Lenovo Yoga 900 vs HP Spectre X360 – an owner’s experience

By Andrei Girbea , last updated on June 18, 2016

If you’re in the market for a premium 13-inch convertible with Skylake hardware and don’t have an unlimited budget to spend, the Lenovo Yoga 900 and the HP Spectre x360 are pretty much the only viable option to consider right now. Otherwise, there’s also the Microsoft Surface Book, but since this one costs $500 to $700 more than a similarly specked Yoga or Spectre, it can’t be included in the same bowl as these other two.

The HP Spectre x360 has been around for a while now and is a great device, as you can tell from our review of the Broadwell model. The Skylake update is nearly identical to that unit we tested in every way, with two exceptions: HP added an Ash Silver color option, and made a slight tweak to the keyboard. Previously the key that turned the illumination on or off was always lit, and now it can be switched off. In other words, the major difference between the Broadwell and the Skylake update is the Ash Silver color scheme and the Skylake hardware, which translates into slightly faster performance and longer battery life.

The Lenovo Yoga 900 is a brand new device and at least on paper, has a few aces down its sleeve over the Spectre. It’s slimmer and lighter, it’s available in more colors (Silver, Gold and Orange) and packs a larger 66Wh battery. You’ll find more about this one in this dedicated post.

These tiny differences are better observed from the specs sheets below.

Lenovo Yoga 900 HP Spectre x360
Screen 13.3-inch 3200 x 1800 px touchscreen 13.3-inch 3200 x 1800 px touchscreen
Processor Intel Core i7-6500U Intel Core i7-6500U
Video Intel HD 520 Intel HD 520
Memory 16 GB DDR3L 8 GB DDR3L
Storage 512 GB SSD (M.2 SATA) 512 GB SSD (M.2 SATA)
Connectivity Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth Wi-Fi AC, Bluetooth
Ports 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 Type C, 1x DC-IN with USB 2.0 function, mic/earphone combo, SD card reader 3x USB 3.0, HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, mic/earphone combo, SD card reader
Battery 66 Wh 55 Wh
Size 324 mm or 12.75” (w) x 225 mm or 8.86” (d) x 14.9 mm or .59” (h) 324.9mm or 12.8” (w) x 218.4mm or 8.60” (d) x 16.0mm or .63” (h)
Weight 1.29 kg (2.85 lbs) 1.47 kg (3.25 lbs)
Price $1299 as configured $1399 as configured

But how do these actually compare in daily use? The user Ash More(Ace01), one of our readers, bought a Broadwell Core i7 version of the HP Spectre x360 a while ago, then exchanged it for the Skylake model when was released, but also got a Lenovo Yoga 900 to try on. The rest of the post includes his opinions on the two and the reasons why he decided to choose one of them over the other (not going to tell you which one, go through the post to find out ) . Thanks Ash for sharing these with us!

This should be useful to those of you undecided between the two options, and if you have any questions, get in touch in the comments section at the end of the article and you will get your answers from myself or Ash.

The Yoga 900 (left) and the Spectre X360 (right) are similar in many ways, so it's going to be difficult to choose one over the other

The Yoga 900 (left) and the Spectre X360 (right) are similar in many ways, so it’s going to be difficult to choose one over the other. But here’s what someone who owns them both have to say about the.

“I bought the HP Spectre x360 Broadwell i7, QHD, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, here in the US, for $1400. I was having WiFi issues staying connected and so I kept returning/exchanging the unit. It turns out that my model, that came pre-installed with Windows 10, had a new wireless card driver that wasn’t working well. HP quietly fixed the problem by updating it to an older driver.

Then when the Skylake/6th gen Spectre came out 2 weeks ago, I was able to exchange my Broadwell model for the same configuration above, but with Skylake and the beautiful (really beautiful in-person, though $70 more for this color) new Ash Silver and Copper color. Then this past weekend, I decided to try the new Lenovo Yoga 900 that Best Buy also had for sale a bit early in their stores. The Yoga 900 costs $100 less than the Skylake Spectre. The Yoga I have now is the QHD+ screen, Skylake i7, 16GB RAM (twice as much as the Spectre) and 512GB SSD.

So far I am really liking the Yoga and plan to keep it and return the Spectre.

The Spectre in Ash Silver and Copper is truly the most beautiful looking laptop I have ever seen. You must see it in-person to understand how amazing it looks. Pictures online do not do it justice. The color actually changes, depending on what lighting you’re in. It goes from a champagne-like color to a metallic-looking dark brown. And then the copper hinges and the areas around the sides just truly set it off and makes anything else sitting next to it look boring. I went into StarBucks with it last week and I had a total of about 6 people (men and women) ask me what it was and say: Wow, that is really nice!

The clip below shows how the Ash Silver model looks like in real life.


So why get rid of the Spectre?

Well for starters, it gets too hot around the left palm rest for me when the system is taxed hard. When charging, the top left corner and side get even hotter, but that’s not such a big deal because my fingers don’t travel up there. But the palm rest getting hot bugs me. And this is the third HP that has given me too hot palm-rest problems.

The Spectre is also just a bit too heavy for tablet mode to feel right/good. Tablet mode for the Yoga 900 is such a different experience. That little bit of weight difference matters a lot in tablet mode and this is coming from a 6’1 tall athletic guy.

Then, with the Spectre I have to turn the brightness down to zero (yes, zero) to get about 45 min of battery life for every 10% of battery. On the Yoga, I am getting 1 hour for every 10% of battery life and that’s with the brightness set to 20%. On both units I’m using a Bluetooth mouse, have WiFi on and Chrome open with 5 to 6 tabs.

I have not ran the Yoga all the way down yet, as I did with the Spectre, so I don’t know if it does the same thing or perhaps it’s a Windows 10 feature, but on the Spectre, I could only get down to 7% battery and then the system goes into hibernation. I tried several times to change the settings in power management, but when I select anything below 7%, it automatically goes back to 7% upon exit.

The HP Spectre in Ash Silver

The HP Spectre in Ash Silver

The Spectre is so nice looking that I’m always concerned with scratching up the paint. The keys are painted and I have read about at least one case where a user stated that his keys began to wear after 3 months of heavy typing. Also having been through over half a dozen Spectres now, I can confidently state that HP has a quality control issue. I’m referring to my past Broadwell models, but two of the units I had had sleeping pixels. Four of them had a loose panel on the bottom, in the rear. Three of them had minor scratch marks on the body. Two of them had bubbles in the Chromed hinges.

 

With the Yoga 900, my first unit has been my only unit, because it is flawless. No defects and all of the software and drivers work right out of the box. On the Spectre, many apps I’ve installed (Kaspersky, Revo Uninstaller, CCleaner, etc.) looked fuzzy on the QHD screen. Fuzzy icons, windows and texts. To fix this, you have to change the system-wide scaling from it’s default 200% down to 150% or lower. Things start looking right, but smaller. On the Yoga, the scaling was almost just right in most of the apps I installed.

The Yoga is not as pretty as the Spectre, but it does look pretty nice too.

This is the Lenovo Yoga 900

This is the Lenovo Yoga 900

Screens

The Spectre’s QHD display has a lower resolution at 2560 x 1440 vs the Yoga 900’s 3200 x 1800. However, after 2 ½ months on the Spectre QHD screen and now going on 2 weeks for the Yoga screen, I honestly do not see a difference and I am using the same exact apps and even tried the exact same wallpaper image files. In fact, I feel that overall these displays are very much alike in my eyes.

They are both glossy screens and look good indoors. The only time I recall having trouble viewing either of them was at a Starbucks with the Skylake x360. I was sitting with my back to a huge glass window and the incoming sunlight made it very difficult to see the screen, so I had turn the brightness up substantially.

As far as I can tell, the colors and everything else pretty much look the same on both devices. I have read about prior Lenovo Yoga screens having problems with some colors such as yellow. I have not noticed any such problems.

Keyboard

As far as the keyboard on the Yoga, I personally liked the Spectre keyboard better, but then again I used it daily for 2 months and am now trying to get used to the Yoga. What I love about the Yoga keyboard is that the arrow keys are larger and spaced out. The Spectre arrow keys, even after 2 months, still cause me errors and having to look them up, because the up and down arrows are so small and close together.

Other people have complained that the Yoga 900 keys do not travel as much as the older Yoga models. The travel of the keys seems fine to me. And the keys seem to be solid black, unlike the painted Spectre keys. Also I can see the Yoga keys very well in any kind of lighting. On the Spectre in silver, the keys are harder to see in brighter lighting, especially with sunlight coming through a window behind the laptop. The dark keys of Ash Silver model are also, strangely, hard to see in some angles with some types of lighting (unless I turn on the backlighting; which has only one level). The Yoga backlighting is not as bright as the Spectre’s, but it does have 2 levels of backlighting to choose from by pressing the Fn and Spacebar keys.

Update: After a few more days with the Yoga 900, I still have yet to get used to the keyboard and as of right now, I am feeling as if it is not as good as the one on the Spectre x360. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it may be that the keys have less travel and that they are a bit smaller.

What is great though is that the palm rest feels MUCH better than the hard Spectre palm rest, which I always worry not to scratch up.

Touchpad

As far as the touchpad on the Yoga, I have given it only very limited use so far. One tap for left clicking works flawlessly in my opinion and I think I recall doing 2 quick right taps to hold an item to be dragged. I got somewhat used to the large Spectre touchpad that looked strange at start, but after a while became useful due to its larger size. The Yoga touchpad seems really small to me and again I think this has to do with the fact that since mid August, I have been on a Spectre, all day pretty much everyday.

BTW, I use the Logitech MX Revolution. It’s old, from 2008 but I have not found anything better. The mouse back then was $100 for it and a nice keyboard.  Even the new MX Master does not have as many programmable button options as this old mouse. I feel crippled without it, as I can Copy, Cut, Paste, press Enter, minimize any window, maximize any window, close any window or program or show the desktop and of course scroll up and down at pre-programmed speeds per app, all from the buttons. I’ve gotten so used to doing all of those things in the blink of an eye, so touch pads just don’t interest me.

Daily use

What I’ve noticed is that for me in my office, when the weather was still hot and our A/C wasn’t working too well, the Broadwell i7 Spectre kept running hot. Then I got the Skylake i7 Spectre and the weather started to get cold here in Southern California. I’ve noticed that all of these machines seem to runner much cooler if I’m in a freezing cold room.

BTW, after almost two months with the Broadwell i7 Spectre and 2 weeks with the Skylake i7 Spectre, I can seriously say that I noticed between zero and no performance gains and almost no battery gain. Had it not been for the color Ash Silver that only comes with the Skylake Spectres, I would have thought it to be a waste to upgrade to the new model.

On the Yoga 900, I ran 4 tabs in Chrome while I was downloading a lot of data from an external drive. At the same time, I also went onto Youtube and we all know how that goes (one video leads to another and another). It was probably an hour or more on Youtube and I believe the fan did not start up in that time, but it was also very cold in the room I was in at the time.

I picked up the unit and there was just one warm spot, right in the center of the bottom, the area about the size of a silver dollar or smaller. All of the keys never get hot. At the top right, above the center of the keyboard, there is a warm spot but nothing like the super hot left corner of the Spectre.

Chrome is a huge battery drain. I tried to start using FireFox again after years of being away from it. I ended up back on Chrome because of the way Chrome syncs history and everything else, between my laptops, iPhone and iPad. FireFox is about to release an iOS app so maybe I’ll try it again then or the smooth running fast Edge browser, once they get extensions next year.

More on the fan. At first it kicked in after about 15 min of my first use of the Yoga. It was not too loud, but what bothered me at first was that the fan would change speed twice or more per minute or per 30 seconds. I am not used to that, as the Spectre fan when on, basically has two speeds, and thus two noise levels (as far as I can hear): low and high. The Yoga’s fan, once it kicks in, goes at various speeds, constantly changing. It’s not too loud and I am already feeling used to it, but it’s something that bothered me when I first got the laptop.

I would say it tends to kick in when I do several things at once: iTunes, moving 100GB files to the Yoga from external drive, Outlook 2013 running and Chrome browsing with 5 or 6 tabs open led to the fan starting up for a while, changing speeds and then shutting back down.

I love the fact that the vents are all integrated into the watchband hinge. On the Spectre there are intake vents in the rear bottom area, so I am always putting a board under the unit when using it on my bed, sofa, pillow etc. The Yoga has no vents anywhere other than in the rear, right through the hinge.

Update: Since last posting about the fans, I have used the Lenovo update app (which is better than the HP Support Assistant app; better designed UI and more features). The BIOS was updated, along with a few other system updates (did not read the details of each). Since then, the Yoga fan does not turn on very often.

Today, it is 82 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I do not have the AC on in my home. I’ve been on Chrome for about 4 hours now and within that time, I installed Office 2016 and a few other apps. Also within that time, while Chrome was open with 4 tabs, I watched about 20 min of a movie, using VLC. The fan only came on once, at a very low varying speed, for about 2 minutes.

The other day I was getting a little worried because the fan kept running (even though the unit did not feel too warm to the touch). The updates seem to have taken care of that. 10min on a YouTube video in Chrome today and the fan did not start up at all. BTW, again, it is pretty cool in my home right now, so much so that I have a sweater on today. And still the Yoga 900 does not get even a bit warm, anywhere on the palm rests or keys (excluding the top center F keys that do get just a bit warm).

The bottom of the Yoga, still gets warm and or hot, on the center rear area. I never put a laptop directly on my lap (always on a pillow, laptop sleeve, laptop bag, etc.), so this does not bother me. However, for people who do like to place their laptops directly on their laps; the Yoga can generate enough heat in the bottom rear center, to become pretty uncomfortable.

The fan appears to come on more often on the Spectre and is a bit louder. However, for me, the big concern is not the fan noise on either of these units. My concern is heat on the deck (palm rests) and overall, I have little doubt that the Yoga design is better than that of the Spectre.

A few more things to note:

The Spectre data sheet states that it uses “eSATA” (on both the Broadwell and Skylake models). The Yoga states “SATA.” I moved 330GB of data to the Yoga. This data is the exact same data that I moved to both the Broadwell and Skylake Spectre’s, via a Seagate UBS 3.0 drive. The Yoga took longer to download those files than the Spectre.

All of the Spectre’s (Skylake too), come with the older Intel Wireless Adapter 7260 card. The Yoga, comes with the new Intel 8260 Wireless Adaptor card.

The Spectre, comes with a small brick charger. The connection to the laptop, is small as in it does not stick out too far. On the Yoga, the power connection is USB which means that the connection to the laptop, sticks out a bit further which is something I do not like much. I always feel as if the further things protrude, the greater the chance to have something break the laptop’s connector.

On the Spectre, the power button which is on the side, is almost flush with the frame. Some review sites complained about the button being too difficult to press. I have since realized that that is a good thing. You see, on the Yoga, the power button is also on the side of the unit. However, on the Yoga, it protrudes a bit more and responds to lighter pressure than the Spectre. I was copying files from my USB drive, to the Yoga. I wanted to move the Yoga and so I picked it up with one hand (which is so easy to do with this lightweight machine). When I picked it up with my right hand, while my left hand picked up the USB drive; I accidentally pressed the power button (which I had set to shut down the system). After this happening 2 more times, I have since set the power button to do nothing, other than turn on the unit of course.

Last night, for the first time, I decided to try tent mode on the Yoga while watching a full movie with VLC player. I had not realized that the rubber that frames the edges of the screen, serves a purpose. You see, the rubber around the top of the screen edge, sticks out just a bit. When in tent mode, that rubber lined edge, is the only part the touches the table and provides a solid feeling as if it will not slip/slide.

The Windows 10 Broadwell Spectre had Wi-Fi issues (constantly disconnecting) that drove many of us crazy. The problem was due to the drivers HP was using. It took them several months to fix the problem by updating to an older driver version. Then on the Skylake Spectre, right out of the box, there is an issue with the time/date. The date continues to randomly change ahead by 4 or 5 days. You can set it back to the correct date, but it will eventually skip ahead. It turns out that this is a BIOS issue and HP, as of 2 day ago, has yet to offer an update.

Also on the Spectres (all of them) I kept having an issue with my Bluetooth mouse connection pausing, at least 1 to 2 times every hour of every day. I could fix the problem by unchecking allow Bluetooth to be turned off when not in use to conserve power. That created a new problem which was that the Spectre, in sleep mode, would wake itself up after about 1 minute of sleep. On the Yoga, I have no such problems. My Logitech MX mouse, never pauses and my Yoga never wakes up from sleep without my permission. It’s things like this and several more that I’m not remembering at the moment, that have led me to believe that Lenovo, has done a much better job of putting things together with regards to software and drivers”.

Bottom point

“Like I said before, I bought the Yoga at Best Buy. They offer a 14-day no restocking fee return/exchange period. What’s great is that every time you make an exchange, your 14-day period starts over. That is how I ended up going through over half a dozen Broadwell x360’s, leading up to two Skylake x360’s. I thought I was going to try the Yoga and talk myself out of wanting it and sticking with the beautiful Ash Silver Spectre. I wanted to not like the Yoga, but it has won me over. After becoming sure of wanting to keep the Yoga 900, I returned the Ash Silver Skylake x360 on exactly day 14 (two days ago) for what was my 2nd Skylake.

There is something about the heat generated by a laptop for me. Even if it’s not too hot, after a while, my body (whatever part is touching the warm/hot area of the laptop) starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m too sensitive to it.”

The Yoga 900 has a few aces downs it sleeve over the Spectre x360, but both remain great picks with their own strong points and shortcomings

The Yoga 900 has a few aces downs it sleeve over the Spectre x360, but both remain great picks with their own strong points and shortcomings

So at the end of the day, Mr. Ash is saying that the Spectre gets the superior looks and the better keyboard, while the Yoga is lighter, runs cooler, lasts longer on a charge and sells for around $100 less than the HP. He initially decided to keep the Yoga, but there’s more to his experience. Read the Updates below.

Updates

Our reader Vong mentions why he decided to switch back to the Spectre, after using the Yoga 900:

Cons of the Yoga: No pen digitizer support, No volume rocker, only 2 USB ports (3rd is for charging), limited uses/selection for USB-C (as of 11/09/2015), SD card does not fit flush into chassis, build quality is not as good as the Spectre, no hdmi/mini display port, glitchy drivers in Windows 10 Pro (video in my case), and the last straw.. the Spectre with its FHD display has a much longer per charge run time.

Gripes with the Spectre: Sound is not as full nor clear as the Yoga 900, Limited to a scant 8gb ram (can run maybe 3 VM’s with that)”

Also, an update from Ash, who was initially so happy with the Yoga 900:

Update1: Andrei, he (the reader Vong) is correct about the build quality. I have now been through 3 Yoga 900’s. For me it has been lint under the final coat of paint on the lid. This has happened twice now where I run my palm over the lid and feel bumps as if grains of sand are trapped under the top layer of paint. Someone else on the Lenovo board, has stated that it happened to them on 2 units as well.

Also because the unit it made of mostly plastic, you can actually bend the screen if you put your hands on both corners of the top of the screen and just push a bit; the screen will bend/flex along the center between your hands. I also question now if the rubber-like palm rest and edges, will wear quickly.

I also had the display do the BSOD once. After using the Lenovo update app, I have not seen that display issue again. Then there was the screen auto brightness, constantly changing upon waking up. That was driving me crazy but the solution was very easy; turned off adaptive display in my power themes and within the Intel display control panel. No other real problems for me but I do miss the beauty and the solid feel of the Spectre.

Update2: I finally figured out what was silently bugging me about the Yoga 900. In 3 words; It feels cheap! It looks good (better than photos suggest). And it being so lightweight, makes tablet mode feel great. The problem is it’s so light, but made out of plastic, and those two together, make it feel cheap.

Then there is the keyboard that I thought I just needed to get used to after coming from the Spectre. After a few weeks, what it comes down to is that the keyboard also feels cheap. I have never used a Surface Pro, but when I see pictures of the Surface Pro thin flat keyboard, I imagine it feels like this Yoga keyboard feels (thin and cheap). I type everyday and I still do not like the way the keys feel to touch and press.

I was trying to figure out whether or not the Yoga 900 has a glass screen or a plastic screen as I had read someone comment on the Lenovo board. I still don’t know but at this point, I no longer care as I feel somewhat cheated. Anyhow, it makes sense if the screen is not thick strong glass, because, as I postedabove, the entire lid can flex/bend with little effort. And so, if the entire lid housing can bend, then I imagine that would not be a good thing for a thick glass screen.

BTW, both the bottom and the lid, can be pushed inward with little effort (plastic with space between the frame and the internal parts). I take back what I said in my above posts; plastic is no good!

If the Spectre were just a little bit thinner and lighter (under 3 pounds like the Yoga and Samsung ATIV Book Spin) and if it didn’t have the hot left palm rest, I’d go back to it and stop searching for something else. I’m going to give the Samsung a try and really hope it will be my last stop for a long while. If it has issues that are too big for me, then I’ll probably just give-in and go back to the Spectre, the ultrabook that I compare everything else to now, with regards to looks (that would be the Ash Silver Spectre).”

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Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief of Ultrabookreview.com. I've been covering mobile computers since the 2000s and you'll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site.

95 Comments

  1. Durham

    January 22, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Hey, I realize this is an old post, but I wanted to add (to anyone who scrolls down this far) that you should be able to completely disable the power button via Windows 10's advanced power management settings. Not sure if they updated the design (I'm looking at the 910 right now), but that is a viable option to overcome that limitation. I have actually done the same thing with several of my laptops which had awkwardly placed power buttons (I'm looking at you Dell!).

    Than ks muchly for the review, I was a bit on the fence!

  2. akaKJB

    February 23, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Has anyone tried the Kaby Lake (Kabylake?) Spectre x360's yet? I've pretty much decided on the Ash Silver x360 16gb / 512gb i7, which has finally dropped down to reasonable pricing, particularly on the refurbed units (I learned the value of refurb electronics when I worked my first retail electronics sales job in 1981 – unit comes back with a defect that not only gets repaired but the entire system gets a going-over by 1 tech, who fixes anything else they find). I flirted with the thought of the 15.6" screen but the weight became an issue. I'm updating / upgrading from an HP TouchSmart tm2 1070, one of the most beautiful laptops ever made before the Spectre x360 Ash Silver units. It's also been a helluva convertible and while I don't use it in tablet mode as much as I intended to (too many cheap tablets with more than two touch points arrived within a year or so after purchase of the tm2 that I could use for that), it is easily the best computer I've ever owned, having started in the mobile / laptop / portable computing world in the 80's. Since purchase, I upgraded the RAM to the max, which only made it BETTER. If it had a backlit keyboard, all I'd be buying is a 1TB SSD for it. Yeah, it's really been THAT good over the years. When I finally made the decision to not try carving up my case to accommodate a backlit keyboard from another HP unit*, it made the HP x360 the first device I took a hard look at. Now it's just Silverlake or Kabylake?

    I know we're always wanting the newer, better, faster thing on the market but there are people out there who just get the cheapest thing on the shelf at Walmart because they don't think they can afford something really GOOD. For around $150, you can get a nice example of the HP TouchSmart tm2. I fixed the backlit keyboard issue with a great little bluetooth / usb rechargeable folding keyboard that fits over the built in kb so well you'd think it was made for the HP. Just a thought. Might be kind of nice to see how the cool new tech wears over time.
    -KJB

    *No joke – I have a backlit kb from another HP notebook here that I picked up for a few bucks and a 512gb SSD that I was going to try and install but just knew I'd screw something up in the process and suddenly be without my primary writing device; as writing is how I earn my living, I decided to err on the side of caution / sanity and just get a new unit that did what I wanted it to out of the box.Once I have it and it's configured though, this baby goes on the bench and we see what Dr. Frankenputer can do with it!

  3. Tez

    April 19, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    You could've just summarised this review by saying I lurve the Yoga and hate the HP….

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