The smartwatch market isn’t quite as red-hot as it looked in recent months. IDC estimates that smartwatch shipments fell by just shy of 52 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2016, with the biggest names often being the hardest hit. Apple was still the top dog, but its shipments fell almost 72 percent to 1.1 million. Samsung’s shipments were virtually flat, while Lenovo and Pebble saw their unit numbers drop sharply. Interestingly, the only company in the top five to see a big surge was Garmin — the relative newcomer’s shipments more than tripled to 600,000. Should the industry be worried? Not necessarily.
The problem, appropriately enough, is timing. The periods aren’t strictly comparable — many manufacturers had just launched new watches last summer, but had nothing new to show (or had barely started deliveries) a year later. The original Apple Watch was widely available in Q3 of 2015, for instance, but Series 1 and Series 2 models didn’t arrive until the last two weeks of this past quarter. Samsung has yet to ship the Gear S3, there was no third-generation Moto 360 and Pebble only started shipping its newest watches in September.
This doesn’t mean that you can expect a year-over-year recovery in the fourth quarter. It’s possible that the enthusiasm for smartwatches has cooled off, and that we’re seeing what the market is really like now that early adopters have devices on their wrists. There should at least be a season-to-season improvement, however, thanks to both new hardware and the usual holiday rush. And the smartwatch field is still young. Even veterans like Pebble and Samsung are still trying to figure out what works, and the technology is still new enough that features like GPS and LTE data are still big deals whenever they show up.
There’s nothing quite like the Lenovo Yoga Book. It’s a small, lightweight clamshell device running your choice of Android or Windows 10 as an OS. Take a tour of the hardware and you’ll find a 360-degree hinge, a screen and, uh, no keyboard. That’s right, instead of where the keyboard deck would be is a flat-touch sensitive surface that doubles as a digital notepad and sketchpad. It works as a keyboard too, except the buttons, as it were, are all virtual, ready to disappear when you’re done using them.
The design is nothing if not inventive, and Lenovo deserves credit for that, but it’s almost ahead of its time. That or just not very well executed. While digital artists might enjoy the doodling features, our reviewer was never able to master the keyboard. Even when she learned to type accurately, she could never do so quickly. And that’s a problem for a $500-plus device designed for being productive on the go. For that, you may as well buy, you know, a laptop.
At a time when Apple, Microsoft and Google are pairing their new tablets with keyboards, Lenovo has done the unthinkable. It’s completely ditched a true keyboard for a digital sketchpad, trading snappiness, travel and actuation for a smooth, futuristic touch surface. The idea is to offer a note-taking experience that’s so effective, you’d feel comfortable leaving the keyboard behind. The Lenovo Yoga Book, available in Android ($500) and Windows ($550) versions, is inventive. But Lenovo claims that the Yoga Book is the “ultimate tablet for productivity and creativity,” and that’s where the company is wrong. Despite plenty of well-intended enhancements, such as multi-window support in the Android model, Lenovo still failed to make device that truly facilitates productivity.
The Yoga Book is available with either Android or Windows, and the only differences on the hardware front are their color options (the Windows version is only available in black) and the detailing around the trackpad. Either way, both flavors are gorgeous in an understated, elegant sort of way. The design combines a subtle matte finish and clean lines, with a touch of sparkle along the hinge. The best part is how thin and light the magnesium alloy frame is, at 0.38 inches thick and 1.5 pounds. Though it should be easy to take to meetings, as a tablet the Yoga Book feels heavy.
You’ll need two hands to pry open the device, since it’s magnetically sealed and meanwhile there isn’t an indentation in the edge where you can stick your finger as you’re lifting the lid. Once you get it open, the first thing you’ll notice is how smooth and flat the keyboard area is. That emptiness can be a little startling at first, but you’ll get used to it soon enough. Whether you’ll get used to the way it feels, though, is another matter entirely.
Like Lenovo’s previous Yoga convertibles, the Book has a sturdy 360-degree hinge that lets you set it up in four different “modes.” Flip the screen all the way around to use it as a tablet, prop it up with the screen facing you for a makeshift TV, or spread the two sides completely flat if you want a surface to draw on. You can also use the Yoga Book as a traditional clamshell laptop, but because there isn’t a keyboard to anchor it, the device sometimes topples over if you jab at the screen too hard.
Speaking of, the Yoga Book’s 10.1-inch full HD IPS display is plenty bright, and was easy to see even in direct sunlight. However, its glossy finish means if you’re watching something with dark sets, such as The Dark Knight or Stranger Things, you’ll see quite a bit of glare.
The Book comes with what Lenovo calls a “Real Pen,” which is thicker and more comfortable to hold onto than Samsung’s S Pen or the Apple Pencil. It even comes with a cap that doubles as a tool for changing out the stylus filament. I just wish Lenovo had been able to squeeze in an onboard dock for the stylus, but the Yoga Book is barely thick enough to house a pen on board.
Keyboard and trackpad
But let’s get to the feature that sets the Yoga Book apart: the disappearing touch keyboard. Lenovo calls it the Halo Keyboard, presumably after the rings of light that surround each key region. Instead of physical buttons that you can push down on, you’ll see outlines of them on the smooth, touch-sensitive surface. These virtual buttons are large and evenly spaced, and you don’t have to hit them hard to make your keystrokes register. Managing to type quickly and accurately, though, is quite difficult.
It’s a lot to get used to. Lenovo, for its part, claims that two hours is enough to become familiar with the setup here. Those who type with just two fingers will probably have an easier time surmounting the learning curve, but touch typists like myself might never get acclimated. For us, resting your fingers on the F and J keys during a typing pause is second nature, but in this case, that would trigger those letters on the Halo deck. That means if you’re going to use the Yoga Book, you’d better be prepared to unlearn old habits.
Still, Lenovo at least tried to make the experience efficient. It added adjustable haptic feedback and backlighting to help the Halo setup mimic a real keyboard, as well as predictive text and autocorrect for accuracy. While the Windows version relies on Microsoft’s onscreen keyboard, the Android flavor uses third-party TouchPal software, whose autocomplete suggestions I found intrusive. Any momentum I had built up was frequently interrupted when I had to hit the return key twice to break to a new line, since the first key press only served to confirm that I wanted to use the first suggested word. I was, however, pleased to find that common shortcuts such as Alt-Tab, Ctrl-Del and Ctrl-F were supported. My typing eventually got pretty accurate, but never very fast.
The onscreen keyboard provided little relief. Not in the Android version, at least. Its large buttons showed both letters and special characters, like ampersands and percent symbols. Seeing those special characters didn’t make them easier to access, and their presence only really served to clutter up the interface. It was distracting and a little confusing. You can switch back to Google’s default option, but even so: I wish Lenovo had handled this better. Fortunately, at least, this wasn’t an issue on the Windows version.
Another thing that bugged me about the Halo keyboard was the trackpad below it, which is small, sluggish and jumpy. Taps sometimes registered clicks, but other times nothing happened. This occurred across both OSes, but it was more pronounced on the Windows device. Other than using the touch display, there really isn’t a great way to interact with the Yoga Book.
Still, doing away with a real keyboard is sometimes worth it, if only because of the cool sketchpad integration. The Halo panel turns into what Lenovo calls the Create Pad when you press the pen button on the top right of the deck. You can use the included stylus to draw on this; it’s like having a Wacom digitizer attached to its own screen.
What’s more impressive is that you can write on the Pad even when the tablet is asleep. Press and hold the pen button until it vibrates and you can write on the plain black sketchpad. Your scribbles will be saved to Lenovo’s note-taking app. That’s interesting, but not all that useful since you can’t see what you’re writing.
Separately, there’s a feature that lets you write with real pen and paper and have that all simultaneously show up on the Yoga Book. This is perhaps the feature that traditionalists will love most. Using the pen’s included cap, you can swap out the stylus for an ink cartridge and use it as an actual pen. Place any notepad on the keyboard and start writing, and it’ll show up on the screen. This, too, works while the tablet is asleep.
All of these features work as promised. And yet, as close as that last one gets to matching a real pen-and-paper experience, I still felt limited by the physical boundaries of the writing surface. In a note-taking session where I needed to be fast, I found it easier to just write on paper, which stayed put, and on which I could write horizontally, vertically and in corners. On the Yoga Book, I had to pause and make sure the pen was hovering at the right spot before I could continue scribbling. Most of the notes I took ended up not making much sense.
Ultimately, the sketchpad is useful for drawing and writing short phrases; not so much for extended note-taking sessions.
Other than the note-taking and drawing implementations, both editions of the Yoga Book run pretty standard versions of their respective operating systems. Windows 10 in particular is a better option for those who want multi-tasking tools and support for desktop apps. Despite Lenovo’s efforts to integrate multi-window apps in the Android Marshmallow version, the feature only works for select programs, such as Gmail, YouTube and File Manager. Not many third-party apps can do this at launch, and you can only open up to three apps side by side anyway. When Lenovo updates the device with Android Nougat (it’s unclear when that will be), multi-window will be a native feature that works with all apps.
One feature I really like is the camera’s Smart Capture mode, which lets you shoot pictures of important info, such as lecture slides, and converts it into a flat, PDF-like image. I tried this out at a recent product briefing, taking shots of presentation pages from an odd angle. The app quickly and accurately detected the sides of the projected screen, highlighted them in green, straightened the image and then zoomed in on the highlighted area.
Initially I wasn’t wild about the camera placement. It’s on the Halo keyboard deck, next to the pen button, which means it faces up when you’re using the Yoga Book as a laptop. But use it as a tablet and it’s well-placed as a rear camera. As you’d expect, the front camera sits above the display, ready for selfies.
Performance and battery life
|Lenovo Yoga Book (Windows 10)||2,104||P485||149 MB/s (reads); 42.9 MB/s (writes)|
|Microsoft Surface 3||2,839||P552||163 MB/s (reads); 39.2 MB/s (writes)|
Thanks to its 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom x5-z8550 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (expandable via the microSD card slot), the Yoga Book was generally zippy and multitasked well. Switching between Note Saver, Camera and Google Docs was easy, and I could quickly snap pictures of presentation slides, even while Drive, Play Store, Gallery and those other apps I mentioned were open. I didn’t encounter any delay when swiping through pages of apps, and zooming in on web pages felt smooth. There was some lag in launching apps such as Camera and Amazon’s Kindle, though.
|Lenovo Yoga Book (Android 6.0)||3,857||770.8||47.5||3,959||26,663||49,658|
|Google Pixel C||6,294||670||N/A||N/A||40,980||34,948|
* SunSpider: Lower scores are better.
Benchmarks tell largely the same story. The Android Yoga Book trailed the Pixel C and the iPad Pro in Sunspider, while its Vellamo score was half that of the Pixel. Its performance on graphics tests 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited and GFX Bench were similarly lackluster. The Windows version kept pace in PCMark 7 with last year’s Surface 3, which uses an older quad-core Atom CPU.
Lenovo Yoga Book (Android)
Lenovo Yoga Book (Windows)
Microsoft Surface 3
Google Pixel C
With its large 8,500mAh battery, the Yoga Book took two days of light to moderate use to get down to a 10 percent charge. That’s in line with Lenovo’s maximum battery life claim of 15 hours. The Android version lasted 11 hours and nine minutes on Engadget’s standard battery test, which involves looping an HD video at 50 percent brightness. We tested the Windows version at 65 percent brightness, and it clocked 8 hours and 6 minutes. The Pixel C and the Surface 3 both fell a few hours short of the Android’s runtime. You’ll want to make sure to use the included adapter when recharging, because that big battery will take a while to re-juice. Lenovo said the device will get fully charged in about three hours with the supplied cable.
There really isn’t anything quite like the Yoga Book. Even though the Surface Pro 4 also takes in pen input and is often marketed with a keyboard that you have to buy separately, it also uses a laptop-grade processor that’s much more robust than the one inside the Yoga Book.
The Android model faces off against Google’s Pixel C, which also starts at $499. While the Pixel is much more powerful than the Yoga, it, too, suffers from some input issues — in particular, the occasional sticky key. The Pixel doesn’t come with a stylus either, so those who are looking to doodle might prefer the Yoga Book.
There are other devices that convert your real-world scribblings to digital, such as Wacom’s Bamboo Spark ($200) and the Moleskine Smart Writing Set ($200). These require internet connectivity to save your notes to the cloud, and, unlike the Yoga Book, are built for one specific purpose. Artists could also opt for a Wacom Intuous digitizer (starting from $99) that attaches to their computers to make digital drawing easier, but this isn’t as portable a solution.
In the end, the Yoga Book exists in a category of its own, so none of these comparisons will be perfect.
At first blush, the Yoga Book is a compelling device. The sketchpad integration feels smart and intuitive. But, as a fervent note-taker, I just couldn’t see myself taking it to important meetings. I simply couldn’t depend on it when I needed to quickly take copious notes — whether it be by hand or by keyboard. This specific complaint wouldn’t be as significant if not for the way Lenovo is positioning the device. It’s a “tablet for ultimate productivity and creativity,” according to the company’s website and marketing materials.
But real productivity lies in being able to very specifically and quickly control what you are entering into a device. And you can’t quite do that with the Yoga Book. Its middling performance and display don’t help either. Still, it’s an intriguing first step, and artists or doodlers might be interested. The Yoga Book is innovative, but innovative isn’t always reason enough to buy. Maybe Lenovo will fare better with a future version, if it decides to make one, but it will have to come up with a much better keyboard and improve the tablet’s performance for it to be worth considering. Until then, the Yoga Book is little more than a novelty item.
Well, well, well. After just a few months of phone releases and reviews, our smartphone buyer’s guide section looks very different than it did recently. New to the guide, as you’d expect, are the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, both of which earned strong reviews from us. The HTC 10 and Galaxy S7 have held their spots there, with the OnePlus 3 rounding out the list at the lower end. (And yes, we are thanking our lucky stars that we didn’t have time to add the highly rated Galaxy Note 7 into the guide before it was recalled and discontinued.)
We’ve also made some changes to our wearables section, with the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 both making the cut (the Series 2 is the best in absolute terms, but we recommend the Series 1 for more people). You’ll also find the Fitbit Charge 2, our new favorite all-around fitness tracker. Find all that and more right here in our buyer’s guide, and be sure to check back soon — we plan to review some highly anticipated releases like Google’s new Pixel phones as well as the PlayStation Pro.
Source: Engadget Buyer’s Guide
Project Ara is no more, but that doesn’t mean Google’s weirder smartphone ambitions are all dead and buried. Project Tango — a push to put 3D mapping in a smartphone — is still alive and well, thanks to Lenovo. Speaking to CNET, Google’s Clay Bavor confirmed that the Phab2 Pro should be coming out next month. The phone promises to track your surroundings and then, augmented reality style, display content that looks like it’s right in front of you. With this, you could visualize new furniture in your home, or shoot aliens that appear to be coming out of the walls.
We’ve tinkered with Project Tango before. My colleague Chris Velazco, for instance, used one of Google’s developer tablets in Barcelona. Stepping inside the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, he could tap on points of interest and access additional information. A virtual path of breadcrumbs led him through the various exhibits, and a profile system meant he could pick out other visitors in the crowd — a useful feature for parents.
While intriguing, Project Tango has always felt like an R&D project, destined to fade away after a few modest prototypes. The Phab2 Pro could change that perception, however. It’s consumer hardware — not a weird, bulky tablet or accessory. The phone is large though, with a 6.4-inch display and a 4050 mAh battery buried inside. At $499, it’s also expensive. For the same money you could buy a phone that’s more elegant and powerful (the Phab2 Pro uses a Snapdragon 652). Still, it’s proof that Tango can be miniaturized without creating a truly horrific Frankenphone.
Lenovo just can’t seem to avoid troubles with its PC firmware. Linux users are worried that some of Lenovo’s PCs, such as variants of the Yoga 710 and Yoga 900, aren’t allowing them to install their preferred operating system. They note that the systems’ solid-state drives use a RAID mode that Linux doesn’t understand. That’s unpleasant enough, but Lenovo’s initial handling of complaints didn’t help. Its staff locked support forum threads discussing the topic, and a Lenovo Product Expert on Best Buy claims that a Yoga 900’s use of a pure, Signature Edition take on Windows 10 Home meant that it was “locked per our agreement with Microsoft.” If that was true, it’d be pretty damning — it’d suggest that at least some Signature Edition systems are purposefully set up to exclude non-Windows platforms.
But are they? Not so fast. In both a subsequent Best Buy comment and a statement to The Register, Lenovo says it “does not intentionally block” Linux or other operating systems on its computers. Linux compatibility is a matter of updating the OS kernel and drivers to recognize the SSD RAID configuration, the company says. This won’t be much comfort if you really, really want to run Ubuntu on your convertible PC, but it at least suggests that Lenovo isn’t trying to ruin your day.
We’ve asked both Lenovo and Microsoft for further takes on the situation, including whether or not there’s anything in the Signature Edition program that would make PC vendors clamp down. In response, Lenovo elaborated on its position in a new statement (below): it says the Yoga line demands “very specific, complex and unique drivers,” and not just the storage controller. Other features “would likely not work” with Linux, too. We’ll let you know if Microsoft has something to add about Signature Edition PCs, but it doesn’t look like any of its policies would change the reality for Lenovo buyers.
“As the world’s number 1 PC company, we continue to focus on bringing value to the PC user, and creating unique and innovative form factors such as Yoga. Our consumer Windows PCs are specifically designed for and extensively tested on Windows 10. Yoga 900 / 900S with their 360 degree hinges are specifically designed to maximise the touch functionality of Windows 10. Our Yoga design requires very specific, complex and unique drivers that require even greater amounts of testing, to ensure class-leading performance with Windows 10. To support our Yoga products and our industry-leading 360-hinge design in the best way possible we have used a storage controller mode that is unfortunately not supported by Linux and as a result, does not allow Linux to be installed. Beyond the controller setup limitation, other advanced capabilities of the Yoga design would likely not work with current Linux offerings.
“Lenovo does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems such as Linux on Yoga or any of its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of suitable products. These products are listed on our support page:
Via: The Register
Source: Best Buy, Reddit, Imgur, Lenovo
When we first got our hands on Lenovo’s Yoga Book tablet, we found it to be more than just a Microsoft Surface imitator. The freeform touch field might make typing a bit to get used to, but it’s the ease of drawing on stylus or pen that makes it unique. As pre-orders open today for all models to ship out on October 17th, it remains unclear whether the novelty will be enough for the device to distinguish itself in a tanking tablet market.
The Yoga Book certainly has things going for it: At $500 for its Android version and $550 for Windows, it’s cheaper than the baseline iPad Pro and the Surface 3. Having a scribing tablet directly integrated will likely appeal to an artistic demographic more comfortable drawing on a Wacom-style pad than directly on the screen with an Apple Pencil. It even records your stylus sketches when the tablet is asleep, which should boost battery life at the expense of, well, not seeing what you’re writing or drawing.
But at the end of the day, the Yoga Book doesn’t have a keyboard. Despite haptic feedback in the pad and autocorrect in the Android version, our reviewer struggled to type accurately, and doubted Lenovo’s claim that it would take about two hours to adapt. If a user’s work depends on quickly and accurately getting words on a page, this might not be the tablet for them. Lenovo is betting big that the physical process of pen-to-pad has secretly been what many tablet users have secretly been missing. We’ll see whether it’s enough to carve market share away from Apple and Microsoft.
Source: 9to5 Google
With the recent launches of the iPhone 7 Plus and the LG V20, the dual-lens smartphone camera is once again a hot topic. Of course, many other companies will want to remind you that they were there first, except some have long since given up on the technology. So what happened? And why isn’t this yet a standard feature on all flagship smartphones? For those intrigued, it’s worth taking a trip seven years back in time.
This week may well be dominated by the launch of the new iPhone, but that doesn’t mean Apple’s smartphone rivals are holding things back. After a few months of US exclusivity, Lenovo has finally brought its super-customisable all-metal Moto Z to the UK.
The 5.5-inch quad HD smartphone is now available on the Motorola store for £499, offering a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a 2600mAh battery with TurboPower charging and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. Oh, and it’s ditched the headphone jack in favour of a USB-C connector.
Like its predecessors, the Moto Z can be run through Lenovo’s Moto Maker service. However, if you’re looking to create a truly bespoke masterpiece, you’re going to be disappointed. Colour options are limited to White & Fine Gold or Black & Lunar Grey and there’s no scope to increase the onboard storage. The company does have an ace up its sleeve, though, and that’s Moto Mods.
Moto Mods are Lenovo’s answer to the LG G5’s swap-out modules. There are four magnetised modules — the Incipio offGRID Power Pack, JBL SoundBoost Speaker, Hasselblad True Zoom and Moto Insta-Share Projector — that attach to the back of the Moto Z and give it more battery, better sound or clearer optics. The accessories start at £60 and range up to £250.
It was only announced last week, but the mid-range Moto Z Play is also live on the Motorola store, although it is currently out of stock. The 5.2-inch £370 Android device houses an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, 3GB of RAM, 16-megapixel camera and a 3,510mAh battery. More importantly, it does have a headphone jack.
If you put your order in today, your Moto Z should be with you by September 14th, just before the iPhone 7 hits stores. The Moto Z Play, on the other hand, should be widely available later this week.
Source: Moto Z
While Intel is busy revamping its laptop processors, AMD is focused on the desktop side of personal computing. The chip designer has started shipping its 7th-generation A-series processors in desktop PCs, starting with machines from HP and Lenovo. The CPUs are based around as many as four Excavator cores, rather than the coveted Zen cores you’ve heard about lately, but that should still get you a lot of performance per watt. If you believe AMD, its 35- and 65-watt processors deliver the kind of speed that previously took over 90 watts — the A12-9800 is about as fast in a general computing benchmark (PCMark) as Intel’s Core i5-6500, and roughly twice as fast in graphics (3DMark) if you’re relying on integrated video.
As you might guess from the testing, visual performance plays a big role. On top of a newer DirectX 12-friendly graphics architecture, the new processors tout native video decoding for 4K video in both H.264 and H.265 formats, taking a large load off of your system while you’re watching Ultra HD movies.
The efficiency angle is a familiar one for AMD, and not surprising given that it’s the company’s main advantage. You’re still looking at higher-end Intel Core i5 and i7 chips if you’re focused on raw performance in a desktop. With that said, this may be worthwhile if you want a glimpse at AMD’s future. The 7th-gen A-series is the first processor line based on AMD’s new AM4 platform and the interfaces that come with it, including support for USB 3.1 and NVMe solid-state drives. At least some of the technology you see here will carry on for multiple hardware generations.
Source: AMD (1), (2)