The Lenovo Yoga Book made a lot of waves when it debuted earlier in September at IFA. It wowed all but the most jaded consumers and tech analysts alike; its design an inspiration of innovation in a market saturated with iterative products that talked the talk, but rarely walked the walk.
If it delivered what it promised, it could be my holy grail for a second computer: light and small enough that I never regret bringing it with me, enough battery to last all day, compatibility with my workflow, and inexpensive enough to justify buying (or worry about taking with me). In my experience though, these genre-bending ultraportables tend to come with compromises I’m not ready to accept.
The early Asus Transformers were underpowered, large, and didn’t work well as tablets. The Surface 3 was expensive, cumbersome on a lap, and wasn’t quite comfortable to use as either tablet or laptop. The Pixel C was held back by Android, which wasn’t (and still isn’t) designed for multitasking or productivity in general. The fact that the Yoga Book (with Windows 10) seemed to address all these issues I had with my other “everyday carry” laptops made it a must-try for me.
The Yoga Book, in terms of specs, is a known quantity: It’s got just enough RAM, storage, horsepower, and battery to be a functional work computer on paper (or shall we say, on “Create Pad”? Ha, Yoga Book pun).
But can you actually type on that keyboard? I had to find out.
The specs sheet
|Lenovo Yoga Book (Windows)|
|Screen||10.1″ FHD+ IPS (1920 x 1200), touch, 400 nits|
|Processor||Intel® Atom™ x5-Z8550 Processor(2M Cache, Quad-Core, Up to 2.4 GHz)|
|Memory||4 GB LPDDR3|
|Storage||64 GB eMMC, microSD support up to 128 GB|
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Ports||Micro-USB 2.0 , mini HDMI, microSD, 3.5mm audio|
|Battery||2 Cell 32 Wh/8500 mAh Li-Polymer|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home 64|
|Size||(inches) : 10.1″ x 6.72″ x 0.38″|
(mm) : 256.6 x 170.8 x 9.6
|Weight||690 g/1.52 lbs|
|Extras||Integrated Keyboard/Create Pad : Capacitive Touch and EMR Pen Technology, 1 Real Pen, 1 Book Pad (with 15 pages), 3 Real Pen Ink Refills|
Lenovo has taken the trademark design of their Yoga line and pared it down for the Yoga Book. It has quite a futuristic and minimalistic look; when off, it literally appears as two black slabs joined by Lenovo’s iconic watchband hinge. If the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey was a caterpillar, the Yoga Book is it the monolith evolved into a butterfly. Hope you get the idea: it looks awesome.
It would be a waste if the design looked gorgeous but the build felt cheap. Luckily, the construction feels pretty solid, too. Despite being thinner than 10mm (each half of the slab being a touch under 5mm) and only weighing 690g, it has minimal flex or give. Picking up the Yoga Book by either its top or bottom halves is no problem—thanks to the perfectly calibrated watchband hinge, it will stay at the exact same angle it was set to. This same hinge allows the Yoga Book to transform smoothly into tablet, tent, or laptop modes. The magnets used to snap the device closed are strong enough to keep the device safely shut, regardless of one’s handling of the device. If anything, they are a bit stronger than I’d like, as sometimes it’s quite difficult to open. Overall, in terms of the build and appearance, it is hard to fault anything Lenovo has done here.
As expected, the design makes some tradeoffs for usability. With a 10.1” screen, this is a small device. Thus, naturally it is not the most comfortable to use for long periods, even before you calculate in the so-called “HALO keyboard”. The edges on the palm rest are a bit sharp, but this is ameliorated by the fact that it’s only ever about 5mm off the surface you are using it on, so you’re never pressing into your wrists too hard. It remains quite “lappable” despite its small size, as the slightly textured aluminum and excellent weight distribution help keep it firmly in your lap during use.
The pared-down design also comes with fewer ports. There is a micro USB port for charging or connectivity (if you have the adapters), a mini HDMI port, and a tray for a microSD card and SIM card (if you have the LTE version). Unfortunately, like fingerprint sensors on Sony phones or presidential candidates, the US doesn’t seem to get the best options these days. My main disappointment in terms of ports is the conspicuous lack of USB type-C. Given the machine’s thinness and sparsity for ports, having a multi-functional port for docking would have helped a lot—especially as USB type-C becomes ubiquitous. In such a forward-thinking device, the omission is glaring.
Keyboard, trackpad, and stylus
Because the usability of the keyboard is critical to the sucess or failure of this device, Ii think it’s important for you to get the idea of roughly how accurate it is after the initial learning curve. Originally, Ii wanted to type this whole review without spoellcheck and editing away mustypes as a true test of the HALO keyboard. Luckily for you, Andrei pleaded with me not to—so I’ll just do it in these next few paragraphs only.
Ii wi ll edit things iothat i feel are my fault, but leave in errors that Ii feel are due solely to the keyboard itself. If you couldn’t tell, the main selling point of the device is that the completely flat key outlines can be turned off in favour of transforning the keyboard half into a digitizer for writing/drawing. Ii will discuss the digitizer laster on in this section, but I want to first cover the genral usability of this machine for the majority of users who just want to watch some Youtube, reply to some emails, or occasionally collaborate on documents. Can you do that with the Yoga Book wuthout wanting to kill yourself/
Well, in terms of typing feel it’s actually a surprisingly pleasant experience due to the haptic feedback. Somehow it’s better than typing on a screen like you would on a tablet. There is obviously no travel on his keyboard, so in order to try and give you feedback, Lenovo has two features o to provice a facsimilie of it. When you first tap the key ouline, you get the hapic feedback (vibration9. Whien yoy release the finger, you get an audio tone. You’ll immediately want to disable the annoying audio one, which is hidden away in the old control oanel (not windowd 10’s new one) as “HALO Settings’. However, h prohlem with th3 haptic feedback is that it is actually quite audible when typing on a solid surfafe and may annoy your colleagues
In terms of typing accuray… well, I am a touch-typist iwho usually gets about 110 WPM with 1-2 errors when tested—you should be able to see the reults yourself in this seciton. [Authors note: after the review, I tried a 60-second test. The result was 39 WPM with 3 errors.] Ii can’t quite use it without looking at aok, but a quick glance do wnward at my hands isa more or less all Ii need to stay on track. If you don’t watch your hands caoriefully, pyou will quickly find yourself typing gibberish.
The first thing you’ll notice about the keyboard is that the layout is a bit abnormal. The backspace key is tall but not wide, and you’ll accidentally hit it when you don’t want to, or hit the = key when yoy wanted to his backspace. While the arrow keys are full-sized for once, the up arrow is flanked by the PgUp and PgDn butons, which tend to get accidentally pressed bu your pinkey, moving the cursor away from where you were typing (especially if yiy were editing a previous paragraph(. This is one of the most infuriating problems with the keyboard until you learn you cannot leave your pinkey anywhere near where you would when touch-typing normally. Because it’s a touch keyboard, yoy have to type differently from how you normally would. You cannot rest your hands on the home keys as you would normally; instead, you’ol have keeo your fingers hoveringe above the keyboard like a chicken oecking at worns un the dirt.
Unfortunately, the touchpad adds to the annoyances of the keyboard. The first problems you’ll notive with the touchpad are that it’s small and the “click’ buttons on it are to the lef and right of the “pad’, meaning you need to use two fingers to click and drag anything. Honestly,, given that it’s entirely a digitizer, there shouldn’t be any fake buttons at all (as there are none on the Android version), since touch-tapping is what you’ll be doing 99% of the time.
The last annoyance is that, for some ungodly reason, Lenovo has decided that if you touch the keyboard at all, it will deactivate the touvhpad area. It will remain deactivated until you touch the small dot at the very center of the touchpad, which is something that again takes fo cus to do . Do you know how much time has been robbed from me by waiting for this rdiculous, arbitrary, and buggy delay? Far too much. This is a seriously annoying feature that lenovo HAS to address with software customization/firmware updates. I would almost consider this a bug, because i is so frustrating having to find and touch the tiny circle in the center of the touchpad to reactivate the touchpad/clicks. If you know of a way to perhaps disable this using regedit (it uses native windows drivers but lacks any customization), please lewt me know.
To recap on othe typing experience: using tqhe keyboard with any semblance of accuracy requires watching your fingers carefully as you type as well as making sure you’re not accidentally resting your hands on it. You need to retrain your fingers to go back to the middle of the touchpad to hit that dot to reactivate it every time you touch a key. I probably don’t need to point out that these rituals get tiring, but… these rituals get tiring.
(I’m going to go back to correcting the typos now. Thanks for hanging in there!)
The digitizer and stylus are of course one of the hallmarks of the Yoga Book. The “create pad”, as Lenovo calls the digitizer, is toggled with a capacitive button above the keyboard. This placement works fine in laptop mode, but I found myself accidentally toggling it with my finger while holding it in tablet mode. It would have been nice to make it toggle by holding it for a second or two instead of any touch.
But how well do the stylus and digitizer function? I’m no artist or calligrapher, but they seem to work quite well. According to Lenovo, the stylus can detect 2048 levels of pressure, as well as angle. Sensors in the pen and digitizer are used to show a visual representation of the location of the pen on the screen, which eliminates the guesswork of picking up where you left off. While some will say that it’s a waste to have a touchscreen without a digitizer on the screen itself, I must say it is nice to be able to draw without obscuring the screen itself. As you can see in the screenshots below, it captures the pressure and slants of natural handwriting quite well in OneNote and SketchPad. Unfortunately, the stylus does not work on the screen, as only the bottom surface contains a digitizer.
I don’t illustrate or do much writing by hand for work (probably because I have horrible penmanship), but I do find it easy and fun to use the stylus to write things when the fancy strikes. Unfortunately, you might not have the stylus when you need it, because there is nowhere to dock or attach it to the Yoga Book itself. If you have an office bag, of course you can throw it in there—but key highlights of this device is its small size and light weight, which invite you to take it with you everywhere. For a part of the experience that’s so integral, it’s a shame that there isn’t some way to easily take the stylus with you.
The other selling point of the Yoga Book is that it can be used to make 1-to-1 copies of anything written or drawn onto the paper that comes with the Yoga Book, of which you get 15 pages included with the device.
According to Lenovo, it can detect input through pads up to 5mm thick. The pad Lenovo gives you snaps right into the right position on the digitizer thanks to magnets. To actually write, you’ll have to switch out the plastic nib in the stylus for one of the three included ink nibs. It’s not easy to swap them out with your fingers as there isn’t much of the tip protruding to grab, so I ended up using my teeth to get a good hold on the end of the nib. Once you start writing on the paper with your software of choice open, you’ll be treated to seeing everything you’re writing being digitized.
This sounds very cool in theory, but I think the use-cases are quite limited because of a few problems. First, you are limited to the exact size of the paper Lenovo gives you. A little less, actually, because you can’t draw on the taskbar or action panels, which pop up if your pen strays to those areas. In contrast, if you draw with just the plastic nib directly on the digitizer, you effectively have unlimited space to make use of—scaling in or out or moving around on the canvas isn’t a problem. When using the pen and paper, though, this means that the paper and digital copies are no longer synced. You will have to manually position the digital copy in the right place on the screen, which is rather tricky.
As a result of the interference of UI elements in Windows, sometimes things you write on the paper aren’t picked up by the software. You can see some examples of this in the picture of my doodle of the staredown between Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor, below. Lastly, you only get 15 pieces of paper with the device, and if you want more, you’ll have to buy it from Lenovo, which is neither convenient nor cheap.
All in all, I have my doubts about using the pen/paper on the Yoga Book in real usage situations. I think most people will find using the plastic nib to write only digitally makes more sense than fussing around with ink nibs and a relatively small sheet of paper.
The top half of the Yoga Book contains a 10.1” 1920 x 1200 (slightly better than FHD) IPS screen behind edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass, as well as a sizeable bezel.
The IPS screen is a good fit for the typical usage of this machine. At 10.1 inches, FHD+ resolution yields plenty of pixels per square inch, and more would tax the battery unnecessarily. In terms of color accuracy, Lenovo advertises “70% gamut” for the Yoga Book, but they fail to mention which gamut. Covering only 70% of sRGB would be quite low, so I am inclined to believe they are referring to 70% of Adobe RGB (unfortunately, I lack a Spyder calibration device to be able to measure myself).
I was unable to detect PWM at even the lowest brightness setting, and there is no visible backlight bleed when a black background is viewed. The best characteristics of this panel are the excellent viewing angles, good contrast, and the high brightness, which Lenovo puts at 400 nits.
On the downsides, the glossy coating (pictured above while checking for backlight bleed) is certainly distracting at times. Lenovo says it uses an anti-glare coating, but a quick look will determine this move as insufficient to make a meaningful difference.
Additionally, while this is a small device, there is a lot of bezel there. You could argue it’s necessary for holding the Yoga Book as a tablet but let’s get real: like Razer and their Stealth, I would assume that Lenovo put a smaller screen in with large bezels to save money on a device being sold for as little as possible. If you have good eyesight, then this size device will probably be just on the cusp of sufficiency for daily use.
Hardware and performance
There is only one hardware configuration for the Yoga Book, and it is also completely sealed with no opportunity for maintenance or upgrades. Powered by an Atom x5-Z8550 with 4 GB LPDDR3 and 64 GB eMMC storage, you shouldn’t expect to do more than basic Office and web browsing on this device.
The Atom x5-Z8550 is the second-fastest chip released on Intel’s now defunct Cherry Trail platform, but that doesn’t mean much. Typically passively cooled, the Atom series chips are feeble in power compared to even the similarly passively cooled Core M chips. Like the Core M chips, the Atom chips have low base frequencies but will upclock dynamically when thermal constraints allow. The x5 has a 1.44 Ghz base clock, but will run at up to 2.4 Ghz until the CPU hits 80C.
The result is that the Yoga Book performs decently at burst operations that it can cool off in between doing, but sustained load will make it unpleasantly sluggish. This is confirmed by watching the CPU frequency during Prime95 stress tests: after a few seconds of multi-core load, the x5 will hit 80C and begin throttling back down to keep the temperature below that point.
The Yoga Book never does gets more than moderately warm to the touch, though, even right above the CPU. The aluminum-magnesium frame does a good job of dispersing the heat relatively evenly, so it’s never uncomfortable.
The eMMC storage is as slow/fast as expected. It’s not even entirely superior to a spinning hard drive, but the focus of the components here is on battery life and cost, so the result isn’t unexpected.
The x5 and 4 GB ram supply the minimum resources needed for an acceptable experience with Windows 10, in my opinion. Having used some Chinese tablets with older Atoms and only 2 GB of ram, I would not want any less than 4 GB and an x5. Performance is relatively responsive in day to day use. Office and Windows are reasonably snappy, and Chrome works quite well until the 4 GB of RAM is reached. Due to the slow eMMC storage, you’ll want to avoid swapping to a page file, as this is where you’ll feel the machine slow down and become less enjoyable. As long as you don’t have too many tabs open, browsing, Google Docs, and video all run smoothly. If you try to do more than that with this hardware, you’re really barking up the wrong tree.
There are two cameras on the Yoga Book. One above the keyboard on the right-hand side, which measures 8 mega-pixels, and one above the screen in the center, measuring 2 mega-pixels. They are both sufficient for video chatting in fair amounts of light, but don’t expect much more.
The speakers make use of Dolby audio software to enhance the sound, but there isn’t much to be done with such small drivers. Playing YouTube videos in a room for a friend will require setting the volume north of 50%, as they are not very loud. Lower frequencies are mostly absent; you’ll mostly be hearing the mid and high-range of the audio. If you plan to buy the Yoga Book for media consumption, keep the wimpy speakers in mind. They aren’t terrible for a tiny device, but they aren’t terribly good.
With such low power components, the Yoga Book does a pretty good job of sipping power. Typical draw under use of Chrome at 60% brightness is around -4,000 mW, and it will often go under -1500 mW when idling. These values lead to a fairly strong battery life of 8-10 hours of use with Wi-Fi. It doesn’t reach the 15-hour estimates Lenovo gives, but it’s also expected that Windows 10 will be less efficient than Android.
In terms of tweaking, there are no power plans available for the device other than “Balanced”, and there is no way to adjust the TDP or throttling temperature. You could adjust the backlight level for the outline of the keys or disable haptic feedback if you are desperate for a few more minutes, though.
The Yoga Book comes with a 25W adapter, which delivers power through a USB type A/micro-B cable. This provides plenty of power for charging even during use (an issue I had with the Surface 3), and the battery will be topped off in under 2 hours.
I should note that I have had some issues with standby/hibernate. Even though I have set the Yoga Book to “never” hibernate, it seems to hibernate itself regardless after 30 minutes or so. This isn’t great as the Yoga Book is designed to be one of those “there when you need it” devices that you can open up and use on a whim, but the constant hibernation does make a meaningful dent in the overall user experience. Additionally, when I used command prompt to disable hibernation manually, I woke up to an unresponsive and hot Yoga with the battery nearly completely drained.
Price and availability
The Windows 10 version is selling for $550 USD, while the Android version for only a bit less at $500. The Lenovo Yoga Book is available in Europe, the UK, and the US through Lenovo’s web site, and in the US, the Yoga Book is also sold through Walmart. It is not yet available on Amazon at the time of writing, but keep checking this link as it may be up soon.
The Lenovo Yoga Book has it all on paper. It runs Windows, is incredibly thin, relatively inexpensive, solidly constructed, has a nice screen, and enough processing and battery power to keep you going all day with basic tasks. In actuality, while the stylus works great, the keyboard and touchpad will have you gritting your teeth. It’s got a striking, beautiful design that will make you feel like you’re in Star Trek—except you never saw Picard get so pissed off using LCARS.
It’s fantastic to see a big company like Lenovo take a chance with such a futuristic design, but the actual experience has a long way to go. Even after the initial learning curve, you’ll still find your pinkie hitting the arrow or PgDn keys while you are typing, or hitting the wrong keys altogether. Hopefully, Lenovo will continue updating the firmware and BIOS for this machine to make the keyboard a bit more customizable and reduce the frustrating niggles. As it stands, it is a beautiful, elegant device that will frequently try your patience.
Is it for you? The Yoga Book certainly is a niche product. The stylus and pens are great to have, but the keyboard and touchpad mean that people who draw more than type are the likely audience. However, for more advanced creation purposes, I can’t help but feel the device is a bit underpowered. If you’re like me and need to be able to type comfortably throughout the day, this isn’t what you’re looking for, either. But if you’re looking for truly ultraportable Windows device to use for email, web, and video—and don’t mind paying extra for the design—this might be a good fit.
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