Lenovo Yoga Book Review: Flipping the Script on Productivity, Touch Input and… Pens (Video)

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  • 24 Nov 2016
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  • It’s incredibly hard to innovate in the tablet segment nowadays, since it’s filled to the brim with “me too” products, usually inspired by iPads, Lenovo Yogas or Surface Pros. The Lenovo Yoga Book is doing its own thing and we were lucky enough to play with its for a few days. Details are revealed after the break, but in the meantime you should know that the Android version of the slate is priced at $499 and the Windows one at $550.

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    We’re playing with the Android model and as you can tell already, this is no ordinary tablet. It’s a 10.1 incher with a keyboard attached and it’s good for students and professional, as well as casual drawers. It comes with a bundled stylus called Real Pen and a pad for writing stuff down with real ink. Design-wise, this is a work of art, with each “slab” measuring 4 mm in thickness and I mean here the tablet itself and the keyboard segment.

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    It all amounts to 690 grams in weight, which is 250 grams heavier than the iPad Pro 9.7 but it’s reasonable for a tablet + keyboard combo. The device has a solid build and it’s made of aluminum and magnesium. It comes in gunmetal gray or champagne gold and it’s an elegant machine with a superb hinge, that’s both solid and flexible.

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    It has 4 usage modes: notebook, tent, fully open and flat on the table and tablet. The keyboard is comfy and has a superb white lightning that feels like a panel from a sci fi movie such as Star Trek. There’s a 360 degree hinge connecting the two parts and I have to say that this is the best tablet design I’ve seen all year and also the most original.

    The display included on the Yoga Book is a 10.1 inch IPS LCD panel with a Full HD resolution and LED backlight. It offers 16.7 million colors and 70% color gamut, plus 400 nits of brightness, on paper at least. Its video player has a Pop up play feature and the viewing experience involved good brightness, crisp image, OK colors and wide view angles.

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    The contrast of the images was rather so-so. Pixels are of the RGB Stripes variety and the brightness we measured was 375 LUX. Frankly we expected a bit more, something in the area of 400 or even 500 LUX, a value that the Nexus 7 achieved in 2013. At least this brightness beats the Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 and iPar Air 2 somehow.

    We did score below the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7 and the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro, by the way. Settings for the screen include Adaptive Brightness, font size and I feel that the image may be crisp, but it also could have been brighter. Moving on to other hardware, there’s an Intel Atom X5-Z8550 CPU here, a quad core unit at 2.4 GHz, accompanied by 4 GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 64 GB of storage and a microSD card slot.

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    There’s no lag here and performance is great, plus the UI is quite fluid. Games run like a champ, including Riptide GP Renegade or a Smurfs endless runner launched this year. As far as benchmarks go, we tried out Quadrant, achieving a huge score, that totally surpasses the Xiaomi Mi Pad 2, actually doubling its score. In AnTuTu 6 we scored past the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro and Xiaomi Mi Pad 2, but also below the Huawei MediaPad M3.

    In 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited we scored above the iPad Air 2 and below the Xiaomi Mi Pad 1 and 2. GeekBench 4 brought us below the MediaPad M3 once again, so while performance is good, it doesn’t smoke all devices on the market right now, not by a mile. Temperature was at least reasonable, at 35.1 degrees Celsius after running GFXBench and 34.9 degrees after running Riptide GP Renegade, so there’s no overheating.

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    However, every now and then we felt the base part, the one with the keyboard getting slightly higher than our comfort range. On the battery front the Lenovo Yoga Book proposes and 8500 mAh unit, a Li-Po battery, that promises to deliver over 70 days of standby or 15 hours of general usage. In our video playback test we achieved a solid 10 hours and 26 minutes of playback, which surpasses the Galaxy Tab A 9.7 and scores below the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro or iPad Air 2. In PCMark we reached 8 hours and 5 minutes, simulating continuous usage and this is quite a good result for two pieces of slate each 4 mm thick.

    We beat the Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 and Galaxy Tab S2 9.7, but scored below the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro and Galaxy Tab A 9.7. Finally, the charging couldn’t be measured, since we didn’t receive the official charger of the device with our test sample, but with an unofficial one we got to 3 hours for a full juice up. The battery settings include a Battery Save and Optimization feature, basically Doze. Great battery for this waistline!

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    Time to address the multimedia of the product. We’re dealing with a set of stereo speakers integrated within the sides, with Dolby Atmos tech. The player of choice here is Gogle Play Music with a special Dolby Atmos EQ app. It has tweaks like Movie, Music, Game, Voice and Custom, plus Surround, Dialog Enhance and Volume Leveler.

    The actual listening experience offered a loud and clear sound, good bass and solid speed during movie dialogs. The music also sounded fine, so no objections here. The volume measured with our decibelmeter was 83.3 dBA in our audio test sample and 85 dBA in the Riptide GP Renegade test. This means we sit above the Xiaomi Mi Pad and Galaxy Tab S2 9.7, but also below the Nokia N1 and iPad Air 2.

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    Time to talk cameras and believe it or not we get two pretty solid units here. There’s an 8 megapixel back shooter with autofocus and a 2 MP front cam for selfies and videocalls. The camera UI is surprisingly complex for a tablet, with options like Panorama, Smart Capture, Action Shot, Timer, Denoiser, Action, Barcode, Night, Portrait, Sports and an exposure slider. The pictures taken with the cam aren’t half bad, but the Full HD video was not something to brag about around the Christmas table.

    I also have to mention the weird placement of the main camera, above the keyboard, so there must be some rotation of the keyboard to position it right. Now we talk about the browser, in this case Chrome, that comes with a Window Mode option, it loads up pages fast and also provides good benchmarks. The virtual keyboard is solid, of course not as solid as the touch one.

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    On the connectivity front, there’s WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, a mini HDMI port and microUSB 2.0 as well. There’s no 4G or 3G here, but there’s Bluetooth at least. We did a SpeedTest for the WiFi connection and achieved a stunning result of 441 Mbps in download, which is the biggest from all our tests ever, including the ones done on hundreds of smartphones by our sister site GSMDome.com.

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    For upload we got to 25 Mbps, only reasonable here. HDMI also has special options like Status, Modes and Overscan Compensation. Time to see how the software holds up to the rest of the package. As I mentioned before, we’re testing the Android version of the phone here, but there’s also a Windows one. Our unit runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, with a so called Book UI on top.

    It involves folders on the homescreens, with well organized apps, big icons and virtual navigation buttons in the left down corner of the screen. There’s also a taskbar of sorts, keeping icons of the open apps available at all time. Multitasking is done via a panel of thumbnails and the dropdown includes the usual notifications and Quick Settings.

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    Speaking of settings there’s nothing truly special here, maybe aside from the Intel Smart Video feature, that makes clip playback smoother. Then we’ve got the keyboard settings, that adjust the brightness, sleep, vibration intensity, type speed and sensitivity. I somehow was surprised by the lack of a fingerprint scanner here, although that would have surely bulked up the device.

    On the preinstalled apps list we find 41 names, which is quite a bit and some of them are luckily easy to uninstall. There’s McAfee for antivirus purposes, Art Rage used to draw, doodle and offering quite a few brushes, plus Evernote, Note Saver, ShareIt and SyncIt.

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    And finally, towards the end of the review we address the KEYBOARD. It’s written in all caps because it’s truly special. Known as the Halo Keyboard, this section of the device offers comfy input, great feedback, shortcut keys above the main ones and a trackpad feature. It all becomes one big touchpad for drawing once the associated key activates this mode.

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    Then you can use your finger or the bundled Real Pen to draw, doodle and do handwriting. But there’s more! Removing the pen’s tip and inserting a real ink one (also bundled) lets you write on paper, that once overlapped on the touch keyboard area transcribes digitally the things you write with ink on paper. And using the special magnetic pad offered with the slate will let you write on paper and have it transcribed on the screen even through many layers of paper, via electromagnetism.

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    The Real Pen is accurate, fast and very comfy. It has a big body compared to other styli and it closely mimics the feel of a real pen. Drawing is also very fun here. If I were a student I’d buy this tablet for this feature alone. Now let’s see the verdict!

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    Here are the Pros:

    • innovative format and design
    • beautiful design
    • comfy pen and keyboard
    • good performance
    • solid battery
    • nice acoustics
    • OK cameras
    • crazy fast WiFi
    • fast switch of modes
    • new way of working and drawing

    And the cons:

    • some glitches, especially software (random resets of System UI and Lenovo Marketplace won’t work)
    • you have to carry the pen and pad with you
    • should be brighter
    • the base with the keyboard gets a bit too hot for comfort
    • no 3G/4G/USB Type C
    • weird camera placement
    • could use more premium productivity apps

    Lenovo Yoga Book is more than a tablet, it’s a paradygm shift, showing you can achieve greatness with two 4 mm thick slabs and a pen with real ink. It’s as simple as that, paired with a sexy design, good performance and pretty nice battery. Add the Dolby speakers and comfy keyboard and you’ve got a winner, for the proper audience.

    This is also the best looking and most original tablet of the year, also with the best bundled accessories. A very solid slate from Lenovo, worth its $500.

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    • Robert Jasiek

      For me this device is useless because of high reflectance and the narrow display ratio 16:9, which e.g. makes taking notes in portrait position in university maths lessons too impractical by far. System UI crashes are unexcusable; is the Windows edition working? Is there OCR text recognition?

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