“Every beginning is difficult, ground right with the Yiga Book.” The first attempt to type with ten fingers and no spell check ends with five errors. It will get better later, but this review, largely written on the Lenovo Yoga Book C930’s keyboard, still takes more time than any other device.
There are two reasons for this: The keyboard takes some getting used to even after several hours. Above all, the Yoga Book is a device that’s best described in a word that tech companies are all too fond of using: unique. Lenovo wanted to create the jack of all trades – the gadget that can do everything and is equipped for every situation. The Yoga Book is intended to be a laptop, tablet, drawing pad and e-reader all in one.
The first impression
The first encounter with the Yoga Book anticipates much more: a wow effect, followed by disillusionment. The device looks and feels great. It’s not much thicker than a smartphone and, at just under 800 grams, hardly weighs more than a thick notepad. The Yoga Book lives up to its name: an ultra-flexible convertible, i.e. a device that can be opened (laptop), folded down (tablet) and set up as a kind of tent, for example to watch videos.
But the problems start as soon as you open it. The gap between the keyboard and the display is too narrow to unfold it like a regular laptop. The device should actually spring open by itself when you “knock” by tapping the lid twice with your knuckles. A nice idea, but the mechanism has its pitfalls. Anyone who bangs on his expensive high-tech toy repeatedly and with increasing desperation and reaped pitying looks from his fellow passengers on the train wishes for a perfectly normal hinged lid back. Luckily, Lenovo offers users without long fingernails an alternative: a long press on the volume button on the side triggers the same effect. This only attracts half as much attention, but works more reliably.
Once opened, the Yoga Book becomes even more idiosyncratic. It has two displays but no keyboard. Where the keys are on normal laptops, Lenovo has placed an e-ink screen, which is otherwise used in readers such as the Kindle, Kobo and Tolino. If necessary, a keyboard layout is displayed. The device acknowledges each typing with a short flash and a vibration effect, which are intended to simulate the feeling of operating a mechanical keyboard with a real key stroke.Open detailed view
Lenovo’s Yoga Book with and without the keyboard folded out.
A random sample of five people shows that the changeover is particularly large for touch typists, since they cannot put their fingertips down without triggering unwanted keystrokes. Those who type with the four-finger search system will get along better. All test subjects agreed: the keyboard is sufficient for e-mails and short texts. Nobody wants to write a novel on it.
Of course, the digital keys also have advantages. On the one hand, you can switch between different language settings as you wish. Anyone who needs both a German and US layout will appreciate that. On the other hand, the second screen not only serves as a keyboard, but also as a display for documents and e-books. The e-ink technology is easy on the eyes and battery, but there is currently one major limitation: So far, the display only shows PDF documents. In early 2019, the Yoga Book should learn to deal with the popular e-book formats Mobi and Epub . Until Lenovo releases the promised software update, the device isn’t a Kindle competitor.
Aside from the E Ink keyboard, the Yoga Book is a sleek, slim convertible. The main display measures 10.8 inches and displays 2560 x 1600 pixels. It’s reflective and not exceptionally bright, but it’s suitable for outdoor use as long as the sun isn’t shining directly on the screen.
The touchscreen can not only be operated with the fingers, but also with the Bluetooth pen that Lenovo supplies with the two more expensive models. The stylus also works on the secondary display, although writing and drawing there takes a similar amount of getting used to as typing, because the E Ink technology slightly delays all inputs.
If you want to edit pictures and videos, you won’t be happy with the Yoga Book. Most modern games won’t even start. However, photographers and gamers use other devices anyway. The energy-saving Intel processor and four gigabytes of RAM are sufficient for most everyday tasks. However, many open browser tabs and high-resolution videos push the Yoga Book to its performance limits.
Lenovo doesn’t have a fan, so the device works almost silently. Nevertheless, it rarely gets alarmingly warm and does not require any cooling-off breaks. The battery lasts about a working day with normal use. Maximum display brightness, high processor utilization and constantly active WLAN and Bluetooth connections reduce the runtime to three to five hours.
If you want to be slim, you have to do without: The Yoga Book saves on the entrances and exits. There was no more room for more than two USB-C ports. If you want to connect projectors, hard drives or normal USB sticks, you need an adapter. At least Lenovo still has a slot for micro SD cards that can be used to expand the internal storage. The most expensive model also has a Nano SIM card that the Yoga Book can use to receive mobile data.
The price and the conclusion
Even the entry-level version with an Intel m3 processor and 128 GB SSD costs more than 1100 euros. Lenovo charges 1400 euros (without LTE) or 1600 euros (with LTE) for the variants with an Intel i5 processor and twice the hard drive capacity. For most users, that’s too much money for a device that’s just the sum of its parts: a pretty laptop with a crappy keyboard, a usable tablet, an (yet) unusable e-reader.
Even if Lenovo ships support for more e-book formats in a few weeks, you have to accept a lot of compromises with the Yoga Book. If you buy a convertible and an e-reader separately, you pay less and get two specialized devices that are easier to type on and more pleasant to read. The Yoga Book offers real added value for people who travel a lot, need to save space and weight, have to work a lot with documents or like to add handwritten notes to them.
Some tech companies want to solve problems that don’t exist. The Yoga Book is more than a cerebral idea that has been constructed without considering the needs of the users. If Lenovo further develops the keyboard and lowers the price, the successor could become interesting for a broader target group.