It’s been almost a year and a half since Nintendo announced the NX, and now the gaming giant has finally dropped the codename and secrecy in favor of something more official: Switch. Like the countless rumors previously asserted, it’s indeed a hybrid mobile and home console with a tablet element and detachable controllers.
The tablet itself (which Nintendo calls “the Switch Console” is thin and pretty attractive. It looks to have a screen measuring around 7 inches, of unspecified resolution. At home, it’ll plug into the “Switch Dock,” which in turn plugs into your TV, while out and about you can either hold it or use the built-in kickstand to prop it up. In the trailer, a gamer plugs in what looks to be an SD Card-style cartridge, meaning games are likely to distributed both digitally and physically.
It’s powered by an unspecified custom Nvidia Tegra processor, which is “based on the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards.” Whether that means Pascal — the architecture underpinning the 1000 series of GeForce cards and the yet-to-be-announced Tegra X2 — or just that Tegra chips in general are based on the GeForce architecture, is not clear. But the question of which SoC is powering the Switch — and whether it’s based on newer or older architecture — is important to answer if we’re to work out what exactly it’s capable of.
The controllers are just as we expected. Nintendo is calling them “Joy-Con.” They can be attached to a central unit called the “Joy-Con Grip” to behave like a single game controller, but also slide onto the side of the tablet for a more Wii U-like experience. Oh and, as rumored, they can also be used independently like two miniature gamepads.
If none of this sounds like your thing, Nintendo will once again offer a “Pro Controller” option laid out more traditionally. The trailer shows off lots of multiplayer gaming, either with multiple controllers connected to one system, or many Switch consoles connecting together wirelessly. We assume it’ll have online play as well.
So what will you be able to play on it? As well as the usual first-party suspects, Nintendo says it has the support of many developers and publishers, including Activision, Atlus, Bethesda, Capcom, EA, Epic Games, Konami, PlatinumGames, Square Enix, Take-Two and Ubisoft. In the trailer you can see third-party games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and NBA 2K alongside what look to be a new Mario and Mario Kart games and Splatoon. In Nintendo’s bold future, Splatoon will be an e-sport watched live by tens of thousands of people.
“Nintendo Switch allows gamers the freedom to play however they like,” Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said, “it gives game developers new abilities to bring their creative visions to life by opening up the concept of gaming without boundaries.”
The Switch will be released worldwide in March 2017.
Timothy J. Seppala contributed to this report.
You buy a kid-proof tablet to give young ones a safe environment to play their favorite games and videos, so wouldn’t it make sense to buy a tablet from an outfit making all that content? PBS thinks so: it’s introducing the Playtime Pad, a self-branded Android slate (technically made by Ematic) that serves as a showcase for all its educational programming. It comes preloaded with over 25 PBS games and 120 videos, as well as preloaded PBS apps for streaming and creative play. Your children can watch Ready Jet Go without asking you to download something first, which might be important when they’re looking for something to do in the middle of a road trip.
Thankfully, parents have full Google Play access — you can download more apps if your kids want to watch Netflix or play a favorite game. PBS is shy on the specs for the tablet, but we wouldn’t expect a powerhouse between the 7-inch screen and 16GB of storage. You do get front and back cameras, however, and the rugged design should (hopefully) survive the inevitable round of drops and bumps. More importantly, it’s affordable enough that you might not panic if Junior does smash it to pieces. The Playtime Pad will sell for a modest $80 when it goes on sale November 6th, and you can pick it up at both Best Buy, Walmart’s website and PBS’ own store.
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.
Wacom is no stranger to standalone graphics tablets. After years of outfitting artists with pen tablets and displays for working on a desktop machine or laptop, the company debuted both Android and Windows versions of the Cintiq Companion in 2013. A year and a half later, Wacom revamped the Windows version with the Cintiq Companion 2 in early 2015. Now the company has another take on the standalone tablet that doubles as a pen display: the Mobile Studio Pro. Wacom actually refers to new duo as “mobile pen computers,” but they still carry the appearance of a large tablet.
The MobileStudio Pro comes in two models: 13 and 16. That former tablet is sized at 13.3 inches while the latter ticks the tape at 15.6 inches. Both sizes pack in Intel processors and run Windows 10, meaning full desktop versions of Adobe Creative Cloud applications and other pro design software is accessible on the mobile device. Unfortunately, Wacom didn’t get into specifics on the exact processor models, but it did reveal that the larger MobileStudio Pro 16 has NVIDIA Quadro graphics on board.
In addition to the power under the hood, another key feature of the MobileStudio Pro tablets is the new Pro Pen 2. Wacom has taken the “if it ain’t broke” approach to its stylus for quite a long time without a major update. And rightfully so, the Pro Pen was a highly capable accessory and performed well with the company’s range of gear. With the Pro Pen 2, Wacom says its go-to input device is now four times more accurate and pressure sensitive than its predecessor. That’s up from 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity last time out.
The MobileStudio Pros also feature better color performance than Wacom’s previous standalone tablets. While the 13-inch model’s IPS WQHD panel covers 96 percent of Adobe’s RGB gamut, the 15.6-inch model houses an IPS UHD display that handles 94 percent of Adobe RGB. Those handy ExpressKeys and Touch Ring are back, offering easy shortcuts to frequently used tools right on the face of the tablet. As we’ve already mentioned, Wacom Link lets you use these new devices as pen displays with either a Mac or Windows machine which comes in handy when working from the comforts of home.
Both the MobileStudio Pro 13 and 16 have SSD storage, and that’s where the prices can start to add up quickly. The 13-inch option starts at $1,499 for 64GB of storage with 128GB ($1,799), 256GB ($1,999) and 512GB ($2,499) versions if you need more space. Base price for the MobileStudio Pro 16 is $2,399 for 256GB of storage, the NVIDIA Quadro graphics and 2GB of RAM. There’s also a version of the 16 with a 512GB SSD, 4GB RAM and an NVIDIA Quadro M1000M for $2,999.
To further sweeten the pot on the priciest options, Wacom is offering Intel’s RealSense 3D camera on the top end MobileStudio Pro 13 and both versions of the 16. That’s an add-on that’s sure to lend a hand to artists and designers working in three dimensions. You do have some time to get your affairs in order before these devices are available for purchase: They’re scheduled to be available at the end of November.
Android purists have always had the same response to new smartphone announcements from the likes of HTC, Samsung or LG. “I’ll just wait for the next Nexus.” And why not? For years, Google’s Nexus line served both as its official flagship products and as public reference devices for the latest in Android phones and tablets. Now, Google has replaced the brand with a new top dog: the Pixel. At first blush, it’s everything users loved about the Nexus line and more — but before we close the casket on Google’s first series of smartphones, let’s look back and talk about what made the Nexus brand so special.
For the uninitiated, the Nexus line could often be described as “Google’s iPhone,” but the truth was more complicated than that. Unlike Apple, the folks in Mountain View didn’t dictate every aspect of the device’s design — choosing instead to farm out the hardware part of the Nexus equation to a series of different manufacturers. Nexus devices have been designed and built by Asus, Huawei, HTC, Motorola, LG and Samsung. All of them were top of the line (or least great bang for the buck) at their launches. But, physically they share almost nothing in common. Google’s choice to partner with different manufacturers for each model made every Nexus unique. Not every design was a hit with fans, but the appeal of a Nexus phone wasn’t necessarily the hardware. It was software.
Buying a Nexus was a way to get the “pure” Android experience — a smartphone unsullied by manufacturer- or carrier-specific features and tweaks. If you bought a phone from Samsung, for instance, you’d either have to get used to its TouchWiz customization layer or be clever enough to flash a custom ROM to the device. Nexus phones were almost always the first devices to get updates too. Buying a Nexus meant no longer waiting months for the latest version of Android to arrive. It didn’t just take updates out of the authority of phone carriers either: Google sold Nexus phones directly to the customer. No subsidies, no contracts, just great smartphones for a good price. For phone and tablet users who wanted to be on the bleeding edge, it was a dream come true — but the brand wasn’t perfect.
In 2012, Google’s Nexus line had its first legitimate flop with the Nexus Q, an odd, media-streaming ball that simply didn’t do enough to justify it’s price. For $299, the Q streamed movies, music and TV over a myriad of high-quality connection options — but it was severely limited. Content had to be on Google’s servers to work, and more robust functionality could be had for less with the $99 Apple TV. Google quietly pulled the Q from market, eventually replacing it with the (much cheaper) Chromecast.
Earlier this year, Google started pushing for more control over the hardware aspect of the devices — aiming to create a phone that was wholly Google. Today, we know that device as the Pixel. It still has stock Android. We can still count on it to be a high-quality device. It’s almost everything we ever loved about the Nexus line… but today, a small piece of Google’s old identity dies. There’s still an extremely small chance we’ll see the name resurface in the form of a tablet, but in case we don’t — here’s to you, Nexus. You had good run.
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
You no longer have to be a guinea pig to give Apple’s latest software upgrades a try — as promised, the Cupertino crew has released the finished versions of iOS 10 and watchOS 3. As before, iOS’ biggest improvements are in communication — Messages gets apps, hand-drawn images, secret messages and stickers (among many other additions), while Siri now offers you control over third-party apps. You’ll also see major interface revamps in Maps (which now offers proactive suggestions) and Music, a Home app to manage smart household gadgets, lock screen widgets and wider use of 3D Touch on supporting hardware.
As for watchOS 3? It’s nothing less than a major rethink of the platform. Your favorite apps will not only load much faster (as they’re stored in memory), but the side button has changed from its original focus on contacts to bringing up favorite apps. You can also hand-draw replies, quickly access common settings and share activities to get some extra motivation. A Breathe app reminds you to relax, and iOS 10’s Home app gets a wrist-worn counterpart.
And Apple TV fans, you’re included too… although the upgrades aren’t as dramatic. The newly launched tvOS 10 update primarily introduces a dark mode for those late-night movies, a single sign-on to spare you from signing into umpteen services and Siri voice search for YouTube. You’ll need a fourth-generation Apple TV to see any of these differences.
Editors Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar join host Terrence O’Brien to talk about Intel’s latest CPUs, Dead or Alive’s controversial VR feature and Lenovo’s “innovative” take on the keyboard. Then the panel takes a look at Chris Brown’s standoff and how Instagram videos and Facebook Live fit into our modern media landscape.
Here are your Flame Wars leaderboards:
- Lenovo’s Yoga Book is part tablet, part sketch pad
- Intel’s 7th generation Core CPUs will devour 4K video
- ‘Dead or Alive’ VR is basically sexual assault, the game
- Chris Brown turns to Instagram amid police standoff
- Kim Dotcom hopes to livestream his extradition appeal
- Kim Dotcom will be allowed to stream his extradition appeal
You can check out every episode on The Engadget Podcast page in audio, video and text form for the hearing impaired.
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Huawei didn’t make the trip to IFA with just a couple of new smartphones in hand, but a new slate too. Following the company’s overly ambitious attempt at a Surface-like device in the MateBook, we’re back to more standard tablet fare with the MediaPad M3 announced today. As the name suggests, the hardware is particularly geared towards media consumption, boasting an 8.4-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 display, Harman Kardon-certified stereo speakers and hi-res audio support.
The MediaPad M3 is driven by one of Huawei’s own Kirin 950 octa-core processors (four 2.3GHz cores plus four 1.8GHz cores), paired with 4GB of RAM and either 32 or 64 gigs of expandable storage (up to 128GB microSD cards supported). A 5,100mAh battery keeps the Netflix binge going, and a pair of 8-megapixel cameras are on hand when you absolutely must take a picture with a tablet.
The OS of choice is Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI) 4.1 on top, and in addition to all the standard connectivity options, there are cellular options with a nano-SIM card slot and LTE radio for getting data on the move.
Launching first on September 26th in several European countries (including the UK), as well as in parts of Asia and the Middle East, the base 32GB WiFi model will cost €349. The 64GB WiFi and 32GB LTE versions are priced at a slightly more expensive €399, with the €449 64GB LTE model rounding out the options.
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Let’s face it: Tablets are on the brink of death, and it’s difficult to get excited about a new slate these days. And even though tablet-laptop hybrids are taking off, that market is cornered by Surfaces and iPad Pros. So I wasn’t prepared to be as thrilled as I was by Lenovo’s latest offering. The Yoga Book, based on my experience with a preview unit, is not merely a mimicry of Microsoft’s Surface Book; it has impressively innovative features and a well-thought-out interface that make it a solid hybrid in its own right.
The Yoga Book has the same shiny “Watchband hinge” as Lenovo’s Yoga 900 convertible laptops, which makes the book’s spine look like links on a wristwatch. That, together with a metal casing and slim silhouette, lend the book a clean, modern aesthetic. I particularly like the gold version, which is only available for the Android variant that costs $499. A $549 Windows 10 model is also available, but that (disappointingly) only comes in black.
This book’s cover may be pretty, but what really impressed me lies beneath. The Yoga Book’s standout feature is its keyboard, which is essentially a giant touchpad. There are no physical buttons — just a flat surface with the outline of keys.
The absence of physical buttons helps the Yoga Book look and feel more like a regular tablet with a flat back when you unfold it all the way around. Plus, without the uneven surface, you can use the bottom half of the device as a stand, with the keyboard facing down. The hybrid is also a lot lighter (1.52 pounds) than it would have been with a full keyboard, although it’s still heavier than the Surface 3 (1.37 pounds without a keyboard).
But those aren’t the main reasons for doing away with keys. The real pièce de résistance is housed within the flat surface, and Lenovo calls it the “Create Pad.” Tap a button to the top right of the keyboard and the outlines disappear, leaving you with a blank canvas. It’s like a Wacom digitizer tablet that you can draw on with the included stylus.
Lenovo adapted Android 6.0 Marshmallow to automatically start recording your doodles in the company’s default note-taking app (which is the only app in the tablet that stores your input in the background) once you put the stylus to the touchpad. When you start writing, a small window pops up on the bottom right of the screen and captures your scrawls. This happens whether the tablet is awake or asleep, which is super convenient. It’s basically like having a piece of paper ready for you to write on whenever you need, and it worked well in our demo. But because the screen stays off when you’re writing while the Yoga Book is asleep, it’s hard to know what you’re jotting down.
Those who can’t give up their paper addiction, however, will love this next feature. With a little finesse and jiggling of the stylus’ nib with the included pen cap, you can pull out the nib and replace it with an ink cartridge to make a real pen. Oh, and did I mention that “Real Pen” is what Lenovo named this stylus?
With the ink nib, you can write on real paper for a more old-school experience. And if you place the paper on the Create Pad, whatever you scrawl there will also show up in the Yoga Book. I tried placing an inch-thick notebook on top of the surface and wrote on it with the Real Pen, and I was impressed when the system still detected my scribbles.
This won’t work with a regular pen, though; you’ll have to use the one Lenovo provides. It’s designed with Wacom’s “feel IT” tech that responds to the electromagnetic resonance (EMR) film built into the keyboard, which enables the real-time digitization.
All of this adds up to an experience that will delight and win over notetakers, and I’m incredibly stoked by what I’ve seen so far.
But I don’t think the Yoga Book will appeal to road warriors. Sure, the Windows version will run desktop apps and multiple apps simultaneously, making it suitable for productivity. The Android version has Lenovo’s multiwindow support (until it gets updated to Android Nougat, which has that feature baked in), so it can handle multitasking as well. The Yoga Book is powered by an Intel Atom x5 processor and has a generous 8500mAh battery that Lenovo said should last for up to 15 hours of general use. Its 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS display should also be a decent canvas for multimedia.
But for a 2-in-1 to truly facilitate productivity, it needs a real keyboard. Even though Lenovo thoughtfully designed the layout with more generously sized keys and spaces and implemented haptic feedback, predictive text and autocorrect (the latter two are only on the Android model), I still struggled to bang out more than a few words at once without a typo. Lenovo said it would take about two hours to get used to the new keyboard, but I’m not sure I believe that.
The stark change may alienate those who depend heavily on physical keys. For those people, Lenovo still has slightly more traditional hybrids. The company also unveiled a super thin Yoga 910 convertible laptop, which has a full-sized physical keyboard and bends all the way around to become a 14-inch tablet.
Still, Lenovo deserves props for making a bold, innovative move. As a lover of notebooks and real-life writing, I can’t deny that I’m incredibly excited to try out the Yoga Book in the real world. And for those who prefer pen and paper (I imagine that includes artists, designers and students), the Yoga Book is a compelling candidate that could trump the iPad Pro and Surface.
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