Lenovo Slim Pro 9i (2023) reviewon September 1, 2023 at 13:34 Tech Advisor

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At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Attractive, durable designVivid Mini-LED displayExcellent GPU performancePlenty of connectivity

Cons

CPU performance could be betterModest battery lifeA bit expensive at RRP

Our Verdict

Lenovo’s Slim Pro 9i is a feature-packed 14-inch powerhouse with a beautiful Mini-LED display.

Lenovo’s top-tier Slim Pro and Yoga laptops have come into their own in recent years, delivering top-notch performance alongside excellent design. The new Slim Pro 9i once again ups the ante for Lenovo’s competitors, pairing a 14-core Intel processor with Nvidia RTX graphics and a Mini-LED display. Let’s get into it.

The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i packs Intel’s Core i7-13705H, a rare alternative to the Intel Core i7-13700H. The two processors share the same core count, clock speed, and maximum power draw. The Core i7-13705H lacks vPro, however, and it’s physically smaller. 

Lenovo also delivers a Mini-LED display with an unusual 3072×1920 resolution. It’s an alternative to the OLED displays that are common among competitors. The Mini-LED display quotes an extremely high maximum brightness of 1,200 nits in HDR, much higher than the 400 to 600 nits of typical LED and OLED displays.

It comes in at a hefty, but understandable starting price of $1,899 and you can buy it from Lenovo as well as BestBuy. The UK store says ‘Available Soon’ at the time of writing.

Design & Build

IDG / Matthew Smith

Lenovo’s Slim Pro 9i retains the handsome, refined design common to high-end Lenovo laptops. Its metallic-gunmetal colorway and lack of obvious flair makes for a mundane first impression. Look closer, though, and the laptop’s advantages become obvious. The use of rounded edges across the laptop’s perimeter makes for a friendly, inviting feel. Material quality is excellent, as well. Both the lower and upper half feel sturdy in-hand.

The Slim Pro 9i is a bit thick, though, measuring up to 8.5 inches thick and nearly 13 inches wide. The Apple MacBook Pro 14, Lenovo Yoga 9i, Razer Blade 14, and Acer Swift X 14 are less voluminous. Lenovo keeps the Slim Pro 9i’s weight in check, though, as it tips the scales at just 3.7 pounds. Don’t get me wrong, though: the Lenovo isn’t massive and will fit in most backpacks and messenger bags without issue. 

There’s a couple design quirks to note. The Slim Pro 9i has a camera bump-out above the display which houses the 1440p webcam and IR camera. The laptop’s display lid is also a tad thicker than usual (due to the Mini-LED display). Fortunately, neither quirk becomes an issue in day-to-day use. 

Keyboard & Trackpad

IDG / Matthew Smith

A comfortable keyboard greets anyone who uses the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i. It provides a spacious, conventional layout that feels immediately familiar. A numpad isn’t included (which is typical for a 14-inch laptop), so the keyboard remains centered above the touchpad. 

Keys activate with lengthy travel and a firm bottoming action that provides good tactile feedback. It’s a quiet keyboard, too: personally, I prefer a bit more click, but your mileage may vary. The overall experience is superior to Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 and Razer’s Blade 14. 

A girthy touchpad consumes much of the real estate below the keyboard’s spacebar. It responds quickly to input and provides ample space for windows multi-touch gestures. The size of the touchpad meant my palms often partially rested on its surface, yet I had no issues with unintended mouse input. Apple’s MacBook Pro touchpads remain the gold standard for laptops, but the Slim Pro 9i’s touchpad is as good as it gets on Windows machines.

Display & Audio

IDG / Matthew Smith

The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i’s specifications are impressive, but its best feature is the one you’ll see most often: the Mini-LED touchscreen. It delivers extraordinary performance that leaves OLED in the dust. 

Let’s talk luminance. The Slim Pro 9i can reach a peak brightness of 548 nits in SDR mode and an outlandish 1145 nits in HDR mode. That’s a bit less than the claimed peak of 600 nits and 1,200 nits, respectively, but I’m not going to complain. Razer’s Blade 16 and Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 and 16, which also have a Mini-LED display, are the only laptops that deliver comparable performance.

Brightness is useful when using the laptop in a bright room or in a setting where you might not have control over the lighting, like an airport lobby. However, the Slim Pro 9i’s incredible brilliance is also useful in HDR games and movies. I was amazed by the detail and punch delivered in Top Gun: Maverick. The sun shone intensely over Maverick’s shoulders and its reflections glittered through micro-scratches in the cockpit. OLED has its perks, but it can’t hope to match the Slim Pro 9i’s cinematic immersion. 

The Slim Pro 9i does well in contrast. It achieves an infinite contrast ratio in HDR content, and in SDR when the display was used at a low level of brightness. This occurs because the Mini-LED display can achieve a perfect minimum brightness of zero nits when displaying dark content. The contrast ratio isn’t infinite when SDR is viewed at a more reasonable 50 to 100 percent brightness, but still hits an impressive contrast ratio of 5070:1. 

Color performance is good, too. The Slim Pro 9i can display 100 percent of sRGB, 97 percent of DCI-P3, and 87 percent of AdobeRGB, all with solid color accuracy. It does fall a tad behind OLED: the Acer Swift X 14’s display hit 100 percent of DCI-P3 and 94 percent of AdobeRGB. Still, the Slim Pro 9i has a vivid, punchy picture. 

Sharpness is excellent, as the laptop’s unusual 3072 x 1920 resolution packs almost 250 pixels per inch (a 27-inch 4K monitor has 163 pixels per inch). Motion clarity is good, too, thanks to the display’s 165Hz refresh rate. 

Downsides? While the Mini-LED’s HDR performance is great, it’s only available when the laptop is plugged in. But even this isn’t really a criticism, because the same is true of nearly all laptops that support HDR.

Lenovo supports the Slim Pro 9i’s excellent visuals with beefy four-speaker audio. It includes significant bass that nicely fills in the low end. That, in turn, provides space for the mid and upper range, which avoids the muddy or metallic sound common to most laptops. Maximum volume is high, too, so the laptop can nicely fill an office with sound. I’m not sure it’s quite as good as Lenovo’s Yoga 9i but it beats most 14-inch Windows laptops I’ve tried recently, and stands toe-to-toe with Apple’s MacBook Pro 14. 

Webcam, Microphone, & Biometrics

Lenovo goes all-in on the webcam. It has a maximum resolution of 1440p and includes an IR sensor for compatibility with Windows Hello facial recognition login (a fingerprint reader isn’t available). The webcam’s high resolution delivers an extremely crisp image, especially in good lighting, and color reproduction appears natural in most situations. Image quality remains unimpressive in dim lighting, but that’s true for all laptop webcams. 

Microphone quality is excellent, too, thanks to a four-microphone array that picks up clear, crisp dialogue and removes most quiet to moderate background noise. The microphone array was able to pick up my voice even when I moved my head from side to side or slightly aware from the laptop. 

Connectivity

IDG / Matthew Smith

As mentioned earlier, the Slim Pro 9i is a bit thick for a 14-inch laptop. It puts that thickness to good use with a mix of future-proof and legacy connectivity.

Modern devices can connect to the laptop’s Thunderbolt 4 / USB4 port or the USB-C 3.2 port, both of which dot the laptop’s left flank. Both ports support DisplayPort Alternate Mode and USB Power Delivery, as well, so they can be used to connect an external USB-C display or power the laptop with the included 140-watt power adapter. 

Older peripherals are handled by a pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports on the right flank. An HDMI 2.1 port, SD card reader, and 3.5mm combo audio jack round out the options. It’s an extremely strong selection that provides an advantage over competitors that focus solely on Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C.

Wireless connectivity is excellent, too, with support for Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1. This is typical for most laptops sold in 2023, but good to see all the same. 

Specs & Performance

The Lenovo Slim Pro 7, which I reviewed earlier this year, was already a bit of a powerhouse for a 14-inch machine. Yet Lenovo ups the ante with the Slim Pro 9i, which packs an Intel Core i7-13705H processor that has a total of 14 cores (six performance cores and eight efficient cores). It upgrades from Nvidia RTX 3050 graphics to the new Nvidia RTX 4050, too. 

These upgrades place the Slim Pro 9i alongside other 14-inch performance laptops, such as the Acer Swift X 14, but a tad behind the most powerful alternatives, like Razer’s Blade 14. 

IDG / Matthew Smith

PCMark 10, a holistic system benchmark, puts the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i off to a strong start. It scored 6,864 combined, which defeats many laptops that provide similar hardware in a slim or small design. The Acer Swift X 14 and Lenovo Slim Pro 7 both lag behind. Samsung’s Galaxy Book3 Ultra is top dog in this test, but it’s a significantly larger laptop.

IDG / Matthew Smith

Cinebench R15, a multi-core CPU test, is less favorable to the Slim Pro 9i. It provides a reasonable score of 1,979 but lands quite far behind the Acer Swift X 14 and Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Ultra. 

It’s an interesting result which underscores the difference between the Intel Core i7-13705H and the Core i7-13700H. They’re extremely similar on paper, but they don’t perform similarly in the real world. The Core i7-13705H is at a disadvantage here. 

IDG / Matthew Smith

Handbrake, another CPU-heavy benchmark, confirms that result. The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i is the slowest of all laptops used for comparison, falling behind even the AMD Ryzen 7735HS in the older Lenovo Slim Pro 7.

The Slim Pro 9i’s CPU performance isn’t bad, but it doesn’t impress. In fact, it struggles to stand out even when compared to the AMD Ryzen 7735HS, a processor with fewer cores and a lower maximum clock speed. That’s not a great result for Intel, which continues to look lackluster next to less power-hungry AMD Ryzen 7000-series processors.

IDG / Matthew Smith

Fortunately, the Slim Pro 9i has a secret weapon: the Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU.

The Nvidia RTX 4050 doesn’t look intimidating on a spec sheet. It’s Nvidia’s least performant RTX 40-series GPU, after all. However, Lenovo provides an RTX 4050 with a maximum graphics power of 80 watts. That’s a big improvement over competitors like the Acer Swift X 14, which limits the RTX 4050 to a maximum graphics power of 50 watts.

It shows in 3DMark Time Spy, where the Slim Pro 9i delivers a formidable score of 7,236. That’s a more than 20 percent improvement over the Acer Swift X 14, and more than 35 percent quicker than the Slim Pro 7 with Nvidia RTX 4050.

IDG / Matthew Smith

A similar improvement is found in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where the Slim Pro 9i provides another roughly 25 percent improvement over the Acer Aspire X 14. That puts the Slim Pro 9i at an impressive 100 frames per second at 1080p resolution and the game’s Highest detail preset. 

IDG / Matthew Smith

The Slim Pro 9i continues to do well in Metro Exodus, which we tested at 1080p resolution and Extreme detail. Its lead is reduced to just a few frames, however, providing a far more narrow advantage than in Tomb Raider. Memory may be an issue: though it can consume more power, the Lenovo’s RTX 4050 remains limited to 6GB of VRAM.

I wrapped up testing with Cyberpunk 2077, which offers an example of ray-traced performance in action. The game averaged 58 frames per second at 1080p resolution and Ultra detail (with AMD FSR 2.0 on). Switching on the ray-traced Ultra preset reduced that to just 16 frames per second, but Nvidia DLSS 3 lifted performance back to a playable 50 frames per second. It’s also a tad better than the Acer Swift X 14, which achieved 46 frames per second in this scenario.

Battery Life

The Slim Pro 9i packs a 75 watt-hour battery into its thick chassis. That’s a reasonably large battery for most laptops, but the Slim Pro 9i’s CPU and GPU put it to the test—and find it wanting.

Our standard battery life test, which loops a 4K file of the short film Tears of Steel, drained the battery in seven hours and 47 minutes. That’s a usable result, and certainly better than the disappointing Acer Swift X 14. 

Still, this result is unlikely to impress road warriors looking for all-day battery life. The older Slim Pro 7 was a better choice for marathon sessions and some larger laptops, like the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra and Asus Vivobook Pro 16X OLED, outlast the Slim Pro 9i.

Should you buy the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i?

The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i is an impressive laptop with a brilliant Mini-LED display, a powerful 100-watt version of Nvidia RTX 4050 graphics, and excellent connectivity. Intel’s Core i7-13705H lets the laptop down, as it fails to deliver a significant improvement over the less expensive Lenovo Slim Pro 7. That wound is worsened by the Slim Pro 9i’s MSRP, which is higher than alternatives with superior CPU performance. Still, the Slim Pro 9i is an easy recommendation for those who care more about GPU than CPU performance. It’s also a fantastic choice if you frequently view HDR movies and games on your laptop. 

Looking for more options? Check out our roundup of the best laptops available today.

This review originally appeared on PCWorld.

Specs

CPU: Intel Core i7-13705H

Memory: 32GB LPDDR5 6400 MHz

Graphics/GPU: Nvidia RTX 4050

Display: 3072×1920 165Hz Mini-LED touchscreen

Storage: 1TB solid state drive

Webcam: 1440p with electronic privacy shutter

Connectivity: 1x USB-C 3.2, 1x Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4, 2x USB 3.2, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x card reader, 1x 3.5mm combo audio jack 

Networking: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1

Biometrics: Windows Hello facial recognition

Battery capacity: 75 watt-hour

Dimensions: 12.9 x 9.64 x 0.85 inches

Weight: 3.7 pounds

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