Lenovo has been on the forefront of weird and wacky laptop designs for a couple of years now since Windows 8 started shipping and the original Lenovo Yoga. The YogaBook is the continuation of those efforts. Let’s take a closer look.
Disclaimer: Lenovo did not supply us with this YogaBook, We (Dom) bought this with our own funds, therefore no entity is overlooking this review before it goes live. This entire review was written on our YogaBook.
With the Yogabook, we have a 10.1” 1920×1200 IPS display, a Quad-core Atom X5 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage and an insanely thin insanely light package.
Oh, and the keyboard doesn’t really exist.
Speeds and feeds (specs)
- 10.1” 1920×1200 IPS display
- 10 point multi-touch
- Intel Atom X5-Z8550 SoC
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB Storage
- 8500mAh sealed battery
- MicroUSB Charging
- MicroHDMI video out
- 3.5mm audio jack
- MicroSD card slot
For more information, check out the Lenovo website on the YogaBook.
Lenovo needs to be commended for the external hardware of the YogaBook. If you were to take size and weight out of the equation, the YogaBook is a nicely designed, understated laptop. The model I’ve got here is the black one and it just looks stealthy and cool.
But you can’t look at it without commenting on it is size and when you pick it up you can’t not comment on its weight, or seeming lack of it. The YogaBook weighs a scant 690g and is 9.6mm when shut, or 4.85mm each half. This thing is insanely thin and light. There is a few ways that Lenovo got the YogaBook this small. There are no fans, there are few ports and the ones that are here are essentially the thickness of the chassis, oh and also, they kinda got rid of the keyboard.
That’s a little bit sensationalist, but if you were to look at a powered off YogaBook, upon first look you wouldn’t see anything, that’s because the “Halo keyboard” that Lenovo has designed can have it’s backlight turned off completely and the keys “disappear”. Now disappear is in quotes there because if you look at the YogaBook turned off and under sufficient light, you can clearly see the outline of the keys that get illuminated when you turn the keyboard on, but for the most part, the keyboard disappears, and then you can have some fun.
Hit the little circle in the top right of they keyboard (the one with the pencil) and the keyboard disappears, but something else happens. The Wacom digitizer wakes up, and the included real pen wakes up, letting you draw, annotate, highlight and have fun in the same place you once typed.
The Create Pad as Lenovo calls it is essentially a Wacom graphics tablet with a keyboard etched under the surface. You still have the 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, you still have great palm rejection (because it is only looking for the pen) and the surface is nice and smooth. One cool thing you can do here though? Lenovo ships a new nib for the real pen that turns it into, well, a real pen. You can throw some paper onto the Create Pad and draw, with real ink, and then have your handwritten notes digitally saved! As a student, this comes in very handy because as much as I want to, I can’t type up all my work. Sometimes I need to write stuff. Now I don’t need to fret as much, because I can write, either just digitally with the pen, or actually write, on paper and have my notes digitized. Cake and eaten.
There are some problems with this setup though. As you can probably guess, typing on this isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It feels like typing on an iPad except that you aren’t obstructing the screen. Those of you that are adept at typing on an iPad or touchscreen tablet, you may not fare so harshly, but if you’re looking at this coming from a laptop perspective, typing on the YogaBook as if it were a laptop takes some getting used to.
First off, each time you hit a key, you get a vibration, and if the sound is on, you get a fake key sound, both of which can’t be turned off on the Windows variant. You can somewhat disable the key sound by muting the laptop, but then if you want to listen to media, you get the sound back. The key vibration is somewhat more annoying, though. Although I appreciate it being there as it helps guide me and lets me know when I’ve hit a key or not, but you cannot adjust the vibration intensity at all and that is going to annoy some people because this has a very strong vibration motor, strong enough for someone in my class to be distracted by it and ask who was texting. Although we have grown accustomed to drowning out the tone of pressing keys on a keyboard, the tone of a haptic motor going off is very stark and a lot harder to ignore.
Secondly, the keyboard is just small. This comes with the territory of being a 10.1” device, but damn, making the YogaBook an 11.6” or even better a 12.5” device would have made the chassis that little bit bigger, allowing for each individual key to be wider. Some people can type on iPads and other 10” tablets fine. I am not one of those people, and while typing on this is a little easier than on an iPad (or whatever tablet you prefer) there are just some things that you cannot look past. Each key is small, and they are quite close together. Pairing that with the fact there is no tactile border around each key means that touch typing is likely going to be nigh on impossible unless you type for hours a day every day for weeks.
Lenovo said to me that millennials (damn, I hate that word) should be able to get used to it in as little as 40 minutes, whilst older people will take a few hours, and whilst that is somewhat true, typing speed and accuracy haven’t really improved much after the first day or two, and trust me, I’ve tried to get better. Using the YogaBook how I use my Chromebook or my desktop is just hard. Taking a look at the rest of the hardware, on the left-hand side we have a MicroUSB port in the incorrect orientation (the longer side on top) next to a tray that houses a MicroSD slot in my unit, but also a SIM card in certain models, as well as the MicroHDMI port and one of the two speaker grilles. On the other side, we have nothing but 3.5mm audio jack and the second speaker. This I/O is where my first issue with the YogaBook appears. The number of ports don’t actually bother me, but the type of ports bother me. I would have been perfectly fine with 2 USB-C ports because each port would be able to act as the charger, or data transfer, video out or more but instead, having them split between MicroUSB and MicroHDMI we effectively have one I/O port, meaning that the YogaBook isn’t much better than the 12” Macbook.
The MicroUSB port is annoying for multiple reasons. First, it is just flimsy and annoying. There is a correct orientation, the cables and jacks seem a little finicky and whilst they can do most of the stuff USB-C can do, the type we have here is only capable of USB2.0 speeds which are quickly becoming a bottleneck. Once again, 2 USB-C ports would have meant that we could have had up to 10gbps transfers with either a DisplayPort or HDMI alternate mode meaning a few display outs. We could have had a few Thunderbolt 3 devices if Lenovo had ratified the USB-C device as Thunderbolt 3, meaning we could have added a Razer Core potentially, but none of that is available due to the decision to stick with MicroUSB and MicroHDMI. MicroHDMI is also just as sucky as ever, despite having the near universal compatibility of HDMI.
Lenovo made a stupidly thin laptop, a stupidly light laptop, but even more incredibly the speakers don’t suck…somehow. There are two speakers on the YogaBook, one on either side and they’re “tuned by Dolby” which is usually marketing fluff, meaning that they have a “surround sound” mode. However somehow, the YogaBook speakers are kind of awesome actually. Let’s be clear, the speakers on the YogaBook aren’t going to replace your home theater speaker setup, nor are they going to be better than a great set of earbuds/earphones. But when you consider the size of the machine, remember the speakers are housed in the lower portion of the laptop, which in its entirety is about 4.8mm thick, meaning the speaker assembly is somewhere around the 4mm mark, these things sound kind of amazing when you think of the technological constraints that have been put on them.
So we’ve spoken about the keyboard, the ports, the speakers and all that’s left to really speak about is the screen, and for lack of things to say, it’s kind of awesome also. It’s a 10.1” IPS unit at a resolution of 1920×1200, the 16:10 variant of Full HD. whilst I would have preferred for it to be an OLED panel, I wish everything was an OLED panel, but considering the price point of the YogaBook, it makes sense that they went with an IPS panel. Whilst uniformity in both backlight and colour reproduction is mostly good when on a fully black background there is some noticeable backlight bleed in the upper right of the display. However unless you have a fully black background or somehow have the Windows UI in a dark mode at all time, you’ll barely notice. I have to call Lenovo out on the claimed 400 nits of brightness though as the display just seems to be on the dim side. It might just be because it is an incredibly reflective display, but I would have pegged it at somewhere around or under 300 nits, rather than up near 400.
I really have to give Lenovo props here for the YogaBook, a) it is not easy to make a machine this thin and this light, but it’s even harder to make a machine this thin and light and not have it flop around like wet paper, and the aluminium and magnesium chassis on the YogaBook is remarkably rigid for its size. There is a little flex in the lid, but as I said, it’s hard to make something this size and make it as rigid as it is, so props to you Lenovo.
Lastly, I want to talk about the hinge. The Watchband hinge is something Lenovo has been doing for about 2 years now, and honestly, I’m in two different minds about it. It looks beautiful and they say there are about 300 individual parts that go into it, and I believe them. On the other hand, I almost feel like they tried to make a hinge and inadvertently make a Rube Goldberg machine instead. The Watchband hinge is beautiful, and it does it’s job well but it is unnecessarily complicated and it has introduced more points of failure than it needs to have. The hinge is taut enough, with only a little wobble when you hit the top of the display, but it is tense enough that it can support it is own weight when in tent and stand mode. It’s a great Rube Goldberg machine, it also just so happens to be a hinge.
Hearing that the YogaBook had an Atom chip, didn’t enthral me much. Sure the newest Cherry Trail Atom chips are more power efficient, have better graphics and actually feel like they can run the Windows UI unlike prior Atom chips, Atom really is as barebones as you can get in Intel’s product stack, and the Atom X5 in the YogaBook isn’t even the most high-end Atom chip (which is the X7).
Mousing around the Windows UI is perfectly fine, and running Google’s Chrome browser. When running some UWP apps (such as Facebook messenger) and bog standard Win32 programs such as Audacity and Windows Movie Maker, again, the YogaBook does fine. It’s not a speed demon but no one expected it to be. Having more than a handful of Chrome tabs does slow it down a little bit, and some things benefit from certain programs, such as Edge. Edge seems to be able to more effectively use the video decoding blocks on the Atom chip, so that 4K video on YouTube is viewable on Edge, but it is a stuttery mess on Chrome. Same on Handbrake, because it can use Intel’s QuickSync decoder and encoder, it can transcode videos a lot faster than if it was just using the CPU
The YogaBook isn’t a workstation though. It isn’t a desktop replacement and it’s not going to be a VR beast, but surprisingly it can handle some 1080p footage in Windows Movie Maker quite well. I still do most of my video work in movie maker, and I was surprised at how smoothly the chip was able to scrub through the timeline and how quickly it rendered the footage. Would I try to edit 4K video on this? No, but I also wouldn’t try to watch 4K video on this (apart from that one MKBHD video I watched to see if it could watch 4K video). I wouldn’t try to download Mafia III, GTA V or Elder Scrolls (are those modern games? I don’t game) but something lighter like 2D games or games from about a decade ago may work fine. Team fortress 2 might even be playable on this, but you need to set your expectations accordingly.
It’s Windows 10, that’s it really. There is no bloat, no crappy Norton or Symantec anti-virus software, no Wild Tangent games, nothing crazy like that. The YogaBook is a nice and spartan Windows 10 install. Thank God it’s spartan due to the paltry 64GB of internal storage, but if you wanted to, you could pop in a 128GB MicroSD card into the tray and leave that in there permanently, meaning you had an extra 128GB storage in your machine.
We are mostly past the days where mid to low-priced Windows laptops came with absolutely tonnes of crapware on it, not fully, but mostly, and I’m thankful. It just means that I do not have to spend the hour or so configuring all my data, and then deleting all the crap that Lenovo has added to get the price down. It isn’t perfect, but it is pretty damn close. Good job Lenovo.
Here is where I get a little conflicted. Lenovo quotes around 13 hours of use on the Windows YogaBook, and 15 hours on the Android model. I think that is utter codswallop. If I hit 10 hours a day I’d be lucky, closer to 9 is more likely, and whilst that in and of itself isn’t too bad, that is about 4 hours short of what they claim. This means I’m getting about ⅓ less battery life (versus claimed), and I don’t think I’m hitting this particularly hard most days.
The battery is an 8500mAh sealed Lithium Polymer unit, and it charges via MicroUSB. This is the other weakness, charge times. The charger on the YogaBook says it can go up to 12v2a, meaning 24w but even so, the YogaBook takes an absolute age to charge. You can forget about using it whilst it is charging, because if that battery goes up, it is glacially slow. More often than not, the power used is greater than the power going in.
This I feel is another place where with USB-C would have been beneficial. They would have been able to use the new USB Power Delivery specification, capable of delivering up to 100w of power, but most USB-C laptops taking somewhere between 45w-60w both of which are much higher than the 24w max of the YogaBook. Also, the USB-C port is more versatile, more durable and just more useful. A pair of USB-C jacks on the YogaBook meant we could have had either port acting as the charging jack, both jacks could act as data jacks, they could also both act as display outputs, but having a microUSB and microHDMI means we are effectively stuck with 1 port for all the I/O other than video.
It also has some insanely silly power and standby problems. On more than one occasion in the 2 weeks I’ve been using this YogaBook it has just not woken up when I have opened the lid. I’d actually say over 50% of the time it hasn’t woken up when I have opened the lid. Either it has shut itself down, or it hasn’t gone to sleep so it has run it’s battery down, or if it has just frozen in a lower power state forcing me to reboot. The YogaBook has made me think that it’s broken on more than one occasion when I’ve found it dead, plugged it in and nothing happens, no LEDs no life, nothing, and I have to hold down the power key on the side for about a minute until a white LED on the side lights up after I have initiated a reboot. I’m told this is a Windows Issue, but it doesn’t make me feel any better that the machine I just dropped over half a grand on doesn’t wake up every time.
This is hard for me, because ever since I saw the YogaBook I loved it. I found out what booth they had at IFA and Craig and I rushed over to see it on our last day on the show floor. I loved the YogaBook so much I bought this unit, but would I recommend it to other people? Sadly, I think I’m going to have to say not yet.
The Windows model of the YogaBook which I am reviewing here has a few infuriating problems. One of which is the complete lack of any customisability of the keyboard/create pad. The other is that I just can’t trust it to be charged, or turn on straight away (although this seems to be a Windows issue) and these issues for me at least outweigh the coolness of the pen, and the insane thin body and weight.
Well what about the Android variant? It’s cheaper, and it does have more customisability on the keyboard side, but it is only £100 cheaper, and paying £450 for an Android tablet is just not something I can recommend you do.
Lenovo have made a cracking machine here, and I feel that a second generation 12.5” model would be something that I could wholeheartedly recommend because this is cool as all hell. I’m not sure most people will want to be spending £550 on cool and perhaps not in it’s current incarnation.
- Footprint, Weight and portability
- Insanely good speakers for the size
- Great Display
- Keyboard and Pen are awesome
- Kind of expensive
- Power sleep/wake problems
- *very* small
- Almost no software configuration of the Keyboard
- MicroUB and MicroHDMI instead of USB-C