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Lenovo's Legion 9i laptop uses AI, liquid cooling to push performance

Lenovo Legion 9iImage: Mark Hachman / IDG

Watercooling isn’t that unusual on a desktop PC. But on a laptop? Absolutely. Lenovo’s new 16-inch Legion 9i is the world’s first liquid-cooled laptop without the need for an external pump, pairing top-of-the-line Intel Core i9-HX hardware with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 for prolonged gaming sessions.

We’ve seen Lenovo offer the Legion 5 Pro and the Legion 5i, both gaming laptops that tried to offer slimmer profiles for mainstream use. Lenovo’s Legion 7 sacrificed some of that for purer performance. Lenovo representatives say that the new 9i attempts to combine the best of both worlds.

The Lenovo Legion 9i represents a partnership between Lenovo and Cooler Master, and CM’s Coldfront cooling system (dubbed the Legion Coldfront, here) has been integrated inside the laptop. An array of three fans sucks in air through 6,333 intake vents and routes air through the chassis. The Coldfront system kicks on when internal temps hit 84 degrees centigrade, routing heat away from the GPU and the VRAM to cool the system down.

Although the liquid cooling does allow Lenovo to eke out an additional 10W worth of additional power out of the GPU, the idea isn’t just to allow more performance, but to ensure prolonged, sustained performance over long gaming sessions. Executives said there’s “almost zero throttling” on extended gaming sessions, where normally the laptop would actively prevent performance drops by lowering the power and resulting heat.

Mark Hachman / IDG

Externally, the Legion 9i has a different look as well. Lenovo used what’s called forged carbon rather than the carbon fiber it has used elsewhere. Forged carbon takes small bundles of carbon fibers, embeds them in resin, and heats them, giving each Legion 9i a unique look. According to Lenovo, the new cover was also structurally necessary to accommodate the new cooling system and the venting as well.

The Legion 9i is a gaming laptop, though, and RGB figures prominently, on strips around the keyboard and bottom covers, on the Legion mark on the back of the laptop, and individual keys on the TrueStrike keyboard. (Key travel is a rather impressively comfortable 1.5mm.) It’s all managed by the Legion software and what Lenovo calls its LA-2 AI chip, which not only manages the individual RGB controls but also the interaction between the CPU and the GPU. The LA-2 is responsible for managing power between the two components, ensuring that frame rates stay smooth.

Internally, Lenovo selected premium components: a 13th-gen Core i9-13980HX processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, and overclocked 32GB or 64GB of 6400MHz DDR5 RAM. (No Ryzen options are available.) You’ll have the option of not one but two terabytes of SSD (PCIe 4.0) storage, too.

It all sits behind a 16-inch 3,200×2,000 display running at 165Hz, and capable of putting out 1,200nits using an miniLED array. Lenovo even allows for 100-percent Adobe RGB and 100-percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, making the 9i ideal for content creation as well as gaming.

Mark Hachman / IDG

And while you shouldn’t expect the Lenovo 9i to run all that long on battery (Lenovo won’t say how long), there is a 99.99Wh battery inside, or the maximum allowed by the TSA on U.S. airplanes.

Normally, we’d stop there. But there’s even more inside: you’re probably familiar with Wi-Fi 6 and even Wi-Fi 6e, which provided additional bandwidth and range. But the Legion 9i includes the MediaTek Filogic 380 card which supports the new Wi-Fi 7 standard, with up to 6.5Gbps of bandwidth, as well as Bluetooth 5.3, a more reliable upgrade to the Bluetooth standard. Even the webcam is a very respectable 1080p, and includes a Tobii Horizon head-tracking system for some games.

Mark Hachman / IDG

A range of ports adorn the Legion 9i: on the rear there is the proprietary power jack, an RJ45 input, HDMI 2.1, a USB-A port for charging, and a pair of Thunderbolt ports. On the side the Legion 9i hodes a second USB-C and USB-A port, plus a small shutter button to disable the webcam.

The Legion 9i ships with both a 330W proprietary adapter as well as a 140W USB-C adapter, which can be used depending on what you’ll be using the Legion 9i for: heavy gaming or more general work. Lenovo confirmed, however, that if you try to play GPU-intensive games while using the 140W charger the laptop’s power draw will exceed the charger’s capacity. That means that the battery will drain, even though the laptop is supposedly charging.

Mark Hachman / IDG

All of the Legion 9i configurations ship with Windows 11, Lenovo Vantage (the company’s system utility) and Lenovo Legion Arena, a GOG-like platform to consolidate games stored on different platforms.

The Legion 9i measures 14.08 x 109.93 x 0.89 inches at its widest point, and weighs 5.64 pounds.

How much does the Lenovo Legion 9i cost? Lenovo will charge $4,399 and up, and Lenovo will ship the Legion 9i beginning in October.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

Recent stories by Mark Hachman:

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