At Computex early this year, Intel showcased an intriguing product with dual display without sharing any further information. The product, according to Intel, will be the future of mobile computing and at IFA 2018, we now know that product is officially called Yoga Book C930.
Lenovo was the first to take the leap and launch a computing product with dual display in 2016. If Dell XPS 13 acts as the idea behind current breed of bezel less smartphone then Yoga Book series will act as the idea behind development of upcoming dual display or folding smartphones. The first generation Yoga Book not only had an interesting design, but also demonstrated vision for the future of mobility. Its biggest selling point after that dual display design was the Halo keyboard, which looked straight out of sci-fi movies back in 2016. Lenovo did not refresh that model last year and it is now bringing major changes.
The Yoga Book C930, being announced at IFA 2018, swaps one of the LCD display for an E-Ink display. The display, Lenovo says, enables the same typing experience seen on its predecessor and adds new use case. So, is this indeed the future of computing and is it even half good as the promise. Here are my thoughts based on brief time spent with the device.
Design and Display
The Yoga Book C930 features a design similar to its predecessor. There is matte finished metal chassis on the exterior and glass on both sides of the interior. Since the external chassis is finished in matte and the interior is glass, it gives away the fact that there are two displays on both the side. I would have liked to see Lenovo adopting the design seen on Yoga 920 Vibes and added a glass element on the top lid of the device.
The primary screen here is a 10-inch LCD display with Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. At the other end, there is a secondary E-Ink display, which has a refresh rate similar to what you would find on an Amazon Kindle e-reader. The switch to E-Ink is a profound change and Lenovo says that this combination of LCD and E-Ink display makes the perfect setup for a modern mobile device like this one.
Brian Leonard, Vice President of Design, Lenovo PC and Smart Devices, says that its engineers decided to go with E-Ink display since it enables natural ways of interaction. With the E-Ink display, we can still have the keyboard experience seen on the original Yoga Book and add features like inking and low-power mode reading,” Leonard added.
At first glance, the addition of an E-Ink display does not necessarily seem like a major game changer but when you get up close and personal, Lenovo’s reasoning seems to become clever implementation. For example, just download an EPUB file of “The Great Gatsby” from Project Gutenberg and best reading experience can be had on this E-Ink display and not on the LCD display. The keyboard experience seems natural, but the lack of natural/physical key travel does hurt. In order to supplement that natural interaction, Lenovo has added haptic feedback, which works reliably well and the keyboard plays sound from left or right speaker depending on the area of typing.
In terms of design, there are other smart implementations like when the lid is closed, you can simply knock twice and the device will lift automatically. It also closes automatically when left in the tilt position for longer. This is the best use of magnets I have seen on a computing device and it isn’t a surprise that it comes from Lenovo, the company with access to technologies like the IBM butterfly keyboard.
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Hardware and Software
The Yoga Book C930 is powered by an seventh generation Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor, which is an huge improvement from Atom CPU found on the original model. Yes, Lenovo is still using Intel’s lowest power mobile chipset but it should still be plenty fast when compared to that Atom processor. During the brief time with the device, the apps preloaded on the device seemed to open faster than and will help in situations like multitasking and browsing websites with extensive graphics.
The dual-display notebook gets Intel’s standard HD Graphics 615 and comes with 4GB RAM and option for up to 256GB SSD storage. There is also support for expandable storage up to 512GB via microSD card slot. It offers two USB Type-C ports and a microSD card slot. The lack of a traditional USB Type-A port will definitely disappoint those looking for productivity without carrying a dongle.
With Yoga Book C930, Lenovo is not only changing the processor but also changing its software strategy. While the original Yoga Book came in both Android and Windows flavors, the Yoga Book C930 comes only with Windows 10. Lenovo executives say the Yoga Book is conceived as a tablet but owners of the first generation model have been using it as a productive machine and have chosen Windows 10 over Android. With Yoga Book C930, the company is not going through the exercise of building one device and loading two different operating systems.
However, Microsoft needs to do a lot of work to optimize the operating system for a dual display device. For example, Microsoft can simply turn the E-Ink display into something like Screenpad seen on the Zenbook Pro from Asus. Also lack of native support for Amazon Kindle on the E-Ink display becomes a deal breaker. Lenovo has no doubt built a great hardware but software needs a lot of work to make this a better product.
Lenovo is not the company shy of trying things ahead of time. It is the DNA the company inherited when it bought IBM more than ten years ago. With Yoga Book C930, it is showing that the industry still has a lot of work to do if it aims for consumers to ditch machines with physical keyboard and use a thin and lightweight device like this.
For its part, Lenovo has built a beautiful hardware, one I would like to take to both work and coffee shop but the software might not be able to support my complete workflow. If Amazon enables Kindle app to work on the E-Ink display then it would be the large-screen Kindle most people want right now. And, if Microsoft creates new use cases for such form factor within Windows then there is a genuine chance for such a device to succeed. In the time being, Lenovo Yoga Book C930 will be that gadget most enthusiasts would like to have in their collection.