Lenovo Yoga Book full review

Hats off, Lenovo. In a time where most smartphone are black slabs that look like iPhones and laptops are silver ones aping MacBooks, the company has created a product like no other. The Yoga Book is a svelte, light, futuristic 2-in-1 laptop/tablet that can do an awful lot while looking like it’s from the set of Minority Report.

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It is this desire to break away from a decade of design stagnation that drives the unique look of the Yoga Book. It’s like nothing we've seen before, but with the functionality of several devices including Apple’s iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Yet the Yoga Book is more compact and debatably even more useful than that device, though it depends on the use cases. Either way, this is an outstanding product from a company that has stagnated in recent years. Here is our Lenovo Yoga Book review.

Lenovo Yoga Book review: Price and where to buy

The Lenovo Yoga Book is available with Windows 10 in the UK from £549.99. However there is also an Android version, which we reviewed here and at the time of writing is not available in the UK.

In the US, the Android Yoga Book retails for $499.99, and we expect the UK price to be the same amount in pounds.

Lenovo Yoga Book review: Design and build

While the Yoga Book is to our mind one of the most interesting tablet designs ever, it’s still a device that is an acquired taste. Once you’ve taken in its space age looks and the light-on light-off keyboard, you’ll probably think, “what is it for?”. Lenovo has decided to leave it open. It’s not for work or play; it can do both.

Because the device has a hinge and open like a laptop to display a keyboard in landscape mode, we used it more often this way round than folding it back completely to use as a normal tablet. Our Android review unit was Gunmetal Grey, though a Champagne Gold version will also be available. If you prefer a Windows 10 setup, you’ll have to get one in Carbon Black.

The metal Yoga Book folds open at a hinge that wouldn’t look out of place on the arm of the Terminator to reveal a generous 10.1in screen. The bottom panel springs to life with what Lenovo calls a Halo keyboard, a touch sensitive panel with a QWERTY keyboard lit up underneath. You have to see it to fully appreciate that there are few products on the market to invoke this level of initial disbelief, such is its sci-fi vibe. It’s a bold design choice and one that we have to congratulate Lenovo on before investigating if it’s actually practical to use. One expects not, but that isn’t always the case with this beguiling machine.

The dimensions when closed are 256 x 170.8 x 9.6mm and it weighs just 690g. The Lenovo logo is subtle, and suggests the device be held like a book (as does the name Yoga Book, of course). Yet when you open it, it naturally becomes a laptop.

For comparison, a 9.7in Apple iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard attached weighs 662g - so essentially, you won’t notice a difference between the two set ups. The design of the Yoga Book stands out also in comparison to a device like the iPad Pro because it is a unibody design, with no need for the extra expense of a fiddly keyboard accessory. Having said that, the keyboard here does take some getting used to.

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The design is surprisingly featureless when closed, though this is how Lenovo achieved such a remarkably thin design. There’s a micro-USB port for charging and data transfer, a mini HDMI port to hook up to displays, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Aside from that, our version had a SIM slot for a 4G data SIM, a speaker grill on each top and bottom edge (when held vertically with the hinge on the left). That same top edge also has the power/lock button and a volume rocker. The two cameras are safely hidden when the devices is closed - you open the unit completely into tablet mode to use the then rear-facing lens.

What we like so much about the Yoga Book is that it not only includes a full keyboard in a 2-in-1 design, but that this keyboard area doubles as a pressure sensitive canvas for use with the included ‘Real Pen’. At the touch of a button, the lit keys dim to give a black slate that you draw or write onto digitally, but there’s also a physical paper pad that has a clever trick up its sleeve. With the biro refill for the Pen, you can draw directly onto the included Book Pad thanks to a conductive magnetic back, and the Yoga Book digitally recreates and stores your work onto the device.

This will be preferable for some people, because although with the iPad Pro you can draw directly onto the screen, some will miss the tactility of using an actual pen. The Yoga Book allows you write or draw as normal but effectively creates an automatic digital library of all your work with the Note Saver app. Just be aware that you can only use the included Real Pen with the ink refills to do this, so you won’t be getting out the charcoals unfortunately.

We’ll come on to how it works in practise, but the first time you use it, it’s hard not to get excited. It will bring out the purest love of tech in you, such is its uniqueness compared to anything else on the market. It’s easiest to achieve what you want from the note taking app when using the biro and paper, as if you use the digital pen you are not drawing directly onto the screen (like you would on iPad Pro) and the image is replicated on the screen opposite. The pen however has a sensor that relays a white circled dot onto the screen when you hover over the Create Pad, as a guide to where the nib will land.

The digitiser inside is supplied by Wacom, the company famous for its stylus and tablet technology.

We won’t use the tired Marmite cliche here; whether or not you want to buy the Yoga Book is dependent on your potential use for it. With such a focus on the pen, if you write or sketch and want a device that will digitally store it all automatically for you, bingo. Yet even more than the iPad Pro it’s a device that we fell for simply because you just want to get your hands on it and play.

Lenovo Yoga Book review: Display

The display is a 10.1in full HD IPS with a resolution of 1920 x 1200. It is a capacitive touchscreen, but this is only for finger input when in tablet mode or tapping icons in tandem with keyboard use. The screen displays the standard Android tablet setup, with the taskbar housing the three icons (menu, back and open apps), as well as the currently open apps on the bar. The Windows 10 version will obviously differ, but we have not yet tested it.

The screen is as responsive as you’d expect from a high-end tablet in 2016, and it’s a good things, as you’ll find yourself using it a lot. Although the keyboard houses a trackpad when turned on, it’s a frustrating experience on the Android platform. We would imagine it’d be very useful on a full OS like Windows, but on Android it’s just easier, quicker and more reliable to tap on screen. This doesn’t detract from the day to day use of the machine, thankfully.

Screen brightness did tend to need to be quite high, particularly when viewing darker colours (Netflix viewing definitely needs to be at a high brightness) but editing documents in Google Docs is no problem. The display is also excellent in tablet mode, with good viewing angles and barely a trace of pixelation.

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