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October 26, 2018

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 review

by John_A


Research Center:

Lenovo Yoga Book C930

Experimental, concept devices rarely see the light of day. One exception to that trend is the Yoga Book C930, a new device from Lenovo that makes the “2-in-1” label feel so 2017.

This new Yoga Book doesn’t just hope to replace your laptop and iPad, it also wants to make you ditch your Kindle and Wacom digitizer — all in a single $1,000 device. A new e-ink screen powers all that new functionality, streamlining it all in one place at the cost of a physical keyboard.

You won’t be able to pass by the Yoga Book 2 without playing with it, but is it something you’d want to use day after day?

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, including the original

The Yoga Book C930 isn’t the first of its kind. Its predecessor, the original Yoga Book, was another experimental laptop put out by Lenovo back in 2015, and this new Yoga Book follows in its footsteps. It’s dark grey, incredibly slim, and has a touch of personality thanks to the now-iconic Yoga watchband hinge. It’s as sleek a laptop as they come.

Open, though, and it’s a completely different animal.

In fact, you’ll realize it’s something different as you open it. Because of its thin profile of only 0.39 inches (which is only 0.06 inches thicker than just the tablet portion of the Surface Pro 6), it’s hard to open with one hand. It was a problem with the original Yoga Book, which was even thinner.

So, rather than pry it apart with your fingernails, Lenovo has engineered a “knock-knock” feature that uses the reverse polarity of magnets to push it open with a gentle double-knock on the edge of the lid. It might sound silly, but it’s useful. If nothing else, it’s one of the of the coolest party tricks a laptop has ever pulled.

The Book C930 isn’t the revolutionary typing surface it needs to be.

Once you inside, you’ll be greeted by two 10.8-inch screens. There’s a conventional LCD screen up top, and an e-ink screen where the keyboard should be. You can use the keyboard-screen in three different modes – as a keyboard, an e-reader, or a digital note-taking device.

The Yoga Book C930 is a tiny bit heavier than the original, though it’s still only 1.71 pounds. That’s lighter than the Samsung Notebook 9, making this the lightest laptop ever — if you even consider this to be a laptop.

Cut into its slim slide is just a handful of ports and buttons. The C930 gives you two USB-C 3.1 ports, a power button, a volume rocker, and a headphone jack. You can charge out of either USB-C port, which are conveniently located on either side of the device. That’s not a lot of options, but it’s on par with the other thin laptops like the MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 13.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

The Yoga Book C930 does offer LTE, though Lenovo didn’t include a SIM card to test it out. It’s a fantastic feature to see Lenovo include, keeping up with trends in other 2-in-1s such as the Samsung Galaxy Book 2.

A whole new way to type, swipe, and draw

The new Yoga Book doesn’t have a keyboard. Instead, the e-ink display defaults to a digital keyboard. A lot rides on this concept. Physical keyboards are much thicker and nowhere near as versatile. Does an e-ink touchscreen offer the best of all worlds?

Well, not really.

Even after spending hours and hours typing on the device, we couldn’t type accurately without glancing down.

Typing on the Yoga Book C930 doesn’t feel that different from typing on an iPad. There’s a bit of haptic feedback provided, as well as some cute animations and sounds, but this isn’t the revolutionary typing surface it needs to be. Most writers in our office had a two-part reaction. It began with “Wow, cool!” — of course. But after struggling to type their own names without mistakes, most admitted they wouldn’t prefer this over the standard keyboards on their work laptops.

Is it possible to get comfortable typing exclusively on the Yoga Book’s digital keyboard? Yep – but it’s certainly not preferable.

There’re two problems. The first, of course, is that you can’t tell where one key ends and the other starts. Touch typing just isn’t realistic. Even after spending hours and hours typing on the device, we couldn’t type accurately without glancing down. The haptic feedback, which has three levels of strength, feels a little off. At its lowest level, it’s so subtle you can’t feel it, while the stronger levels are overly loud, rattling the entire device on the table. It’s unfortunate Lenovo couldn’t have taken a page out of Apple’s playbook and included some more convincing artificial feedback.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

The second problem, which only confounds the first, is the layout. Not having keys where you expect them spatially makes it even harder to feel confident in where your fingers are going. The keyboard defaults to “Classic mode,” which scrunches up the keys and a small touchpad at the bottom. We found this mode particularly difficult to type on.

The “modern” layout is better, as it makes the letter keys larger, but it slices off the outer keys like Tab and Caps Lock. That’s still not ideal. Ultimately, we felt relieved when we switched back to a more conventional keyboard, like that sold with the Surface Go. One thing we did like about the “modern” layout, however, is that it hides the touchpad once you start typing. We thought it a good way to save space.

The larger screen is helpful in every scenario, even with the hefty bezels.

While you do have the option of these two layouts, there’s no customization. You’d think a digital keyboard would offer more options for moving keys around, or even changing sizes. At the very least, it would been nice to swap the Function and Control keys to get around Lenovo’s putting them the wrong way around.

While the fake touchpad tracks well, not having a physical click takes a bit to get used to. The left and right buttons feel misplaced on either side of the pad.

If you don’t want to use the Yoga Book C930’s keyboard for long stretches, you can always hook up a keyboard and mouse via USB or Bluetooth. Thanks to the 360 hinge and lack of a keyboard, it was easy to flip around the bottom half of the device to prop up the screen.

While the keyboard is a problem, the Yoga Book C930 does offer fantastic stylus support. You can write directly on the bottom screen. As most people who’ve used a 2-in-1 know, using a stylus on a flat surface is far more comfortable than on a propped-up screen. The included pen has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity to match the Microsoft Surface Pen, making for a very smooth writing experience regardless of which screen you’re writing on.

Unlike most 2-in-1s, the stylus feels like an integral part of the package, which is why we wished Lenovo always included it bundled in. We don’t yet have specifics on pricing, but Lenovo has stated the stylus wouldn’t be included in every configuration.

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Compared To

Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UA

Samsung Galaxy Book 2

HP Spectre 13 (2017)

Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch

Acer Swift 3 SF314-52-517Z

Lenovo IdeaPad 530S

Dell XPS 13 (2018)

Asus ZenBook S

HP Spectre x360 15 (2018)

Lenovo Miix 630

Asus VivoBook Pro 15 N580VD

Asus ZenBook Flip S

HP ZBook 14u G4

Razer Blade Stealth (2017)

Sony Vaio S Series

Lastly, the Yoga Book C930 includes an infrared fingerprint scanner, located on the top right just above the e-ink screen. It’s infrared to handle dirty or greasy fingers, and we found that it captured and read fingerprints accurately.

Two screens, but they’re not equal

The primary display has earned a big bump over the original Yoga Book. This time it has a 10.8-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. The larger screen is helpful in every scenario, even with the hefty bezels around the panel. When we took our colorimeter to it, our initial impressions of the device were confirmed. This is an excellent display.

The Yoga Book C930’s display is top-of-the-line. It has a surprisingly wide color gamut, spanning 88 percent of the Adobe RGB color space. That’s better than a lot of laptop displays we test, whether it’s the Surface Go, Surface Pro 6, or even the Dell XPS 13. Speaking of colors, the C930 is also extremely color accurate, meaning colors are being reproduced on the screen in the way they were intended to be. Again, an average color error of 1.76 puts it above the Surface devices and even other Lenovo laptops like the Yoga 730. It’s sharp, crisp, and stunning to watch video on, thanks to its high contrast ratio and deep blacks.

The second panel, the black-and-white e-ink screen, isn’t nearly as high-res. One of our biggest complaints is that it isn’t backlit, meaning typing in the dark is nearly impossible. Many e-ink screens on premium e-readers are backlit, but not the Yoga Book C930.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

As cool as the e-ink screen is, it feels like a placeholder. In fact, Lenovo offered a sneak peak of its third-generation Yoga Book at IFA this year, which replaces the e-ink screen with an IPS display. While we’re sure Lenovo hasn’t released that due to battery life concerns, a full LCD display would not make the screen feel more responsive, and it’d widely expand the functionality of the device.

For audio, the Yoga Book has a decent set of Dolby Atmos-powered speakers. The grille is placed on each side of the bottom half of the device, pointing outward. They work well for a small laptop, but you’ll need headphones or external speakers for serious jam sessions.

A capable laptop when it needs to be

Though small, the Yoga Book C930 runs a full version of Windows 10 Home, meaning it can do everything any other laptop can do. It boasts a Core i5-7Y54 processor, a dual-core CPU from Intel’s 7th-generation of chips. While we would have preferred to see the device ship with the new 8th-gen Amber Lake Y-series processors, we found the processor fast enough for the tasks this computer was built for –Web browsing in multiple tabs, watching video, and editing documents.

In Geekbench, the Core i5-7Y54 doesn’t deliver top-notch scores, especially in comparison with the quad-core U-series chips you’d find in laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or Surface Pro 6. However, it’s massive step up from the Pentium processor used in the Surface Go, the Snapdragon 835 processor in the Asus NovaGo, and the Celeron processors found in a lot of Chromebooks.

Don’t expect much gaming performance from the Yoga Book C930

Compared to other machines with the same processor, like the Pixelbook or 12-inch MacBook, the Yoga Book C930 handles the chip well and delivers similar performance in real-life tests such as video encoding in Handbrake and Speedometer 2.0.

The base configuration starts out with 128GB of SSD storage, but can it be upped to 256GB. Lenovo lists it as a PCIe NVMe SSD, but the read and write speeds look closer to a SATA drive. And while that’s not what we like to see in a $1,000 laptop, downloading, installing, and executing files felt smooth enough in daily usage to not notice a real difference.

Not a gaming laptop, unless you’re talking tic-tac-toe

The Yoga Book C930 uses an integrated graphics card (Intel HD Graphics 615), meaning you shouldn’t expect much gaming performance. Whether it was 3DMark or a feeble attempt to play Fortnite, we couldn’t play games without significantly lowering screen resolution or graphics settings. We had to lower Rocket League down to Performance Mode to get it over 40 FPS. More importantly, multiple keys can’t be pressed at the same time, so accelerating forward and turning simultaneously doesn’t work.

Casual games downloaded off the Microsoft Store can fill the void if Candy Crush or Minecraft is more your pace, but that’s about all.

Just shy of a full of day of battery life

As with any ultra-portable device, strong battery life should be one of the Yoga Book’s strongest features. But like the Surface Go, the performance is good enough rather than stellar.

Lenovo claims the laptop can handle up to eight hours of general use. In our web browsing test, the Yoga Book landed just under seven hours. That’s considerably better than the Surface Go, but it falls short of the Surface Pro 6’s nine and a half hours. Similarly, it lasted just over nine hours in video loop compared to the Surface Pro’s fourteen hours. That’s a big difference. If Lenovo and Intel had been able to implement an Amber Lake processor, it may have pushed the battery life up to where it needs to be. As of now, it’s passable, but not outstanding.

In addition to standard battery tests, we still have a few additional ones to run. We plan to run an e-reader specific battery life test and a test of the tablet battery life with the e-ink screen turned off. Once we do, our review will be updated accordingly.

Our Take

There’s a lot to admire about the Yoga Book C930. The primary screen is beautiful, the e-ink concept is novel, and the device itself is astoundingly thin and light. We must give Lenovo credit for the bravery to put this unique concept out for the masses. However, the typing experience is more frustrating than fluid, which makes this hard to recommend over 2-in-1s with a physical keyboard.

Is there a better alternative?

Microsoft’s Surface Go. It’s also a 10-inch 2-in-1 that’s meant to be a full-on laptop replacement. While that device has some more significant performance issues with its battery, storage, and processor, it’s offered at a significant discount compared to the Yoga Book.

Neither device fulfills the potential of the ultra-portable 2-in-1 PC, but the Surface Go has broader appeal at a better price.

How long will it last?

The Yoga Book C930 is sturdy and well-built, though its mileage may vary in terms of its relevance in the future. We’ve already seen a sneak peak of the third-generation Yoga Book, and e-ink is probably won’t be around forever. Fortunately, Lenovo has included advanced features like USB-C to keep the Yoga Book C930 futureproof.

Should you buy it?

No. The average person will be happier purchasing a laptop with a more conventional keyboard. For early adopters or those drawn to the stylus writing experience, this may be the device you’ve always wanted. Everyone else should wait for the innovation this device inspires.

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