The scoop: Yoga Book (Android version tested), about $500 (Windows 10 version costs $550), by Lenovo.
What is it? The Yoga Book takes its name very seriously – it looks more like a paper-based notebook in size and weight than a traditional computer “notebook” does. The system features two innovative and unique features – a light-up keyboard without any physical keys that uses touch-based haptic feedback to emulate typing; and a writing surface that lets you write with a real pen and paper on the device, with handwriting then digitized on the tablet’s screen.
Specs include either Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) or Windows 10 Home (I was sent the Android version), an Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor (2M cache, up to 2.4GHz), 4GB of memory, a 10.1-inch display with 400-nit brightness, and 64GB of internal storage (microSD expandable up to 128GB).
Why it’s cool: For years, laptop and tablet makers and other vendors have tried to duplicate the act of handwriting or drawing/sketching with digital pens and displays that digitize everything into an electronic form. For the most part, a lot of that has been hit or miss (more on the miss side, many would argue), as you’d either have to use a separate device (such as a smart pen or use special paper), or write directly on the display of the device. Lenovo has done a great job by integrating the separate area for sketching with real paper and a real pen, and then using that same space when you want to switch to a keyboard by providing the Halo Keyboard that lights up.
In addition, you can take notes with the pen and paper with the Yoga Book’s screen off. This feels more like a traditional note-taking usage, but with the added benefit of having those notes instantly digitized (it also saves battery life).
On the keyboard side, it was quite impressive to see it light up when I was using an application that required typing. The haptic feedback was good and the beep let me know that I was typing correctly. It’s too small to do touch-typing like with a regular notebook or desktop keyboard, but it does a good job if you hunt and peck. Since this is more of a tablet (at least on the Android side, I can’t speak for the Windows 10 user), hunt and peck is acceptable for usage here.
Like other Yoga-branded devices that Lenovo makes, the Book is designed to use in several different modes – as a notebook, as a viewing stand or as a tablet. This is enhanced by the beautifully designed watchband-style hinge, which gives it a very high-end look and feel. Lenovo said this particular hinge has been “tested and verified to withstand more than 25,000 open and close operations”.
Some caveats: I’m not a big fan of Android compared with Windows 10 (or Apple, for that matter), so I’d probably use the Windows model if given a choice. My artistic ability also extends to the level of stick-figure drawing, so I didn’t get much use out of the drawing applications. But these are more caveats about me than the device. If you've been looking for a better pen-based input device in a lighter frame, this is worth checking out.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).
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