The Lenovo Yoga Book is one of the most intriguing mobile devices we’ve seen in some time. In a market that’s seen an explosion in the number of 2 in 1 notebook/tablet hybrids, the Yoga Book really stands out. The concept is incredible. You can use it as a notebook and type on it, you can draw on it with a stylus, you can transfer written notes into text. And it’s tiny, with a 10.1″ screen, it weighs in at 690 grams and is less than 1cm thick! While the concept sounds amazing.. and it really is.. there are some caveats to consider when evaluating the Yoga Book. Read on to find out.
While the market has its fair share of notebook class 2 in 1’s, there’s next to nothing in the way of hybrids in the 10″ range. Lenovo has seen there is a real market here with this size and weight class being too large for smartphones and too small and thin for a relatively higher TDP processor. Enter the Lenovo Yoga Book. The first thing you notice when opening the beautifully crafted metal body is the lack of a keyboard. It’s also powered by an Intel Atom CPU, so it gives away some performance, but from this it gains very good battery life. We have an array of creativity based features such as a fully featured graphics tablet, stylus and handwriting to text functionality.
At first glance, there’s no doubt the Lenovo Yoga Book is simply gorgeous. The Yoga Book comes with an all metal construction. Our sample came finished with a beautiful gunmetal grey which really does give a refined and classy look to the unit. Champagne gold and carbon black finishes are also available. Obviously it’s a 2 in 1 that can function as a tablet, in tent mode and of course as a laptop.
Picture courtesy of Lenovo
The screen is a 10.1″ 1920 x 1200 IPS panel. This means any 1080p content will have small black bars at the top and bottom, though in our opinion, the extra screen real estate more than makes up for that.
Lenovo’s specs indicate the screen is capable of 70% of the color gamut, though it doesn’t say which one. While the screen appears to be perfectly acceptable to us in general usage, with typical IPS wide viewing angles, a high pixel density and enjoyable movie viewing, 70% is quite a low number and is something that should be considered a negative for artists and professionals who rely on color accuracy for their work. Given the target market for the device, we think this is something that needs to be improved if/when there is a Yoga Book 2.
The speakers are surprisingly adequate. A thin and light device often compromises on sound, and while the speakers in the Yoga Book won’t win any sounds pressure contests or reproduce bass you can feel, they do a good job without too much brightness in the midrange which often plagues cheaper speakers. If you’re playing a movie in bed at night in tablet mode, the speakers will do the job.
The Yoga Book comes with Lenovo’s excellent watchband hinge. The company has somehow managed to bring aesthetics and functionality to an otherwise overlooked aspect of notebook design. Many Lenovo models use this hinge including its premium lines so clearly the engineers have done a good job.
The Yoga Book comes with the choice of either Android 6.0.1 (as our sample came equipped with) or Windows 10. Which one you choose will depend on your usage patterns. Both models are currently priced at $899 SGD. Other markets appear to have the Windows 10 version priced higher making the Singapore pricing quite good value at this time.
The CPU powering the Yoga Book is a Intel Atom x5-Z8550 SoC. This is a Cherry Trail CPU that we’ll come right out and say is pretty average at best, with several ARM SoC’s beating the Atom handily. In fact Intel have struggled so much competing against ARM in the mobile SoC space that they have pulled the plug on the planned next generation Broxton range. Don’t bet against a Yoga Book 2 being powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with 802.11ad wi-fi and Bluetooth 5, running Windows 10 and therefore all the desktop class apps.. That sounds tasty..but we digress..
The I/O ports are very limited indeed. You get a single outdated Micro-b USB port for charging, single Type-D micro HDMI port, a headphone jack and slot for a micro SD and/or nano SIM card (which was absent from our test model). There’s also a power button and volume up/down button. Micro USB really should disappear in favor of USB Type-C. Ideally we want to see 2+ ports which would allow the unit to charge and have another USB device fitted at the same time. Right now with the Micro USB you’ll need an adapter to use pretty much any USB device at all.
Other key features include 8 and 2 megapixel rear and front facing cameras, 4Gb of memory and 64Gb of onboard eMMC storage.
The Real Pen and Create Pad
The Real Pen is a dual use stylus/pen accessory bundled with the Yoga Book. Impressively, it doesn’t require batteries. You can use it as a conductive pen or as an actual pen with ink. You can remove the stylus nib and replace it with real ink to use for the handwriting feature.
Lenovo calls the bottom half of the Yoga Book, the ‘Create Pad’. This works in one of three ways. The first is the form of a graphics digitizer that works with the Real Pen. It is a full-blown, electromagnetic resonance (EMR) tablet, designed in partnership with Wacom, who know a thing or two about tablets.
The second use allows the Yoga Book to take digital copies of hand created content at up to 1cm above its surface, such as you would have while writing on a notepad. It does not require special paper. First you must switch the stylus’ plastic nib to one of the included ink based nibs. The stylus and tablet interact via a electromagnetic field so the tablet knows where the pen is relative to the pad. At the same time the stylus provides a signal to let the computer know when it is being pressed against paper, so, as you write with the stylus, and the content appears on the paper, so too does it appear on the main screen. This is probably the most distinctive capability of the Yoga Book, and could be the device’s ‘killer app’. Students in particular may find this a great feature.
The now for the third use:
The Yoga Book comes equipped with a fully digital capacitive keyboard. It provides haptic feedback in the form of a buzz when each key is tapped. The keys are fixed cannot be changed. It looks beautiful, almost Star Trekkish and will definitely generate ooh’s and ahh’s from curious onlookers. While consumers generally have become more used to capacitive keyboards in the era of smartphones and tablets, there is a reason we still have physical keyboards. The problem is accuracy or lack thereof. I found myself making a great many typo errors during general usage and had to look at the keyboard more and more. On a regular keyboard with feedback, you can feel if you have made a mistake or hit the edge of an adjacent key. If you are more of a touch typist, you’ll find yourself looking at the screen and discovering your text is full of mistakes.
The keyboard also has a problem with latency. If you are a fast typist, you may find the system is not capable of keeping up with you and the unit will be buzzing all the time as keystrokes are registered.
The idea is very very cool, but it does need to be refined to better mimic the feel and usability of an actual keyboard. The Yoga Book would be more usable with a dedicated keyboard, and leave the drawing/writing part to the actual screen itself.
The OS and Apps
As mentioned, The Lenovo Yoga Book comes with a Android 6.0.1 and of course some Lenovo software to power the Yoga Book’s unique features.
While it does the job well enough, its just not the same as a refined desktop OS. You notice it with the little things.. resizing windows, switching between tabs, the mouse control. Android still feels like a phone OS. With its intended stylus oriented functions, and general tasks, it does fine though.
For the most part, Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) performs the same as its smartphone cousins. Things like the settings and application menu’s will be very familiar to users of Android phones, as will the swipe operations and general navigability.
In addition to the usual offerings from a Android device, there are links and shortcuts to a whole range of apps; Gmail, Docs, Maps, Drive, Play Store, it’s all there. Of course being a Lenovo product, the company has added it’s own apps to the basic OS.
The File Manager is very much like what you’d see in a Windows file explorer. There’s also a couple of introduction apps designed to take first time users on a tour of the features and capabilities of the Yoga Book. These are worth a look for your first time poke around the system. The user manual is there too.
Share it is Lenovo’s own cloud sharing solution, though with so much Google on tap, you might as just well use their cloud and sharing services.
Below is the Note Saver app. This app, along with the stylus is what you’d use to create irreplaceable works of art like the one you see below.
Below is a test of the handwriting feature. As mentioned above, inserting one of the ink nibs into the stylus and writing on ordinary paper on the create pad instantly digitizes the written handwriting into the note app. My handwriting is not exactly stunning, but the point was to write this as I would normally write.. fast and messy! This is actually a very accurate example of my handwriting indicating the system and stylus’ EM tracking is highly accurate. A student in a lecture would find this feature quite useful.
Picture courtesy of Lenovo
We didn’t spend too much time benchmarking the Yoga Book since we don’t have a lot of comparable hardware to compare with (with Android)
In Geekbench 4, the system scores 1159 in the single core test and 3288 in the multi core test. These results really show the weakness of the Atom processor. A Samsung Galaxy S7 with Exynos processor scores 1806 and 5228 respectively. Obviously Lenovo wanted the Windows 10 option so they had little choice but to go with the Intel Atom, however, we hope for the next iteration of Yoga Book, Lenovo will consider a Windows 10/Snapdragon 835 SoC combo which will destroy the Atom in performance.
Battery life was quite excellent. Lenovo claims 13 hours per charge and we did our entire setup and testing on a single charge. Given our usage pattern, we’d estimate around 10 hours from fully charged to flat though your mileage may vary depending on the workload. 13 hours is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Right now the Yoga Book struggles to define itself. It’s far too under powered to be considered a laptop even with the resource thrifty Android OS. While the Windows version should be better when using the Yoga Book as a laptop, the Atom processor will feel even more sluggish. Android is still a smartphone OS at its heart and its abilities on a productivity oriented device reveal its shortfalls. Multitasking remains an issue with Android. While you have apps like Photoshop Express and Office, they have their shortfalls compared to their PC brethren. With Windows and a beefier processor you can expect to have a browser with many tabs open, a spreadsheet, word processor, email app, a media player or stream of your sports team going all at the same time. Add Illustrator or Photoshop or a CAD program for a more specialized user and its clear Android just cannot do this yet.
Are you an artist or creator? You’ll likely need a screen with better color range. Are you looking for a work machine? You’ll need more CPU grunt. Are you looking for a media consumption device? A cheaper tablet can do that. Do you want something ultra portable? Consider a phablet. It’s aimed at artists and a handwriting niche market but it doesn’t kick goals the way a dedicated graphics tablet would. It is not a bad device though by any means. In trying to be a multi-use jack of all trades, in the end it is a master of none. Still, with a bit more grunt, the right OS (Google Andromeda?) and some tweaks to the keyboard and tablet functions (like using the stylus on the screen), we think a device like the Lenovo Yoga Book can be a real winner.
While our time with the Yoga Book was very enjoyable, in the end it felt more like a companion device that was cool to use rather than one we’d consider as our ‘one device for all’ replacement. The concept is amazing, particularly the digitizing of handwritten content feature, which uses normal paper. It’s super light and portable with superb build quality, but we feel the Yoga Book is lacking a suitable OS and killer mass market appeal right now. Right now it just feels a generation too early for what it is. We very much look forward to what Lenovo and other companies can do with the increasingly prevalent ultra portable 2 in 1 concept going forward.
The Lenovo Yoga Book is currently priced at $899 SGD for both the Windows 10 and Android versions.
Ultra light and thin
Digital recreations of handwritten content with normal paper
Excellent build quality
Micro USB port
Overall lack of ports