Candid confession up front: it has been a while since a notebook has made me go “wow!” Perhaps the last one to enjoy that rather dubious honor was the original MacBook Air, quite simply because Yours Truly had never quite seen anything like it. Yes, there have some gorgeous notebooks since (the Dell XPS 13, the Apple MacBook, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and a few other worthies) but while they did get the raised eyebrow of interest, they did not make one’s jaw react to gravity, because by and large, notebooks and their new cousins, the 2-in-1s, seem to have been cut from the same basic cloth.
The Yoga Book, now, is rather different.
It hits you as being different from the moment you clap eyes on it. Because for one, it is incredibly compact. It is about slightly larger than a regular magazine and at 690 grams, is only slightly heavier than the original iPad. At 9.6 mm, it is almost a third thinner than that worthy – and at 4.55 mm thin when opened, thinner than anything we have ever seen in mobile techland! The sheer lightness of the device hits you the moment you lift it because it is not as if it is made of cheap material – the Yoga Book is made of an alloy of magnesium and aluminium, and has the same Swiss-watch inspired metallic hinges that we have seen in some high-end Lenovo notebooks, allowing it to turn a full 360 degrees and morph into a tablet. In simple terms: it screams “premium” and “metal.” The sheer lightness of the device, therefore, comes as a very pleasant surprise.
But if the lightness of the Yoga Book is surprising, what you see when you open it is even more so. Lenovo has pretty much thrown the UI kitchen sink at the device in terms of innovation. Unlike other notebooks and 2-in-1s, the Yoga Book does not come with a display and a keyboard but actually a display and well, for want of a better word, a touch surface. On this touch surface you can either type using a special touch keyboard (which Lenovo calls the “Halo” keyboard) or scribble using a stylus, which Lenovo calls the Real Pen – the stylus actually can also be used as a real ‘ink’ pen on paper (the paper is normal but ink is special, though, and has to be purchased – there are three cartridges in the box), which when placed on the touch surface will make whatever you scribble on the paper appear on the display. Of course, this being a Windows 10 device, you can also scribble on the display itself, or just twist the display all the way back and use Windows 10’s own keyboard. We don’t think we have seen these many UI options in a single device.
The real center of attraction, of course, is the Halo keyboard, which Lenovo claims mimics a real keyboard with its “haptic” keys which make sounds and vibrate gently when you hit them. It certainly seems surprisingly spacious at first glance and has pretty much everything you would expect from a keyboard on a compact notebook. Lenovo even claims that the keys on the Halo keyboard will change size depending on how frequently you use them – so if you use Backspace more often than Delete, the Backspace key will become slightly larger, enabling you to access it more easily. As one of our Features Writer would say: Cool!
But beneath that super compact form factor and premium looks lurks some hardware that some might consider middling at best. Yes, the device has a full HD display and comes with speakers with Dolby Atmos support, its RAM stands at a respectable 4 GB, it runs Windows 10, has support for 4G, and claims staggering battery life in the region of a dozen hours or more. But then, it is powered by what many consider a netbook process – the Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor – and it comes with zero USB ports. Yes, all you get on the ports front are a micro-USB port and a micro HDMI port, and while the former does mean that you can even charge the notebook off a phone charger in case of emergencies, the absence of conventional USB ports does cut down on the device’s flexibility. Storage also stands at a relatively modest 64 GB, almost this can be extended by 128 GB using a microSD card. There are twin cameras – 8 megapixels at the rear and 2 megapixels at the front, but this is hardly a device that one is likely to use for regular photography.
All of which makes the Lenovo Yoga Book a fascinating device. Yes, it looks stunning and is amazingly lightweight, but the latter adjective can be used to describe its innards. Will its innovative UI, appearance and form factor allow it to rise above its hardware? We will find out in our daily diary with the device which gets underway shortly.
But if looks were all that counted, I would find myself of staring and finding myself falling a little in love with it…