Presented at IFA, the Yoga Book is distinguished by its sensitive Halo keyboard, which appears only when it is needed. Once turned off, it gives way to a drawing area that acts as a graphics tablet. In its Android version (the one we reviewed, sold for 499 euros) as in its Windows 10 version (599 euros), it is equipped with an Atom x5 processor – which can be found for example at Asus on one its Transformer Book – and 4 GB of RAM.
Sober and bling bling at the same time
Some smartphones are more than 10 millimeters thick. At Lenovo, we manage to offer a 2-in-1 tablet that goes under this symbolic bar. A bias that says a lot about the ambition of the Chinese manufacturer: to seduce by design. Very compact, the Yoga Book is above all very well finished. The metal shell is sober and elegant, as is the surface dedicated to the keyboard. On the other hand, the hinge shows a bling bling style with an assembly of three silver and shiny tubes. An element that breaks the simplicity of the whole.
This form factor has several unfortunate consequences on the handling of the product. For example, there is no notch to open the Yoga Book. If it is placed on your desk, you will have to take it in hand, place it vertically – with all the risks of breakage that its slippery finishes imply, open it, then put it down again. In another area, its smooth, matt and tactile surface is an abyss with fingerprints.
A few weeks ago, the new MacBook Pro was criticized for its lack of ports. Lenovo’s 2-in-1 doesn’t have that either. To communicate with other devices or accessories, you can only bet on a micro-USB port, an HDMI input, a microSD slot and a jack. We are closer to the connection of a tablet than that of a laptop.
If the Yoga Book is compact, its screen is not sufficiently highlighted. With a diagonal of 10.1 inches, the slab is, in fact, far from filling the entire front facade. It is framed by large horizontal and vertical black bands which should have been optimized. On the display side, with a Full HD definition, we end up with a resolution of 224 ppi. It’s slightly less than a 9.7-inch iPad Pro (264 ppi), sold at a price, it is true, much higher.
On a daily basis, the display is pleasant indoors and outdoors. The measured brightness is 423 cd / m2 and the contrast ratio rises to 1263: 1. Very honorable figures and consistent with what you would expect from a tablet of this price level. The viewing angles are also comfortable.
Phoenix OS not always optimal
To run its hybrid device, Lenovo is relying on a redesigned version of Android 6 Marshmallow, dubbed the Phoenix OS. The presentation is inspired by the world of smartphones with the back, home and multitasking buttons in the lower left corner, in place of the Windows 10 start menu. At the bottom of the screen, there is a task bar that expands as applications are opened.
The main advantage of Phoenix OS is multi-window management which allows you to juggle between two or three applications displayed side by side. It’s handy, but not all apps are supported. Too frequent a restriction, which removes part of the interest of the thing. Ergonomics is also problematic. To enlarge or reduce a window, tap on the top of the screen. It would not necessarily be a problem if the Yoga Book, in the deployed position, did not have much trouble stabilizing on a table. The screen therefore tends to move under the pressure of the finger and make handling quite complex.
Lenovo sometimes struggles to choose between integrating shortcuts from the world of tablets or computers. When the device is in standby, the screen cannot be turned on again by pressing the sensitive keyboard or on the screen. You have to go get the tiny power button on the right edge. Our first choice was to delay the start of the day before to the maximum (30 minutes), even if it meant losing autonomy.
The bare essentials of power
For 500 euros, the device composes with a blazing technical sheet. It is thus content with an Intel Atom x5, supported by 4 GB of RAM. A limit for big players who will not be able to take full advantage of the most resource-hungry titles without slowdowns. The interface ensures the minimum in terms of fluidity, as long as one is content to navigate between the menus. Even already open, applications may take 2 to 3 seconds to appear when requested from the taskbar.
These slowdowns are symptomatic of the positioning of the aircraft. Relatively affordable, it wants to be versatile. Except that he doesn’t necessarily have the means to be. Technically, the machine is simply unable to multiply the uses in good conditions.
Fortunately, the Yoga Book is not under-equipped at all levels. Without reaching peaks, the 8,500 mAh battery ensures a few hours of work without a nearby power outlet. He thus ensured 6h29 for our versatile autonomy review. or 11:12 in video playback. A great performance to save you the cost during a long-haul flight.
To prevail, Lenovo is banking on its main innovation, its sensitive Halo keyboard. Lacking a physical touch, it lights up whenever a text entry application is requested or pressed. According to the Chinese manufacturer, input is as simple and intuitive as on a conventional keyboard. In reality, we are far from the mark.
A difficult keyboard to take in hand
If you want to give this keyboard a chance, you will not be allowed to take your eyes off it. Otherwise, you will have to do with the spell checker and its many shortcomings (untimely additions of capital letters, spaces, unwanted corrections etc.) or deactivate it – by using the Google keyboard – and set a speed writing close to that of a neophyte. Here is for example what this paragraph gave without looking at the keyboard, with a usual typing speed:
If you want to donate, you cannot have a right to follow him with your eyes. In the contrary case, you will have to make zvev the vorfevgeuf of orthogfzohe eg its nombfeuc tfavefs !; . Here is for example what gave this paragraph without regzfdef the clzvidf, with a usual vitedssd of ffapp:
Of course, it is possible to familiarize yourself with this tool to achieve something more readable. But at equal speed, it seems to us quite simply impossible to write text on the Yoga Book with as much precision as on a physical keyboard. A bit caricatured, this example has the merit of showing you the work that you will have to accomplish. Ironically, only one key on the sensitive keyboard is very large: the back key. We may have understood why.
The other consequence of this flat surface is the absence of a touchpad. Or at least its almost virtual presence. Only four points make it possible to delimit its surface. Marking far too discreet and too close to the space bar not to make us chain false manipulations. Furthermore, it is not multipoint and therefore does not allow – among other things – to zoom in on a photo by deploying the thumb and forefinger.
Finally, and this is perhaps its biggest weakness, it does not allow scrolling through the content of a page. To do this, you have to touch the screen, like on a smartphone. Again, the Yoga Book behaves like a tablet more than a computer, whose back and forth between the screen and the keyboard end up being irritating.
A correct but basic graphics tablet
If Lenovo makes all these sacrifices, it is to offer us a hybrid device whose lower part can be used as a graphics tablet. One of the most interesting features is the ability to draw on a notebook – supplied with the device – and see the scanned lines in real time. Despite the thickness of the multiple layers of paper, the stylus pressure is well managed and the rendering is faithful. Added to this is the unbeatable feeling of drawing on real paper.
But not everything is perfect. Never really stabilized, the notebook tends to move a few millimeters. What create some discrepancies between the paper rendering and the digital version. The supplied ballpoint pen is also not ideal for this type of activity.
The limits are also software. The export quality of Lenovo’s Notes app leaves much to be desired, with renderings that tend to be annoyingly pixelated. We then turned to competitors – especially Adobe – who did the best job. Unfortunately, they show a higher latency, decreasing the comfort of use.
Without the notebook – by drawing directly on the tactile surface, the management of movement and pressure is good. But with its compact format, the tablet does not allow a large range of movement. As a graphics tablet, this Yoga Book is more suited to note taking and quick sketching than advanced graphics.
Written review with the collaboration of Pierre Thieulin
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