The tablet is in a weird spot. It was supposed to be this hybrid that lives somewhere between the laptop and the smartphone, complementing both. But as smartphones got bigger and laptops got lighter, smaller and more powerful, it became really hard to justify picking up a tablet. And so, the need for such a device dwindled.
But now I think I’ve found the tablet’s salvation. It’s called the Lenovo Yoga Book and I love it to bits.
Of course, this concept of a tablet that can do more than just your generic tablet-y things like watching videos and reading books isn’t new. You’ve got stuff like the Apple iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard combo, for example, but my problem with that is the fact that it comes in two pieces. And that’s the same issue I have with every other detachable 2-in-1 tablet.
That, however, is not a problem I have with the Yoga Book because its keyboard is attached firmly to the screen with Lenovo’s excellent watchband hinge. It’s also really elegant and sleek and unassuming.
As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of the Yoga Book but even I’ll admit that this still isn’t the device for everyone. Here’s why.
+ Super sexy and well built
– Lackluster performance
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I won’t beat around the bush: This Yoga Book is not a laptop replacement. It’s a tablet so I think it’s only fair that we treat it like one. This model is powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage (expandable via microSD). Yeah, I know, I can see you cringing already and believe me that’s absolutely justified.
This tablet isn’t a powerhouse. You’re not going to be able to game, edit videos or even open too many Chrome tabs on this before it gives up. I tried running Battlefield 1 on it and got a solid 2fps before it got too hot and I gave up.
Even by tablet standards, this Yoga Book doesn’t feel like a top performer and that, I think, is in part because it’s running a full copy of Windows 10 and not a mobile OS (there is an Android version, but I didn’t get the chance to test that out). But then again, this isn’t designed to run super intensive tasks and if you can understand that and work around it, the Yoga Book is definitely more than usable.
It handles light to moderate tasks like video watching, word processing, emails, general browsing and even light photo editing well so it was just about enough for me to use as a daily driver for work. The biggest thing I had to get used to was the keyboard and its touchpad.
What makes the Yoga Book special is what Lenovo calls a Halo Keyboard. The “keyboard” section of this tablet is basically a touch-sensitive panel with a QWERTY layout printed on it. There’s even space for a tiny little trackpad, but I didn’t bother with it because it was a nightmare to use — the touchscreen was far more reliable.
The Halo Keyboard itself, though, was a different story. There is a learning curve to this and even though I spent a little over two weeks with it, I was still getting a whole bunch of typos. Of course, I’m far from the best typist, so your mileage may vary. Still, I think that given enough time, it’s not something you can’t get used to.
Having this keyboard, though, gives the Yoga Book a lot of strengths over your conventional 360-degree 2-in-1. The first would be portability. Because there are no physical keys, the bottom piece is as wafer-thin as the screen. You can also comfortably fold it behind and use the Yoga Book in tablet mode without physical keys getting in the way of your grip. It’s like the keyboard was never there.
The second is that you can use this Wacom-developed surface to sketch and draw with the included Real Pen stylus. Just hit the little pen icon at the top left and the Halo Keyboard will switch to a sketch pad mode. Y’know how manufacturers like to say that using their stylus on a screen is like “writing on paper” but in reality, it feels nothing like paper? Well, the Yoga Book is the first device that actually lives up to that claim. Drawing and writing on this surface feels really satisfying.
When you write on the Halo Keyboard surface, you get an incredibly similar paper scratching feel that I just have not seen replicated on a screen yet. And if you want the actual feel of paper, you can just swap out the stylus nib for an actual pen nib, drape a piece of paper over the keyboard and draw on it. That lets you keep both a physical and an electronic copy of your notes.
Lenovo is really pushing the book aspect of this 2-in-1 tablet and I think they’re succeeding. Everything from the feel of the hinge, the writing, and the overall weight pretty much hits the nail on the head.
Even battery life is impressive, as I never found myself needing to bring the Yoga Book’s charger out with me. With all-day work-related usage, I got about 10 hours on a single charge which is easily enough to last an entire day.
With those things combined, the Lenovo Yoga Book is a reasonably capable productivity machine for light to moderate workloads. “What about entertainment?” I hear you ask. Well, while I think it’s still pretty capable, there are one or two things you should know if you want to commit to this as a video-watching tool.
Its 10.1-inch Full HD screen, for example, isn’t the best thing out there. I think the display could stand to be brighter, though, viewing angles are pretty reasonable. It’s OK for viewing in a room but once you’re outdoors, combined with the glossy panel, sunlight does become a problem.
Besides that, the Yoga Book’s speakers are pretty rubbish. They’re not big on volume and when you have it in tent mode, it becomes even worse. My advice would be to make use of the 3.5mm headphone jack (or Bluetooth) and slap on a pair of headphones instead.
Still, I’m not saying the Yoga Book really bad for watching videos and movies, I’m just saying that there are better options out there.
It’s also a shame that the Yoga Book has a downright abysmal selection of ports. All you get is a micro USB port and a micro HDMI port. But I guess that’s because the device is so ridiculously slim, so you’ll have to decide if that’s a trade-off you’re willing to make. Besides, if you compare this to other traditional tablets, the Yoga Book actually isn’t too bad.
And that’s still exactly what the Yoga Book is — it is a tablet. I’ll stress again the fact that this device isn’t a laptop replacement and you shouldn’t treat it that way. Initially, I made that mistake too and was ultimately disappointed to find that it didn’t live up to my expectations because it couldn’t replace my heavy Inspiron 13.
Once I started using it as a complementary device, my impressions of it definitely changed. It’s small and light but is still functional enough that I can bring it to events instead of my laptop. Since there is no physical keyboard, flipping the base around lets me use it like any other tablet without keys getting in the way. It strikes a really good balance between practicality, portability, and functionality that slides it comfortably into that slot that a tablet was always meant to fill.
And I love that about it. Lenovo didn’t have to build something like this especially considering the state of the tablet market. They could have just stuck to their already excellent 2-in-1 laptops like the Yoga 900S and call it a day. But they built it anyway and what they came up with is a product that is genuinely innovative. I’d even call it a glimpse into the future of tablets.
However, while I think the Yoga Book is everything a tablet can and very well should be, I don’t think the Yoga Book is the tablet everyone should buy.
What I’m trying to say is that this isn’t a practical purchase — at least, not now. It’s expensive (priced at RM2,599) and it won’t work very well as a standalone device even if your workload is relatively light. It’s also not the best device for watching content.
What it is, is a proof of concept. It’s Lenovo telling the world that this is what a tablet should be. It should be practical and allow its users to be productive (like an iPad Pro), but it shouldn’t force users to resort to clunky detachable keyboards. It should also be light, portable, and be able to be used for one-handed tablet-y things like browsing web or watching videos.
The Yoga Book could very well be the start of something new and we all know that being an early adopter is never practical. This isn’t the tablet for logical buyers, this is the tablet for those who want to be on the bleeding edge.
And if you’re the latter, I would wholeheartedly recommend this device because there’s absolutely nothing like the Yoga Book in Malaysia right now.