REVIEW: Windows 10 Yoga Book: The good, the bad, the useful

Lenovo yogabook
Howard Wen
At a Glance
  • Lenovo Yoga Book - FHD 10.1" Windows Tablet - 2 in 1 Tablet (Intel Atom x5-Z8550 Processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD), Black, ZA150000US

Lenovo has introduced tablets with unique designs over the years, and their latest Yoga Book, released in October, is one of the most intriguing examples. This hybrid device looks like a mini notebook, but it’s technically a tablet with a swing-open digital drawing and writing pad that can capture your handwriting or sketching when you use its included digital pen.

The Yoga Book comes with either Android 6.0 or Windows 10 Home 64-bit installed. Lenovo loaned us the Windows 10 version for review, which we used over the course of several days.

So was this gadget truly useful?

Form factor: Good

The Yoga Book’s exterior is an alloy of aluminum and magnesium with a matted finish that feels cool, rigid and stiff. Its hinge -- a steampunk looking mechanism used by Lenovo throughout their Yoga line -- enables its two halves (the display and keyboard/writing pad) to swing back up to 360 degrees. So you can use it as a tablet, or position its display so it can be used to present media.

Weighing just over 1.5 pounds, the Yoga Book exudes a comfortable heft when you hold it with both hands. But it doesn’t feel unusually light: holding it in one hand as I used it as a tablet, my wrist felt strained after several minutes.

The Yoga Book accepts microSD cards, but you have to use an included pin-tool (or a paperclip that you’ve straightened out) to poke into a tiny hole on one edge of the keyboard/writing pad half -- this will pop out a tray, on which you place your microSD card. It can be a little tricky to manipulate these tiny items.

Digital pen capturing: Useful

Lenovo yogabook Howard Wen

The marquee feature of the Yoga Book is its digital pen, which works in conjunction with Microsoft OneNote. The digital pen has a stylus tip for interacting with Windows 10 through the device’s touchscreen display. It also comes with three ballpoint ink tips that you can switch out with the stylus.

You lay the Yoga Book spread open, flat on a table, orienting it so the keyboard/writing pad of the device is to the left or right of the display. Set a small notepad down over the keyboard/writing pad surface. (Lenovo includes one that’s been specially designed for the Yoga Book. The back of this notepad sticks to the surface of the keyboard/writing pad with magnets, but any ordinary notepad will work.) Then tap the key button that’s to the upper-right of the keyboard layout -- a menu opens on the display screen that lists the choice to launch OneNote.

The Yoga Book’s digital pen capturing feature really worked as Lenovo advertises, and very well. What I drew and wrote on the notepad appeared in OneNote simultaneously. The on-screen drawing or writing tool I chose followed my movements with little delay. And my digital scribbles appearing on the display looked nearly identical to what I put on paper with real ink from the digital pen. So as I signed my name on the notepad, the digital reproduction of my signature in OneNote looked the same.

Even more impressive, this capturing technology remained accurate whether I drew/wrote on a single sheet of paper or several sheets stacked up to about a quarter of an inch in height.

A frequent problem I had (though not related directly to this technology) was in accidentally pressing the key that turns on this digital pen capturing features while I used the Yoga Book as a tablet. That’s because when you fold the keyboard/writing pad back behind the display, this key stays active for some reason. So while gripping the Yoga Book in its tablet configuration, my fingers would trigger it.

Display: Good

The 1920-by-1200-pixel touchscreen display looked sharp with what appeared to be good color representation of the photos and video that I viewed on the Yoga Book. Even though the display size of this device is 10.1-inches diagonal, text looked legible.

By default, the display’s brightness and contrast levels automatically adjust based on the way you have the Yoga Book physically configured. When you swing its keyboard/writing pad all the way back to use the Yoga Book as a tablet, or lay the device spread-open on a flat surface, the brightness increases (but I found that the Yoga Book didn’t do this consistently in practice). When used as a notebook or presentation screen, the Yoga Book’s display looked slightly dim for my eyes, so I manually tweaked it through an included settings tool.

Another issue I had was with the display’s glossy surface. It tended to reflect lights too much in a well-lit indoor setting. It was sometimes difficult to adjust the device’s physical configuration to minimize its display glare when I would use it as a notebook computer or set it up as a presentation screen.

Keyboard: Bad

Originally I planned to write this review using the Yoga Book itself to do so, but soon found its keyboard was not up to the task. If you’re accustomed to typing on a traditional notebook keyboard, with mechanical keys, you’ll probably find trying to do the same on the Yoga Book to be crippling on your fingers.

You can see a darkened image of a keyboard embedded into the surface of the Yoga Book’s writing pad. It lights up when the keyboard is activated. “Pressing” a key gives no mechanical reaction -- you’re just pushing down on a hard flat surface. To compensate, the Yoga Book responds to each key you tap by playing a click sound through its speakers (and through earbuds or headphones you plug into its audio-out jack) and vibrates slightly. I found these to be annoying substitutes for the tactile feedback needed to type effectively and quickly. (A settings mini-tool lets you switch off the click sound and vibration.)

Other problems: the keys responded too quickly, at least for my preference. They felt too sensitive. Also, the individual keys felt too small and too closely set together, making attempts to type feel even more constrained. So I found the best, perhaps only, way to reliably use the Yoga Book’s keyboard was to peck at its keys with my index fingers.

Touchpad: Bad

Lenovo yogabook Howard Wen

The same cramped feeling afflicted the touchpad. It’s just too small. Under its default settings, the touchpad surface area isn’t big enough to cover the full travel range of the on-screen cursor as you brush your finger on it to move the cursor across the Windows 10 desktop. It’s also not a multi-touch interface, like the kind of touchpads that notebooks today use.

For example, you cannot use the Yoga Book’s touchpad to double-tap-and-hold the title bar of a desktop application and then drag the application’s window frame around the Windows 10 desktop. You also can’t double-tap-and-hold a scroll bar in a web browser or other application window to move the bar to scroll. In lieu of this, you have to use the touchscreen of the display to do these things.

So, like its keyboard, the Yoga Book’s touchpad may look like a facsimile, but it doesn’t actually work like the real thing.

Camera: Useful

The rear camera (which is embedded into the keyboard/writing pad half) snaps still images up to 8 megapixels in resolution, and video at 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution. Used with the Windows 10 Camera app at its default settings, it captured brightly colored stills in focus. Video had a similar quality. The camera was able to automatically focus on objects up to about 3 to 4 inches away from it.

The front camera (situated on the display half of the device) captures images up to 2 megapixels, but video also at 1920-by-1080 pixels. It doesn’t have auto-focusing. The images and video I took with it looked more grainy and a little grayer.

Sound: Good

The speakers (built into the edges of the keyboard/writing pad half) feature Dolby technology. Cranked up to full volume, they sounded sufficiently full with no distortion when songs and videos played on the Yoga Book.

Performance: Good

The Yoga Book performed capably for the tasks I did with it over the course of at least three days: I browsed with Chrome, installed and ran a few other desktop applications and Windows apps, played audio and video files, and, of course, used its digital pen capturing feature with OneNote the most. The metal housing of the keyboard/writing pad became only barely warmer to the touch.

Battery: Bad

Lenovo lists the Yoga Book as lasting about 13 hours on a full charge under “general usage.” With the Yoga Book loaned to me fully charged, I used this device in the ways described above. I would shut it down (not putting it to sleep) when I wasn’t using it. By my estimate (adding up the time when I had it powered on), I only managed to pull about 6 hours and 30 minutes from the Yoga Book.

After charging the Yoga Book’s battery back up, I tried again. Because Microsoft has claimed lately that its browser Edge uses less battery power on mobile devices than Chrome, I uninstalled Chrome and used Edge. I avoided playing media files. I focused on using the Yoga Book’s digital pen capturing feature more. The result: a little under 8 hours and 30 minutes.


Don’t buy the Yoga Book if you’re looking for a new Windows 10 mini notebook. The Yoga Book is foremost a tablet, so this makes the Windows 10 version a niche device -- because Windows 10 has been achieving far more popularity on so-called 2-in-1 tablets that utilize a mechanical keyboard (e.g. the Surface line). The Yoga Book’s keyboard is more gimmicky than helpful; frankly, there were many times I preferred using the Yoga Book’s touchscreen display (and the Windows 10 on-screen keyboard) to interact with the OS. Tapping the touchscreen worked faster over the beautifully luminescent but faux keyboard, and saved my fingers from strain.

Instead, consider the Yoga Book -- the Windows 10 version, that is -- if you’re interested in a small tablet that can accurately capture your handwritten notes or sketching in real-time, and if you’d also like your handiwork to be incorporated into the Microsoft Office ecosystem through OneNote.

At a Glance
  • Lenovo Yoga Book - FHD 10.1" Windows Tablet - 2 in 1 Tablet (Intel Atom x5-Z8550 Processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD), Black, ZA150000US

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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