Lenovo Yoga Book Review: For the Doodlers, Scribblers, and Inkers

by Reads (13,312)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 5
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 7
      • Usability
      • 6
      • Design
      • 10
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Features
      • 9
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 7.43
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Amazing design, great hinge
    • Create Pad is excellent
    • Decent performance

     

  • Cons

    • Halo keyboard barely better than on-screen keyboard
    • Android not built for ink
    • Lenovo Note Saver app too simple to be useful

Quick Take

The Lenovo Yoga Book is intended for serious inkers and digital artists, built around a great idea. Lenovo executes the hardware portion very well, but the software betrays it... at least with the Android Yoga Book.


The Lenovo Yoga Book is very different. In a market awash in look-a-likes and copy cats, it’s unique and innovative. There’s nothing else like it on the market.

The Lenovo Yoga Book is very slick.

The Lenovo Yoga Book is very slick.

It’s both a notebook without a physical keyboard and a tablet with a drawing pad. It combines Lenovo’s 360-degree Yoga hinge with a Wacom drawing tablet and an Android or Windows touchscreen tablet.

It’s sleek, slick, and thin. It turns heads. But can something this different be any good? Read this Lenovo Yoga Book review to find out.

Build & Design

The Lenovo Yoga Book gives the Microsoft Surface a run for the best hardware on the market. This thing looks and feels great. It measures 10.1 x 6.72 x .38 inches, and weighs 1.52 pounds. It has a traditional clam-shell design, with Lenovo’s excellent Watchband hinge for distinction. With its magnesium alloy casing, Lenovo Yoga Book looks like a high-end binder when closed, the kind that probably holds something important, like classified documents.

That same Watchband hinge offers smooth and consistent resistance when opening and closing the Yoga Book. Combined with the device’s superb balance and weight distribution, the hinge enables the Yoga Book to prop open at literally any angle, from one to 360 degrees.

Lenovo Yoga Book Watchband hinge

Lenovo Yoga Book Watchband hinge

The Yoga Book’s left short side houses a microUSB input for charging, SIM/microSD card tray, micro HDMI port, and a speaker grill. The right side houses the power button, speaker grill, one-piece volume rocker, and 3.5mm audio port. Two pinhole mics rest on the front panel.

Due to its thin build and secure hinge, opening the Yoga Book requires two hands. It’s lap friendly though, and stays reasonably put at any angle.

The Lenovo Yoga Book ships with a Wacom Real Pen, and does not sport a docking slot. Both bottom short sides have magnetic front portions, allowing the Real Pen’s cap (not the actual Real Pen) to attach, but it’s a weak connection. A little movement is all it takes to shake the Real Pen loose.

The Real Pen itself is very comfortable to hold. It’s round and plastic, and about the same size as the Surface Pen. It’s also light, and does not require a battery. Pen tips are easy to replace. We do fear it looks a little too much like a normal ballpoint pen, given that it’s all black. It could be easy to lose or casually toss aside.

Lenovo Yoga Book inputs

Lenovo Yoga Book microUSB, microSD, and micro HDMI inputs

Lenovo Yoga Book power button and volume rocker

Lenovo Yoga Book power button and volume rocker

Display & Speakers

The Yoga Book has a 10.1-inch IPS display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution, and 400-nit brightness. That’s about 224 pixels per inch. For reference, both iPad Pro models have 264 pixels per inch.

It’s a fine display by any measure. The colors are accurate, and comfortably bright indoors. It’s very glossy though, and glare from outdoor sun makes it virtually unusable.

The bezels are relatively thick, considering the slick design, and houses a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Oddly, there’s an 8-megapixel camera on the upper right-hand corner of the keyboard. This serves as the rear camera with the Yoga Book fully open 360 degrees.

This is a Lenovo AnyPen display, meaning it registers any metal or graphite point as a touch input. It doesn’t offer pressure sensitivity or other advanced active stylus features, just a more precise means to tap and swipe. This is more useful in Windows, where precision touch is sometimes required, than Android (we reviewed the Android). Without AnyPen, the Real Pen stylus is useless on the display. And that’s because Lenovo placed the Wacom digitizer tech in the Yoga Book’s bottom portion, along with the Halo keyboard.

The Yoga Book’s twin Dolby Atmos speakers are loud enough to fill a quiet room, and produce relatively robust sound. We don’t expect much from the speakers on a device this thin, and came away pleasantly surprised after testing. They aren’t great speakers by any stretch, but grading on the curve of thin-and-light devices, they excel.

Keyboard & Digitizer

There’s no physical keyboard in the traditional sense. Instead, the Lenovo Yoga Book has a full-sized QWERTY overlay on top of a large Wacom digitizer, both covered in anti-glare film and Gorilla Glass. The keys are just backlit icons with haptic feedback (slight vibration) and no travel.

Lenovo calls it a Halo keyboard, and it’s a poor substitute for the real thing. Typing on it is slow and clumsy. Without physical keys, you’re left tapping blindly where you think the key should be. That’s good enough to accurately type letters with some practice and concentration, but awkward with the smaller punctuation keys and Shift-key combos. Touch typing is impossible, and pecking away with index fingers is only slightly better than the on-screen alternative.

Lenovo Yoga Book Halo keyboard

Lenovo Yoga Book Halo keyboard

Lenovo packs software in the Android Yoga Book to aid in word suggestion, corrections, and errant key presses; and it’s helpful. It still doesn’t fix the fundamental hardware problem: keyboards need keys.

Press the pen icon either on the display or keyboard panel and the key icons disappear, revealing the Wacom-powered Create Pad. In contrast to the Halo keyboard, this is an excellent setup, with the Yoga Book’s lower half acting like a more traditional Wacom tablet — the kind photographers and digital artists use. It supports the Wacom Real Pen’s 2048 points of pressure sensitivity.

For artists, this is great, as it leaves the display open and unencumbered. The 360-degree Watchband hinge offers new ways to situate the display and Create Pad: propped up at 120 degrees, open and flat at 180 degrees, or fully open at 360 degrees for note takers (more on that below).

Lenovo Yoga Book Create Pad and Wacom Real Pen

Lenovo Yoga Book Create Pad and Wacom Real Pen

And there’s no doubt note takers will grow to appreciate it. The Wacom Real Pen earns its name by actually doubling as a real pen. You can easily swap the rubber tip for an ink loaded tip and still retain the digital stylus features (the Lenovo Yoga Book ships with three ink-loaded tips, with more available for sale).

And here’s the Lenovo Yoga Book’s coolest trick: plop a real paper notepad on the Create Pad, and you can simultaneously take notes in both physical and digital ink with the Real Pen. The Lenovo Yoga Book ships with a magnetic Book Pad and paper for secure and comfortable writing, but it works with any paper, with or without the Book Pad. (Given that, we suggest using the Book Pad for any real note taking, for both cushioning and to mitigate the threat of scratches.)

Performance

Both the Windows and Android Yoga Books feature the quad-core Intel Atom X5-Z8550 processor (1.44 GHz, 2.40 GHz burst, 2M cache) with 4GB RAM, 64GB capacity, and a 8500mAh battery.

This Atom processor launched in Q1 2016, and is likely one of the last ever, given Intel has moved on from the line. In fact, the Lenovo Yoga Book might be the last major device to launch with it (in July 2016, we called the Lenovo ideapad Miix 13 the “Last of the Atoms” because it had the slightly slower X5 Z8350).

Atom processors require little power and run cool, making them perfect for thin-and-light devices. They are also powerful enough to handle the Android 6.0.1 that shipped with our Lenovo Yoga Book review unit, and judging from our experience with them, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update that ships with the other Yoga Book, too, as well as any mild-to-moderate productivity apps and tasks.

We experienced no hiccups, crashes, or slowdowns testing the Android Yoga Book. Everything was smooth and steady, and on par with any flagship Android handset. Demanding apps and games, like Modern Combat 5, ran extremely well, thanks to the Intel HD Graphics 400. In fact, we found touchscreen Android tablet gaming is much less awkward than smartphone gaming thanks to the increased display real estate.

Lenovo could have gone with a more powerful Core M processor, which can be found in the ultra-thin Samsung Galaxy TabPro S and Huawei MateBook, but that would likely have pushed the price up considerably. For a Core i-powered Yoga Book, Lenovo would have to craft a thicker device with either a fan or other means of cooling.

Specs

Our Lenovo Yoga Book review unit has the following technical specifications:

  • 10.1-inch FHD IPS AnyPen touch display (1920 x 1200 resolution, glossy surface), capacitive touch Wacom digitizer Create Pad with EMR pen technology
  • Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
  • Intel Atom X5-Z8550 processor (1.44 GHz, 2.40 GHz burst, 2M cache)
  • Intel HD 400 integrated graphics
  • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM (non-expandable)
  • 64GB internal capacity, expandable via microSD
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in 2-megapixel front-facing webcam, 8-megapixel rear
  • Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.72 x 0.38 inches
  • Weight: 1.52 pounds
  • Price as configured: $499.99

Benchmarks

Geekbench 4 is a cross-platform benchmark measuring overall performance. Higher score is better.

Lenovo Yoga Book Geekbench 4

Geekbench 4 Compute is a cross-platform benchmark measuring graphical performance. Higher score is better. 

Lenovo Yoga Book Geekbench 4 Compute

Battery

The Lenovo Yoga Book has a 8500mAh battery, which should easily last a full day with casual use. It lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes in our torture test, streaming Netfilx over Wi-Fi with the screen brightness set to max. Most flagship smartphones hit around 8 to 10 hours in this same test, and tablets vary from 4 hours up to 12.

Software

Android is not a good notebook operating system. It’s just not optimized for the form factor. In fact, it’s barely optimized as a tablet operating system.

Lenovo does its best in tweaking Android to make it more desktop friendly, adding a taskbar and enabling partial multi-window support. However, it just doesn’t work. For example, multi-windows support runs apps in phone orientation side-by-side, but it’s limited to Chrome, Gmail, OneNote, Evernote, and a few others. Productivity apps like Google Docs and Sheets, as well as Microsoft Word and Excel, don’t support it as of this writing.

Lenovo Yoga Book Android multi-window mode

Lenovo Yoga Book Android multi-window mode

The most current version of Android, 7.x Nougat, brings native multitasking. Hopefully, that helps things.

Android also lacks native inking support. While Windows 10 Anniversary Update has embraced it, baking it into the OS and OneNote. With the Android Lenovo Yoga Book, it’s mostly limited to apps, including the default Note Saver that ships with the Yoga Book.

This notes app is comically bare-bones. While it supports basic drawing, text typing, and pressure sensitivity, it lacks search functionality and a handwriting-to-text feature, which is fundamental to any decent notes app. Notes can be saved as PDFs or imported as PDF images to other notes apps, where anything written or drawn comes across extremely pixelated. Even notes imported to more robust note-taking apps with handwriting-to-text support, like Smart Note, can’t be converted to text, again, because Note Saver sends them as PDF images.

Lenovo Note Saver app

Lenovo Note Saver app

Other notes apps, like the aforementioned Note Saver and Google’s Handwriting Input, also work with the Wacom Real Pen, so it’s not a total loss. But the Lenovo Yoga Book has a cool feature where Note Saver can run in the background for note taking with other apps open, or even when the display is off. So you can watch a YouTube video and take notes at the same time, or save battery and jot physical notes with the ink-filled real pen, and record them digitally as well.

Lenovo Yoga Book, background notes

This would be a killer feature if it wasn’t limited to Note Saver. And in fact, the Windows Yoga Book uses One Note by default, though doesn’t have the ability to record notes while the display is off. That’s a small tradeoff, as far as we’re concerned.

Bottom line: if you’re a serious note taker, go with the Windows Lenovo Yoga Book.

It’s a little different for digital artists. The Android Lenovo Yoga Book ships with the excellent Art Rage app, and the Google Play Store is littered with about a dozen more worth trying. Again, digital artists will appreciate having full view of the display and access to a pressure sensitive active digitizer.

Of the 64GB internal storage, our Lenovo Yoga Book review unit came with 52GB available, with about 3.5GB taken up by preloaded apps. There’s some bloatware here, including MacAfee Security and useless Lenovo apps. Thankfully, it can all be uninstalled, and the email client and Gmail are the only redundant apps.

Conclusion

Lenovo Yoga BookThe Lenovo Yoga Book is intended for serious inkers and digital artists, built around a great idea. Lenovo executes the hardware portion very well, making the Yoga Book one of the most attractive and well-designed devices we’ve ever reviewed. The Watchband hinge is superb, as is the Wacom-powered Create Pad.

The Android-powered Yoga Book we reviewed is betrayed by its software. Even though we didn’t test it, we’re confident Windows is a much better operating system for a device so centered on inking, given the focus Microsoft placed on it with the recent Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

No matter the software, the Halo keyboard is barely better than the on-screen alternative, even with Lenovo’s predictive text. It keeps the Lenovo Yoga Book from rising from a niche device to a potential everyday driver.

At $549.99, the Windows Yoga Book is priced right. Yes, that’s high for an Atom-powered device, but no Atom-powered tablet or notebook can do the same things, or looks as cool.

At $499.99, the Android Yoga Book is overpriced, given Android’s limits. Pay the extra $50 for Windows, because no amount of tweaking can make Android a viable desktop operating system, regardless of inking apps.

Pros

  • Amazing design, great hinge
  • Create Pad is excellent
  • Decent performance

Cons

  • Halo keyboard barely better than on-screen keyboard
  • Android not built for ink
  • Lenovo Note Saver app too simple to be useful

 


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