If Apple, Microsoft and their lot are the Thomas Edisons of the computing industry, then Lenovo has become the Nikola Tesla. Whereas the de facto founders of Silicon Valley established (and consistently update) the status quo for computing, Lenovo has constantly questioned and toyed with just what computing is since it bought IBM.
Lenovo’s latest wild experiment? The company that pioneered the convertible hybrid laptop design has taken that concept to what might be its logical conclusion: the Yoga Book.
Why make such strong allusions? Because, like so many of Tesla’s works, the Yoga Book really could either be the cool, ingenious, tablet-driven future of laptops that just makes sense. Or, it could be a flop to be forever remembered by diehard fans and hipsters.
This is because the Yoga Book, a 10.1-inch laptop-tablet hybrid that comes with either Android Marshmallow or Windows 10, has no keyboard. Rather, its “bottom” half, attached via a variation on Lenovo’s signature 360-degree watchband hinge, is a capacitive touch surface.
This magnesium-aluminum alloy surface (found across the tablet), called a Create Pad by Lenovo, can conjure a touch-based keyboard for you instantly. The Create Pad also features haptic feedback – and, living up to its name, can double as a veritable Wacom digitizer replacement with Lenovo’s Real Pen stylus.
Just sit on that for a moment. A computing device that can operate as a laptop, a full blown tablet and a digital art tool without so much as a button press between them. It sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true scenarios, doesn’t it?
Having played with the Yoga Book for a few minutes during a briefing recently, we can say that is not necessarily the case here. We’ll be upfront in saying that typing on a Yoga Book involves a rather steep learning curve.
We’re all used to typing on screens because they’re in the front of our faces – we can always see in plain sight where our fingers are. That’s not the case with a laptop. In fact, some might say the mark of a skilled typist is that she doesn’t have to look at the keyboard at all.
Upon first trying to type on the Yoga Book, your eyes will probably struggle to stop from involuntarily looking at the keyboard. The haptic feedback helps fill in for the physical touch and force of plastic keys, but we’re hesitant to say whether it’s a worthy replacement.
At the very least, it is incredibly close.
Typing on the device admittedly feels a bit strange and discouraging for someone that prides himself on his typing accuracy. But, coupled with practice and some awfully strong auto-correction software, you might not be missing your laptop before long. (I certainly wasn’t.)
However, with this comes a conundrum facing the Yoga Book: at least from when we last tried out the device, it’s clear that either Lenovo or Microsoft has to work on the Yoga Book with Windows 10’s auto-correction software. Frankly, it’s far less advanced than Google’s.
We had noticeably more trouble typing out sentences on the Windows 10 model than the Android one during our time with both, which is a shame considering Microsoft’s superior position in pen recognition and general productivity. Hopefully, these discrepancies will be fully resolved before the devices’ launch this October.
Death (or rebirth) to the pen
The typing experience only covers one half of the Yoga Book’s incredibly unique selling proposition. The device can double as a drawing tool with the included Real Pen. The palm rejection is on point, as is the pressure sensitivity – all 2,048 levels of it.
But, what if you like good old pen and paper? Lenovo’s thought of that, too. Using the firm’s Book Pad, really just a yellow note pad with a magnetic strip to hold on with, you can instantly back up your handwritten, analog notes into digital representations.
This is accomplished through what is known as electromagnetic response (EMR) technology. Basically, the pen – which can swap between real ink and plastic tips – generates electromagnetic electricity that the tablet’s Create Pad picks up and translates into legible characters, words and sentences.
The technology in action was a bit mind blowing to see for the first time, to be honest. Being able to interact with a single device in this many ways, and effectively, is nothing short of amazing.
The best of the rest
Lenovo powers this futuristic experience with a quad-core Intel Atom x-series processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 64GB of flash storage – all behind an FHD (1,920 x 1,200) IPS display. And, that’s on both Windows 10 and Android.
An 8,500 mAh battery said to last up to 15 hours of general usage keeps the 0.38-inch-thin (9.6mm), 1.52-pound (690g) slate running. (Of course, we couldn’t test this during a hands on review.)
The Windows 10 version of the Yoga Book comes solely in all Carbon Black, while the Android version offers Gunmetal Gray and Champagne Gold.
Honestly, this thing could come in purple and this editor would still buy in. (Actually, that would look pretty cool.) That’s partly because, for the tablet, a Real Pen, ink cartridge refills and screen tips, and the Book Pad, Lenovo wants just $499 (about £391, AU$664) for the Android version and $549 (about £419, AU$731) for the Windows variety to start.
Sure, this is a low-powered device no doubt, but nothing that you couldn’t complete basic productivity tasks with, like what some of us at TechRadar use a Surface Pro 4 every day for.
Ultimately, to focus on things like specs and power is to completely miss the point of the Yoga Book. The point is to show us a different way of computing that has been a long time coming, the first truly exciting and genuinely interesting attempt to push the laptop into the next phase of its storied life.
And, it actually works.