Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Two-minute review
The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 is the latest attempt to dethrone the MacBook Pro 16-inch as the go-to laptop for scores of creative professionals looking for something serious without looking corporate. I can honestly say that this laptop can and probably will be that laptop for many people out there, but it could have been the greatest MacBook Pro alternative yet, were it not for a couple of missed opportunities down the stretch.
The Slim Pro 9i 16 is a new model line for Lenovo, along with the more mainstream Slim line that also launched this year, and it's a fantastic direction for the company, design-wise.
The rounded corners, the overhanging webcam and microphone that breaks up the smooth line of the laptop display's top edge, and other subtler design touches make this one of the first laptops of the year that made me straighten up and take notice when I first saw it at preview events earlier this year, and now that I've gotten my hands on it, it lives up to its billing and is easily in contention for a spot on our best laptop list.
In a laptop market that has long stumbled after Apple to make all their products look enough like MacBooks to try and fool customers into buying their laptop instead of the MacBook Air they actually wanted, Lenovo's Slim Pro 16 is on the leading edge of a class of laptops that looks at the mostly unchanged-and-growing-stale MacBook design we've had for over a decade and has the courage to say "Nah, we can do better than that."
And it does, in more ways than one, and so rather easily puts itself in the position of the best Windows laptop to take on the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch, even muscling out the Dell XPS 15, which had long had that anti-MacBook spot mostly to itself.
The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 doesn't come alone, either. It's packing the latest Intel Core i9-13905H processor and a discrete GPU in the form of either the Nvidia RTX 4050 or RTX 4060, giving this laptop more than enough power to chew through the kinds of workloads that make the MacBook Pro the default device for creatives out there.
Meanwhile, the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 manages to outperform both the MacBook Pro 16-inch and the Dell XPS 15 from earlier this year in all the key ways that matter, save one, and does so with a stunning mini-LED display that doesn't quite defeat Apple's Liquid Retina XDR display, but gives it a serious challenge. It also stands up well against the Dell XPS 15's 3.5K OLED display, all while costing substantially less than either of its rivals.
It starts at $1,799.99 (about £1,370/AU$2,630) for the Nvidia RTX 4050 model, with the more powerful RTX 4060 version costing $2,199.99, though both of these models can be found discounted online to make them even cheaper. Is this enough to ultimately get MacBook Pro users to finally jump ship to Windows? No, but nothing could really do that.
What it does do, however, is give non-MacBook-using professionals enough power, performance, and style that they can finally stop being envious of their MacBook wielding colleagues—so long as they never stray too far from an open power outlet, that is.
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Price & availability
The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 is available now in the US, starting at $1,799.99 (about £1,370/AU$2,630). It isn't currently available in the UK or Australia, unfortunately, and we've reached out to Lenovo to find out whether the Slim Pro 9i will be available in those markets any time soon and for how much. We'll update this review if and when we hear back from the company with further pricing and availability.
In the US, the starting configuration sports an Intel Core i9-13905H processor with an Nvidia RTX 4050 GPU, 32GB LPDDR5X-6400Mhz RAM soldered to the motherboard (so you can't upgrade it unfortunately), a 1TB PCIe SSD, and a 16-inch 3.2K (3200x2000p) mini-LED touch display running at 165Hz.
For $2,199.99 (about £1,670/AU$3,215), you can get this same configuration with a bump up to an RTX 4060 GPU.
Compared to a similar MacBook Pro with an Apple M2 Pro chip with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, 32GB unified memory, and 1TB SSD storage, you'd pay $3,099/£3,299/AU$4,899, while the similarly specc'ed Dell XPS 15 with an RTX 4050 GPU will cost you $2,449/£2,214.60/AU$3,399.
This puts the price advantage strongly with the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i, and that's definitely not something to scoff at given the sometimes outrageous prices charged for premium hardware like this.
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Specs
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Design
As mentioned before, the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 is a gorgeous laptop, top to bottom.
The Storm Grey chassis is as elegant as it feels sturdy, and it's not as thin as the best ultrabooks, but it doesn't bring with it the kind of bulk you normally get with many of the best mobile workstations. Considering the kind of hardware you have packed into this thing, it's still relatively thin and light, but it's still a fairly hefty device.
The full-size keyboard with tenkey is lovely to type on and the trackpad feels smooth and responsive, though creative pros will probably still want to have the best drawing tablets or similar at the ready if they aren't on the road.
This also brings us to the port selection on the Slim Pro 9i 16. Given that this is a 16-inch laptop, there are plenty of ports here, including two USB-A Gen 3.2, with one always on; one Thunderbolt 4 with data, DisplayPort, and power delivery; an HDMI port; an SDCard reader; and a power connector and 3.5mm audio/mic jack.
The webcam gets a major upgrade thanks to a 5MP sensor, along with a dual array microphone. Like all of the best Lenovo laptops, the webcam has a physical privacy shutter that provides a vital layer of security for users.
The switch is along the side of the laptop near the power button, which isn't my prefered setup, but considering how many laptop makers are still not including one of these in their devices, it's a very minor complaint.
In terms of audio, along with the headphone output, there is also a six-speaker sound system with Dolby Atmos, including top-firing tweeters, so it's more than enough to fill a room with some excellent sound. That said, music pros will obviously want to use something a bit more sophisticated like one of the best headphones for professional audio work.
Finally, there is the display, which is a 16-inch 3.2K (3200x2000p) mini-LED panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio, 165Hz refresh, and 100% of the sRGB, DCI-P3, and Adobe RGB color gamuts, making it a fantastic display for visual artists, whether that be graphic design, photography, or video producers and editors.
It has a max brightness of 1200 nits and Dolby Vision and TÜV Low Blue Light Certification+ and Eyesafe Certification, so it's a much easier screen to look at over the long haul than other competing displays.
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Performance
Performance is one area where this laptop really stands out as a professional workstation, thanks to powerful hardware like the Intel Core i9-13905H processor and either an Nvidia RTX 4050 or RTX 4060 GPU.
This allows you to chew through pretty much any major workload out there on the go, and while it won't be as powerful as the best workstations sitting on top of a desk, this is about as good as you're going to get for something on the go and at an affordable price.
There aren't a whole lot of synthetic benchmark tests that can be run on both Windows and macOS, but of those that can, the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 manages to outclass the M2 Pro (12-core CPU/19-core GPU) MacBook Pro 16-inch and the Dell XPS 15 (2023) packed with an Intel Core i7-13700H and an Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU.
The Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16's Geekbench 6 performance is about even to slightly faster than the MacBook Pro 16-inch, and is a 12% to 19% faster than the Dell XPS 15. The MacBook Pro 16-inch can't run 3DMark Time Spy or Fire Strike, but in this test, the Slim Pro 9i 16 was about 27% and 17% faster than the Dell XPS 15 in Time Spy and Fire Strike, respectively. Not bad when you consider that it has a weaker GPU, but the Core i9-13905H comes through on physics and CPU segments of those benchmarks to put the Slim Pro 9i over the top.
In the cross-platform CrossMark benchmark, the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 is about 6.5% faster than the MacBook Pro 16-inch overall, and about 1.7% faster than the XPS 15, overall.
On creative workloads, the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 is easily one of the best laptops for photo editing and if you're looking into the best video editing laptops, it's worth checking out. In our tests, we found it more than holds its own against the MacBook Pro 16-inch and XPS 15. It's about 6% faster than the MacBook Pro when encoding 4K to 1080p in Handbrake 1.6, and about 26% faster than the XPS 15.
It was only really in HDXPRT 4's Music Editing benchmark that the Slim Pro 9i 16 fell behind the XPS 15, scoring about 20% lower on that test, though even or noticeably above the XPS in photo editing and video conversion, giving it about a 5% better overall score.
In terms of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro, according to PugetBench, this is the Slim Pro 9i 16's biggest performance defeat to the MacBook Pro 16-inch, scoring about 4% lower in Photoshop, and a substantial 42% lower in Premiere Pro.
Finally, none of these devices are what we'd call one of the best gaming laptops around, but the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 does put up a good showing here in case you want to blow off some steam after work.
It runs Civilization VI: Gathering Storm about 114% faster than a MacBook Pro 16-inch, and about 80% faster than the XPS 15 at 1080p/1200p. Up Civ VI to the various native resolutions for the displays, and the Slim Pro 9i 16 gets about 73% better performance over the MacBook Pro 16-inch and about 38% better performance than the XPS 15.
If you want something a bit more action-packed, Shadow of the Tomb Raider runs about 37% better on the Slim Pro 9i 16 at 1200p than it does on the MacBook Pro 16-inch at the same resolution, and about 16% better than the XPS 15. And, while no laptop was really able to play Shadow of the Tomb Raider at native resolution at a consistently playable framerate, the Slim Pro 9i 16's 31fps on average was about 55% better than the MacBook's 20fps and about 29% better than the XPS 15's 24fps.
At 1200p, turning DLSS 3 on performance can get you about 137fps on average in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, with a minimum of 61fps, which is pretty much the gold standard for PC gaming. This isn't a gaming laptop, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have the chops for it (within reason, of course).
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Software & Features
As for software, there isn't too much egregious bloatware that I needed to uninstall from the laptop, but McAfee antivirus was definitely one of them, especially once it's rather obnoxious popups started to break into my game testing and general work day. McAfee isn't terrible, but it's far from the best antivirus software on the market and it is rather outrageously priced for what you're getting, so once your free trial period is up (or even before), you're better off getting a better product for cheaper.
Other than that, the only major software of note is Lenovo Vantage, which lets you tweak some hardware controls among other system setting options.
All that's a good thing (other than McAfee), since for a laptop at this price, you shouldn't have much if any bloatware. You're paying more than enough to cover the cost of the machine, there's no need to subsidize a lower price with crappy software contracts that you'll never really need.
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16: Battery life
And, the moment we've all been waiting for and that I've been hinting at this entire time: battery life.
Given the very powerful hardware and mini-LED display, this laptop is going to chew through energy pretty quickly, and unfortunately, its 75WHr battery just isn't big enough to get you through a full workday considering how power inefficient its internals are compared to the super efficient Apple M2 Pro and M2 Max, which can last substantially longer on a 70WHr battery (the XPS 15 uses a substantially larger 86WHr battery).
In our proprietary web surfing test, the Slim Pro 9i 16 managed to only eek out six hours and 12 minutes of battery life, compared to the XPS 15's nearly nine hours and the MacBook Pro 16-inch's astounding 17 hours and six minutes.
And the PCMark 10 Application battery benchmark revealed a pretty dreadful four hours and 36 minutes of battery life. Needless to say, you'll need to keep your power usage in mind when you're away from your desk or don't have access to a wall outlet to recharge midday.
This definitely isn't great, especially for a laptop that you will be spending at least $1,600/£1,600 on, even if it's on sale, but given that it's MSRP is nearly half that of a similarly specced MacBook Pro 16-inch, and nearly a third less than a comparable Dell XPS 15 (much less an XPS 17), something had to give. In this case, it's the battery, and only you will be able to say whether that's enough of a deal breaker for you to pass up what is an otherwise extraordinary laptop.
Should I buy the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16?
Don't buy it if...
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How I tested the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16
I used the Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 16 for about a week and a half as my every day work device as well as for general browsing and video streaming. In addition to our standard suite of benchmarks, I used the laptop in a number of use cases where a professional buyer might want to use it, such as doing creative content work on the train in to work or at a coffee shop.
I've been reviewing laptops for years now, in addition to having an extensive educational background in computer science, and I've tested countless laptop models across the spectrum of designs, quality, and performance. I know what the best laptop at a given price point should be able to do, as well as how much any given set up should cost you, so I'm well qualified to judge the merits of any given laptop.
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.
First reviewed August 2023