The word “innovation” is so overused during a show like IFA that it quickly loses its meaning. It’s hard for me to therefore convey the sense of true innovation that I got when I first laid my hands on the Lenovo Yoga Book. This device is a whole new thing. Calling it a mobile productivity device and a versatile 2-in-1, as Lenovo does, really undersells the magnitude of what this Chinese company has achieved with the Yoga Book. There’s never been anything like the Yoga Book before, though I get the sense that it will be copied and iterated on for many years to come.
As a quick recap, this is a 10-inch clamshell device, powered by either Windows or Android, which replaces the conventional keyboard with a flat panel that accepts either stylus or touch input. The Yoga Book runs on an Intel Atom x5 CPU with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage. Its case is made out of magnesium and aluminum.
Why am I so thrilled with this new gadget from Lenovo? Well, it starts with its design. All the photos and video in the world can’t convey the tactile delight of holding and operating the Yoga Book. I don’t mean typing on its simulated keyboard, mind you, as that process is still perfectly alien to me. But the symmetry of its shape, the expertly weighted stiffness of the hinge — neither too resistant nor too loose — and its gossamer lightness just exude quality, and maybe even luxury.
That’s the other thing that threw me for a loop with the Yoga Book: it only costs $499 with Android or $549 with Windows 10 as the operating system. And its stylus, which doesn’t need recharging, comes bundled in the box. I’d expected this to be another in a long line of overly expensive trophy pieces that every company likes to indulge in now and again — let’s do something outlandishly thin, light, sturdy, and downright beautiful just to show that we can. Pricing the Yoga Book within reach of mere mortals, Lenovo is shrugging off that attitude and signaling that it wants to sell plenty of these slates.
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The third big reason for my surprise and delight is that Lenovo really has no track record of this kind of loveliness and breakthrough tablet design. Its tablets up to this point have all been budget affairs with gimmicky projectors jacked in. But Lenovo has pulled together resources from across the great breadth of its company, and the Yoga Book shows off an evolution of the company’s quirky bracelet-like hinge as well as an affinity to the Moto Z’s extreme thinness. I look at this wild new tablet / laptop thing and I get the same sensation that I did with the Galaxy Note 7: to make this happen today, the company had to start building and evolving its design years ago.
The Yoga Book is a supremely well built and designed thing, which stirs in me the sort of “touching the future” reaction that’s frankly very hard to find these days. But it’s not without its functionality, either. I was especially thrilled to see the clever way by which Lenovo allows me to use a regular ballpoint nib and write on a piece of paper atop the Yoga Book’s keyboard space. All of my scribbles get picked up — accurately — by the tablet, and on the Android version I can even take notes with the screen off. Lenovo tells me the Yoga Book can go for more than a dozen hours on a single charge, and so I’m left questioning where the hell the compromises and weaknesses of this device are.
Now, of course, I’m aware that what I’m experiencing is a particular form of first-blush infatuation. The success of the Yoga Book hangs entirely on Lenovo’s software execution, and the company doesn’t exactly have a sterling pedigree when it comes to software development. Further, the aging Atom processor, which likely contributes to the low cost of the device, could easily present performance issues, especially when running Windows 10.
I’m old enough to recognize that I might not be seeing the Yoga Book in a perfectly objective way. But that is why I come to trade shows like IFA. I want to see gadgets and technology that make me weak at the knees. I want to be wowed by meaningful innovation. Even if the Yoga Book couldn’t do anything, it’d be a marvelous piece of industrial engineering. The fact it’s tempting me to finally explore using a stylus — something that neither Microsoft nor Apple could even come near — is testament to Lenovo’s thoughtfulness and the holistic design that the Yoga Book embodies. There might be downsides to this thing, but right now I don’t care. Right now I just want October to come around so I can take one of these Yoga Books home.