Lenovo Yoga Book review: Hardware and performance

With 64GB of onboard storage and 4GB RAM, the Android Yoga Book can take a surprising beating when it comes to multitasking. The processor is an Intel Atom z5-Z8550, which is quad-core and can run up to 2.4GHz. We think Lenovo opted to include this lower powered processor rather than the increasingly popular, also fanless Core M series simply to keep the price down - necessary when an odd product like the Yoga Book is new to market.

While we feel the Atom is sufficient processing power for an Android tablet, we suspect that the Windows 10 version will struggle - it uses the same one. Android on tablet is essentially the smartphone OS with some minor tweaks, but an Atom processor will likely creak under the load when running full Windows 10. So be warned.

We used the Yoga Book for two weeks as a main device, installing many personal and work-focussed apps, using it to write copy, read the news, read Kindle books and play about with the Real Pen (disregarding our amateur drawing abilities) to write extensive notes.

When not trying to draw, our attentions were on the keyboard. When the keys light up on the completely flat surface you have a full size QWERTY with function buttons and more besides. There is, undoubtedly, a learning curve here. It doesn’t feel like typing on glass, such is the matte finish of the surface and the zero feedback from the material.

You can have vibrating haptic feedback at two levels of intensity should you wish to emulate keystrokes, but we found it easier to get to grips with when it was switched off. You’ll make mistakes, and the Android autocorrect and predictive mode are quite fiddly, but it is a much more pleasant experience to type on than we had expected. It is no substitute for a laptop and keyboard, but the Yoga Book isn’t trying to replace one. iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface are, but the Yoga Book is out there in a category of its own, and that is actually nearly enough to recommend it.

With a press of a virtual button, the lights of the keyboard disappear and the black Create Pad remains. This is the surface onto which you can draw directly with the digital Real Pen. There is no haptic feedback for this, but Lenovo claims the pen can detect 2,048 levels of pressure. That’s more than enough for anyone but the most needy of digital illustrators. The Real Pen itself needs no batteries, and the digital pen nib can be removed to insert a biro for using with the Book Pad.

The way the Yoga Book transitions physical notes straight into a digital file is great, and you can either watch them appear on the opposite screen as you write, with the device open like a book, or fold it the whole way round. If the latter, then it still records the notes, you just have to press a button when you reach the end of a page to let the device know. It all works seamlessly once you know the score.

Aside from the Yoga Book’s creative leanings, you don’t have to be a pro illustrator to appreciate it. It was great for us as journalists to record handwritten notes quickly, but even the most casual user will be able to find a use for storing digital writing, from shopping lists to drawings by the grandchildren.

There’s also a big battery on board. At 8,500 mAh, Lenovo claims 15 hours of standard usage with Wi-Fi, which we can confirm as accurate, though we feel its estimate of ‘over 70 days’ standby time is incredibly over estimated. The Yoga Book easily lasted us two to three days when using it, though bear in mind it wasn’t our sole device during that time. Unfortunately we found that the device took forever to recharge even when connected to mains power, so it’s essential to charge overnight from our experience - otherwise you’ll be sitting by a plug all day and the included cable is frustratingly short. For a device that you can use as a laptop, we expected the cable to be much longer.

Benchmarks

Our usual benchmark testing for the Lenovo Yoga Book was tricky as it is hard to compare it to other products. We went with the iPad Pro 9.7in and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 because of their hybrid nature and the ability to use a stylus, like with the Yoga Book. But - and be aware it is quite a big but - the specs aren’t directly comparable. Lenovo has massively undercut the price of both of those products and, by running Android (on this version at least), using a lower-spec processor and, above all, not trying to ape those products either.

The fact that the Yoga Book’s benchmark performance is closer to a smartphone is no bad thing. If you are a casual illustrator or hardcore note taker with the need for an ultraportable device that won’t break the bank (in comparison to supposed rivals) than the Yoga Book hits the sweet spot. It is another point that underlines how unique it really is.

Lenovo Yoga Book review: Software and apps

The presence of Android Marshmallow 6.0 (we updated over the air to 6.0.1) is a welcome one most of the time, only occasionally showing its limitations when used on a device like the Yoga Book. We love that, if already familiar with the OS, that you can ping your way around in and out of apps with relatively little confusion, even on first use. The inclusion of a keyboard in the design opens up the touchscreen to be used for tasks - much better than having half of it taken up by an onscreen version, although this is an option if you prefer. The Android version ships with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides pre-installed, and it’s easy to hook up to other Google services from the Play Store.

Its limitations are shown in the primitive multi window feature. Some apps you can minimise, but only to one uniform size, so while you can have three apps or so on the screen at once, they are all very small. Some apps don’t support the feature either, but we didn’t mind hopping between apps in fullscreen mode. While having around ten apps open doesn’t slow the OS down too much, this still isn’t a device or setup that is ready for a day’s brutal multitasking.

Lenovo’s own software Note Saver, for use with the Real Pen and Book Pad, is fairly primitive but allows you to easily view, edit and organise your digital note collection via a choice of pen effects and colours. We can see real potential for this to be a great way for writers to archive their notes - the downside being the expensive cost of paper refills. The UK price is to be confirmed, but at present in the US Lenovo sells a 75 page refill for $14.99. Thankfully, you can use any kind of paper but you will need to always use the Real Pen for both digital and ink writing with the device.

Lenovo Yoga Book: Specs

  • Android Marshmallow 6.0
  • 10.1in 1920 x 2000 FHD IPS touchscreen
  • 2.4GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8550 quad-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage with microSD support up to 128GB
  • 8Mp autofocus rear camera
  • 2Mp fixed focus front facing camera
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Dual Channel (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • 8500 mAh non-removable battery
  • 256 x 170.8 x 9.6mm
  • 690g
  • Android Marshmallow 6.0
  • 10.1in 1920 x 2000 FHD IPS touchscreen
  • 2.4GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8550 quad-core processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage with microSD support up to 128GB
  • 8Mp autofocus rear camera
  • 2Mp fixed focus front facing camera
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Dual Channel (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • 8500 mAh non-removable battery
  • 256 x 170.8 x 9.6mm
  • 690g

OUR VERDICT

We can’t hide that we love the Lenovo Yoga Book. However, that might not mean it is for you; it isn’t the most practical of devices, sitting as it does halfway between casual use and productivity, with a bit of mystery thrown in. If you love bleeding edge technology and you have a bit of disposable income - do it, you won’t be disappointed.

The Yoga Book isn’t pretending it can replace your laptop, so don’t expect it to. You won’t get all your work done on it, but we are pleasantly surprised by how much we did get done when we needed to. Note taking with the paper remains the lasting attraction here, and while some tasks take slightly longer than if on a computer, the portability you gain for the price will be worth it for most.

The device could be improved in a second generation - if Lenovo can squeeze a more powerful processor into a Windows version this could be a truly 5/5 product. For now, it remains an excellent but curious addition into the consumer tech world, but one that - importantly - proves Lenovo can design products as good as anyone else in the industry.