Lenovo Legion 9i review (Intel i9, RTX 4080 model)


  1. ancef

    November 24, 2023 at 7:36 pm

    The only way for now to get the water-cooling pump to operate indefinitely (the pump light turns on in the back to confirm) is to download the 3rd party/fanmade Lenovo Legion Toolkit (https://github.com/BartoszCichecki/LenovoLegionToolkit) and turning on Custom Mode + the Max Fans toggle. One user on the Legion discord who's tried this has suggested that this brings down temps maybe a few degrees, most notably on the VRAM (low 80 deg C). This is somewhat of an achievement since it appears that the Legion Pro 7i often reaches >100 deg C on VRAM and is unable to tolerate high GPU memory overclocking, whereas even from the tests you show above you're seeing high 80s to low 90s on VRAM. However, this "trick" only really matters in the hands of someone who is doing some intensive GPU memory overclocking, and the Max Fans are even faster and louder than the maximum fan curve in Vantage Custom Mode, so this is not really a practical solution by any means. In that sense, maybe this laptop is really just made for a small niche of people who shop for boutique, high-performance laptops to tweak. Just thought I would share. If you did benchmarks with Custom Mode / Max Fans using Lenovo Legion Toolkit, it would be interesting for comparison to your existing data, and I don't think anyone else who has reviewed this laptop has tried this yet. Nice and thorough review otherwise!

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 24, 2023 at 8:55 pm

      Hi. Thanks for this, I'll look into it. I have the laptop for a few more days, and I'll try to give this a test.

      As far as I can tell, the water loop was only active in Custom mode + Max Fans in Vantage, and that didn't require access to the toolkit. I'll do a little more digging.

      You're right about the GPU memory running in the 90s on Performance. I would have expected that to activate the loop, but it didn't. Unfortunately I don't have a really good technical contact at Lenovo, but I'll try to find out more about how this is supposed to work.

      • ancef

        November 24, 2023 at 10:10 pm

        You're right that the water loop turns on when the memory junction temp of 84 deg C is triggered, without needing Toolkit (at least on Custom Mode), but it isn't kept on forever like you can do with Toolkit. Not sure why, and I don't personally have the 9i so I could be wrong, but from my own experience with the Pro 7i, the Vantage Custom Mode Max Fans (fan curve) is different from the Toolkit Custom Mode Max Fans (a separate toggle).

        The same user on Discord who shared his experiences indicated that without doing Toolkit Max Fans, the water loop only activates momentarily (a minute or two) when the VRAM ran hot, although he also made it sound like the fans and heat pipes were keeping the VRAM just cool enough to prevent the VRAM from exceeding 84 deg C sometimes. Not sure if the memory junction temp reading just fluctuates a lot and the average is unreliable.

  2. Altandmain

    November 26, 2023 at 6:40 am

    Thanks for the review Andrei.

    Just a small note, upgrading the RAM is a pain in the Legion 9i. To make the device as thin as possible, Lenovo made the RAM on the other side of the PCB, so complete PCB removal is needed. Get as much RAM as you think that you will require if you are interested in buying this laptop, unless you are looking to remove the PCB.

    Although a decent performing laptop, it wasn't the flagship level performance that many people had expected that would challenge the 17 and 18 inch flagships like the MSI GT77, Asus SCAR 18, Alienware M18, etc. At least it seems to be competitive and not overheating.

    Instead Lenovo made many compromises to meet a certain thickness target. The keyboard being mushy to type on, the thin touchpad, along with the shifted down keyboard which makes ergonomics awkward, the rattles when clicking, and the downward facing speakers that have worse audio quality. The water cooling loop is mainly a marketing gimmick and there is a review where someone tried to turn off the loop and found minimal performance difference.

    Lenovo also didn't have this laptop on sale, as it's their newest model. For those unaware, around this time in North America is the Black Friday sales, which are some of the largest sales of the year for electronics. Before taxes, prices in Canada (where I live) were about $4.6k Cad for the 4090 version and 64 GB of RAM. That's about $3.4k USD or €3.1k Euros. It's about $1k more than the 4090 Legion 7i with 32 GB. I guess the customer is paying for the Mini-LED display and the thinner chassis. Essentially Lenovo didn't discount it this year.

    Personally I was interested in the workstation, the Lenovo P16, as that seems to be on sale. Normally workstations will carry a premium over their equivalent speced gaming laptops, but this year with the sales the price was comparable where I live. Of course, prices vary region by region.

    I suspect that this Legion 9i is going to see bigger discounts in 2024, especially if the sales aren't good. I hope that their next generation flagship is a larger performance oriented version myself. There are too many compromises to put flagship level performance on a thin chassis that ends up not being so thin and light anyways. They might as well go for a 3.5 to 4kg maximum performance version.

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 26, 2023 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks, yes, I've mentioned the RAM part in the hardware section.

      They had some decent sales in the US, but it's still expensive. And no sales outside the US for now.

      I agree that this is a rather weird product from Lenovo, and I tried to make that clear in the conclusions. I liked it, but I find the quirks hard to accept at this price level.

    • ancef

      November 26, 2023 at 10:09 pm

      That’s not quite true, there is an active 17% discount on the laptop in Canada right now, which has been there for weeks and this is usually the highest discount you can get on their CTO SKUs. I was able to make an order stacking discounts and Rakuten that amounted to $4.2k CAD after taxes, which is similar to what I paid for Legion 7i Gen 7 2022 around the same time last year. Of course that’s still ridiculously expensive, but so are most of the boutique flagships (Razer Blade 16, Alienware X16, MSI Titan).

      Also, as I suggested in my other comment, we haven’t had any reviewer really be able to test having the water loop on for an extended period versus off because the threshold to activate it is high and, without the Lenovo Legion Toolkit, you don’t have discrete control over the water loop. Might still be a marketing gimmick, but someone should test it more seriously than Dave2D did.

      While I agree that the thinness and the absence of the vapour chamber holds this laptop back in theory, most reviews I’ve seen suggest that this laptop is on par with other i9/4090 competitors in gaming in Custom Mode, so I’m not sure what else you’d hope to get in terms of flagship performance? A higher Cinebench R23 or Time Spy score? Lower temps? Such things are achievable in most of this year’s laptops in the right hands and more a marker of skill in repasting, undervolting, RAM overclocking, BIOS tweaks etc., than performance, in my opinion, because you will see someone with the Legion 9i at the top of the Time Spy leaderboards, for example.

      • Andrei Girbea

        November 27, 2023 at 10:22 am

        I'm waiting for an update from Lenovo on the Toolkit part. Because this sample comes from them, I might not get the OK to test it with third party software such as Toolkit.

        With Vantage, I don't know how else I could test it beyond what I already covered in the article, but I'm open to suggestions. The pump doesn't seem to activate at all in Performance or Balance AI mode, and I'm still testing things in Custom with a fan profile that's not max. I don't understand why this only kicks on with Max fans

      • Altandmain

        November 27, 2023 at 10:39 am

        The 17 percent is pretty much a constant discount. I don't count it as a sale, as it is on all the time. That's basically Lenovo's regular pricing. It's been on since September 2023, shortly after the Legion 9i was out. They didn't reduce the price for Black Friday. Hence my comment on it not being on sale.

        Nobody pays full price for Lenovo in North America. The way their pricing on their website works makes it look like the customer is getting a deal because they always list everything as on sale. With preferred customer discounts and coupon codes, you can get it lower but again, that's nothing special. It's been out for months like that. Sure there is Rakuten Rebates, but I don't trust that I'll get it. There are complaints about it online. I have it clicked though.

        The same is true about their pricing of the workstation line-up. The listed sale discount on Lenovo's website before Black Friday was between 40 to 50 percent for their workstations. Nobody pays that full price. It wouldn't be competitive with the Dell, HP, and Asus competition. Then on Black Friday it became 55 percent and was listed as a "Doorbuster". That is a price reduction for Black Friday.

        Performance wise, I was expecting better than Legion 7i performance. Otherwise, it makes it harder to justify paying more. I was also hoping for segment leading performance, with better cooling than laptops like the MSI GT77 at both CPU and GPU. GPU performance on the Legion 9i is competitive, but CPU seems to not be leading. It just isn't possible to make a thin laptop competitive with a laptop that weighs over 3kg. I consider the choice to prioritize the thinness in a performance laptop a failing, as it isn't much thinner, still is about 2.5kg in weight, much more expensive than the Legion 7i,and doesn't perform better.

        Essentially I think it's pointless to go for thin and light, in this segment if the goal is to maximize performance.

      • Andrei Girbea

        November 27, 2023 at 11:32 am

        On the performance comment, my question is, would you need the extra maybe 10% CPU multi-threaded performance that you might get on a higher power i9-13980HX? And what for?

        Cause for everything else, this is as fast as it gets with the hardware available today. Plus you're getting fast RAM by default, which you might not with some other brands. And with good temperatures. I can't really complain about the performance of this laptop.

        Also, this isn't really thin and light. It's more like thin, not light. So I don't think you should be buying this laptop for portability. However, the materials feel nicer than on the Pro 7 and the screen is night-and-day better. You also get better cooling and two chargers, extra ports, etc. Now, whether these are worth the price difference, that's another discussion. But as others mentioned, similar configurations from Razer or Alienware are just as expensive, if not more in some markets.

        I'll try to have my thoughts on how this compares against the competition in a separate article.

  3. Altandmain

    November 28, 2023 at 12:21 am

    Looking forward to your comparisons.

    CPU Bound Computer Games would be the main application for the 10% extra performance – that would be like having 100 fps vs 110 fps. A well known example might be Baldur's Gate 3, which is currently bound by CPU. 10% would mean better frames. Specifically for BG3, one other big win would be for the game to have an AMD variant with the 7945X3D, although AMD has other trade offs (better load power use and best gaming performance for games that use the 3D cache, worse idle use from chiplets resulting in worse battery life).

    You could say that 10% isn't "much", but let me put it this way. It's big enough that some people will choose a GPU like the 4090 mobile over the 4080 mobile, to give another comparison, despite the price difference and poor "value" the 4090 has over the 4080.

    It seems each flagship laptop this generation has its big flaws. I think that at this price point, the issue becomes people judge more harshly because people are less willing to accept the flaws that might happen at a lower budget laptop.

    – The Legion 9i we've discussed – it makes compromises for "thin". Pricing wise, I'll agree that it's competitive with the laptops listed below, but is still a large premium over the Legion 7i. Whether or not the thinness, premium chassis, and mini-LED display are worth the premium are open to discussion. It may be that the Legion 7i is priced so well that it makes the 9i look bad.

    – The Alienware 18 has a great keyboard and 4 M.2 slots, but has poor cooling, especially given its size. It also has no premium display options (no Mini-LED or OLED).

    – The SCAR 18 has good speakers, but a similar issue – no Mini-LED or OLED options. The LEDs are also annoying and there's not much in the way of security features or biometrics.

    – The MSI GT-77 has the best cooling and a 4k Mini-LED, 3x M.2 SSDs, but it has slow RAM with 4x DIMM slots, and the build quality isn't as good. One negative impact of the 144Hz 4k display is that UBHR 20 is not available on 13th generation Intel CPUs, so a chroma of 4:4:4 @ 4k@144Hz is not possible and the chroma subsampling is dropped. The Numpadis also small and harder to use, which on a 17 inch is hard to justify. It costs more than the other laptops here, save the Razer.

    – The Razer Blade 18 has good speakers and a metal case, but is also quite pricey and it doesn't have OLED or Mini-LED options. There's no Numbpad. They also have historically suffered from overheating and battery bloat issues that impacted reliability. Razer's support also doesn't seem to be as good as the competition. It's also priced much more than the competition.

    I haven't seen very many Acer Predator Triton 17 X reviews, but I've heard the speakers are not good. I prefer having a Numpad.

    In the end, I ended up with the Workstation laptop. But it has its flaws too. There's only a 4k 60 Hz OLED. There are 3.2k 120 Hz OLED displays that Asus uses on their Vivobook, ProArt, and ZenBook Pro lineup. The cooling isn't as good as the gaming laptops (I think that's a major flaw) and in general workstations don't perform as well as gaming laptops, as they tend to emphasize long term reliability. On the plus side, they are built to business laptop standards and have security features.

    Personally I think that a thicker 18 inch version of the P16 workstation with a mechanical keyboard, better cooling, a haptic touchpad, 4k 120Hz OLED, and better speakers would be as close to perfect as a laptop can be made with current technology. Maybe 2 DIMMs for gaming, but 4 DIMMS for workstation.

    • Andrei Girbea

      November 28, 2023 at 9:54 am

      Thanks for the reply. Well, you know, everything in life is a compromise after all, and laptops are no different. Hope you get along well with the workstation laptop.

  4. AlexS

    December 6, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for review. Absurd price obviously kills any chance.

    "100.0% sRGB, 87.7% DCI-P3, 97.5% AdobeRGB;" Usually is more difficult for screens to cover AdobeRGB so i wonder if the values for P3 and Adobe are not mixed.

    • Andrei Girbea

      December 6, 2023 at 6:54 pm

      you're right, thanks for noticing. updated.

    • NikoB

      December 8, 2023 at 5:52 pm

      Taking into account the review amendment, the situation looks even more depressing for Lenovo – 87% AdobeRGB, while even my old 15 year old $600 monitor has 94%+ AdobeRGB..

      The price would be fully justified by the hardware, but it is not advanced enough even within 2-3 year old models, which is especially noticeable on the screen, which for a completely absurd reason is not 4k 16:10@120-144Hz (which can increase to 240-300Hz in fhd mode, for example, such matrices are already on the market), which is fully compatible with 4k/fhd video at the pixel level and easily allows you to switch to fhd mode without loss of pixel sharpness for games. Without any use of the DLSS crutch, which is designed to hide the simple fact that the performance of modern video cards is not enough at native 2.5-4k resolutions.

      And this is not to mention the fact that the Intel processor is obviously and significantly inferior to the 7945HX from AMD.

      Well, the general architecture of the device, as described earlier, including by me.

      The price is determined by the desire to buy the product. how adequate it is to progress, I don’t see this even close, although I was one of the first who suggested the appearance of this line on the forums (when even people taking part in Lenovo’s developments directly denied this, apparently being under a non-disclosure agreement) and really expected that Lenovo will do this in 2023… and this is the result…

      We can only hope that in 2024 something better will be offered from Lenovo and maybe there will be even stronger competition with Asus, which is also always the first to get access to the latest AMD developments, as practical experience shows…

      We are waiting for 17-18" models with 4K 16:10 screens in 2024 from Lenovo and all other competitors. And preferably not only in the gaming segment, but also in the business/universal segment without discrete cards. It's time for all manufacturers to get rid of intermediate and uncomfortable , in practice, screen resolutions.

      I don’t understand at all why they switched to 2.5k-3.2k, instead of 4k right away, which is technically more universal from the start, except perhaps for the limitation for 30-bit color at 120Hz+ in lossless mode due to the obsolete eDP1.4b in video cards ( By the way, even the halved eDP2.0 with support for only UHBR10 mode for each of the 4 lines already allows support for 4k@30bit/120Hz in lossless mode – why is this mode not used? And because it is not available on NVidia video cards! Bingo! Even in the 4090! But eDP2.0 is in Zen4 Phoenix and in Raptor Lake built-in video chips, i.e., to NVidia’s shame, in 2023 it lost in support of video interfaces to AMD/Intel and even discrete AMD chips in the professional segment!) – but Is it true, in practice, that people need fake HDR400 (and partially HDR600/1000), when not a single IPS/VA/IPS miniLED panel is actually capable of displaying the static version of HDR (HDR10)? And for some reason, dynamic HDR10+ was not announced again in L9, although DV (its slightly different analogue) seems to be in the description.

      The funny thing is that there is hardly any AMOLED laptop that has at least True HDR400 certification. Guess why this is so, even with OLED screens? After all, according to marketing assurances (and lies in a bunch of reviews on the Internet), they supposedly have “endless black.” But this seems to automatically allow the manufacturer to obtain at least a True HDR400 certificate, right? But even this certificate is not available in any laptop model known to me on the 2023 market…

      Until we see, among other things, simultaneous support for HDR10+ (Dynamic HDR – which can automatically adapt to the real capabilities of the screen)/DV, the device cannot be considered top-end today. And of course in real 4k resolution (which again can be a problem for AMOLED) and nothing else.

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