Microsoft’s Courier was supposed to be an electronic journal or diary, a piece of hardware purpose-built for applications like OneNote. Two screens with a hinge between them, it opened and closed like a book, supporting both touch and stylus input on both its screens. Lenovo’s new Yoga Book looks like a riff on the Courier combined with the company’s successful range of 360 degree hinge Yoga-branded laptops.
Like a Yoga machine, it’s a more or less clamshell form factor that can be opened right up to turn it into a tablet of sorts. Like Courier, it’s got book-like styling with both halves approximately the same size for a symmetrical look. And like the Courier, it’s designed for mixed touch and pen input. But it has a twist. A normal laptop has a screen and a keyboard. Courier has a screen and another screen. The Yoga Book does neither of these things; it has a conventional touch screen paired with a special touch input surface designed for a stylus, dubbed the Create Pad.
Press a button and the Create Pad turns into a backlit keyboard using haptic feedback to simulate the feedback you’d get from a regular keyboard. In this mode, it has shades of Microsoft’s Touch Covers, but the Yoga Book’s concept is more versatile—the touch surface isn’t just a keyboard—and probably more comfortable, thanks to that feedback. The removal of the physical keys makes this half of the Yoga Book thinner; it also makes it into a drawing surface. Hide the virtual keys and it becomes a stylus workspace for the Yoga Book’s battery-free Real Pen, with 2,048 pressure levels and angle detection. Clip a piece of paper to the Create Pad and put some ink into the Real Pen and you can draw with, well, a real pen and real ink, while everything you do gets immediately digitized by the device.
Lenovo insists that the virtual keyboard is every bit as fast and accurate as a physical one, albeit with a bit of training required: under-25s can get up to speed in as little as 40 minutes, with older users apparently taking a couple of hours. Our experience with the Microsoft Touch Cover suggests that this isn’t completely outlandish; while that keyboard took a little getting used to, due to its lack of well-defined keys or tactile feedback, within a few hours it was capable of supporting surprisingly fast and accurate typing.
The Yoga Book is powered by a Cherry Trail Intel Atom x5-Z8550 processor with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage. The screen is a 10.1-inch 1920×1200 IPS display; while this is a little less long and thin than the 16:9 aspect ratio found on most laptops, it’s still quite narrow when compared to standard A4 or US Letter paper (though it’s a bit less narrow than US Legal). The Yoga Book has a typical array of sensors (accelerometer, ambient light, and so on) and cameras (8MP autofocus rear, 2MP fixed focus front), as well as connectivity both from 2.4/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and a global LTE modem with a nano SIM slot. The whole package weighs 1.5 lbs (0.69kg).
The hardware design is unusual and so too is the software. The Yoga Book can come with Windows 10, coming in at $549 when it goes on sale in October. But it’s also available for $499, shipping with Android 6. In its Android guise, Lenovo has built what it calls “Book UI,” a multitasking, multi-window interface for Android. It also comes with a special app, named Note Saver, for taking down notes and annotations (things that would be handled in OneNote on Windows). The Android version is available in two colors, “Gunmetal Grey” and “Champagne Gold.” The Windows version comes in “Carbon Black.”