Artist Review: Lenovo Yoga Book (Android) for Drawing

I've just borrowed a Lenovo Yoga Book from my friend for this review.

Just like my other tech reviews, this review will focus on the drawing capability of the Lenovo Yoga Book.

Here are some key features and important things to note.

  • This is a so called 2-in-1 tablet. You can use it as a laptop or tablet
  • You can draw on the keyboard area with a pressure-sensitive stylus
  • The stylus allows you to use ballpoint ink on paper, or the plastic tip for drawing
  • To use the stylus on the screen, you have to turn on AnyPen mode in settings

Basically, just think of the Yoga Book like fusing a Wacom Intuos to a tablet.

Video review

Here's the 20 minute review that talks about the same things on this page.

Specifications

There are two versions, Android and Windows.

Android is the better choice in my opinion because it's designed for tablets, for touch screens, for processor efficiency. The Intel® Atom™ x5-Z8550 processor included in the Yoga Book isn't that powerful, so if you run apps like Photoshop, it's going to lag (according to another friend). I would recommend Windows only if you have specific apps, desktop apps, you need to use.

Android version currently retails at USD $500. Windows version is $50 more.

Here are the main specifications:

Processor: Intel® Atom™ x5-Z8550 Processor
OS: Android 6 or Windows 10
Storage: 64GB with microSD card slot for up to 128GB.
Memory: 4GB
Battery life: 8500 mAh, around 7-9 hours depending on usage
Weight: 690g
Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.72 x 0.38 inches (25.6 x 17 x 0.96 cm)
Screen: 10.1 inch 1080P resolution up to 90% sRGB
Brightness: 400 nits
Colors: Black, gray, gold
Wifi: Yes
Ports: micro-USB, micro-HDMI, 3.5mm headphone
Speakers: Side facing

What's in the box

  • Yoga Book
  • Pen
  • 3 ballpoint refill
  • Notebook holder and notebook
  • microSD card slot ejection pin
  • Charger and cable
  • Manual

Design and build quality

The Yoga Book is a lightweight (690g) and compact 2-in-1 tablet. The physical size is slightly larger than my A5 sketchbook, and it's thinner (0.96cm)


This is the front. The Yoga Book is available in grey and gold. The one I have is gold. I suppose grey will look nicer.


And this is the back. As there are no rubber feet on the back to raise the laptop, this means it's likely to scratch the metalic surface.


The unit that I have already have several hairline scratches. You can buy a sleeve for it but I don't think a case will work well because of the hinge system.

The build quality is good. However, when I pick it up using the keyboard, I can hear some flexing sounds. Not a big issue.


One of the design highlights is the so called Halo Keyboard. There are no physical keys. The typing surface will light up to show the buttons. Typing on it feels like typing on a touch-screen. One issue that I have is the learning curve. When typing with normal keyboards, I look at the screen and not at the keys. When typing using the Halo Keyboard, I find myself looking at the keys and not the screen, as such, I can sometimes lose track of what I'm typing on the screen. It takes time to get use to it.

There's supposed to be haptic feedback when using the Halo Keyboard. Press a button and the keyboard vibrates. I turned that off and it seems pointless to me.

There's no good reason for the inclusion of a keyboard if it's not optimal for typing. The Halo Keyboard is not the best keyboard for typing. However, we have this keyboard because it also doubles as a drawing surface. So the drawing surface is the selling point. If not, you could have gotten yourself the Lenovo Miix 510, Surface Pro 4 or basically any tablet with detachable keyboard. But those tablets have a downside (more on that later).


The trackpad is too small to be useful. Anything, there's a touch-screen so it's just much faster to just use your finger and tap.


The other highlight is the hinge system that allows the keyboard to flip all the way to the back of the screen, 360 degrees.


This allows you to use it like a real tablet. Since there are no physical keys, it feels nicer to hold the back.


You can fold the Yoga Book into any angle. This is great if you want to prop it up on the table to watch video.


At some parts of the hinge, there are loose parts and this causes certain parts to move around and create unwanted sound.

The 10.1-inch screen supports 1920 x 1200 resolution. It's an IPS panel so viewing angles are decent. I've read that it can support up to 90% sRGB. Different websites report different colour gamut support. Lenovo's website said it has 70% colour gamut. Adobe RGB? Anyway, colour reproduction is more than satisfactory for me for a laptop in this price region. The screen is bright and the colours are vibrant.



There aren't many ports on the Yoga Book. On the left side are the micro-USB port for charging and data transfer, and then there's the micro-HDMI port (no cable provided). On the other side is the 3.5mm audio jack.

Battery life is around 7 to 9 hours depending on usage.


That's the pen provided. It supports pressure sensitivity although I'm not sure exactly sure how many levels. No battery is required. This is a full size pen and it feels good when held in hand. It's balanced and not too heavy.


The pen has the option of using ballpoint or plastic tip.

For the ballpoint refill, you have to get the MiniStar refill. I've tried the Zebra brand refill that's similar in dimensions and it does not work. This is the same issue with the Wacom Bamboo Slate -- it's like the Yoga Book without the screen.

The pen is for use on the keyboard area. You cannot draw on the screen with the pen.


The cap can be used to change the tips. Just put the tip into the hole on the cap, tilt it, and pull out the tip.


Putting the tip back is as easy as slotting it back it.


The plastic tip is small. When drawing, it feels like drawing with a normal pen.


Before drawing, you have to switch the tablet to drawing mode. Just press and hold the pen icon at the top right until it lights up and you're in tablet mode. To go back to keyboard mode, press and hold the pen icon again. Easy.


This is the notebook holder, aka Yoga Book pad.

The 75-page notebook means 11.6 by 6.4 inches. A5 is 5.8 x 8.3 inches. So the notebook is much wider.



The notebook has two holes on the side that you can fit into the two magnets from the pad. That will keep the notebook in place when you write on it.


Since the notebook is not standard size, it will be difficult to use other notebooks, e.g. the ubiquitous A5 notebook. Lenovo sells the notebook at USD $15 which is bloody expensive!


If you really want to use your own notebook or paper, you have to find a way to clamp it down, probably with some clips. Make sure the clip doesn't scratch the back.


To get your drawing captured accurately, you have to draw within the active area. The active area is marked by four Ls at each corner.


When you're in the drawing mode, everything you write on the paper will be recorded and shown on screen instantly. You can use any app while writing or drawing. Accuracy is very good.

I've tested Adobe Photoshop Sketch, Wacom Bamboo Paper, Medibang Paint Pro. Response time is good. Lag is very minimal to none. How much lag there is depends on the app. For example, Adobe Photoshop Sketch has slight lag whereas Wacom Bamboo Paper has no lag at all.


There's no jitter or wavy line effect when drawing diagonal lines slowly. That line above was drawn slowly with a ruler.

Pressure sensitivity works for both the ballpoint and plastic tip.


The type of variation you can achieve for the stroke thickness will depend on the app. Apps like Wacom Bamboo Paper limits thickness.


Apps like Medibang Paint allows maximum variation depending on your pressure, so it can achieve really thin and thick strokes. Stroke variation and pressure sensitivity support all comes down to app support.


When you tilt the Yoga Book in portrait orientation, it switches from keyboard mode to drawing mode. Problem is the gyroscope isn't perfect, so sometimes it may switch modes when you lay the Yoga Book flat on the table. It's better to switch to drawing mode manually by pressing and holding the pen icon on the keyboard.

By default, you won't be able to use the stylus to draw on the screen. To draw on the screen, you have to turn on AnyPen mode in settings first. There won't be any pressure sensitivity when you draw on the screen though. The big problem when using the stylus on the screen is there can be broken lines because the screen wasn't able to detect the stylus all the time. There's also the jitter wavy line effect when diagonal lines are drawn slowly. Basically, it's not a satisfactory experience working in AnyPen mode. Drawing and writing on the keyboard area is so much better.

Who is this for?

When it comes to capturing strokes, the Yoga Book does a very good job of doing so.

Drawing on the Yoga Book feels like drawing with the screen-less Wacom Intuos. As there are so many tablets available in the market, why not get one so that you can draw on the screen? The main reason is many tablets suffer from the problem have having jittery wavy lines when diagonal lines are drawn slowly. The other reason is if the stylus is not specially made for the tablet, there can be parallax. Third reason is price.

There aren't many tablets with pressure sensitive stylus that can produce perfectly accurate strokes. The only ones I know of are the Apple iPad Pro and Pencil and the Wacom MobileStudio Pro. Both are expensive options. I've no experience with S Pen from Samsung tablets so I don't know how they perform (if you know let me know). The one I'm most curious about is the performance of the Samsung Tab A 10.1 (2016) with S Pen (I'm going to review that soon).



The other selling point is the ability to use ballpoint on paper. This is for people who prefer the tactile feeling of writing or drawing. However, the spare notebooks sold by Lenovo is just too expensive at USD $15. I find the matte surface keyboard area to provide a nice texture for writing or drawing with the plastic stylus tip. I have absolutely no problem using that instead of the notebook for taking notes. And the Yoga Book is fantastic at taking notes. Just like how it can accurately capture my drawing. It can accurately capture my handwriting as well.

Conclusion

The price point of the Yoga Book is quite good. USD $500 for the Android version is more expensive than some other tablets, such as the Microsoft Surface 3 or Samsung Tab A 10.1 (2016) with S Pen. However with the Yoga Book, you can be sure that the strokes will come out exactly the way you want them to be. And that to me is the selling point of this tablet.

Overall, the Lenovo Yoga Book gets a 4 out of 5 stars for me. For drawing or note-taking purposes, 5 out of 5 stars since it does what it's marketed to do perfectly.

As usual, if you find this review helpful, share it with your artist friends.

Availability

You can find the Lenovo Yoga Book and more reviews on Amazon. Links below.
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

If you make any purchase through the links, I get a little commission at no extra cost to you.

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