blunt edges at least on the front interior lip, even if that would probably translate in slightly sacrificing the pristine aesthetics.
And there’s no doubt in my mind this laptop is a looker, in its simple, subdued way, and with the silver aluminum finishing it’s also going to look spotless most of the time, doing a great job at hiding finger-oil and smudges. A darker gray variant is also available though, which I expect to have to wipe clean more often.
The IO hasn’t changed. It’s still rather minimalist, without HDMI or a card-reader, but includes a full-size USB-A slot and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3, which should cover all needs, albeit you’d have to buy some adapters on the side. As a novelty for this year’s generation, the included pen actually gets an interior silo this time, which those who actually plan to use it will greatly appreciate. That, however, took precious interior space and is perhaps the main reason why the battery is smaller now.
There are also some plastic caps on the sides and in the bottom panels that I initially found hard to explain, but opening the laptop shows that the wireless antennae are hidden behind those. Bit weird of a placement, but I guess they had to go this route on this otherwise all-metal computer.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Yoga 930 inherits the keyboard from the Yoga 920, and it’s just not one of my favorites. Keep in mind I do type for a living though, so my expectations are much higher than the regular user’s, and I also test tends of laptops each year and know what else is out there.
The layout is fine if you can look past the small up/down keys and lack of dedicated secondary HOME/END etc. The keys have a short stroke and they just feel shallow to me, with a hard actuation point, so typing fast leads to a fair bit of mistakes. The fact that they are totally flat, not slightly concave as on other Lenovo laptops, doesn’t help their cause either, but my nit is nonetheless with the feedback, as I normally appreciate flat short-stroke keyboards.
This is also a bit noisy and might attract unwanted attention in very quiet places, and while I’m nitpicking, I’ll also mention that I don’t like white-backlit silver keys like the ones here, because the writing is rather illegible with the illumination switched on. That’s not an issue for advanced typers, but could be for the average user. That’s also of no concern if you’re going to opt for the darker gray variant of this laptop.
A spacious clickpad is placed beneath the keyboard, slightly indented into the frame. It’s made by Synaptics, gets Precision drivers and a glass-surface, so feels comfortable to the touch and performs well with everyday use, taps and gestures. The physical clicks are a bit stiff and clunky, but no more than on the average laptop.
There’s also a finger-sensor just beneath the arrow-keys, and it’s, unfortunately, the only biometrical option available, as you can’t get IR cameras with this computer. Nonetheless, it’s fast and worked pretty much flawlessly during my time with this laptop, without requiring more than a gentle touch. I’ve seen some people complaining about its erratic behavior on the forums, so you should test it out once you get your unit, Lenovo have had issues with finger-sensors in the past and you never know when you’ll draw a short straw with today’s quality-control.
Speaking of quality control, let’s get to the screen options. Lenovo offers two 13.9-inch IPS touch variants for the Yoga C930, with an FHD panel on the lower-end models and a UHD panel at the top, the one we have on out review-unit here.
It’s not a bad screen, but it’s not what I’d expect from a premium computer in late-2018 early-2019 either, as it is rather dim at only about 300-nits max-brightness.
On top of that, our particular instance suffered from light-bleeding and poor uniformity, with the lower-half significantly dimmer than the top. I can’t tell whether retail versions will suffer from similar issues, I haven’t found other detailed reviews of UHD configurations of this laptop, nor complains on the forums, so there’s a chance the issue is isolated with our unit. Nonetheless, keep and eye on this matter.
Here’s what else to expect:
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LGD0587/ LEN8B90 (LP139UD1-SPC2);
- Coverage: 99% sRGB, 74% NTSC, 78% AdobeRGB;
- Measured gamma: 2.3;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 299 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 820:1;
- White point: 6500 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.37 cd/m2.
The panel is fairly well calibrated out of the box, but you could use our tweaked color profile to address some of the imbalances.
This screen supports touch, of course, an the Yoga C930 comes with an included pen. It’s an active pen that charges when holstered into its dedicated silo and offers 4096-levels of pressure sensitivity, with a simple design, standard shape and plastic tip. I find it a bit short and slippery to hold, but it’s otherwise much like the other such pens on the market and more comfortable to grip that the thicker options. It does a fair job for inking and sketching, but is not ideal for taking notes, due to its slight lag, similar to other implementations you’ll find on Windows laptops without specialized digitizers. I’ve seen other people claiming this is low-latency, but writing on glass has never felt like the real-thing to me due to the slight, but perceivable, delay; except perhaps on the iPad Pro, that’s different.
As already mentioned, a FHD screen choice is also available for this laptop, and as you’ll see from this review, it’s not much different in terms of brightness, contrast, colors and even uniformity. It is nonetheless a much cheaper option, and will also help with battery life.
Hardware and performance
Our review unit is the top-end configuration of the Yoga C930, with the Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16 GB of RAM and a very fast 1 TB Samsung PM981 NVMe SSD.
Lenovo doesn’t offer this computer with Whiskey Lake hardware, but as you’ll see down below, that wouldn’t have made any real-life difference even if it did.
Keep in mind that everything except storage is soldered on the motherboard, so while accessing the interior is effortless after removing the several Torx screws the hold the bottom panel attached, you might not need to to do that. Inside you’ll notice the cooling system, the battery, speakers and the pen’s holder mechanism.
As far as performance goes, this laptop handle everyday use and multitasking smoothly. The fans inside are active all the time though, and it does run a tad warmer than other devices, as you’ll see in the next section, but the performance is flawless.
Things change a bit when it comes to more demanding loads.
First of all, we test the CPU’s performance in taxing loads by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, switching Intelligent Cooling off and opting for Performance mode in the Lenovo Vantage app. Out of the box, the i7-8550U implementation stabilizes at around 2.1-2.2 GHz after several runs, which equates to a 14W TDP, temperatures of around 71-73 degrees Celsius and a Cinebench score of around 480 points.
Undervolting the CPU helps improve the behavior. Our sample was only stable at -90 mV, and crashed at -100 mV.
We reran the same Cinebench loop on the -90 mV undervolted profile, which in this case translates in frequencies of 2.3 to 2.4 GHz and scores of around 530 points, with similar 14 W TDP and 71-73 degrees Celsius limitations.
But what do these numbers actually mean?
Well, Lenovo has chosen fairly low TDP and thermal thresholds for this laptop, in order to keep temperatures/noise at bay, which leads to poorer high-load performance than on other ultraportables with similar specs. For comparison, the XPS 13 stabilizes at around 85 degrees Celsius and 23 W TDP, which translates in scores of around 580-600 points out of the box, so roughly a 20% gain over the C930, while others stabilize at 15W TDP, but higher temperatures, so still run 5-15% faster.
The performance with CPU+GPU combined loads is also limited. We’re testing this by running an older, but fairly taxing game: NFS: Most Wanted, and as you can see below, the GPU works fairly well stabilizing at around 1 GHz (down from its theoretical 1.15 GHz max speeds), but the CPU throttles quickly to just 1.2 to 1.5 GHz, which takes a toll on the experience. And that’s on the undervolted profile, out of the box it’s going to struggle even more.
Of course, these will only matter if you’re planning on putting this laptop to some serious work. This is not a work-horse, but you might want to run some taxing software, perhaps edit some photo/video, run your programming apps or even a lighter game from time to time, and based on this review unit, the Yoga C930 is just not the best ultraportable for such tasks, sitting at about 10-20% behind the main competitors.
As far as reviews go, here’s what we got on our sample. These results aren’t bad, but as shown in the logs above, it’s also important to keep in mind that the C930’s performance degrades over time as heat builds up, so these numbers can be somewhat misleading.
- 3DMark 11: P2026 (Graphics: 1832, Physics: 6533);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 1013 (Graphics – 1126, Physics – 6502);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 380 (Graphics – 847, CPU – 2277);
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3023;
- PCMark 10: 3757;
- PassMark: Rating: 3217, CPU mark: 8346, 3D Graphics Mark: 1005;
- GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 3942, Multi-core: 13438;
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4863, Multi-core: 14823;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 50.5677 fps, CPU 545 cb, CPU Single Core 166 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 142.81 fps, Pass 2 – 39.58 fps.
We also ran some of the tests on the -90 mV undervolted profile, and here’s what that lead to:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 1110 (Graphics – 1224, Physics – 8082);
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 4804, Multi-core: 16065;
- CineBench R15 (best run): OpenGL 55.14 fps, CPU 580 cb, CPU Single Core 170 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 163.25 fps, Pass 2 – 37.05 fps.
All in all, my experience with the Yoga C930 is on par with the previous Yoga 910/920s, which were excellent daily-use machines as well, but struggled with performance in continuous demanding chores.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The entire cooling implementation is responsible for this behavior, both the hardware and software aspects of it. There are two fans inside this laptop and a heatpipe hooked to both of them, a fairly basic implementation, but similar to what other thin-and-lights are using, including the Dell XPS 13.
However, as mentioned in the previous section, Lenovo opted primarily for lower/temperatures and quiet fans on this device. As a result, the two fans don’t spin very fast with taxing chores, the CPU only hits about mid 70 degrees Celsius and the bottom shell only hits temperatures of around low 40s, while the competition reaches high 40s and even 50s, with louder fans. I can see why some might prefer this route, but I for one would at least want some sort of option in the settings that would allow for increased performance when needed, with the associated increased noise/temps, alongside the ability to switch to this more tamed down profile for regular use.
And the thing this cooling system doesn’t handle daily use as I’d want either. The fans are actually active and audible pretty much all the time, and the outer-shell reaches temperatures in the high 30s, while other thin-and-lights reach similar and even lower temperatures with passive cooling. Details below.
*Daily Use – Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted for 30 minutes
In conclusion, this cooling system is just not good-enough imo for a premium late-2018 ultraportable. Ideally, such a computer should be able to run completely quiet with daily use on one hand, as well as provide excellent performance on the other, even if that would come with somewhat noisier fans and higher case temperatures. Lenovo went with the Let’s make everything Quiet approach Apple also take on their products, which I’m not a fan of. You on the the other hand might have no problem accepting a 10-20% performance drop for quieter fans, it’s up to you.
The connectivity is pretty good. Lenovo went with an Intel 9260 wireless chip, which proved fast and reliable, both right near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between. Other laptops do however get faster wireless with my setup, and include Bluetooth 5.0. There’s also no wired Internet and LTE, but that’s standard for such a thin-and-light consumer product.
Lenovo truly aced the audio on this thing though. These are not necessarily the loudest laptop speakers out there, but they’re loud enough (about 80 dB at head-level), as well as clear and punchy at all levels. Having speakers in that sound-hinge means that you’ll always have at least some of the sound coming straight at you, without bouncing of any surfaces and without distortions, and that makes a big difference for everyday use, when watching movies or listening to music.
The camera system, on the other hand, is still mediocre. It gets a discrete physical cover, which is great for privacy, but the image quality is fairly poor and there’s no set of IR cameras, even if there would have been plenty of space for it on that top bezel.
There’s only a 60 Wh battery on the Yoga C930, down from the 70 Wh battery of the 920 and the 78 Wh battery on the 910, so the battery is no longer one of this laptop’s main selling points. That’s not a small battery by any means, but it’s now only on par with the competing HP Spectre X360.
The hardware is efficiently implemented though, and while the UHD screen takes its toll, this still delivers some good runtimes. Here’s what to expect in terms of battery life (we set the screen at 40% brightness, which is ~120 nits):
- 9 W (~6 h 30 min of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.3 W (~6 h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7 W (~ 8 h 30 min of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7.2 W (~8 h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12 W (~5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
Multitasking and browsing, in general, eat fast through the battery, so you should expect around 4-6 hours of daily use, and about 6-8 of video. The FHD screen variant will last for about 5-7 hours in daily use and about 10 hours with video.
Lenovo pairs the Yoga 920 with a 65 Wh USB-C charger. A full charge takes about 2 hours, but there’s quick charging and it will fill up from 10 to 50% in about 30 minutes and from 10 to 70+% in about an hour.
Price and availability
The Lenovo Yoga 920 starts at $1250 in the US at the time of this post (January 2019) for a Core i7-8550U configuration with 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD and the FHD IPS screen.
Upgrading to 16 GB of RAM costs about $100 extra, the 512 GB SSD about $200 extra and the UHD screen is another $200 upgrade. Prices and configurations differ in other regions though.
I’d opt for 16 GB of RAM if possible, given how the RAM is non-upgradeable and 8 GB of RAM might prove insufficient down the road, but I’d otherwise stick to the base model and even upgrade the SSD myself, as Lenovo’s upgrade options are expensive. You might, however, find good value in other preconfigured variants with 512 GB or 1 TB SSDs, just look at what’s available at the time you’re reading this post.
Follow this link for updated prices and configurations.
The Yoga C930 is still one of the better premium 2-in-1s out there, even at the time of this article, in January 2019, several months after its launch.
It checks a lot of the right boxes, with excellent craftsmanship, great and discrete looks, a fairly good IO, latest hardware specs and pretty good battery life. It also gets a big touchscreen with pen support and excellent speakers this time around.
But then there’s also the however part. If you want a laptop for daily use, movies, browsing, and multitasking, here’s what you should keep in mind: this is a bit heavier and larger than the competition, so tablet use might not be that comfortable, the screen is not that bright or uniform, you’ll need adapters to hook up a monitor and the fans are active most of the time, so this never runs truly quiet.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a compact productivity laptop with a convertible screen, you’ll also have to consider these other aspects on top of those mentioned above: performance in demanding loads is sacrificed to keep temperatures and noise levels at bay, the keyboard is rather shallow and might not cater to professional typers and you do get two full-bandwidth ThunderBolt 3 ports with this computer, highly useful for hooking up peripherals, but no HDMI or SD-card reader.
Pricing and competition should also be considered. The Yoga C930 was expensive at launch, and still is today, even if the price has come down and you might find good value in certain configurations. As for the competition, well, there are a handful of other top-tier 2-in-1s out there, but only a few play in the same league: the HP Spectre x360, the HP EliteBook x360, and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga are among them. The former is another consumer laptop with very similar traits and flaws, including dim screen options and deficient load performance, but smaller, lighter and more affordable, while the latter are nicer productivity laptops with better screens, improved performance and typing experience, but at the same time more expensive in most regions.
All in all, I feel that the premium 2-in-1 segment is lacking these days compared to the excellent offer of premium clamshell ultrabooks, which includes devices like the Dell XPS 13 9370, the updated XPS 13 9380, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Microsoft Surface Laptop, Asus Zenbook UX392 or the Razer Blade Stealth. Hopefully that’s going to change later in 2019, with the updated X1 Yoga and a future Yoga C940, perhaps based on that excellent Yoga S940 announced at CES. One can only hope.
That’s about it for our review of the Lenovo Yoga C930. The comments section below awaits your feedback and questions, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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