Summary Review Score: 4.1/5
+Incredible portability (1.52 lbs) and versatility. So light that if feels more like a notepad than a computer
+Bright and colorful 1920×1200 display
+13 hour battery life
+GIANT RealPen writing surface with 2,048 levels of sensitivity, great for artists and notetakers
+Dolby Atmos audio with sound quality unrivaled in a device of this size
+Unique styling and 3rd generation trademark watchband hinge
-Somewhat limited storage, maxing out at 192GB
-Haptic feedback is “aggressive”
-Virtual touchpad commands not intuitive
-My giant hands could use one more inch of keyboard
MSRP: $549 USD for Windows, $499 for Android version
Can I let you in on a secret?
Something I haven’t shared with anyone else and that I’m almost embarrassed to admit?
I LOVED NETBOOKS. I mean, I really really thought the first generation netbooks were the bee’s knees. For all their shortcomings, cramped keyboards, limited resolutions and lackluster CPUs, the netbook offered a new world of portability and style years before iPads and tablets were even a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ billionaire eyeballs. My Dell Mini 9 and I were inseparable like that favorite shirt that is totally inappropriate for any occasion but you wear everywhere. But like that shirt, netbook shortcomings eventually landed me in netbook rehab, sponsored by Apple.
Ever since the demise of Generation Netbook v1, I’ve been looking for that device that maximizes portability while still being functional, fun and a bit funky. I got hooked on the Lenovo Yoga line for my “daily driver” device, ultrabooks with power, battery life, high end displays and tablet convertibility. I love love love my Yoga 900 but there was always an inner voice crying out for a different experience, a hole that had gone unfilled in the post netbook era. When Lenovo sent me a new 10” YogaBook to review, I had no idea that it would settle right back into that happy place in my brain that Apple tried to convince me shouldn’t exist. Disclaimer: Lenovo did not provide any monetary compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Lenovo clearly isn’t afraid to take risks. Over the last three years, we’ve seen them lead the computer industry in innovative user experiences and form factors. The staid “black bento box people” have a wild side and have been cranking out ideas like the original Yoga ultrabook convertible, the Yoga 2 Pro with a built-in projector, the paper-thin Yoga Home 900 AIO and the ThinkPad Stack of peripherals. So I guess I shouldn’t be totally surprised that they’d break with the herd again and develop an entirely new tablet category with the YogaBook. But I’m sure glad they did!
About the Lenovo YogaBook
At its core, the Lenovo YogaBook for Windows is a 10” convertible multi-mode laptop designed for extreme portability and creativity. The device weighs in at a feather-light 1.5 pounds, lighter than the Moleskine notebook I use for meetings today. It is powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8550 Quad-Core 2.4 GHz processor and 4 GB of low-power DDR3 RAM running Windows 10. 64GB of solid state storage are standard on the device with the ability to expand an additional 128GB via a microSD slot. I will tell you, ports on the unit are pretty sparse with just a microUSB charging port and a single USB-C to power your peripherals. Clearly this is a device designed to be “on the go”, not tethered to a bunch of accessories.
The build quality of the device is quite high. Everything feels precise and constructed from premium materials, beginning with the magnesium and aluminum case. The watchband hinge magically offers rigidity and stability while still allowing effortless movement when changing modes. This review device is in a matte black finish but silver and champagne gold options are available as well (with the gold option limited to the Android edition for some reason). The surface material is fairly fingerprint resistant but will pick up oils which can be easily removed with an alcohol wipe. Side buttons for power and volume are basically flat and require a fair bit of pressure to enable which prevents the “accidental power-on” that some devices with side buttons can suffer from. All in all, the tactile feel is very pleasant and holding the device in tablet mode is the most “natural” feeling of any Yoga device to date.
That Halo Keyboard
One of the most fun things to do with the Lenovo YogaBook is to hand it to a friend or co-worker with zero explanation as to its purpose. Without fail, he or she will first give you a shocked look about how light it is. “Is this a computer??? It says Lenovo.” And then they open the YogaBook and are met by this:
A completely flat and featureless panel. Only under close inspection can one make out the slightest faint outline of a keyboard. No keys, no buttons, just blackness! But push the power button and the halo keyboard fires to life with a 6-row keyboard, complete with a function row and proper shift key positioning (a common design shortcoming on first-gen netbooks). The bottom third of the panel is occupied by a unique touchpad design flanked on the left and right with virtual buttons and a central dot that behaves “somewhat” like a trackpoint. More on that later. Out of the box, the YogaBook for Windows has both audible feedback and haptic response enabled on the keyboard. Unless you work in a very loud environment, you will likely be disabling one (or both) of those sensory assists. Fortunately, that is easy to do through the Halo Keyboard Control Panel.
Typing with the keyboard takes a little getting used to, but I was surprised how quickly I could achieve a normal’ish typing flow. I would put my velocity somewhere between a standard keyboard and the virtual keyboard of a large tablet, maybe 70-75% velocity. The key spacing is adequate and logical and as a result, I didn’t have to hunt and peck the way I do on a tablet. One interesting observation I made was that my typing speed and accuracy was highest with haptic feedback disabled. It appears that the device needs a slight bit of time to fire each haptic “bounce” and at full typing cadence I had to slow myself down to give the feedback a chance to do its thing. Typing another character while haptic was still firing would cause the new character to get missed. This seemed an odd nit of an issue and I am following up on with Lenovo engineering.
The virtual touchpad definitely has features that are not intuitive enough for me to understand, at least without reading the manual, and who does that? There is both a left and right track button, each occupying a far edge of the touchpad. In the middle, a small dot seems to activate/deactivate touchpad features while also serving as a trackpoint of sorts. Gestures have taken a little extra time to learn, and I still find myself occasionally perplexed when my actions create a different outcome than I planned. This too will improve with additional usage and familiarity.
Writing with the YogaBook and RealPen Stylus
If you are a notetaker or someone who has struggled to transition from paper to digital notetaking, the Lenovo YogaBook is going to be one powerful gateway drug! The device features easy-to-use AnyPen and RealPen technology that does not require charging, unheard of in the industry. And in addition to the stylus you can change out the nib and have an ACTUAL REAL PEN (brilliantly named RealPen) to write notes on ACTUAL PAPER. Lenovo provides an initial removable pad to get started, which attaches via magnets to the YogaBook body. Everything you write or draw on paper gets instantaneously digitized via the WriteIt application. And if you’re not a paper person, you simply push the pen icon on the halo keyboard and you’ve got a giant Wacom-like tablet to use for notes, drawings and other works of creative genius. With 2,048 levels of touch, it feels like having a pencil or paintbrush in your hand as you create “happy trees” or turtles or pirates or whatever you learned in correspondence art college. Unlike real art school cleanup is a snap, or a Ctrl+Z Undo. The AnyPen stylus works on both the writing surface and the touchscreen. I initially thought this could get confusing but I found myself going back and forth between the two surfaces with ease.
The overall experience of writing on the YogaBook is easy, straightforward and intuitive. I tested and successfully used the pen to send notes to Windows Notes, OneNote and Write-It. I additionally produced creative doodlings and random artwork in ArtRage, Sketchable and Sketchbook along with a couple other products. While I can’t say that the YogaBook made me a better artist, it certainly made me a more efficient one!
Lenovo has brought via the YogaBook another exciting user interface innovation for the tablet/PC market, one that draws a lot of smiles from my customers and coworkers. When I get that response AND I like it myself, I know I’ve got my hands on a winner. The YogaBook is clearly aimed at the prosumer market for people who use technology in meetings and on the go. While, it will not replace a laptop for most people, it will be a constant companion in the conference room, at the coffee shop and at the airport. The compromises it makes in power and storage are offset many times over by the portability and versatility the YogaBook provides. A very impressive start!
Scott Beach is a digital and creative technology executive with way too many hobbies and not enough time. He leverages technology as a DJ/producer, a chef, a global traveler, a tennis player, a father and as a certified social media addict. He is also a member of the Lenovo Insider program and receives early access to new technology, including sponsored devices. He is not compensated for his reviews and his thoughts and opinions are his own…unless they’re his wife’s!