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October 26, 2018

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review

by John_A


Research Center:

Lenovo Yoga C930

Lenovo’s Yoga 9-series has served as that companies premium thin-and-light 2-in-1 for a few years now, with the Yoga 910 and 920 featuring a unique watchband hinge that identified it at the top of Lenovo’s heap. The 360-degree convertible market has grown increasingly competitive, though, and Lenovo’s offerings were getting a bit stale. Enter the 2018 revision, the Yoga C930, which makes some significant changes to keep the line fresh.

We received a review unit equipped with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8550U, 12GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 13.9-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 or 158 PPI) display. That configuration is priced at $1,300, which is actually $100 less than the base configuration of a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD that you’ll find at the Lenovo site. Buyers can choose up to 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160 or 317 PPI) for $2,200.

The Yoga C930 isn’t just a quick refresh of the previous version but rather aims to perfect what was already a very capable thin and light 2-in-1. Did Lenovo add enough to lift this venerable machine to new heights?

Lose some panache, gain some volume

Lenovo’s Yoga notebooks have always aimed at more of an understated design aesthetic than, say, HP’s Spectre line. The Yoga 920 was a case in point – it was a solid color, albeit a choice between bronze, copper, and platinum, and it eschewed any of the burnished or chrome metal accents you’ll find on many other notebooks. That is, except for the watchband hinge, which stood out as the 9-series’ most iconic feature.

But this time around, the watchband hinge is gone. In its place are two hinges that stand out for entirely different reasons. One is a small hinge on the left with a subtle Lenovo logo. The other hinge is the one that matters, and it’s more than just a new look. It’s a “Rotating Sound Bar,” as Lenovo calls it, and it incorporates a set of speakers and Dolby Atmos tuning for what promises to be a greatly enhanced audio experience. More on that later, but it certainly contributes to the aesthetic.

The hinge is the most recognizable change from the previous versions, but it’s not the only one. There are also now only two colors available, Mica and Iron Gray. We reviewed the latter, and we found it attractive, if not a bit understated. Lenovo also rounded the 2-in-1’s lines along the rear edges, an apparent adjustment to accommodate the change in hinge style.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Yoga C930 is that the hinge now hides impressive sound inside.

We think that both the HP Spectre x360 13 and the Dell XPS 13 offer more striking designs, but we can’t fault Lenovo’s approach either. It’s a simplistic and conservative notebook that doesn’t draw attention to itself, and that might appeal to business types who’d rather use something that fades into the background instead of stand out.

The Yoga C930 is also a svelte notebook given its 13.9-inch display and ultra-small 4.9mm bezels (compared to the XPS 13’s at 4.0mm). It’s thin at 0.57 inches, although that’s not quite as thin as the Spectre x360 (0.54 inches) or the XPS 13 (0.46 inches). It’s also light at 3.0 pounds, but again it’s beat out by the Spectre x360 (2.78 pounds) and the XPS 13 (2.67 pounds). The Yoga 920 was a bit thinner at 0.50 inches and almost the same weight at 3.02 pounds. By any measure, you won’t find the Yoga C930 to be too large or heavy to easily carry around — although whether you’ll use it as a tablet with just one hand depends on your exercise regimen.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The 2-in-1 remains a recognizable member of the Yoga 9-series in one important way: It’s built like a tank. The Yoga C930 retains the line’s all-metal build, and as usual, there’s no flex to the keyboard deck or the bottom of the chassis. The lid is equally inflexible, at least until you apply way more torsional force than you should. You’ll find few notebooks in this class that match the C930’s robust build, and neither the HP nor the Dell qualify.

Alternatives


Dell XPS 13


HP Spectre 360


Asus  Zenbook 13


Surface Pro (2017)

Speaking again of the hinge, this is a 360-degree convertible 2-in-1, and the hinge is vital to the experience not only of opening the notebook but also moving the display through its four modes — clamshell, tent, media, and tablet. Lenovo nailed the hinge even while stuffing all those audio components inside. You can open the display with one hand, the hinge is smooth through its full range, and the display remains display firmly in place exactly where you want it to be.

The intake and exhaust vents are both located along the rear of the bottom chassis underneath the display, which is another nice touch to the Yoga C930’s design. That means that you can use the notebook on your lap without worrying about blocking cool air from getting inside and keeping the heat down.

Connectivity is typical for this class of premium thin and light machine. You’ll find two USB-C ports along the left-hand side, and they both support full-speed Thunderbolt 3 and can charge the notebook with the included USB-C charger. A USB-A 3.1 port sits beside them for legacy support, and a 3.5mm combo audio jack is located there as well. Only the power button resides on the right-hand side. Of course, you’ll connect wirelessly via 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 radios.

Solid inputs despite its shallow keyboard

The Yoga C930 offers the usual Yoga-style keyboard, meaning it’s a chiclet keyboard with wide keys and a mechanism that’s slightly shallow. Despite the lack of copious travel, there’s still a snappy feel that manages to avoid a harsh bottoming action. It’s not as comfortable a keyboard as the Spectre x360’s, which is one of our favorites, but it’s better than the harsher feel of the deeper keyboard on the Asus ZenBook Flip 14.

The touchpad is a real positive, though. It’s quite large for such a small notebook, and it supports Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad protocol. That means Windows 10’s multitouch gestures work perfectly, and you can also make do with the touch display for scrolling and quick button taps.

The Yoga C930 includes Lenovo’s newest Active Pen, which is a smaller version – not as comfortable to use as the Microsoft Surface Pro 6’s Surface Pen – that slots into a spring-loaded housing that also keeps the pen charged. We found it the pen to provide good support for Windows 10 Inking thanks to its support for 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. That’s as good as the Surface Pen and four times the Spectre x360’s version.

In a nice touch that’s carried over from the newest ThinkPad machines, the Yoga C930’s webcam has its own physical privacy screen. It’s hard to see, but above the webcam there’s a sharply ridged slider dubbed the “TrueBlock Privacy Shutter” that physically blocks the webcam when you’re not using it. That way, nobody can remote in and spy on you in awkward moments.

Finally, a fingerprint scanner provides Windows 10 Hello password-less login, and it’s placed in the increasingly common location to the upper-right of the keyboard deck. The scanner worked flawlessly in our testing, allowing us to log in quickly with just a quick tap of a registered finger. There’s also an option for an infrared camera for facial recognition.

If only the display were as good as the audio

Lenovo offers two display options for the Yoga C930. We reviewed the 13.9-inch IPS display at Full HD resolution, but there’s also a $200 4K UHD option with support for Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR).

Our colorimeter tests made us wish Lenovo had sent us the presumably superior 4K HDR display instead. The contrast was the lowest among similar machines at 660:1 at 100 percent brightness, which is also on the low side at 294 nits, just under our preferred 300 nit cutoff. That’s both slightly worse than the Spectre x360’s results and well under the 2-in-1 class leader Surface Pro 6.

The C930’s color gamut was also on the low end of our comparison group at 70 percent of AdobeRGB, and color accuracy was just okay at a delta of 1.86 (less than 1.0 is considered perfect). Gamma was fortunately perfect, meaning videos and images are neither too light nor too dark.

In our subjective tests, the display was less appealing. Colors didn’t pop as they should, blacks looked more grey than we like, and generally, we didn’t like the display as much as on 2-in-1s like the Spectre x360 and the Surface Pro 6. We’re sure that Lenovo is sourcing a better panel for the 4K HDR version, but our review unit didn’t impress us.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Audio quality is a different story completely. As we mentioned earlier, Lenovo abandoned the watchband hinge and replaced it with a Dolby Atmos-tuned soundbar that crams custom-designed tweeters into the hinge. It’s part of an audio system that employs downward firing woofers in the chassis and vibration buffers to help create a clean sound. Lenovo contends that the sound is 3D, and we can attest that it remains excellent in all 2-in-1 modes.

First, the audio gets very loud for a notebook. You can fill a medium-sized room with plenty of volume, and you can crank things all the way up without worrying about distortion. Second, it’s not just pure noise – mids and highs are awesome for listening to tunes, there’s a surprising amount of stereo separation, and you’ll even notice some actual bass. Movies and TV shows are particularly impressive.

You can use the included utility for adjusting the music as well, optimizing it for the source material. Overall, we were impressed with the audio quality and once again found ourselves wishing for the 4K HDR display. We’re certain that it would make for an ideal Netflix binging notebook when the display is flipped around in media mode.

Performance covers all your productivity needs

Intel’s 8th-generation Core processors are consistently good performers, with a reliable balance between speed and efficiency. Our review unit used the quad-core i7-8550U, a fast CPU that usually lets a notebook churn through the typical productivity tasks. We’ll note that Lenovo didn’t manage to squeeze in Intel’s latest 8th-generation Whiskey Lake CPUs that are a bit faster and more efficient, and that’s a shame.

The Yoga C930 did well in our benchmarks, starting with Geekbench 4 where it scored towards the top of our comparison group in both the single-core (4,717) and multi-core (14,885) tests. That was in line with the Spectre x360, and significantly faster than notebooks based around the Core i5-8250U. Our review unit also came with 12GB of RAM.

In our real-world Handbrake test that converts a 420MB trailer to H.265, the Yoga C930 was among the fastest notebooks in its class. It beat out both the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the XPS 13, and it crushed the much slower Surface Pro 6. Our Handbrake test is a good measure of a notebook’s ability to control heat and maintain performance, and the Yoga C930 did well.

Lenovo used a Hynix PCIe SSD in the machine, and that resulted in decent storage performance. The Yoga C930 wasn’t quite as fast as the Spectre x360 and XPS 13 review units in reading data, and its performance when writing data was also on the low end. That is, it was relatively slow for a PCIe SSD, but it was still faster than SATA SSDs and of course trounced spinning hard disk drives. You won’t find access and saving data to slow things down.

Overall, the Yoga C930 is a speedy little laptop. It was more than fast enough for all the tasks we threw at it, and you’ll find it fully capable of keeping you productive. You’ll also find heat well-controlled, with the chassis remaining comfortable to hold and the fans spinning up only when the CPU is challenged.

Integrated graphics mean limited gaming options, as usual

The Yoga C930 is limited to Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics, so you won’t be buying the notebook if you’re a hardcore gamer. You’ll at least need to consider something like the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 that includes a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU if you want anything better than very casual gaming.

In short, the Yoga C930 performed as we expected. Scores in the synthetic 3DMark benchmark suite were in line with the other similarly equipped thin and light notebooks in our comparison group. The same held for Rocket League, where the Yoga C930 managed a playable 53 frames per second (FPS) at 1080p and performance mode and a less-than-playable 23 FPS in high-quality mode.

Stick with older titles or casual games, or be prepared to suffer low framerates and a fair amount of frustration.

A smaller battery equals… better battery life? Well, almost

The Yoga C930 has 60 watt-hours of battery capacity, which is down from 70 watt-hours in the Yoga 920. That’s a significant drop, and we were disappointed — there was no reason for us to expect that less battery capacity in an equally configured notebook would yield equal longevity.

We were mostly wrong. As it turns out, Lenovo worked some magic on the Yoga C930, squeezing out significantly improved battery life in two of our three tests.

In our most aggressive test, which runs the Basemark web benchmark until the battery does out, the Yoga C930 lasted for almost four and three-quarters hours. That’s a good score that beats out the HP Spectre x360’s just over four hours and the Dell XPS 13’s (with a 4K display) roughly three and a half hours. The Yoga 920 lasted about for about three and a third hours, way behind its replacement.

When browsing the web, the Yoga C930 lasted a very strong 10 and a half hours. The Spectre x360 couldn’t quite make it to nine hours, and the 4K XPS 13 barely passed nine hours before it shut down. The Full HD XPS 13 with a Core i5 did better, almost matching the Lenovo. The Yoga 920 ran out in just over eight hours.

Lenovo Yoga C930 Compared To

Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UA

Samsung Galaxy Book 2

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Asus Zenbook Flip 14 UX461UN

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (2017)…

Lenovo Yoga 720 15-inch

Lenovo Yoga 720 13-inch

Acer Spin 7

Acer Switch Alpha 12

HP Spectre x360 13-w023dx

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Special…

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro

Sony Vaio S Series

On our test that loops an Avengers trailer from the SSD, the Yoga C930 managed just over 13 hours. Once again, that’s a very good result, but it does fall behind the Yoga 920 that was among our leaders at almost 14 hours. It was also a bit behind the Spectre x360 that lasted for almost 14 and a half hours, while the 4K XPS 13 suffered from its high-resolution display just around 10 and a half hours. The Full HD XPS 13 lasted a for almost 14 hours.

Sure, the Yoga C930 dropped an hour behind the Yoga 920 in the video looping test, but since productivity performance was much improved, we’re not going to complain. The Yoga C930 will certainly last you a full working day on a charge, and then some. You can safely keep your AC adapter at home.

Our Take

The Lenovo Yoga C930 is an extremely well-built 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 that offers excellent performance and battery life. Its display and keyboard fall slightly behind the competition, and it has a very conservative aesthetic. However, its audio quality is in a class of its own for such a thin and light machine. The Yoga C930 is a meaningful improvement over its predecessor, the Yoga 920, and it maintains its place as one of our favorite notebook 2-in-1s.

Is there a better alternative?

HP’s Spectre x360 13 is the Yoga C930’s most direct 2-in-1 competitor, and it’s an excellent notebook in its own right. It’s better looking than the Lenovo, in our opinion, while not providing quite the same solid build quality. Its performance and battery life are similar, and it comes in at a lower price of $1,250 (on sale for $1,050) albeit with only 8GB of RAM to the Yoga’s 12GB in our review unit. The Spectre x360 can be configured with 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 4K display for $1,800 ($1,600 on sale). HP just announced a new version with Intel’s very latest Whiskey Late 8th-generation CPUs, and so that’s one to consider.

You could also stick with a clamshell notebook if you don’t care about flipping the display around, and in that case, the Dell XPS 13 is a great alternative. It offers similar performance and lesser but still strong battery life, and we think it’s better looking and offers an enhanced thermal design. The XPS 13 is also a bit more expensive at $1,460 for the same configuration with 8GB of RAM, although it’s currently on sale for $1,260. And you’ll spend much more for 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 4K display, at $2,500 (2,300 on sale).

How long will it last?

Given its robust build quality and excellent components, the Yoga C930 will last for years of productive work, and you’ll enjoy the best in expansion capabilities with its Thunderbolt 3 ports. Lenovo provides the industry-standard one-year warranty.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Yoga C930 offers one of the best build qualities you’ll find in a 2-in-1, and it’s a great performer. Battery life is good enough that you could choose the 4K HDR display to complement the superior audio provided by the innovative soundbar and have one of the best movie-watching machines around.

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