We wouldn’t expect a 16-inch gaming laptop to outperform flagship 17- and 18-inch models, but that’s precisely what Lenovo’s Legion 9i Gen 8 ($3,692.88 as tested) did in our labs.
Lenovo seems to have pulled out all of the stops for this laptop, from its carbon fiber and magnesium chassis to its spectacular mini-LED screen. Some of the fastest parts available in a laptop are inside; our unit sported an Intel Core i9-13980HX and a GeForce RTX 4090. But perhaps its most intriguing feature is a built-in liquid-cooling system for the VRAM, the first time we’ve seen one in a laptop.
If you’re looking for the one of the fastest gaming laptops around with every imaginable luxury, this Legion is a first-class option, but the price may be out of the reach of many.
Design of the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
Lenovo’s Legion gaming laptops usually look familiar, but the Legion 9i Gen 8 is something special. The lid is the first thing I noticed out of the box; it appears to be a carbon-fiber mashup. Lenovo calls it “forged carbon” and produces it with an eight-layer stamping method. The result is a material 10% lighter and stronger than aluminum. No two Legion 9i laptops have the same pattern.
The rest of the chassis is 90% recycled magnesium, which is also lightweight and strong. This laptop feels exceptionally solid and exhibited no flex no matter how I handled it. Most surfaces, including the lid, have a pleasant soft coating that adds a luxury touch.
Opening the lid reveals the Legion 9i’s other surprise, its forward-mounted keyboard, with effectively no wrist rest. The expansive perforated area is essentially a giant air intake. The power button in the center doubles as a fingerprint reader.
Exterior LED light bars spanning every edge greatly augment this laptop’s look. The light bars on the front and rear edges each have six zones while the sides have three each. Add in the Legion logo on the lid, and you’re looking at 19 lighting zones. The Lenovo Vantage app allows you to set the zones to any color and assign effects, such as color wave and breathing. Effect brightness and direction are also changeable.
Overall, I’m a fan of this laptop’s looks, especially the lid; it’s aggressive without being polarizing, though the LED lighting can be overwhelming. (Naturally, it can be completely disabled.)
At 14.08 x 10.93 x 0.75~0.89 inches and 5.51 pounds, the Legion 9i is impressively trim considering it packs an Intel Core HX-class CPU and a GeForce RTX 4090; we haven’t tested a laptop with the latter that had a screen size smaller than 17 inches. HP’s Omen 16 is thicker and nearly as heavy (14.53 x 10.21 x 0.93 inches, 5.4 pounds) but it tops out with a Core H-class CPU and a GeForce RTX 4080. The Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 (15.71 x 11.57 x 1.21 inches, 6.83 pounds) and the MSI GT77 Titan HX (15.63 x 12.99 x 0.91 inches, 7.28 pounds) match the Legion’s specs but are comparatively massive.
The Legion’s abundant connectivity begins on the left edge with a 3.5 mm combo audio jack and an SD card slot.
The right edge has a webcam kill switch, a USB Type-C port, and a USB Type-A port.
Most of the ports are actually on the rear, a location I prefer since it keeps cables (especially the power adapter) out of sight. Convenient illuminated port labels help in darker environments. Rear connections include Ethernet, one USB Type-A port, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI video output, and the USB-like proprietary power connector.
Lenovo includes a 140-watt USB-C power adapter in the box for travel use; it can charge the laptop using either Thunderbolt 4 port. That said, it doesn’t provide enough power to let the laptop operate at full performance; For that you’ll need to lug around the much larger 330-watt adapter.
Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8 Specifications
|Intel Core i9-13980HX (8 Performance and 16 Efficient cores, 2.2 GHz base clock, 5.6 GHz turbo)
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 (16GB GDDR6, 1,455 MHz boost clock, 175-watt maximum graphics power)
|32GB DDR5-5600 (2x 16GB)
|2TB (2x 1TB SSD in RAID 0)
|16-inch, 3200 x 2000, 16:10, Mini-LED, 165 Hz
|Killer Wi-Fi 6E AX1675i + Bluetooth 5.3
|2x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB-A Gen 1, 1x USB-C Gen 1, SD card reader, HDMI 2.1, Ethernet, 3.5 mm headphone/microphone
|330 watts (proprietary connector), 140-watt USB-C travel adapter
|Windows 11 Home
|14.08 x 10.93 x 0.75~0.89 inches (357.7 x 277.7 x 19~22.7 mm)
|5.51 pounds (2.49 kg)
|Price (as configured)
Gaming and Graphics on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
The Legion 9i Gen 8 reviewed here has an Intel Core i9-13980HX processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card, and 32GB of DDR5-5600 RAM (2x 16GB). This is about as high-end as it gets in late 2023; this laptop is exceptionally powerful by even desktop standards.
I reached between 70-85 frames per second playing Cyberpunk 2077 at the Legion’s 3200 x 2000 resolution with the Ray Tracing Low preset; the fps increased to between 105 and 120 with DLSS enabled. The action was fluid and the frame rates were consistent in firefights and anywhere I went in Night City. That said, this game exposes that even with the GeForce RTX 4090, maximum visual-quality settings won’t be achievable in all games at the laptop’s native screen resolution.
This Legion is the first time we’re seeing an RTX 4090 in a laptop with a screen size smaller than 17 inches. Usually, the GPU’s hefty cooling requirements have meant it ends up in 17 or 18-inch designs. That’s why we’re including the 17.3-inch MSI Titan GT77 HX and the 18-inch Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 in our performance comparisons for the Legion 9i, both featuring a Core HX-class CPU and a GeForce RTX 4090. We also included the 16-inch HP Omen 16 so at least one laptop sported the same screen size as the Legion; it packs a GeForce RTX 4080.
We do our baseline game testing at 1920 x 1080 for even comparisons, which will be the top bar in the charts below. We also included results at each laptop’s native screen resolution where possible; the Legion’s is 3200 x 2000, the ROG Strix Scar 18 2560 x 1600, the Omen 16 2560 x 1440, and the GT77 Titan 3840 x 2160. The native resolution numbers are important as that will allow maximum sharpness, assuming the GPU can handle it in the game that you’re playing.
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In Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Highest detail preset), the Legion led the group with 192 fps at 1080p, besting the Asus (181 fps) and MSI (180 fps) and leaving the Omen 16 (117 fps) far behind. The Legion took a hit at native screen resolution, dropping to 92 fps, but not as bad of a hit as the 4K-screened MSI (70 fps).
Grand Theft Auto V (Very High settings) was another excellent showing for the Legion, where it achieved 178 fps at 1080p versus 176 fps for the MSI and the 152 fps for the Asus; the Omen 16 (126 fps) was again nowhere near those RTX 4090 monsters. The Legion fell to 70 fps at native, still a smaller performance drop than the MSI showed (50 fps), though the Asus stayed in triple digit frame rates at its native resolution (132 fps).
In Far Cry 6 (Ultra settings), the Legion remained at the top of the charts with 112 fps at 1080p; the Asus was next best with 107 fps. Its 78 fps at native screen resolution was close to what the other laptops achieved.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Medium detail preset) is always challenging to run and was the only game where the Legion underperformed at 1080p relative to the others, with 108 fps versus the leading MSI’s 127 fps. Things seemed to even out at native screen resolution, the Legion producing 49 fps to narrowly beat the MSI’s 48 fps.
The Legion topped the charts one last time in Borderlands 3 (“Badass” settings), with 175 fps at 1080p and 90 fps at native. The MSI was slightly faster at native (177 fps) but behind at native (71 fps) while the Asus continued to produce better fps at its lower native resolution (112 fps).
One takeaway from these results is that as powerful as the Legion 9i is, its relatively high native screen resolution makes it less ideal for extremely demanding games or competitive esports that require very high framerates. That said, you could simply reduce the screen resolution to something lower, such as 2560 x 1600, for a performance boost at the expense of some sharpness.
We also stress test gaming laptops by running the Metro Exodus benchmark at RTX settings 15 times to simulate half an hour of gaming. The Legion averaged 107 fps across all runs, sometimes fluctuating 5 to 10 fps between runs. The Core i9 processor’s P-cores ran at an average temperature 72 degree Celsius and a clock speed of 3.7 GHz while the E-cores averaged 72 C and 3.2 GHz. The GeForce RTX 4090 had an average temperature of 71 C and an average core clock of 2,336 MHz.
Liquid Cooling on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
This Legion is the only production laptop with integrated liquid cooling. Lenovo says it turns on automatically when the GPU reaches 84 degrees Celsius and gives it an additional 10 watts of power. An indicator light on the back panel illuminates when it’s on, but I didn’t witness this happening as the laptop didn’t reach the requisite temperatures during our Metro Exodus stress test, staying in the lower 70 C range. It also didn’t get warm enough while playing Cyberpunk 2077. The liquid cooling is designed to cover the VRAM, but there’s still a fan for the GPU.
Though we weren’t able to measure its effects, this feature may still have value in warmer environments where the laptop’s cooling system would have to work a lot harder.
Productivity Performance on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
Our Legion 9i Gen 8 has Intel’s flagship Core i9-13980HX processor (8 performance-cores and 16 efficiency-cores), 32GB of DDR5-5600 RAM, and a 2TB of SSD storage (two 1TB SSDs in RAID 0). This laptop should have no hiccups running even the most demanding tasks.
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In Geekbench 5, the Legion 9i’s scores of 2,073 points in single-core and 20,255 points in multi-core put it in close contention with the MSI (2,071 and 20,602 points). The Asus was also competitive in single core (2,066 points) but it couldn’t keep up in multi-core (19,323 points). The HP’s H-class CPU was totally outclassed.
The Legion 9i completed our 25GB file transfer test with at the fastest rate of the group: 2,500.56 MBps. That outdid the MSI (2,299.96 MBps) and left the Omen 16 (1,989.7 MBps) and Asus (1,885.81 MBps) in the dust. The fact that the Legion 9i uses two SSDs striped together in performance-enhancing RAID 0 may have helped its result.
Our Handbrake video transcoding test was a battle of the margins; at 2 minutes and 44 seconds, the Legion 9i a few seconds off the leading MSI (2:38). The Omen 16’s Core H-class processor finished way in the back, at 4:29.
Display on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
Mini-LED displays have become more common on high-end laptops in 2023, offering far higher brightness than OLED or traditional IPS screens. Lenovo rates the Legion 9’s screen for an astounding 1,200 nits, though that’s peak brightness and not the average we measure. The backlighting in mini-LED screens is split into a couple dozen quadrants, only a few of which can sustain peak brightness. Think of it as an HDR effect on steroids.
I was blown away by the Legion 9i’s picture quality. Even looking at the desktop or browsing the web is enough to make you stop and stare because it’s so bright and vibrant. The lush jungle scenery and complex lighting effects in Shadow of the Tomb Raider highlighted that this laptop’s forte is cinematic gaming. I also enjoyed the stark contrast between outer space and ultra-bright lasers and dramatic explosions in Star Wars: Squadrons.
This screen is also fabulous for shows and movies. The Dune: Part Two trailer showed off the screen’s epic brightness in daylight scenes and exceptional color on character’s outfits. The black levels are very good, though they’re not quite as inky black as OLED. Either way, the 3200 x 2000 screen resolution spares no details. If something didn’t look good on this screen, I didn’t find it.
The Legion 9i was the brightest of the bunch by far, with 667 nits to the next-best MSI’s 511 nits. With 113.5% DCI-P3 coverage, it also proved nearly as colorful as the MSI (114.5%). The Asus and HP couldn’t hold a candle to those two.
Keyboard and Touchpad on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
The Legion 9i’s keyboard is one of my favorite features. Ample key travel affords excellent tactile feedback, and the metal chassis translates to a rock-solid keyboard deck. I managed 110 words per minute with 100% accuracy in the MonkeyType typing test, which is about as quickly as I can go.
I also give the layout high marks: the arrow keys are full size and separated into their own cluster and there are dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page down keys along the top row. The number pad keys are smaller than the main keyboard keys but aren’t hard to get used to.
The short palm rest is a potential downside to typing on this laptop; I tend not to rest my wrists on the laptop while typing, so it didn’t affect me, but you may find your palms hanging off the edge.
The Lenovo Vantage app provides per-key backlighting control; each key can have its own effect, such as rainbow, color wave, and rain, and you can also control effect speed and direction. There’s no way to create effects like there is on Razer laptops, but enough effects are included that it would be hard to get bored with this setup.
For more customization, Lenovo includes eight switchable keycaps in different colors. Any of the main keyboard keys can be replaced with them for a unique look; the only downside is you’ll lose the symbols on that key. Extra switches are also included, a nice touch in case some wear out.
The touchpad is unusual because it’s about two-thirds as tall as might be expected on a 16-inch laptop. That said, I rarely ran out of room since I favor the center of the pad, but I could see this causing complaints from users that need every square centimeter for gestures in Windows. The pad has satisfying tactile clicking action and I experienced no tracking difficulties.
Audio on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
The two speakers under the Legion 9’s palm rest are well above average for a laptop. John Mayer’s “Half of My Heart” sounded full and punchy, with excellent vocal detail, and I also enjoyed the upbeat vocals and bassline in Maroon 5’s “Misery”. The volume is more than enough for personal or small group listening.
The included Nahimic app has equalizer settings and presets. The Music preset sounded best to my ears, though I reduced the bass boost from 6 to 3 dB to improve volume response.
Upgradeability of the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
Accessing the Legion 9i’s insides is done by removing the bottom panel, secured by eight Philips-head screws. Popping the clips holding the panel down required more force than I expected; I used a plastic trim removal tool starting with a rear corner and worked my way across the back edge, at which point the whole panel popped free without further prying.
The only user-replaceable parts here are the two M.2 drives, seen at left and covered by heatsinks, as well as the battery. The motherboard appears to be mounted upside down since the CPU isn’t visible even after removing the plastic cover between the cooling fans.
The motherboard’s orientation unfortunately means it must be removed to access the two SODIMM slots, which hugely complicates upgrades. The liquid-cooling solution must also be on the other side of the motherboard.
Battery Life on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
Our battery life test consists of web browsing, video streaming, and OpenGL graphics tests at 150 nits of screen brightness. The Legion 9i isn’t going to change the reputation of powerful gaming laptops for not having the best battery life, lasting four hours and 23 minutes, but it was second best in this group behind the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 (4:26).
Lenovo includes a compact 140-watt USB-C power adapter which can be useful for maximizing portability.
Heat on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
We measure laptop surface temperatures during the Metro Exodus stress test. The Legion 9i’s keyboard reached 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) between the G and H keys and 79 F (26 C) on the touchpad. The maximum temperature on the bottom panel was 115 degrees towards center-back. No upper surface of the laptop felt uncomfortable to the touch.
The three fans in this laptop push an impressive amount of air out the rear and side vents. Fan noise is noticeable while gaming, sounding mostly like air being forced through the vents rather than motor noise. I found the fan noise eclipsed softer sounds in games while I was using the laptop’s built-in speakers, but I had no trouble hearing them using an open headset.
Webcam on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
The 1080p webcam over the Legion 9’s screen produces acceptably bright and sharp images. A higher caliber 1440p webcam would have been appreciated given this laptop’s price. It doesn’t have a sliding privacy shutter but it does have a kill switch on the right side of the laptop.
Software and Warranty on the Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8
Lenovo includes lots of software on the Legion 9i, most of it good. The most important included app is Lenovo Vantage, which provides access to common settings, including GPU overclocking, which defaults to +150 MHz on the core and +200 MHz on the VRAM clock offset.
The app also provides detailed system settings, such as enabling always-on USB and rapid charging and a battery saver feature that prevents the battery from charging above 80%, extending its lifespan. It also lets you create macro keys for any of the number pad’s 0 through 9 keys.
Embedded within Vantage is Lenovo Spectrum for keyboard backlighting and external LED lighting control. Each keyboard key (there are 101) as well as the lighting strips (18 zones) and the Legion logo on the lid can have their own colors and effects; the latter include rainbow and color waves, rain, ripple, always-on, and ambient audio response. Lenovo’s solution isn’t as advanced as Razer’s Synapse or Corsair’s iCUE, but the upside is that creating effects is easy and has a minimal learning curve. There are six profiles to store your settings.
The most questionable included app is Tobii Experience; using it requires having the webcam on all the time since it tracks your eyes. It integrates with games that support Extended View, allowing limited character movement and panning simply by moving your eyes. It can also be used outside of games; for example, automatically dimming the screen when you’re not in front of it and, in public places, blurring the screen when you’re not looking directly at it. The app can also track your screen time and when you took your last break. I did feel like I was being watched when I used this app, but that’s the trade-off for convenience. The app states that it doesn’t record or transmit any webcam data.
The Nahimic app for audio has equalizer settings but a few other notable features, too. Sound Sharing lets you connect two headphones at once and listen to the same content. There’s also an Easy Surround feature that allows you to connect a Bluetooth speaker as a rear surround, with the laptop’s speakers or other speakers as the front source. The app has a streaming feature that lets you combine multiple audio streams into one, which you can then select as the input source for your streaming app.
The Killer Intelligence Center app automatically prioritizes game traffic, but you can also use it to set up Killer DoubleShot, which sends game traffic over Ethernet and all other traffic over wireless.
As for unwanted software, there are a few apps that are usually included with Windows, including Spotify, WhatsApp, Dropbox, but at least there wasn’t any trial antivirus software installed.
The Legion 9i has a standard one-year warranty.
Lenovo Legion 9i Gen 8 Configurations
All Legion 9i Gen 8 configurations include the 16-inch 3200 x 2000 mini-LED screen and Core i9-13980HX processor in our review unit. The GPU is the only major option; the $3,146.39 base model has the 12GB RTX 4080, with the 16GB RTX 4090 adding a lofty $520.
Memory options start at 32GB (2x 16GB) of DDR5-5600 with 64GB (2x 32GB) as an option. Intriguingly, there’s also 32GB (2x 16GB) DDR5-6400 “overclock” option. Getting the memory you want from the factory is a good idea unless you’re comfortable disassembling the entire laptop to upgrade it. (See the Upgrades section.)
This laptop has room for two NVMe storage drives; a single 1TB SSD is standard, but a second drive can be added. The drives can be upgraded after the fact.
Lenovo seems to have worked miracles with the Legion 9i Gen 8. This 16-inch gaming laptop went head-to-head against and often outperformed much larger gaming laptops in our testing, including the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 and the MSI GT77 Titan HX. It’s proof that even the fastest components can fit into a thinner chassis with enough engineering.
Price is the Legion’s most notable downside; starting at over $3,000, budget — heck, most — shoppers need not apply. This is especially the case with the shockingly expensive GeForce RTX 4090 upgrade.
For similar performance, going larger is about the only alternative to this Legion; the mentioned Asus ROG Strix and MSI Titan are solid options, and having a larger screen for gaming is undeniably attractive. At the same time, this Legion is far more portable, and Lenovo even included a travel AC adapter to enhance its portability. Another option is to stick with a similarly-sized laptop, such as the HP Omen 16, though that laptop as tested isn’t nearly as fast as the Legion even in a top-shelf spec.
If you can get past the price, this Legion is a real ace just about everywhere, especially in build and design. It gets additional high marks for input devices and connectivity, and its mini-LED screen is simply sensational. For a money-is-no-object 16-inch gaming laptop that does it all, the Legion 9i Gen 8 is an outstanding choice, though money is certainly an object to most.
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