Review: Lenovo Yoga Book

Oct 30, 2016

Lenovo’s latest innovative and crazy device is the Yoga Book. It’s the closest I’ve seen to a device that replaces your paperback writing notepad with an electronic alternative, on the go. Up to this point, every other device was a laptop designed for typing as the input method. Or, you had tablets with hokey keyboard accessories. I will say,t he Surface line from Microsoft is a nice hybrid model but the keyboard isn’t included in the box - that’s a shame. With the Yoga Book, Lenovo has built a unique device that can act well as an electronic note-taker and provide you the comforts of writing with paper (more on that later). To bring this unique product to life, they partnered with Wacom - a brand creative-types know well. For years, Wacom has made commercial-grade input devices that artists have used to create some amazing content. Lenovo also made the “Book” part of the Yoga line of products and incorporated their excellent 360 degree watchband hinge, along with the branding that goes with it. I’ve seen a lot of Yoga devices over the years and they continue to get slimmer, quieter, faster and more mobile. Where the Yoga Book lacks power, it makes up for in portability, and certainly maintains the model’s charming slogan, “designed to be different.” The Yoga Book is quite different.

The Yoga Book used in this review was not provided by Lenovo.

As an amateur product reviewer, I struggle with perspective. I want to share everything I know about this device including how it fits within my lifestyle. If you’ve been following my reviews over the past 7 years, you know I travel often and also am a university professor. All the while I write and manage this wonderful company - Geeks World Wide. I bring this up because as a potential consumer of the Yoga Book, it’s important to know my perspective. It may or may not align with your own. The Yoga Book is such a different device that it demands this type of posturing and transparency. I am recommending this device to people like me. I’m going to extend the recommendation to students high school and college. But, buyer beware: this may be a difficult device to understand.

Effectively, the Yoga Book is a thin 10.1″ tablet that runs either Android 6.0 or Windows 10. Physically attached to the tablet is another slate of equal size. It’s both a keyboard and a pen interface. These two slates are conjoined by a hinge that allows for 360 degrees of flexibility. It’s unique, beautiful and functional in many scenarios that tablets could otherwise not enter. Even with Windows 10, the Yoga Book is not a laptop. In today’s world, laptops are a mobile alternative to traditional desktop computing. Laptops are designed for marathon typing sessions for document and spreadsheet creation, application development, digital content design, and much more. A tablet, like the Yoga Book, is primarily for watching movies/TV shows, reading web content, listening to music and occasionally viewing or slightly modifying existing work product (i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Anyone who has ever tried to do laptop activities on a tablet for a prolonged period of time (it takes just a few minutes) will tell you it’s less than ideal. If you were to try doing an obscene amount of laptop work on a tablet you’d probably throw your tablet against the nearest wall. The point is, the Yoga Book looks and feels like a premium laptop, but it’s a tablet. Don’t let the cool Halo Keyboard confuse you.

As a tablet the Yoga Book is exceptional. The quad-core Atom processor and 4GB of RAM are plenty to power Android 6.0. I haven’t ran any benchmarks but the Yoga Book feels faster than my Nvidia Shield K1 and certainly faster than my Nexus 5x. The on-board 64GB of storage is just enough to get you by for a while. Fortunately Lenovo provided expand ability via microSD with up to 128GB supported. This is perfect for me. I own dozens of movies on Amazon that I can download onto the microSD and take with me between devices. If you’re interested in the Windows 10 experience, I am expecting a Yoga Book with that OS to be provided by Lenovo this fall. Stay tuned here for an update.

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Let’s talk about typing. There’s nothing wrong with it as a primary input method. Personally, I prefer to type my notes rather than write them. The Yoga Book’s Halo Keyboard has zero travel distance. That means it’s effectively a software-keyboard on a phone. The haptic-style feedback helps give you a sense of success when you press a key, but I still found myself looking down at the keyboard more than I usually do. This is not an ideal typing experience for a laptop. But, for a tablet, it’s better than typing on the screen or lugging around an external keyboard. Even though its pretty and shiny (+1 for typing in the dark), it’s not the reason to buy the Yoga Book. Where the Yoga Book shines is the other function alongside that keyboard: the Wacom touch tablet. There are two functions to the Wacom tablet (remember, I said this was not an easy product to understand): (1) writing with the included stylus and (2) writing with the included ink tip and paper. If you’re into drawing for fun, to illustrate a point, or you do it as a hobby, this is a great addition to a wonderful Android tablet. If you’re serious about drawing and make a living from it, you already own the hardware and software you need to be successful. You’re not going to run PhotoShop well on the Yoga Book. And you’re not going to make a living operating behind a $500-$550 tablet. The Yoga Book can be confusing in this way. It looks like the perfect device for mobile professionals and artists. The truth is, it’s a good companion device that can compliment a mobile professional or student. In the end, it’s not going to replace a traditional laptop. The best option for students and mobile professionals is the Surface Pro series. The Yoga Book is not going to knock the Surface Pro off of that pedestal even though it’s a 30-50%% less expensive.

yoga-modes

The various modes of all Yoga products.

The Yoga Book comes in two flavors: Windows 10 and Android 6.0 and is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8550, which runs at 2.40GHz. The Android model, priced at $499 USD, was an easy choice for me. I wanted a tablet to replace my Nvidia Shield K1 that had a bigger and better screen for media playback, web browsing and light document management. The latter activity I can’t do comfortably on the Nvidia Shield. Most of my other devices run Windows 10 but in this case I did not need the heavier OS. In fact, the media playback experience, for me, is better on Android. All of the digital movies I own are on Amazon, and the Android app from Amazon allows you to download your movies for offline viewing directly onto an external SD card. I can travel with dozens of movies on the device and play them back in airplane mode. While the Android version is older (the world is on 7.0 now), Lenovo has included their own take on a multi-window interface. I have not used it much and it doesn’t support every app on the Play Store. I’ve read from other reviewers that it’s a good implementation.

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Before you can settle on which model to buy, if at all, you have to know what type of user you are, or plan to be. Using the Yoga Book as advertised either means you’re traveling light or with a few accessories. One of the defining characteristics of the Yoga Book is the zero-travel Halo Keyboard. The operative words being zero-travel. Travel is a good thing if you type a lot. It provides the physical feedback a user expects while typing. It leads to more accuracy due to an awareness of where your fingers are in relation to the keys. If I can fly 30 minutes from Portland to Seattle for a day of work and then fly home without having to carry anything but the Yoga Book on a full charge and headphones, that’s worth $500 to me.

Specifications

  • 10.1″ Display | 1200 x 1920 pixels
  • 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8550
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128GB via microSD)
  • 2-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel rear camera
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v4.0 ready with 4G capability via expansion
  • Dimensions: 256 x 170.8 x 9.6 | 690g
  • Android 6.0
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