- Beautiful industrial design
- Versatile form factor
- Solid battery life
- Nice display
- Lacklustre performance w/ Windows
- Awkward typing experience
- Lack of ports
- Thick bezels
Lenovo Yoga Book review: Lenovo’s Yoga Book was arguably one of the most eye-catching products on the show floor at IFA 2016 but in the real world is it a case of style over substance or does this cutting-edge 2-in-1 really deliver on the promise of ultraportable productivity?
Lenovo Yoga Book review: Design
If there’s one thing you can’t fault it’s the Yoga Book’s industrial design. Lenovo has produced a stunning remix on the traditional 2-in-1 formula, something the company is already pretty familiar with, having one of the biggest ranges in the product category out there.
Closed, the Book measures just 9.6mm thin, which looks all the more impressive when that profile is halved once you open it up. Despite its svelte frame, it also feels reassuringly rigid, most likely thanks to the magnesium and aluminium alloy bodywork that Lenovo has opted for. As for the opening mechanism, just as with its more traditional Yoga laptops you can fold the display all the way over so that it can be stood on a table for easier media consumption or turned into a tablet that’s not all that cumbersome despite weighing (at 690 grams) more than the latest iPad Pro, complete with Smart Keyboard accessory.
Part of what makes the Book such a sleek and stylish machine is the use of a three-axial watchband-style hinge similar to the one found on other premium Yoga devices, in this instance comprised of 130 parts. With such a slight lip, it can be a little tricky to open the Book up but once open the mechanism is incredibly sturdy meaning you don't suffer from too much wobble should you favour the touchscreen when using it as a more conventional laptop.
Naturally, taking things to extremes almost always brings trade-offs and in the case of the Yoga Book, both the I/O and typing experience take the biggest hits.
It’s too thin to support a conventional USB-A port so you're limited to power over microUSB, a micro HDMI out and a 3.5mm headphone jack, along with a power key and a volume rocker. Beyond that, there's zero travel in the keys as, well, there aren't any real keys to speak of. The unabashedly technical-sounding passive EMR (electromagnetic resonant) surface that sits on the lower half of the Yoga Book hosts both a backlit ‘Instant Halo’ keyboard and trackpad, as well as a digitiser for creative applications and handwritten input.
You have control over the backlighting and vibration feedback when tapping on the glowing ‘keyboard’ but it's an uncomfortable substitute that has you staring at your hands more than the screen in an effort to minimise inevitable mistakes.
Where it stands out, however, is its ability to immediately transform into a writing/drawing surface. Simply pressing a button above the keys lets you seamlessly switch modes at which point you can whip out the included Real Pen stylus. It gives you the ability to draw (with up to 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity) directly or add in an included notepad, swap the nib out and have your doodles, illustrations and notes backed up both physically and digitally, simultaneously.
Lenovo Yoga Book review: Screen and media
To squeeze all the necessary electronics into that pancake-thin body also resulted in some sizeable bezels around the 2-in-1’s 10.1-inch 1920x1200 IPS touchscreen. They do have a use though, letting you adjust the screen portion of the Yoga Book without accidentally obscuring or interacting with anything on-screen, but in an ideal world, we would have liked the ratio to be skewed in favour of the display by just a little bit more.
As well as touch it too accepts stylus input, giving you more options when interacting with content and Lenovo’s AnyPen tech means you can use almost any object to scribble on-screen, which works surprisingly well, so long as you don’t need the machine to take into account pressure sensitivity.
On either side of the Yoga Book are a series of holes that actually house its Dolby-certified speakers. They’re perfectly fit for purpose but physics is likely the biggest barrier to them offering truly immersive sound in such a small form factor.
Lenovo Yoga Book review: OS
The capabilities and hardware configuration of the Yoga Book are such that it can straddle the line between operating systems, meaning you can pick it up running Android or Windows 10 without any discernable alteration to its innards (save for keyboard layouts).
Whilst the Windows version unquestionably offers greater versatility and flexibility, as you can install effectively any application you like, add support for most file types relatively easily and leverage Windows Ink, it’s the more affordable Android skew that feels more at home on the Yoga Book’s hardware.
Skinned with Lenovo’s specialised Book UI, the machine shows a particular talent for handling multiple windows at once (something that stock Android continues to struggle with), with smart floating window management, pre-loaded first and third-party apps for both note taking and illustration, as well as the ability to jot down notes to Lenovo’s own app without having to unlock Yoga Book or wake the display up. There’s even an included paper notepad in-box that magnetically snaps over the Halo keyboard; refills can be hard to come by though.
The biggest shortcoming overall is that it still runs version 6.0 Marshmallow; a decidedly dated choice out the box that Lenovo still hasn't refreshed despite minor updates since launch adding in small new features like tap to wake.
Lenovo Yoga Book review: Performance and battery
The reason the Yoga Book can be had with two distinctly different operating systems is its use of Intel’s Atom x5-Z8550 quad-core processor (accompanied by 4GB of RAM). It seems far more at home with the lighter weight of Android versus a full-featured Windows experience, making it better suited to initial idea generation and rough notation as opposed to serving as a more serious creative device.
This is also reflected in the storage, which sits at 64GB for both skews - far less of a burden for Android compared to full Windows. Expandability is also available via microSD support (up to 128GB) found through a dedicated tray on the Yoga Book’s side.
One point in favour of the Book’s productivity credentials is its excellent battery life. The 8500mAh cell promises up to 15 hours of longevity per charge and whilst that target proved wildly optimistic, we were still happy with the seven to eight hours it actually doled out - more than enough for the average work day.
Naturally, spending more time enjoying media or running more demanding applications, particularly on the Windows model, will have a direct impact on how much uptime you’ll get.
Lenovo Yoga Book review: Verdict
There’s no question that the Lenovo Yoga Book is an eye-catching and interesting proposition. It goes above and beyond the already adaptable 2-in-1 formula from a creativity standpoint but some of those additional elements work better in practice more so than reality.
The display’s resolution undermines its credentials as a worthwhile alternative to the likes of a Wacom graphics tablet whilst the Halo keyboard undermines its abilities as a productivity machine over a more conventional (and potentially more affordable) laptop.
If you’re a note-taker, a designer or a budding illustrator the Yoga Book definitely holds value but with £100 between the two models, we’d recommend the less expensive £449 Android version. Just have a clear understanding of what exactly it is that you’re buying before you open up this Book.
Note: Over half of this review was written using the Lenovo Yoga Book.
- WUXGA (1920x1200)
- 690 grams
- Windows 10 Pro or Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8550
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
- Optional (select markets)
- Halo Keyboard, Lenovo AnyPen, Lenovo Real Pen, three-axial-hinge, micro HDMI