Lenovo Yoga Book and Yoga 910 Hands-on Impressions

Tech Features laptops
Lenovo Yoga Book and Yoga 910 Hands-on Impressions

The Yoga Book is what happens when you combine the power of searchable digital notes with the the art of writing on paper. It’s a dual-screen laptop, similar to convertible notebooks, and the device is available in Android and Windows configurations.

In essence, the Yoga Book is the closest consumer product that we’ve seen to Microsoft’s concept Courier tablet, a digital note-taking device that was never produced.

With a 10.1-inch screen on one panel and a laser-etched glass keyboard on another panel connected using Lenovo’s signature watchband hinge on the larger Yoga 910 convertible, the Yoga Book can be seen as a more portable Yoga notebook. Like its larger convertible sibling, the Yoga Book can be used in a variety of modes, spanning classic laptop, tablet, tent and more.

The Yoga Book comes in a sleek industrial design. Unibody aluminum construction, glass screens and straight lines give it a modern look, and the signature watchband hinge gives it a place in Lenovo’s Yoga series.

Hello, Keyboard!
yogabook_keyboard.jpgWhile the screen portion of the laptop is just like any other tablet — the Yoga Book comes with a 10.2-inch FHD display — it’s the keyboard portion that sets the book apart from other slates. Lenovo calls its physical keyboard the Halo Keyboard. It’s glass-etched, and it appears when you need it. You can also activate the keyboard with a button, which turns on the backlight and gives the device a very futuristic effect.

The Halo Keyboard comes with self-learning features, according to Lenovo, and features predictive input, auto-correct and auto-complete. This makes it feel much more like the native on-screen keyboard built into Android than add-on hardware keyboards.

yogabook_keyboard2.jpgTyping with the Halo Keyboard is exactly what you’d expect with typing on glass. If you’re used to typing on a physical keyboard with moving keys, using the Halo Keyboard will feel like you’re typing on the glass screen of your tablet, and in use it feels no different than typing on the screen of a Yoga Tab 3 Pro or iPad Pro. The main difference here, however, is that you’ll have full use — and view — of your tablet’s screen since the Yoga Book’s keyboard is on a separate screen panel.

So even though it may feel like Lenovo didn’t really do much for the typing experience, the productivity experience is greatly enhanced with an unobstructed view of your main screen. The Halo Keyboard also has haptic feedback, which can offer reassurance to let you know that you have pressed a key when typing. Haptic feedback doesn’t do much to replicate the feel of pressing on a physical key, but it at least offers tactile confirmation of a key press.

Power of the Pen
yogabook_pen.jpgIf you think that Samsung has mastered the art of mobile digital note-taking, think again. Lenovo has packed the Yoga Book with some unique innovations that combine the power of digital along with the art of pen-to-paper.

Like Microsoft’s Surface or Samsung’s Galaxy Note line, the Yoga Book comes with an active digitizer that allows you to write on the screen. The Yoga Book uses Wacom’s EMR pen technology, allowing you to write or draw on the screen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and 100-degree angle detection.

If you forget the pen at home, the tablet’s screen also features Lenovo’s unique Write Anywhere screen technology, which allows you to use any metal object — even a ballpoint pen — to write on the screen as if it was a stylus. Lenovo demonstrated this technology with a fork, but I’d be careful of scratching the screen with sharp metal objects. I found that the tech allows you to capture short notes in a pinch of you’re nowhere near the bundled Wacom stylus, and it’s a convenient feature to have. For longer note-taking, you’d likely want to remember the stylus.

yogabook_pen2.jpgThe Wacom stylus also works on the keyboard surface as well, allowing you to peck out a note on the Halo Keyboard. But where the magic happens is with pen-to-paper, and the stylus nib can be swapped out for a traditional ballpoint tip, allowing you to write on paper.

When you place paper on the Halo Keyboard portion — guidelines around the keyboarded screen will let you know where you should place the paper for proper detection — you can use the ballpoint tip to write on paper and simultaneously have your analog notes captured digitally using software. This gives you the feel of writing on paper and the convenience of having a digital backup without having to scan in your notes.

The best part is that no special paper is needed. Unlike Livescribe’s Echo pen, which requires special, expensive paper, you can use any paper. Just place your paper or notepad inside the guidelines on the Halo Keyboard surface and you’re good to go. I tried the feature with the official Lenovo paper pad accessory as well as my thicker Moleskine notebook, and the Yoga Book had no trouble providing me with a digitized version of my notes.

yogabook_pen3.jpgThe Lenovo Create Pad notepad snaps into place on the Halo Keyboard with magnets, and the paper is cut to size to fit the detectable writing area on the keyboard portion of the Yoga Book.

When you’re out of room on your paper, you can hit the same key on the device that lights up the Halo Keyboard to tell the tablet that you’ve flipped to a fresh sheet. There are a few differences between the Android and Windows version. The Android version captures your notes to Lenovo’s note app, while the Windows version will use Microsoft’s OneNote.

Both versions allow you to turn the main tablet screen off when capturing notes on a paper pad placed on top of the Halo Keyboard, but only the Android version allows you flip to a fresh digital note page by pressing the Halo Keyboard button — the Windows version requires you to activate that control inside the OneNote software, making it less convenient. However, the Windows version has OCR technology, according to a Lenovo representative on-site, which can transcribe your handwritten notes into typed versions. This allows you to easily search and archive old notes.

yogabook_tent.jpgWhen you’re taking notes using the Create Pad, you can have the main tablet screen on or off. In a demo with the tablet screen on, I found that the tablet can recognize my doodles, notes and sketches in near real-time, with a minimal delay between when my analog notes would begin showing up on the tablet’s digital screen.

Unfortunately, because of the watchband hinge design and thin construction, you can’t leave your analog notepad attached to the keyboard and close the Yoga Book. As a Moleskine user, I’d love the ability to keep the notepad attached for quick access to jot down fleeting ideas and thoughts. Perhaps a design with the hinge on Microsoft’s first generation Surface Book, which provides a small gap when closed, could accommodate stowing a notebook with the Yoga Book closed.

Lenovo says that you can store the pad on the rear, or bottom side, of the Yoga Book for travel. The same magnets that snap the pad into place on the Halo Keyboard surface for writing will work on the bottom of the Yoga Book for stowing.

yogabook_power.jpgBecause the Yoga Book comes in either Android or Windows variants — sorry, a dual-boot option isn’t available — the device is configured with an Intel processor. This means that Windows users will be able to use full Windows, including legacy Win32 apps, with the Intel quad-core Atom x5 processor.

Representatives informed me that Lenovo began conceptualizing and designing the Yoga Book three years ago, long before Intel made the design to shift away from the mobile market with the Atom CPU line, which is the reason why the Yoga Book is released with this line of processor and the Yoga Tab 3 Plus shifting to an ARM architecture.

The Yoga Book is powered by 4GB of RAM, 64GB of on-board storage and a microSD card for expansion. There will also be models with 4G LTE connectivity.

Because of its emphasis on note-taking, the Yoga Book is rated to last for 15 hours on a single charge despite its slim 0.38-inch form factor. If you’re taking handwritten notes, battery life likely shouldn’t be an issue if you turn the screen off and use the Halo Keyboard button to flip to a new page on the Android model when you run out of room on your current page.

Even though the Yoga Book’s resolution is capped to FHD, the screen still appears sharp. At 400 nits of brightness, it’s also brighter than most screens on laptops. The brighter display will likely help you capture notes outdoors, but I didn’t get a chance to test out the screen under the sun.

yogabook_power2.jpgThe Yoga Book is one of the most impressive products out of IFA. Instead of focusing solely on digital, Lenovo brings the perfect marriage between digital and traditional pen-to-paper note-taking, and the Yoga Book gives users the flexibility of paper note-taking with the convenience of instantly digitized notes.

If you’re a Moleskine user, student, sketcher or note-taker, the Yoga Book should be at the top of your list with its innovative and utilitarian design.

The Yoga Book will be available starting October. The Android versions retails for $499 and the Windows version starts at $549. Lenovo says that the decision to with either device will largely depend on your preferences. The Android version feels more integrated, especially when it comes to note-taking, but the Windows version may be a better choice for executives looking for Win32 app compatibility.

Yoga 910

yoga910_design.jpgEven before users became conscious of their smartwatch’s watchband, Lenovo made the term en vogue with the unique hinge on its convertible Yoga notebook. With each successive iteration, Lenovo has made improvements to the notebook’s signature watchband hinge and performance, and this year the Yoga 910 comes with the power of Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake processor.

While the introduction of the Yoga 900 last year brought aesthetic refinements to Lenovo’s signature laptop, most of the changes this year will be under the hood. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Lenovo already has a winning design, and the improvements delivered by the Yoga 910 will bring more power to users.

yoga910_design2.jpgOn the exterior, it doesn’t look like a lot has changed between last year’s and this year’s Yoga models — both generations feature a thin and light design, aluminum unibody construction and watchband hinge. However, once you open the lid of the Yoga 910, you’ll immediately be struck with the bezel-less design.

Removing the bezels from the sides of the screen allowed Lenovo to increase the display size. This year’s model features a larger 14-inch (13.9-inch to be exact) panel. Removing the bezels also gives the illusion that the screen is floating above the keyboard deck, a similar effect to Dell’s Infinity Display on the XPS 13 and XPS 15.

For consumers, this means you’ll get a bigger screen in a compact body, and in the case of the Yoga 910, you’re getting a 14-inch laptop in a 13-inch form factor.

yoga910_design3.jpgThere’s a lot to love with the Yoga 910’s bright, bezel-less screen. Lenovo is, for the first time in the line, offering a 4K IPS screen option along with a FHD configuration.

Like previous generations of Yoga laptops, the 910 features a 360-degree rotating hinge, allowing you to use the laptop in a traditional clamshell mode, tablet mode with the screen flipped around, tent mode for video consumption or in stand mode. Stand mode, Lenovo claims, is useful for consuming content, especially when you want the screen closer to you, whereas tent mode is more useful for cramped spaces, like airplane tray tables.

At just a hair over three pounds, the Yoga 910 comes with the latest technology in a thin and light body. The laptop measures 12.72 × 8.84 × 0.56 inches. This makes the Yoga 910 about an inch larger in width and length than Apple’s MacBook (11.04 × 7.74 × 0.52 inches), but the Yoga 910 comes with a display that’s 2 inches larger when measured diagonally.

yoga910_perform.jpgAside from the vivid, bezel-less 4K screen, the other big improvement to the Yoga 910 from last year is the inclusion of Intel’s latest processors. The Yoga 910 ships with Intel’s recently unveiled Kaby Lake processor this year, and the convertible notebook can be configured with up to a 7th generation Intel Core i7 CPU.

Additionally, the laptop can be configured with up to 16GB RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD. Lenovo is also including two USB Type-C ports on the laptop, one of which can be used for charging. I’m happy that Lenovo is doing away with the Yoga 900’s proprietary flat charger in favor of an emerging industry standard for input, output and charging. There’s also a USB 3.0 Type-A port, combo audio jack and a 4-in-1 card reader.

On the keyboard deck this year is a Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint sensor. Rather than the swipe-to-read biometric sensor of laptops of yore, the new tap-to-authenticate is fast and responsive, similar to fingerprint readers on Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone models. Having a fingerprint sensor makes it convenient to keep the laptop secure, and because you don’t need to type in a password or PIN, it also makes unlocking the laptop fast.

yoga910_perform2.jpgLenovo claims that the 910 will last for up to 10.5 hours on a charge for the 4K model, and the FHD is expected to have more stamina with 15.5 hours of battery life.

While Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake processor may seem like the biggest improvement this year, given the line’s iterative design, the most significant upgrade brought by the Yoga 910 is the screen.

With the Yoga 910, Lenovo has managed to create a 14-inch convertible laptop with a 4K UHD screen with the footprint of a 13-inch Ultrabook. This means you’re getting a larger screen in a smaller body, making the 910 big for work, but compact for travel. This upgrade, however, doesn’t come cheap. The Yoga 910 starts at $1,299 — the equivalent of Apple’s MacBook — and adding in more memory, a larger SSD and the 4K screen option will quickly increase the price of Lenovo’s convertible offering. The laptop will be available beginning in October.

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