Back in 2016, when Lenovo launched a laptop with no physical keyboard called the Yoga Book, it was one of the barmiest and most exciting product launches in the laptop space for years. As it transpired, however, the Yoga Book felt like it had one foot in the past and the other in the future.
For 2018 the Yoga Book is back for more, but in a different form: it combines an E Ink panel, which can be used for typing and drawing (with the included stylus), with an LCD touchscreen and variable hinge.
It's still bonkers and it's still kind-of brilliant. The big question: is the Yoga Book 2 going to change the laptop world, or is it just too difficult to work with?
Design & Display
- Main screen: 10.8-inch 16:9 LCD, 2560 x 1600 resolution, 400nits, anti-glare coating
- Keyboard/drawing panel: 10.8-inch E Ink, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Double-knock to open feature
- Integrated fingerprint reader
- 2x USB-C (one for charging)
- SIM tray for 4G/LTE mobile
- Dolby Atmos integration
- 9mm thick chassis
The Yoga Book 2 is a tiny, lightweight thing, which is one of its main appeals. In a sense this laptop is meant to replace a paper pad entirely for a fully paper-free trail.
Thing is, just like its predecessor, the Yoga Book isn't as futuristic as it could be. With loads of laptops in 2018 cutting the bezel - just look at the Asus ZenBook 13 - the Yoga Book's chunky screen surrounds look too big. The small-scale panel is bright and resolute enough, though, which is good.
On the connectivity front the 2018 Yoga Book does bring things up to date, with two USB-C ports featuring (the predecessor has a Micro-USB port, which wasn't much use for anything), one of which doubles-up as the charger. Nothing else would fit, given the tiny 9mm measurement of this Lenovo's thickness.
With such a thin and light laptop comes a difficulty: prising it apart to use can be far more fiddly than it ought to be. For the Yoga Book sequel, Lenovo has deployed a genius way to get around this: a double 'knock' on the lid automatically pops it open, using magnets. Brilliant (and bizarrely good fun - yes, we're easily pleased).
Whereas the original Yoga Book has a blacked-out panel which could display a keyboard (or hide it), the Yoga Book 2 instead opts for an E Ink display. You know, the kind you'll see in an Amazon Kindle. This is low refresh to ensure good battery life, but more versatile as it can present all kinds of different things: from text to read, to a keyboard to type, to a blank panel to draw or write upon with the included stylus.
There's also a SIM tray for on-the-go connectivity for 4G/LTE, while an integrated fingerprint scanner helps up the security.
Typing & Drawing
- E Ink panel offers haptic, audible and visual feedback
- AI (artificial intelligence) typing learns your style
- Up to 160 different keyboard types and configs
- Stylus included for drawing, cannot be stowed
- No paper pad included like original model
The original Yoga Book included a paper pad that could be drawn on when placed over the Yoga Book, which would simultaneously digitise any notes and drawings. And people found it confusing as heck. The Yoga Book 2 ditches the physical paper. After all, E Ink is like digital paper, so it's just not needed. At least that's cleard up.
The drawing and writing response on the 2018 Yoga Book is fairly good. The E Ink display isn't too slow (it's not fast), while different pressure levels affect the thickness of input. Switching between input types - pen thickness, keyboard, drawing pad and second screen - is far slower, however, which becomes somewhat laborious. That's an inherent problem with E Ink, which is great for eBooks, but not so hot for all other applications.
It's the keyboard aspect that's the bigger problem though. Despite haptic, visual and audible (if you want it) feedback upon key presses, the Yoga Book's flat panel is a significant learning curve compared to a standard keyboard. There's not the same physicality about it, of course, so fingers flail more and accuracy, for our needs, isn't high enough. Nor is the response fast enough, irrelevant of touch typing or not (we sometimes glance down, which threw off our perception here).
That's the clincher, really. Like the original Yoga Book, which failed to ignite the fires of many given its keyboard trickyness, the sequel has the same inherent problem. People want a proper keyboard, with proper feedback. And that lacks here, which will be a barrier for many.
Saying that, Lenovo promises that over time the Yoga Book will learn your patterns, thanks to artificial intelligence, which can compensate for mistake key presses and the like. So a Yoga Book will map itself to its user over time, which is a cool idea - if you can take the leap to get to that comfortable position in the first place. As much as we love the futuristic sense of a non-physical keyboard - it's bold and exciting, right? - it's just not that practical.
Hardware & Software
- Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, up to 256GB storage (Core i3 variant also available)
- Up to 13hrs on E Ink display; up to 10 hours battery life on LCD display
- Windows 10 operating system only (no Android this time)
On the software front things are simple: there's Windows 10 running things, no Android confusion this time around. That's a clearer message and represents user interest in our view.
The latest Yoga Book is also far more powerful than its predecessor, offering a full-on Intel Core i5 processor at its heart, with 4GB RAM and up to 256GB storage. Its predecessor had Intel Atom, which wasn't really up to task.
While E Ink is inherently slow, using the laptop is no slouch when it comes to major apps and processes, which means it could be positioned as a main day-to-day laptop... if you're feeling especially brave.
We love the Lenovo Yoga Book for its boldness; it does things differently and we respect that.
But we couldn't get on board with the original Yoga Book as a day-to-day device and the same inherent issue remains here: typing on a laptop with no physical keyboard is difficult and will be too big a barrier for many.
That said, the 2018 Yoga Book ramps things up in many departments, with USB-C, a proper Intel Core i processor, better screen, knock-to-open feature and more. It's a step up, although it still feels like a laptop with one half in the future and the other in the past.