Lenovo Yoga Book first look: keyboard and tablet meld into one
Lenovo, which was once IBM, has never been known for being artsy. Despite the fact that a lot of their laptops, such as the ThinkPad Yoga line, are tablet PCs with Wacom pressure sensitivity, the computers are still marketed largely at business.
So this Chinese company’s upcoming release, the Lenovo Yoga Book, is a pleasant surprise. It’s super-slim and light–right now, it’s the world’s lightest, thinnest 2-in-1 of the major 2-in-1s. It just debuted at IFA, a consumer tech-convention in Berlin, and has not yet been released to the public. I’ve gone over the available info to present all I can about this new art tablet.
Perhaps Lenovo is following the zeitgeist that has brought us the paper-to-pixel Wacom Spark and iskn Slate. Whatever they’re doing, they’ve created a versatile digital art and writing tool. Their focus was on mobile productivity, and they asked many users what they wanted in a mobile device.
Lenovo product developers spent 18 months working out each detail, listening to focus groups, conducting studies, and testing different components.
As a computer, the specs are nothing special. It sports an Atom X5 CPU and 4GB RAM, so it’s more of a kitten than a beast. The Atom probably keeps the price low, and it is quite affordable. It’s discouraging that it has only 64GB of on-board storage, but it has a micro SD slot to go up to 256GB.
Digitizer (on keyboard/drawing surface only, not on screen): Wacom EMR with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity
100 degrees of tilt sensitivity
Screen: 10.1″ (diagonal) Capacitive touch IPS LCD with Lenovo Anypen tech
IPS display (1920×1200)
OS: Android and Windows model (hardware is the same on both)
Build: Magnesium aluminum alloy
Processor: Atom X5, 2.4GHz
Brightness: 400 nits
Color Gamut: 70% of sRGB
Colors: Champagne Gold, Gunmetal Gray
Battery Life: 8,500mAh battery. Android 15 hours, Windows 13 hours
Dimensions: 10.1″ × 6.72″ × 0.38″ (256.6 × 170.8 × 9.6 mm)
Weight: 1.52 lbs (.69 kg)
Micro SD slot up to 256GB
LTE (AT&T, T-Mobile)
Ports: micro USB, HDMI out, microSD card slot
Cameras: 8MP rear, MP front
Software: comes with Windows Mobile Microsoft Office apps, OneNote, trial of ArtRage Lite
Optional Accessories: Sleeve, ink-cartridge refills, paper refills
What’s in the Box:
Very portable at a little over a pound and a half and a slim .38 of an inch. Its clamshell design protects it, so you can use a sleeve and put the pen in the sleeve if you want, but you don’t have to add weight with a hard-shell case the way you do with, say, an iPad Pro.
Photoshop CC and other Adobe CC programs will run sluggishly; the Atom is not made to handle them. But smaller art programs such as Photoshop Elements and Sketchbook Pro should work fine, and their file-saving options are compatible with Photoshop CC. So you could open your art on a more powerful computer with CC.
The tablet comes with a trial of ArtRage Lite, which is very inexpensive even in the full version. I can see why they picked ArtRage because of its many simulations of real-world brushes, including oil paint, rollers, and glitter–it’s a fun and well-made program.
The Google Play store has plenty of Android art apps, some of which are good such as Procreate, but given that the hardware is the same here for either OS, if you’re trying to choose between the Android and Windows version, I’d go for Windows since its environment allows for desktop programs as well as Windows apps.
Like the rest of the Lenovo Yoga line, the Book takes various poses, including Tent, Stand, Tablet. and Laptop. It’s a clamshell design, and can open fully flat.
The Book comes in both Android and Windows version, with the Android lasting an impressive 15 hours on a single charge, and the Windows a long 13 hours. That’s quite a bit of stamina.
The Create Pad offers 100 degrees of tilt sensitivity, giving a natural look and feel to drawing and handwriting.
The batteryless, Wacom EMR pen gives feedback so you can tell the difference between a brush, crayon, or pencil. It sounds like the sensors respond to assorted digital brushes and trigger haptic feedback.
The Real Pen has no buttons or eraser end. The cap is metal and attaches magnetically to the Book or to the metal Book Pad accessory. The Real Pen uses real ink for when you want to place real paper over the digitizer surface and draw or write. The Book comes with three ink cartridge refills, and you have to use that kind of ink, but you can use any paper. The Real Pen comes with a white digitizer tip to use on the Create Pad as well as on the touchscreen. When you want to use the real ink, you put in a Real Ink cartridge.
By the way, it seems they’ve bumped up the levels of EMR from 1,024 to match the 2,048 of the more recent Wacom AES digitizers. EMR is smoother and more natural-feeling than AES, and better for small writing. AES is really not bad, but EMR is the gold standard, and I’m glad they’ve brought it back, because it has been getting phased out in favor of the less-expensive AES.
Using digitizing ink isn’t anything new, but your work appears immediately on the screen rather than having to sync. There are integrated note-taking, sharing, and annotating abilities for writing. The pen does not convert handwriting to text. The company explains that the use of multiple languages and characters is problematic with such conversions, and they want you to use the Halo Keyboard for text input.
You can also draw on the LCD screen but, apparently, without pressure sensitivity. The screen has AnyPen tech, but lacks the EMR digitizer layer. The company gives you two pen tips, one that compatible with the screen and one with the digitizer. You can also use your fingers on the touchscreen.
AnyPen does not offer pressure sensitivity and thus is not very different from a normal touchscreen, except you can use non-pens on it–metal or organic things–such as a banana, or fork–anything not fully plastic.
Since the Book has an HDMI port, you can attach a larger monitor to it.
The Halo Keyboard is only there where you need it, brought to life by a ghostly membrane that comprises one of the inner layers. When you’re not typing, it takes on its alter ego, the Create Pad, where you draw on the pad or on paper, with your handwriting or drawing immediately showing on the screen.
You can use art programs, OneNote, or other programs to write or draw. To avoid accidental keystrokes, touch is disabled when you type, except at the center. There is no key travel, which saves time. Key-travel distance means the distance the key has to be pressed down to be recognized, and is zero, because it’s flat.
Lenovo says because they honed the design so much and added haptic feedback, typists typed 66% faster than other touch keyboards. Not only that, but slower typists can used a fixed layout, while touch typists jog along on a “virtual moving layout.”
Perhaps we’re looking at a future with changeable, customizable keyboards for different programs, such a as Photoshop hotkeys.
People tend to whack at touch keyboards as if there are keys there, but there’s nothing to absorb the blow, causing the force to bounce back onto your fingertips, which can be uncomfortable and make for poor ergonomics. The haptic feedback may help in not overstressing your digits.
Resting your palms at the bottom will not disturb anything; this keyboard has palm rejection where needed. Not only that, but the keyboard measures the strength of each finger tap and can tell the difference between an accidental slip of a fingertip and a real keystroke. Haptic vibrations make you feel like the comforting clackety-clack.
The whole touch panel is semi-transparent, with Lenovo considering over 100 samples to get the best anti-glare coating.
The top layer of Gorilla Glass has an anti-glare coating and a matte/grainy feeling to give the bite of paper, with the EMR layer underneath. The Create Pad has a decent-sized area to draw, something near a regular sheet of paper, and the metal pen cap attaches to the Yoga Book and the Book Pad notepad–since there’s no bezel, it’s good there’s something to stop the pen from rolling off should you have the Book at an angle. Since the Gorilla Glass Create Pad surface has texture, it won’t slip like on glass.
The Create Pad goes into, what else–Create Mode, when you draw or handwrite. The pad is a flush, flat, active area, hence there’s a good-sized workspace; painted borders show you the active area, the inactive area is a fairly small margin.
There are no hotkeys, it’s just one continuous piece. It’s hard to compare this to a regular drawing tablet; its simple form is reminiscent of the basic tablets just used for signatures, but this one has lots of pressure levels and tilt as well.
Thoughts on the Lenovo Yoga Book
It’s sort of like using a graphics tablet along with a screen, but the screen is a lot closer, and you can see what you’re doing when using ink. But since you’re using an art program with various colors and brushes, what you end up drawing won’t necessarily look like what’s on paper. I have more to do to learn exactly how this works.
The sheer lightness and user-friendliness, and its novelty make this a fun and useful device if it fills your needs. Those who want a powerful computer will not be satisfied. Those who want something similar in concept but that works across devices might check out the iskn Slate, which lets you use real markers, pen, and pencils.
If you want a handy, light, on-the-go, art-writing-journaling bringalong with a cool design may like this as a productivity tool. It should be out in Fall 2016.
Read more on the Lenovo blog.