21 December 2016

REVIEW: Lenovo Yoga Book

The all-in-one 2-in-1.

Since reporting on the announcement a few months ago, we've been very keen to get our hands on the Yoga Book from Lenovo. What is promoted as a 2-in-1 laptop and tablet actually seemed to be a hell of a lot more, so we jumped at the chance to have a go.

To get a feel of why the Yoga Book is more of an all-in-one than a 2-in-1, check out the device's main promo video:

See what we mean? There's so much going on there that it is hard to define the thing as either a laptop with tablet-like features (such as this), or a tablet that you can use like a laptop (like this). That is mainly down to what Lenovo call the create pad; the part of the device where you would normally expect to find physical keys. Instead you get a blank black surface with a slight matte finish, that only springs to life once the Yoga Book is switched on.

Then, using a toggle touch button on the pad, you can switch between either the 'halo' keyboard, which uses backlit touch keys and haptic feedback, or an empty panel onto which you can draw, doodle, paint, scribble... anything you like. That's possible thanks to the included smart pen, which can be used like a conventional stylus, or be swapped out with a real ink cartridge to write words (which are then copied onto the Yoga Book) on the included paper pad. Yes, this is a modern computing device that comes with a notepad included. What a year it's been.

In terms of the physical product, opened out and laid flat it is just 0.4 cm think, so definitely the thinnest interface device we've ever reviewed. Obviously, double that figure when closed up, but still phenomenally thin. Despite that small profile the Yoga Book still hosts a Micro USB port, a Micro HDMI port, and a standard headphone port, too. You can pop out a small holder to place both a Micro SD card and also a SIM, because the Yoga Book can also run off mobile data. Which is interesting. There is a volume rocker, and also the sleep/wake button which is more akin to the one on your phone than your laptop.

Speaking of which, the one we were sent ran on Android, albeit with Lenovo's very business like UI overlay. A Windows 10 version is also available (in black) but will set you back £100 more. We were pretty glad we got the cheaper Android version, as Android lends itself far better to mobile devices than Microsoft's efforts. But that is both a good and bad thing.

The good: in use we found the best way to integrate the Yoga Book into your life was as a tablet. With the create pad folded back around (and automatically being deactivated as a result) it is a sound Android tablet which feels very familiar and can be used just like a large-screen pad with the added benefit of having the hinge there to use the other half as a stand.

Next on the good list was the creative mode, whereby the create pad is flipped open and the whole thing is laid flat. There are plenty of pre-installed art and doodling apps on the device to begin with, but if you have your favourite you can download and install yourself. Like this, the Yoga Book is essentially a creative person's dream, and thanks to the 2048 points of pressure the pen is capable of, you really can create images and drawings that look authentic. Overlaying a sheet of paper from the notepad was fun, and the copied image on screen was spot-on, but we never really found a practical use for it. Perhaps if you're a student who likes to take notes freehand, but wants a digital copy, this is for you.

The bad: well, there's isn't much. The only thing that we found hard to get used to was the halo keyboard. None of us have ever been fans of large-sized touch keyboards, so perhaps this is a degree of prejudice speaking here, but prolonged amounts of typing seemed like a real effort. Also, as the Yoga Book is dead flat, the angle is slightly off for a comfortable typing session. That said, we can't really see many writers buying this; those of us who sit and slave over a keyboard all day.

But apart from that one, pretty insignificant, thing this is a remarkable gadget. The battery is said to last about 15 hours, with is almost unbelievable. We're not sure what Lenovo doing with theirs to get that figure, but we found that after a full day's use, both typing, drawing, and watching a few films and TV shows, the battery started to give up the ghost at about 10 hours. We were hammering it, though.

Still, that amount of life, plus the small weight and tiny thickness, means that this is exceptionally portable. We have to commend Lenovo for bringing this thing out, and at a very reasonable price. We haven't seen anything like this before – not in one complete slim product, that is. So although we can't really recommend this to people looking to buy a laptop, for tablet shoppers with a fair for the creative, get it now. Now, you beautiful and interesting lot!


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