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Lenovo unveils the Yoga Book: a remarkable notebook PC that wants to be a real notebook

PCs come in all shapes and sizes these days - from tablets to smartphones, all-in-ones to 2-in-1s, and desktops to notebooks. But today, Lenovo has unveiled a new device that genuinely stands out from the crowd; a notebook PC that aspires to offer the simple, indispensable convenience of a pen-and-paper notebook.

This is the Lenovo Yoga Book.

The 'Book' name is more than just a reference to its laptop-style design. When closed, you might mistake it for just another mini-laptop. But open it up, and you'll see that things are far from conventional.

Instead of a 'traditional' keyboard, there's a smooth surface; in place of physical keys, you'll find nothing but the flat outlines of keys. Lenovo explains:

After over 18 months of development work, involving five major studies, extensive user testing, the creation of unique hardware and software capabilities, new touch controls and a complete layout redesign, Lenovo finally unveiled Yoga Book’s instant halo keyboard feature.

The halo keyboard is a fully flat touch panel, with zero travel (meaning that fingers don’t have to do any ‘travelling’ when they type). It’s designed to show up only when needed, functioning as an alternative to detachables, so you don’t have to carry a mechanical keyboard with you wherever you go.

The keys feature haptic feedback, with slight vibrations offering some degree of tactile response as you type. Lenovo says it labored extensively through exhaustive testing, studies and user feedback to try to get the touch-sensitive keyboard to offer an experience as close as possible to that of a 'real' keyboard with physical keys.

If you don't want to use the touch-sensitive keys, you can disengage them at the touch of a button, and the surface turns into a digitizer-enabled 'sketchpad', with support for the dual-use stylus. "Distinct from other tablets," Lenovo says, "the Yoga Book allows people to create content in a truly natural way: typing, writing or drawing on paper."

"In both form and function," Lenovo points out, "the Yoga Book was inspired by the simplicity of the physical notebook."

The pen registers 2,048 levels of pressure, and 100 degrees of angle detection. With the keyboard switched off, users can scribble and draw on the surface. But the pen also works with real ink:

The real pen needed to work as a conductive pen and an actual pen with ink. It therefore needed to incorporate both stylus circuitry and the ink tips. Just like a real pen, the Lenovo team didn’t want it to run on batteries, so it’s powered by EMR, and like other ink pens it needed to allow for ink refills, which the original EMR pen did not support.

Lenovo’s engineers therefore had to carefully choose the right ink refill tips, as this was important for pen signaling and optimizing the writing experience. Finally, Lenovo designed the pen so that its structure allowed for easy replacements and consistent performance. This led to many tests and lots of tweaking. Lenovo tried over 200 samples before arriving at the right pen.

And of course, as you'd expect, the pen also works on the Yoga Book's display, for those occasions when you want to scribble directly onto the screen, rather than onto the sketchpad surface area.

When you're done typing, scribbling or writing on the device, it folds up, like a book, into a compact package that's just 9.6mm thick, weighing 690g. Lenovo says that it found this to be the ideal size to strike the balance between portability and productivity, allowing users to easily hold it in one hand, like a paper notebook.

The Yoga Book's display is 10.1-inches in size with Full HD (1920x1200px) resolution. It has an Intel Atom x5 (Cherry Trail) processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage, along with an 8500mAh battery, which the company says should offer up to 15 hours of battery life in general usage.

Two versions of the Yoga Book will be offered: an Android Marshmallow version in either Gold or Gunmetal, priced at €499 EUR / $499 USD; and a Windows 10 model, available only in Carbon Black, that will cost €599 EUR / $549 USD. It will go on sale worldwide from September, except in the US, where it will launch in October.

You can get a further overview of the Yoga Book in the video below:

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