Review: Lenovo Yoga Book
The Lenovo Yoga Book is a credit to its namesake, both in that it celebrates flexibility and leaves me feeling a little out of sorts.
Lenovo Yoga Book
A truly beautiful little gadget. Incredibly adaptable. A better stylus and digitizer than you’d expect for the price. Makes a stab at the future.
The Halo keyboard is barely usable. Being pretty good at a lot of things is no substitute for being great and something.
It’s hard to describe what the Yoga Book exactly is, because it wants to be many things. It’s a tablet, surely, with a crisp 10-inch display, remarkably solid speakers, and extra software heft onboard to enable superior streaming. But then! Fold it open, and on the half of the device where the keyboard usually resides is a digitizer, complete with a stylus. You can plop an included pad of paper atop that half to take physical notes, with real ink, that show up digitally as well.
And then! That same half of the Yoga Book doubles as a “Halo keyboard,” with flat, capacitive touch keys. It’s like typing on buzzing glass. Did I mention it comes in both Android and Windows varieties? It does.
That’s a lot of device to stuff into a 1.5-pound gadget. Forget a 2-in-1; we’re looking at four or more uses in a single package. All at the completely sane prices of $500 for the Android version, or $550 for Windows 10. It’s innovative, it’s gorgeous, and it’s incredibly adaptable. But its attempts to be everything make it hard to recommend to everyone.
Let’s start with the good: The Yoga Book is gorgeous. Truly. It’s one of the nicest-looking gadgets I’ve spent time with, its magnesium-aluminum alloy shell all sleek and sturdy and lux. And while the “watchband” hinge that enables it to open 360 degrees isn’t new for Lenovo, it’s worth applauding here again. The Yoga Book bends smoothly, and holds steady at any angle.
And as a pure tablet, the Yoga Book works pretty darn well. Or at least, as well as Android 6.0 will let it. Android’s a terrific mobile operating system, but still doesn’t quite work in a large format. Lenovo’s added some software tricks to help it feel more PC-like, but those also don’t help much. There’s a feature that minimizes apps to fit more onto a screen, but go-to downloads like YouTube aren’t compatible. There’s also a decent amount of Lenovo bloatware packed in, some of which you can uninstall, some of which you can’t.
Still, the Intel Atom processor inside seems up to most tasks, despite being a bit outdated. (I didn’t test a Windows unit, but I’m curious how well it holds up there). And because you can fold the Yoga book all the way around, holding it in tablet mode feels like holding a slightly thicker tablet than usual.
If you just wanted a tablet, though, you wouldn’t be buying the Yoga Book. You’re here for the tablet-plus experience, which ranges from pretty good to gobsmackingly frustrating.
The digitizer experience works just fine. Press the pen button on the Halo keyboard or on the display and it turns into a drawing board, which Lenovo calls the Create Pad. It’s responsive, adequately pressure-sensitive, and its compatibility with a magnetized pad of physical paper makes for a more comfortable note-taking experience than using the stylus alone. I can’t shake the feeling, though, that this is also a case where more versatility also means more complications. Switching from the digital stylus head to the real-ink head can be frustrating, an once you’ve thrown the Yoga Book, stylus, and notepad in your bag, have you really saved much time and space at all?
For the organized, early adopting digital note-takers and mobile scribblers of the world, the answer may absolutely be yes. If you belong to that clan, you’ll get plenty out of the Yoga Book. If not, you’ll wish you just had a regular tablet. And in either case, you probably shouldn’t expect to do much typing.
Until now I’ve avoided talking about the Halo keyboard, but we have to discuss it at some point, since it’s such a large reason why the Yoga Book exists. Ditching physical keys is what allows for the Yoga Book’s thinness, and enables its claims on the future. It’s a nice thought—though Lenovo’s not the first to try it—but in practice, it’s crazy-making.
Here’s a small sample of my attempt to type this review on the Yoga Book itself:
My first thought hda been to wriet my Yoga Book review using the Yoga Book. People do thta, right? iPhone rdviews written on iPhones, after alli got about there sentenecs in bfeore I gqve it up: thqtùs hoz long it took ,e to s,oehoz szitch ,y keyboqrd to french:
Insetad, i folded the Yoga Bookmaround and went back tmotewting it as atablte. That seemed more funl at lersat.
Lenovo says the Halo keyboard will learn how you type and adjust in kind, and I’m sure after a few weeks I would learn how to use it and it would learn how to use me and we’d meet in a workable middle. But of all the learning curves we have to experience in this life, “typing” should be a one-time deal.
The overall experience is lacking, but here are a couple of specific gripes. The trackpad is very small and close enough to the space bar that you’ll inadvertently press the latter many times. The layout is scrunched, which is a byproduct of any tablet-sized keyboard, but one made especially frustrating without the placement reassurance of physical keys. I somehow switched the settings to French multiple times during my typing sessions. Mon dieu!
I respect what Lenovo’s trying here. It’s too rare that a company attempts to leapfrog into the future. For that alone, the Yoga Book deserves applause. In terms of actual usage, though, I’m not sure that it manages to solve the problems it sets out to without creating an equal number in return.
Can it do more than a tablet alone? It can, but at the cost of not being the best possible tablet. Can it replace your computer? The Atom processor and funky keyboard mean no, not likely. Ultimately, it’s like winding up with a platypus when all you really wanted was a beaver or a duck. The exception is if you enjoy digital sketching and note-taking enough that you want the option handy at all times, but not so much that you’d spring for a dedicated accessory. That’s a narrow frame of appeal to contort into, but hey. That’s what Yoga is for.