Stylus Input and Software Issues

Aside from the form factor, one of the best aspects to the Lenovo Yoga Book is the stylus input. Press the pen icon above the keyboard, and the touch slate is transformed into a graphics tablet that accepts inputs from the included stylus. The stylus itself is comfortable to hold and battery free thanks to Wacom’s electro-magnetic resonance (EMR) technology.

The stylus delivers the most amazing writing experience I’ve ever seen from a stylus-equipped device. Unlike with most other solutions, there is absolutely no noticeable lag between writing on the slate and drawings appearing on the display. I’m used to seeing a very slightly delay between stylus input and on-screen feedback, but with the Yoga Book, it feels like I am literally transferring ink to the screen. Plus, with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, how you write on paper is how drawings appear on screen.

It will become quickly apparent to users that the included stylus does not work on the display itself: it only works on the touch slate. The screen uses Lenovo AnyPen technology, so users can draw on the display with basically any suitable object, like a traditional pen or pencil, or even a carrot. You’ll probably want to steer clear of this, though, as the touch slate is a far more responsive solution for writing.

I originally thought that not having full stylus support on the screen itself would be a downside to the Yoga Book, but in my time with the device I formed the opposite opinion. By writing on the touch slate, the entire display is free from my palms and fingers blocking my view, which is an issue when you write directly on the screen. You’re then free to manipulate content using your fingers on the touchscreen while you write using the stylus, or you can take your hands away from the screen and get an unobstructed view while you write.

In general, I had no issues translating the position of the pen on the slate to the position of the digital pen on the screen, thanks mostly due to a pointer that appears when you hover over the touch pad. Without this feature, I suspect using the slate would be difficult.

The Yoga Book’s touch slate (Lenovo calls it the Create Pad) also supports another feature: digitizing physical notes as you write them. All you have to do is place a piece of A5 paper over the touch slate, use the included stylus (Real Pen) with its ballpoint tip, and write on the paper while a notepad app that supports inking is open. As you physically ink the piece of paper on the slate, your writing is stored digitally in the app. It’s a neat feature if you want to easily create both a digital and hard copy of a note or drawing, although I didn’t find myself using this functionality as often as the slate by itself.

The main reason for this is that swapping the stylus tip from the standard tip to the ballpoint tip is awkward. You can just write on the slate with the ballpoint tip, however it leaves traces of ink on the surface. Although these ink marks can be wiped away, I wouldn’t want to risk permanently writing on the slate, so ideally you’d switch between tips whenever you wanted to write physical notes or just digital notes. A better solution would be to include two pens in the box of different colors: one for writing on the slate, and one with a ballpoint tip for creating physical notes.

What Lenovo includes in the box instead are three ballpoint tips and a Book Pad, which is a magnetic notepad loaded with appropriately-sized paper than can be attached to the Yoga Book’s slate. It’s great to see Lenovo really embracing their stylus features by including in the box something that would normally be an optional accessory. Refills of both tips and paper are available through Lenovo for an unknown price at the time of writing this review.

While I loved the Yoga Book’s stylus features, it’s worth talking about something on the other end of the scale: software issues. I specifically requested the Windows 10 model to review (there’s also an Android variant available for $50 less) because I find Windows a much more versatile platform for productivity. This was a good idea in principle, however in practice, the software on this tablet feels more like a beta release than something for the general public.

For starters, while the keyboard does disable when you flip the device into tablet mode, the button that enables the stylus slate does not. There were countless times when I was using the Yoga Book as a tablet and I would accidentally hit the stylus button, bringing up a small tray of shortcuts to inking apps on the screen. I’m not sure why this button isn’t disabled like the rest of the keyboard, because it’s not useful in tablet mode.

Lenovo's product page for the Yoga Book with Windows advertises the Lenovo NoteSaver application. However, Lenovo tells me this is an Android-only app.

The product page for the Yoga Book on Lenovo’s website lists the device as coming with Lenovo NoteSaver, an application for writing notes using the touch slate. My review unit did not come with this software installed, and I couldn’t find any links to download it. OneNote works perfectly fine with the stylus, although it’s odd that Lenovo would advertise a software feature that’s not actually included.

I also had several issues getting the Yoga Book to properly resume from sleep. Hitting the power button would do nothing, even when the Book was plugged into the charger, and even when holding the button down. The only solution was to hold down power + volume up to enter the Yoga Book’s BIOS and initiating a normal boot from there, which is something no regular user should ever have to do.

On top of that, I experienced a rare issue where the touch keyboard wouldn’t work at all, which was resolved via a restart. The battery life indicator seemed to fluctuate significantly after a restart as well, sometimes jumping upwards by as much as 20 percent.

If Lenovo can resolve these software issues, the Yoga Book could be transformed into a rather buggy piece of hardware, to something that runs Windows 10 just like any other tablet on the market.