Everyone once in a while, the tech industry attempts to take a massive leap forward and try something new. This doesn’t always work out for the best, but it usually results in at least one aspect of the attempt being good enough to be revisited at a later date. The Lenovo Yoga Book is one such attempt, and though it has its quirks, it is one product that I believe really should be revisited again in the future.
Lenovo’s Yoga Book is unusual, and yet strangely familiar. It looks like a convertible notebook, but is far smaller than what is normal. While closed, it feels more like a sketchbook than a computer. I would like to think that this was an intentional design choice, and it succeeds in communicating who this product is being built for.
The matte surface is pleasant to the touch, and is comfortable to walk around with. It also lends to the organic, non-machined look that Lenovo goes for with the Yoga Book. Artistic types will be able to wander around with this in their hands between creative moments without worrying about it slipping. That being said, I am not the artistic type and am simply making an assumption about what these people worry about.
Then there is the trademark watchband hinge, which remains impressive in its design and appearance, further adding to the classy look of the Yoga Book. On a side note, it is also solid hinge that inspires confidence that nothing will fail in the event that the notebook is roughly handled.
A notable part of the Yoga Book is how thin it is while shut. Which is where we should talk about the standout feature on the Yoga Book: this thing does not have a physical keyboard. The Halo keyboard, as it is known, is a slab of glass underneath which sits a touch panel that lights up to reveal the outline of a keyboard.
The effect is rather stunning. No other product has the same effect, and the Yoga Book’s futuristic keyboard encapsulates just how far ahead the idea is from current technology – because it looks far better than it functions.
For starters, the backlight of the Halo keyboard doesn’t illuminate the keys evenly. There are lights near the top, and the light kind of bleeds down towards the user. This may have been intentional, to create a fading effect. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t quite mesh with the rest of the aesthetics.
The Halo keyboard also has another feature: the ability to use it as a Wacom-style drawing tablet. This again is a play to appeal to the creative artistic types who would be inclined to own the Yoga Book, and again, the idea is a novel and fresh one.
The experience of this will be explained in the appropriate section below, but it is more important to point out the fact that the Yoga Book does not offer any sort of storage options for its stylus or writing pad. While this is not too bad for the writing pad, as it has magnets and can technically stick the back of the notebook, the stylus is just left on its own.
This is not even a small stylus, and is designed more like a pen. Actually, it happens to be a ballpoint pen that doubles as a stylus. Yes, it can write on normal surfaces thanks to the nib. Lenovo has also helpfully included spare refills just in case it runs out. At worst, you can just swap it out for a regular pen.
This is where the Lenovo Yoga Book really falls apart. It could be that I was saddled with the Android version, which feels like driving a car that can only make left turns. Either way, the Yoga Book has a long way to go before it can be recommended for daily use.
As far as being a tablet, the Intel Atom X5 processor and 4GB RAM provide ample power for running Android 6.0; though the Atom X5 is a curious choice – after all, this is a chipset that’s about two years old now. Then again, it may also give us an idea of how long the Yoga Book has been in development.
Now, back to the keyboard. As I mentioned earlier, the keyboard looks absolutely stunning and futuristic, but the problem here is the Halo keyboard is completely awful as an actual keyboard. You know, that thing that people occasionally use for typing…
It should come as no surprise that tapping on a solid surface is thoroughly uncomfortable. The problem is not so much a lack of haptic feedback, which Lenovo has somewhat solved, but rather that it is plain unpleasant to mash fingertips against solid plastic for long periods of time. Try tapping your fingertips on a glass table for five minutes and you’ll get the idea.
Similarly, the focus on the writing pad makes it difficult to use the pen with the Halo keyboard. Pen nibs do not travel smoothly over the matte surface, and replacing it with the actual stylus nib is a practice that would result in something going missing.
A slightly less noticeable, yet important detail is how long it takes to charge the Yoga Book. It’s not that the battery capacity is particularly large, or that the charging options are lackluster. Instead, reaching a maximum charge just takes nearly forever. My personal record was 10 hours of charge time; which would only be achieved on a weekend spent entirely at home.
That’s not to say that the Yoga Book has poor battery life. On the contrary, it has excellent battery life and can easily last for several days if used conservatively. Then again, this is an Android system and your mileage may vary. I’m quite curious to see if the same performance can be dragged out of the Windows 10 version.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
As a convertible notebook of sorts, the Yoga Book’s closest competitor would be the litany of Windows-based 2-in-1 devices, of which the best is arguably the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. It also caters to those who want a device for drawing and creating content; and admittedly, both are spot on for their efforts.
Unlike the Yoga Book, the Surface Pro 4 wants users to draw directly onto the display; and provides a more paper-like experience with its 3:2 aspect ratio display. Unfortunately, the Surface Pen is a separate peripheral; which drives up the price of the already somewhat pricey Surface Pro 4.
The Surface Pro 4 is substantially more expensive than the Yoga Book – and admittedly in a completely different class from Lenovo’s offering. The price tag doesn’t even include the RM259 for the Surface Pen.
That said, it is tough to identify a proper competitor to a product like the Yoga Book. It feels more like an experimental device than one that aims to shake the way we look at a tablet.
Lenovo has taken a chance with the Lenovo Yoga Book and it’s nice to see companies continually try something new with their product lines. That being said, the amount of time that the company sunk into developing the Halo keyboard appears to have hamstrung the product as a whole.
The hardware is woefully out of date, especially for a machine that makes a claim for content creators. Which is disappointing as the entire package is more than adequate for simple productivity work.
However, as far as the Halo keyboard goes, I strongly suspect that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of it. The idea behind the keyboard is innovative and something that has merit. All it needs is a little extra refinement, and for Lenovo to put more effort into making the typing experience more enjoyable.
The point I’m trying to make is one that we already reached on our podcast. The Lenovo Yoga Book is a great idea; but it just hasn’t quite hit a home run in the implementation. I’m willing to give Lenovo the benefit of the doubt and wait for the inevitable Yoga Book 2. Here’s to hoping that a proper polish will turn this into something worth looking at.