Lenovo Yoga C940 review: The definition of an ultrabook

Lenovo Yoga C940

As reviewed: $1,529.99
7.8

Design

7.5/10

Display

9.0/10

Performance

8.5/10

Battery Life

6.5/10

Bonuses

7.5/10

Pros

  • Beautiful 4K screen
  • Project Athena certification
  • Excellent performance
  • Amazing sound quality
  • Sleek and modern design

Cons

  • Battery life is disappointing
  • Chunky bezels
  • Pointless reverse notch
  • No facial recognition

Lenovo’s Yoga line of laptops, as of late, has been geared toward producing a certain type of machine. Something light, something portable, something with good battery life, and something with specs that are powerful enough to handle all sorts of use cases. That’s what an ultrabook is, and the company has done a great job at creating some of the finest ultrabooks around.

But I’m not sure that there’s been a more ultrabook-y Yoga laptop than this one, the Yoga C940. The successor to last year’s excellent C930, this new model comes with a refined design, updated specs, and the same core feature set that made the C930 so good. It’s thin, it’s portable, it’s powerful, and it isn’t terribly expensive.

I have some issues with it which we’ll get to soon, but overall, the C940 is the true definition of what an ultrabook is. It meets all the qualifications, and it does so exceptionally well.


Design

Every good ultrabook needs to have a design that’s user-friendly and is plenty portable. It also needs to look good – after all, chances are it’s gonna wind up on a table at a coffee shop.

That’s no problem for the C940, or at least the unit Lenovo sent me. My model came in the company’s Mica finish which is basically a fancy word for gold. I’ve never had a golden laptop before, so it’s a refreshing change of pace from the plethora of silver and dark gray machines in my collection.

The laptop has a clean finish with refined edges to add a bit of shimmer to the aesthetic. With these design touches, it becomes more appealing to average consumers.

The overall size isn’t too big, by any means, but it’s certainly not the smallest 14-inch laptop you can buy. It weighs just under three pounds so it isn’t the lightest laptop, either, but you shouldn’t have any problem carrying it around all day.

Around the laptop, you’ll find a decent array of ports, including two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB-A 3.1 port, and a headphone jack. It’s certainly nothing special, but for an ultrabook in 2020, that’s a pretty nice lineup, especially since USB-A ports are becoming increasingly rare on consumer-grade laptops.

If you reach around to the back right corner of the laptop, you’ll find a garaged pen. This stylus by no means built for designers or artists, but it does come in handy if you have to sign a document. I’m a huge fan of laptops that come with pens, so I’m happy to see one with the C940.

Notably, the pen doesn’t eject with a spring any more. You kind of have to yank it out. Better not trim your finger nails.


Display and sound

The Yoga C940 Lenovo sent me is the 14-inch model. The company also has a 15-inch unit, but I didn’t get that one in a) because I wasn’t offered one and b) I like 14-inch screens more than I do 15-inchers. The former’s much more portable.

Open the C940 and you’ll be greeted by that 14-inch display. I got the model with a 4K resolution (3840×2160). It supports Dolby Vision HDR400 playback, up to 500 nits of brightness, and serves as a touchscreen (obviously).

This is a gorgeous panel. Colors are vibrant and punchy, contrast is nice, and brightness is never a problem, even in the coffee shop with the most windows at 8 a.m. Plus, it’s 4K, and once you’ve computed on a 4K screen, you never wanna go back.

One downside to the C940’s screen is its aspect ratio. I’m getting kind of tired of 16:9 displays as I find myself wanting something taller like my iPad Pro more often than not. Maybe Lenovo will do a 16:10 or 3:2 screen at some point? I don’t know, a guy can dream, can’t he?

I also don’t like its bezels. They’re kind of thick on the top, left, and right sides, and the bottom has a stupidly huge border that, my god, I can’t figure out why exists. There’s also a reverse notch at the top that mimics the design of the IdeaPad S940, but there’s really no reason to have it. The bezel at the top is thick enough to house a webcam.

And in case you’re wondering, no, the notch does not have the sensors necessary for Windows Hello face ID. I don’t know why, especially since Lenovo had a ton of room to play with, but I guess it was just an oversight on their part.

If there’s an advantage to this reverse notch, it does give you a little tab to lift to open the laptop without having to pry it open. You also get a privacy shutter to physically block the webcam from potential hackers.

The hinge that connects the screen to the bottom half of the laptop is pretty interesting. Much like the C930, the C940’s hinge acts like a soundbar. Lenovo literally installed a Dolby Atmos speaker in it and drilled holes all around its front and back sides. Possibly the most intriguing part of the mechanism is the fact it rotates so that the speaker is always facing you, whether you’re in tent mode, stand mode, laptop mode, or tablet mode.

Compared to the C930, the C940’s hinge acts the same exact way, but it sounds a bit better. The newer model has more bass and substance to whatever audio you’re listening to, and at max volume, it can easily fill a room.

I haven’t heard the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s speaker system, and people tell me that’s the laptop to get if you want the best audio output. But on the Windows side of things, I genuinely think you won’t find a better speaker than what’s on the C940. It’s so full of life that it’s hard to suggest there might be a better system out there. I’ve loved listening to music on it, and podcasts sound just as enriching. Overall, you won’t be disappointed by the speaker, and it’s a good reason to buy this laptop.


Keyboard, trackpad, and security

Below the screen and soundbar, you’ll find the keyboard and trackpad. The keyboard is super comfy to type on, but it is a bit low on travel. I would’ve liked to see a bit more depth to the keys, but overall, I can get through a full day of typing without being uncomfortable.

As for the trackpad, Lenovo makes some really nice ones, and the C940’s is no slouch. It’s nice and smooth to the touch, plus it comes with Windows Precision drivers (y’know, the correct drivers). It’s also a pretty decent size, but I could see some people getting easily annoyed by its somewhat cramped nature. If you don’t think it’s big enough, you can always connect a mouse.

Finally, I’d like to touch on security. Like I said, there’s no facial recognition on the C940, but Lenovo did include a fingerprint scanner to the right of the trackpad. It’s not the best sensor in the world, but boy is it better than what Lenovo used to ship. I kid you not, about two years ago, whenever I got a Lenovo laptop in with a fingerprint reader, I knew it would suck. And guess what? It did.

Nowadays, though, that’s not the case. The company’s sensors are finally up to par with what OEMs are throwing on smartphones. Admittedly, it’s not the most reliable since I still get some flubbed readings here and there. But overall, it’s a good sensor and I feel comfortable using it every day.


Performance

This is where we get into the reason why the Yoga C940 is such a good ultrabook. The laptop was made by Lenovo in partnership with Intel to deliver one of the first machines that are a part of the latter’s Project Athena.

If you’re unfamiliar with Project Athena, it’s basically a certification given to laptops that meet a set of standards to deliver optimal mobile performance. Some of these standards include:

  • Wake times under one second
  • At least a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 processor
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 256GB of storage
  • Wi-Fi 6 Gig+
  • Thunderbolt 3
  • Far Field voice services, OpenVINO AI, and WinML support for up to 2.5x faster AI performance
  • Slim design
  • Biometric security (fingerprint scanner, facial recognition, etc.)
  • 9+ hours of battery life

Right off the bat, the C940 meets a good chunk of these qualifications. The model I have comes with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage, Thunderbolt 3, Wi-Fi 6, and a fingerprint scanner. That’s six checkmarks already, and they all play really well together.

Performance on the C940 is great. It can handle all the usual Windows 10 apps like Office, Chrome, Spotify, and more running all at once without flinching. Video editing and heavy photo editing would be a bit of a challenge, of course, since you only get Intel Iris Plus graphics. But the purpose of the C940 isn’t to be a mobile video editing rig. It’s meant for word processing, online shopping, entertainment, and other consumer-y tasks, and it handles it all well.

It sounds like a small detail, but the wake-up time thing is also really cool. Every time I open the C940, the screen lights up almost instantly. By the time I get the display to an open position, it’s already on, and there’s never been a time where I’ve seen a black screen instead. For comparison, my ThinkPad X1 Yoga with similar specs takes around 2-3 seconds to light up, and as odd as it sounds, that feels like an eternity compared to the C940.

This is the definition of an ultrabook. It’s supposed to be speedy for light tasks, feel like a pleasure to use, and become the machine you never like to leave home without. The specs inside the C940 achieve just that, and Project Athena will only introduce more laptops just like this in the future.


Battery life

There’s one huge exception to the whole Project Athena certification that the C940 earned, though, and that’s battery life.

If you own a Project Athena laptop, you’re basically promised at least nine hours of use. I’m sure this is true for the Full HD version of the Yoga C940, but it’s definitely not true with the 4K model. I’m getting around seven hours of use during the day. Granted, this is better than other 4K laptops that I’ve reviewed, but it’s still not as great as what Intel promises with laptops of this class.

If you want better battery life, always remember that 4K laptops won’t give it to you. I realize that, but this laptop is part of Project Athena which promises at least nine hours of usage. That’s why I complained. I knew from day one this laptop wouldn’t last me that long on a single charge, but it’s worth mentioning anyway since you’re supposed to get different results.

It’s also worth mentioning that poor battery life goes directly against the ambitions of an ultrabook. Rest assured, you can still get through a full day with the 4K C940. You just have to keep in mind that you’ll probably go home with, like 20 percent left in the tank. In other words, you’ll probably have more battery anxiety with this laptop than you might think, so it’s a good idea to toss the charger in your bag.


Conclusion

The Yoga C940 does a lot of things well, and that’s why it makes for such a great ultrabook. It’s speedy, it’s portable, it has a beautiful screen, it’s great for media consumption. Battery life could be better, but if you’re worried about it, just buy the Full HD model or carry around your charger.

If you’ve been searching for the perfect ultrabook, the Yoga C940 is something to consider. You get a great laptop that starts at under $1,000 and goes up to just over $1,500. Any trim you purchase, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy. Plus, you get potentially the best speaker on a Windows 10 laptop, and that’s as good a reason as any to buy this thing.

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