Lenovo Yoga C940 15 review: Doing what the MacBook Pro doesn't

This Yoga is a slick 2-in-1 with a graphics punch.

yogac94015hero
Jared Newman / IDG

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At a Glance

Plenty of Windows laptops try to position themselves as MacBook Pro alternatives, combining slick designs and vibrant displays with powerful PC performance, but the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 is no mere copycat.

While the Yoga looks sharp and has a bright display, it also leans into its differences as a Windows PC. It has a touchscreen that flips around into tablet mode, a built-in stylus for writing or sketching, and—thank heavens—a full-sized USB-A port to complement its two USB-C connections. It even fits in a number pad without cramping its excellent keyboard.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

That’s not to say the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 ticks every imaginable box. Screen backlighting is a bit uneven, audio quality could be better, and limited configuration options will prevent you from turning this into a beastly desktop replacement. Also, if we’re comparing to Apple’s MacBooks, Lenovo’s laptop doesn’t include all the same niceties, such as a slightly larger screen and jumbo-sized trackpad.

Still, the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 is a decent choice for those who want a luxurious workhorse PC without giving up what Windows does best.

Tech specs

Our Lenovo Yoga C940 15 review unit has a list price of $1,700 at Best Buy and includes the following specs:

  • 15.6-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 9th-generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics
  • 512GB SSD
  • 16GB DDR4-2666 RAM
  • Left side: Two USB-C 3.1 ports (with Thunderbolt 3), proprietary charger, headphone jack
  • Right side: USB-A 3.0 port
  • Wi-Fi 6 Support
  • Stylus with 4,096 pressure sensitivity levels
  • Fingerprint reader
  • 720p webcam with privacy shutter
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 14 x 9.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 4.41 pounds (5.68 pounds with charger)
yogac94015left Jared Newman / IDG

The Lenovo Yoga C940 15 has two USB-C ports and a proprietary charging port on the left side, plus a USB-A port on the right.

Best Buy also offers a 4K display version with the same other specs as above for $1,899. Lenovo’s website offers several other configurations: On the low end, you can drop to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage (currently $1,460), while on the high end you can upgrade to an Intel Core-i9-9880H processor, 4K display, and 2TB SSD ($2,440 as of this writing). In all cases, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 is the only option for graphics, and the non-upgradeable RAM tops out at 16GB.

While it’s nice that Lenovo included a USB-A port on this laptop, its use of a proprietary charger—similar to the one Lenovo uses for its ThinkPads—is a drag, as is the lack of a MicroSD card slot and additional USB ports on the right side of the laptop.

Design and display

The Lenovo Yoga C940 15 comes in either a darker “Iron Gray” or a lighter shade that Lenovo refers to as “Mica.” Its all-aluminum body, along with its sharp edges and flat sides, only serve to underscore the laptop’s heft, which is unavoidable given the discrete GPU inside. But for a workhorse laptop that folds around into a tablet, the C940’s size and weight are reasonable.

yogac94015right Jared Newman / IDG

The squared-off edges give it a hefty look, but the Yoga C940 15 is fairly thin and light for a laptop with discrete graphics.

As with Lenovo’s smaller and skinnier Yoga C940 14, the 15-inch model packs some clever design ideas. The laptop’s rotating hinge doubles as a speaker grille that projects sound outward, and the display’s top bezel extends upward near the center of the screen, leaving extra room for the webcam and forming a little lip that makes it easier to open the laptop.

Our review unit's display had a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which on a 15.6-inch screen has clearly visible pixels, but that’s going to be an acceptable trade-off for most folks given the performance and battery life issues—not to mention the higher price tags—that often come with 4K screens. (It’d be great to see a laptop like this with a 1440p display instead, and perhaps a 16:10 aspect ratio to boot, but that’s a rant for another day.)

The display's brightness measures an eye-popping 415 nits at the center of the screen. While Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 is in the same league (442 nits), most other 15-inch workhorse laptops don’t get anywhere close unless they’re made by Apple. Although the glass display can create a lot of glare when you’re outdoors or sitting in front of a window, the screen itself can get bright enough to compensate.

yogac94015tablet Jared Newman / IDG

Like most other Yoga laptops, the C940 folds around into tablet mode, plus it has a built-in stylus.

Viewing angles could be better, though. While this is an IPS display, it was hard to find an angle that provided steady brightness throughout, particularly on white backgrounds. It’s the kind of thing you might not notice until you notice it, at which point it becomes an annoyance.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard on the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 is among the nicest you’ll find on a consumer laptop. Although the keys lack the same travel as on Lenovo’s ThinkPads, they provide a pleasant tactile bump on the way down without being overly loud. (Oddly enough, the snappy sounds I heard on Lenovo’s 14-inch Yoga C940 weren’t as apparent here, perhaps because the larger and heavier body absorbs more of the noise.)

While not everyone needs a number pad on their laptop, Lenovo managed to fit one on the Yoga C940 15 without major sacrifice. Modifier keys such as Shift and Ctrl are a bit smaller than usual, but the size and spacing of letter keys are the same as on Lenovo’s 14-inch laptop.

yogac94015keys Jared Newman / IDG

The Lenovo Yoga C940 15 fills its extra keyboard space with a number pad, but leaves trackpad space underutilized.

It’s too bad the Yoga C940 15’s trackpad doesn’t utilize the extra space. It’s no larger than that of Lenovo’s 14-inch Yoga C940, and much smaller than the jumbo-sized trackpad on Apple’s MacBook Pro. And like most Windows laptop trackpads, the click mechanism gets increasingly stiff as your finger moves toward the top section.

Audio, webcam, and security

After being wowed by the speakers on Lenovo’s 14-inch Yoga C940, the 15-inch model was a bit of a letdown. The larger laptop does have even louder speakers built into its rotating hinge—still better than the tin-can speakers you’d find on cheap laptops—but it lacks the low-end warmth that the smaller laptop offers and comes off as overly harsh at high volumes.

The webcam, meanwhile, met its already-low expectations, being a 720p shooter like pretty much every other laptop on the market. The privacy shutter is a nice touch, though, and while there’s no face recognition for Windows Hello, you can sign in with the fingerprint sensor just below the laptop’s cursor keys.

yogac94015cam Jared Newman / IDG

Privacy shutters are the hot new trend in laptop design, and yes, the Yoga C940 15 has one.

Performance

Although we sometimes see 2-in-1 laptops take a performance hit compared to their non-convertible peers, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Lenovo Yoga C940 15. It’s a solid performer on the CPU side, and it holds its own on the GPU side despite not being officially a gaming rig. Battery life holds up quite nicely as well, both in benchmarks and everyday use.

Let’s start with Cinebench, which tests CPU performance over a short period of time. Here, the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 topped every other laptop with a 9th-generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor, both in single-threaded and multi-threaded performance. (The former accounts for most office productivity tasks, while the latter comes into play for image processing and rendering.)

lenovo yoga c940 15 cinebench Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The C940 15 outscores most comparable laptops Cinebench’s quick performance test.

To see how laptops fare under sustained workloads, we encode a large video file with the free HandBrake utility. Again, the C940 got the job done faster than nearly every laptop with a comparable CPU, save for MSI’s GS65 Stealth 9SD.

lenovo yoga c940 15 handbrake Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The C940 15’s 9th-generation Intel Core i7-9750H processor makes quick work of video encoding.

PCMark 8’s Work benchmark provides another look at how the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 zips through work tasks. Any score over 2,000 is satisfactory, so the Yoga C940 15's score of 3,927 keeps you well above the baseline. 

lenovo yoga c940 15 pcmark 8 work conventional Melissa Riofrio/IDG

No surprises here given the other two CPU-bound benchmarks: The Yoga C940 15 breezes through productivity tasks.

The Lenovo Yoga C940 uses the Max-Q version of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, which balances performance with the thermal challenges of thin-and-light designs. As such, laptops with standard GTX 1650 GPUs fare a bit better. In 3DMark’s TimeSpy benchmark, for instance, the C940 fell markedly behind Dell’s XPS 15 7590 and Acer’s Nitro 7.

lenovo yoga c940 15 3dmark timespy graphics Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The C940 15 slick design, made possible by Nvidia’s Max-Q tech requires some compromise in the graphics department.

Similar results emerged in Rise of the Tomb Raider’s benchmarking tool, where the Lenovo Yoga C940 15 posted an average of 53.2 frames per second. Several other GTX 1650 laptops managed higher framerates (though Dell’s XPS 15 actually did worse here).

lenovo yoga c940 15 rise of the tomb raider Melissa Riofrio/IDG

You can still play modern PC games on the C940 15, of course, but you may have to tweak a few settings to keep framerates up.

In practical terms, this means you’ll be able to play some modern competitive shooters like Fortnite and Apex Legends without issue, even at 1080p and the highest possible settings. But with games that are more demanding, you may have to ratchet resolution down to 720p or reduce quality settings for consistently high framerates. On the brighter side, while the system’s fan can get loud during gaming, it avoids the jet engine-like whine of more powerful gaming machines.

With any laptop that has a discrete graphics card, you should expect some compromise on battery life. Tthe Lenovo Yoga C940’s combination of a large 69,000 wHr battery and a 1080p, 60Hz display give it an advantage. In our looping video rundown test, the C940 15 lasted just over nine hours. Of course, battery life typically fell below two hours for gaming, but we found that the C940 15 could get through most of a workday with general productivity use.

lenovo yoga c940 15 battery life Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Lenovo put a big battery in the Yoga C940 15, ensuring lengthy runtimes when you’re not gaming.

Is this big Yoga for you?

As with so many other laptops, the Yoga C940 15’s worthiness is a matter of which trade-offs you’re willing to make. HP’s 15-inch Spectre x360 has a similar convertible design, but the version with GTX 1650 graphics has a much dimmer display. Dell’s XPS 15 7590 packs in 4K graphics and even better battery life, but its touchscreen variants get pricey and it’s not a convertible design. Gaming-first laptops like the Acer Nitro 7 will give you even better performance, but they’re not as nice to look at.

Of course, you could always go with a MacBook Pro, but then you’ll miss out on all those neat choices that make PCs like the Yoga C940 15 more interesting in the first place.

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At a Glance
  • The Lenovo Yoga C940 is a slick 2-in-1 with a graphics punch, but it's missing a few laptop niceties.

    Pros

    • Bright display that folds into tablet mode
    • Solid keyboard with room for a number pad
    • Great performance and battery life for its class

    Cons

    • Poor vertical viewing angles for an IPS display
    • Speakers are loud, but harsh
    • Trackpad could be bigger
  
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