We took a look at Lenovo’s second attempt at a true 2-in-1 – a laptop with two screens in one laptop (one being a high quality IPS 4k display, and the other an e-ink affair that is unique on the market). Does the bleeding-edge development work or is it just another attempt that does not work?
We’ve already looked at the original Yoga Book when it came out a few years ago, and while we found it an interesting product that was pushing the technical boundaries a bit, it was fatally flawed as far as usability goes – and we were quite hoping to see the next revision that we’re reviewing today, the C930. So, does it improve on the predecessor and is it actually usable?
First things firsts, the Yoga line from Lenovo has always been stunning to look at. It has this high quality finish, a sleek-yet-sturdy build quality that doesn’t feel like it is going to break in our hands, and it has the performance to boot. But that’s what you get in every other laptop in this price range – hell in most of the cases you get better specifications, so what does it have that the competitors dont?
Well, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it? You are not typing on a physical keyboard when using it. You are not typing on a display as it was the last time – well it is a display, but it is an e-ink display. The latter stands out hte most when first looking at the Lenovo Yoga Book, as it has this sharpness that is inherent to e-ink displays that you just don’t get on LED or OLED screens. It is also very responsive for an e-ink panel – you can’t expect it to have a 144 or 240 Hz refresh rate, far from that, as it updates a few times a second. But still, when trying to draw on it (as it’s also a Wacom tablet), it has almost no obvious lag, except if you go really hardcore and try to overload the processing chip – then it lags a bit, but it’s nothing that would substantially worsen our experience of using it.
The sketching mode is the thing that differentiates it from the competition, as it has an incredible amount of details you can get out of the sketches with its over 1000 pressure sensitivity levels that enable a good gradiation when drawing with the pen. It also includes a force-touch functionality that has 4 distinct functions built in and is good enough for basic work – so hobbyists, quick sketching, making short notes on the tablet or work surface. They go hand-in-hand with the form factor that is very portable, light weight and the battery that lasts a long time – but it’s not for serious work.
It’s only bitmap, so black or white, no shadows. And you can’t even do colours, so the applications are limited. That is also the experience we get from the e-ink keyboard that has this vibration feedback. It looks good, is realistic and has a good feedback, but it’s a far cry from any, any physical keyboard. It just proves the point why BlackBerry lasted so long on the mobile stage just because of the physical keys, when it was vastly outmatched by every other competitor on the market. A physical keyboard, no matter how bad, is infinitely better than any force-feedback. You just can’t get any speed and consistency out of – maybe you could with lots of effort invested and time. In our limited 2 weeks of use of the Yoga Book we just didn’t get to the stage that it felt natural, not by any stretch of the imagination.
But then again I believe that this product isn’t meant for a serious worker – it is meant for a technology enthusiast that likes the tech and can appreciate it being bleeding-edge and can live with the few quirks that are a consequence of using a first-generation device. But it has to be said that the Yoga Book looks incredibly elegant, modern and premium with its matte dark-gray in combination with glossy black on the inside, with the minimal Lenovo gray engraving on the upper that doesn’t scream LENOVO, but is still there; the performant screen that is great no matter how you look at it – and when looking at the Yoga Book from that prism, it’s a perfectly reasonable product. It can work, if you can live with the consequences.
But given this is a tech review of an enthusiast that tries to nitpick whenever possible, I have to point out a few obvious shortcomings – such as the buttons that are way too sensitive on the device as when positioning it on our lap for example, we often times accidentally clicked on the volume dial or even the power button (and sent it to sleep!). Likewise, the copy button on the Wacom pen is a good idea, it’s just either too sensitive or positioned too low on the pen, so that when you try to draw something or sketch an idea out, you accidentally press the copy image button and generate a screenshot of your desktop and move it to the e-ink display. Quite annoying.
I also have to note the uneven responsiveness of the pen, which just does not work as consistently in the edges and the menu bar as it does in the middle portion of the screen, which was quite frustrating, as you have to press multiple times, sometimes harder, sometimes softer – it did not respond to anything consistently. All of the aforementioned were further amplified by the responsiveness when the surface on which we were drawing was not meticulously cleaned and had some fingerprints and finger smudges on it.
But if you can live with these shortcomings, I am sure that the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 will be a product you will be happy to use, casually of course.