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The Lenovo Yoga Book C930: a Content Creator's Review
Token Ring

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Lenovo Insiders customer advocacy group. I am not an employee of Lenovo. I was provided with a WiFi version of the Yoga Book C930 for my own use, no strings attached. The LTE version of the Yoga Book provided to me by Lenovo Support was for review purposes only. All opinions are my own.

 

Introduction

 

I want a Booklet PC, a companion device that has two displays, 4-5 modes of use, and combines the functionality of many of the things I carry with me in my bag. I want this device to replace the note books, pen, and paper I carry with me. I need it to be a tablet for consuming media, a platform for light gaming, and a productivity catalyst for my work as a content creator. I think we're a little ways away from that dream being realized, but the Yoga Book C930 is a gigantic leap forward in that direction.

 

I have owned every other version of the Yoga Book, Windows and Android. It is pretty central to my workflow, and the Yoga Book C930 has the most potential to fill that role of any ten inch form factor I've used in the last decade.

YBC930_09.jpg

 

Hardware

 

If your backpack or messenger bag has a slot for a laptop, a tablet, and a smart phone, the Yoga Book C930 will go in the tablet slot. I’m not saying this couldn’t be someone’s primary machine. It totally could with the internal 256GB M.2 SSD, and the addition of a 512 GB MicroSD card. That is a lot of music, movies, and photographs. For core computing, casual browsing, and light gaming tasks the Yoga Book C930 gets the job done. For content creators the Yoga Book C930 is a great companion for their workstation grade desktop or laptop.

 

As a companion device, one wants it to replace the pens, paper, notebooks, e reader, handheld game console, digital camera, and provide content consumption like a tablet, while acting as a thin and light laptop when necessary. The Yoga Book C930 stretches out to those tasks, in one slim package, with only a few compromises.

 

The speakers on the Yoga Book C930 are surprisingly loud and clear, far better than I anticipated they would be. Even so, you'll probably need to get some new earbuds. There are only two USB-c ports, with one labeled for use with digital audio. It should be noted that the digital audio via USB-c is very nice sounding, even with my cheap ten dollar earbuds. Lenovo will have some headphones that can connect via USB-c, announced at Mobile World Congress, that might be the perfect sidekick for the Yoga Book C930.

Lenovo_Yoga_ANC_Headphones_image_1.jpg

 

You'll want to get a USB-c hub with power delivery/pass through to go in your bag if you use a lot of accessories.

The Yoga Book C930 is 10.25" x 7.06" x 0.39" and 1.71lb for WiFi, or 1.76lb for LTE. It takes up less space than a Moleskine Cahier Journal in your bag, and has a very pleasing minimalist aesthetic. When I pull it out to take notes, or check my email, people always ask me, "what is that?" If you wanted to give a creative person an amazing gift, this is definitely that. The packaging and presentation within are very premium, like something very special is contained in the box. Every physical detail of the chassis and hinge is clean and quiet, almost demure. If it wasn't such a neat piece of tech, it wouldn't attract more attention than a pad of paper and pen.

 

 

It has five modes of use; notebook (e ink display on, facing forward), tablet (IPS display on, facing forward), standard clamshell, tent mode, and what I like to call booklet mode. I often hold it just like I would a book, using both displays in portrait mode. I'm pretty excited about booklet mode.YBC930_01.jpg

 

The Yoga Book C930 comes with either a 7th Generation Intel Core i5-7Y54 or m3-7Y30 processor. The performance difference between the two will be pretty negligible for most tasks. Get whatever is available in your area. For engaging in core computing tasks one probably won’t notice the difference between the two.

 

The only other variation in specs is between the WiFi and LTE versions. The WiFi model is available in the US and most markets, and the LTE version available in select European markets. The WiFi version has a MicroSD card (up to 512 GB), and the LTE has a dual-card slot that supports one Nano-Sim or Nano-Sim card + MicroSD Card (up to 512 GB). Check the PSREF here for WWAN / LTE band compatibility.

 

Regardless, you'll get the same 4GB LPDDR3 RAM, soldiered to the system board, 256 GB M.2 SSD, Wireless Dual Band (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, in Iron Gray magnesium aluminum alloy. Check the PSREF here, for more details.

 

It has a knock to open feature, that lets you rap on the lid, reversing the polarity of certain magnets, allowing the device to pop open on it's own. With some practice, you can make it happen when you set the device down on the table, letting the edge tap, then letting the rest fall from the width of your fingers. If you don't want to produce the spectacle of opening with a knock, you can hold the volume down key on the side to pop the lid as well.

 

But, the real excitement lies within the two displays of the Yoga Book C930.

 

E Ink Display

 

The Yoga Book C930 has a flexible E Ink Mobius touchscreen with pen stylus support that serves as the keyboard, notebook for handwriting capture, and e reader. It’s a bit of hardware I’d been excited about because of all the possible applications. I even pledged on a Kickstarter to bring a device with that display technology in it to the US. It didn’t end up getting backed, I was bummed, but then I got a glimpse of the specs on the YB C930, I was excited all over again.

 

The E Ink display comes with four apps; E Ink Keyboard, E Ink Note, E Ink Reader, and E Ink Settings. It is a 10.8” FHD E Ink display, 1920 x 1080, (204 PPI), single-touch capacitive touch (ten point touch support in keyboard mode), with configurable haptic feedback, smooth glass surface (still pretty tough), and takes input from the included AES 2.0 Wacom Stylus with three configurable buttons, 4096 of pressure sensitivity, tilt detection, hard plastic low friction nibs, AAAA battery, with some set up and pairing required for Bluetooth functionality.

 

The Keyboard App gives you four different styles of keyboard, high and low contrast classic, and the same with a modern keyboard layout. The keyboard can be configured to display any one of up to 30 languages with the LTE Version, and 28 with the WiFi version. I suspect that the exact languages loaded for the keyboard varies depending on your locality. They could include (or not, depending), Arabic, Belgian, Brazilian, Bulgarian, Czech, English-French, English-GB, English (US), French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Nordic, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish-LAS, Spanish-Spain, Swiss, Thailand, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukraine, US_International, and Canada-FR.

 

There's much debate about how usable the keyboard is. If you're the sort of person that needs it to be easy in the first five minutes, the Yoga Book C930 is not for you. If you're a content creator that likes the challenge of a new keyboard, either to break the monotony, or spur creativity, the Yoga Book C930 is a fun and interesting challenge. I have regular keyboards, a 60% and a 40% keyboard that I use to break up writer's block and lulls in my creativity.YBC930_02.jpg

 

To that end, typing on the Yoga Book is just different. With the Gen 1 Yoga Book, I treated it like a game to see how fast I could push myself on the tiny keyboard. With the Yoga Book C930, I feel like Neo from the "Matrix" when that little kid tells him "there is no spoon". Typing on the Yoga Book C930 is like wearing pants so light that you have to look down to make sure they're still there. The first day is hard, the first week one yearns for physical keys, and by the third week the keyboard just feels kind of nice.

 

Beyond just getting practice with it, the keyboard adapts to my clumsy fumbling as well. I can feel my habits and key preferences syncing up with the algorithms within the software. Like with the Gen 1, the device eventually meets you in the middle. This is important information if you get a Yoga Book C930 and hand it off to someone to try. If you've had the device for a while, it might be harder for others with different habits to type on your device.

 

On to the E Ink Note app, where there is some real excitement, potential, and a mote of disappointment. Where the E Ink Note app really excels, is in delivering your handwritten notes, formulas and diagrams into other mediums. There's a keen toggle in the pen setting that makes it more adaptive, taking your less than perfect circles, lines, and squares and making them polished and uniform. It is basically a pipeline for pen stylus input to other applications such as Microsoft’s OneNote. It doesn’t have a deep user experience that lets you nest your notes into folders and digital notebooks.

 

That's disappointing if that kind of functionality is central to your workflow. The E Ink Note app is supposed to get the ability to sync notes to OneNote at some point, but having organizational functionality, and to sync to the cloud service of my choice, would be preferable. For lots of folks, this level of functionality will be more than fine, and may even be preferred if they're deeply invested in using OneNote.

YBC930_04.jpg

 

The E Ink note app can be used with the main display off facing the table, Windows locked, E Ink display facing up. You can either tap the e ink display twice to bring up the note app, or click the pen cap on the stylus once (default setting). This makes the Yoga Book C930 no more obtrusive than a pad of paper. It also conserves a lot of power for long brainstorming sessions, seminars, or classes.

 

I had some privacy concerns about this, specifically the possibility of someone using this functionality to look at your notes while the device was locked. Using the Yoga Book this way summons a fresh page, but keeps your other notes hidden until the device is unlocked. The fingerprint reader is right there to unlock your notes without turning the device around.

 

For note taking mode I keep a little bit of art gum eraser and a microfiber cloth so I have one or the other to lay the main display down on when I'm taking notes. The art gum eraser keeps it from sliding around, and lifts the screen up off whatever surface I've laid the device down on. The microfiber cloth is just a good idea, as you'll be touching every surface of the device as you use it.

 

The E Ink Reader app is just what it sounds like, but it is pretty limited as of the writing of this. It reads PDFs only, and doesn't show the saved contents of form-fillable documents. It has to be a very vanilla PDF document. You can turn pages by swiping one direction or the other, or jump to specific pages, but there's no way to view an embedded table of contents, or search the text of the document. You can take screen grabs from the document and copy them to the clipboard. There is also a zoom feature.

 

The E Ink Settings app allows you to switch keyboards, adjust keyboard sound effects, and haptic/vibration feedback to suite. You can also change the picture shone on the e ink display (from several included images) when the Yoga Book is sleeping or off, and whether you can knock to open the device. All the legal notices and help files for the E Ink display can be found here as well.

Lenovo added EPUB, MOBI, and TXT file formats to the reader app in February. OneNote sync, and the ability to have your own image for the e ink display in off/sleep is alleged to be added as well. I haven't tried the update yet, myself, but plan to soon. I'll add to this review once I've had some time with the update.

 

The E Ink Apps are minimal, sometimes a little glitchy, but possess fantastic potential if Lenovo were to continue polishing them. If one hits the Lenovo Forums you’ll find this post interesting. Within, Jonas Hendrickx points out that Lenovo has made the Yoga Book C930 E Ink SDK available for download. If the Yoga Book C930 catches on, and a developer community thereof, we could see some interesting mods and apps that might deliver that user experience depth we’re craving.

 

Primary IPS Display

The primary LCD is a 10.8” WQHD 2560x1600, IPS display, 85% color gamut, 400 nits brightness, 281 PPI, capacitive-type multi-touch, 10-point support, with AES 2.0 Wacom stylus pen support, and the ability to specifically distinguish stylus pen from fingers. There’s a 2.0 megapixel front facing camera above it, fixed focus. The front facing camera does the job for video conferencing, it is neither bad, nor exceptional.

For crafting visual images for the web (72 DPI), textual assets, reviewing content, and Netflix the primary display is very nice. The Yoga Book C930 struggles (both in pixel density, and specs) where making finished images for print (300 DPI) is concerned, but almost everything decent for that use case is going to be a 14" or 15" laptop with dedicated GPU and a top tier display. However, if one wanted to ink or work with vector assets at that resolution, the Yoga Book C930 is a handy companion.

YBC930_03.jpg
The touchscreen is responsive and precise, but because the screen is WQHD, you'll often find using the pen to navigate menus a little easier. I wouldn't change a thing in that regard, as 2560x1600 and 2560x1440 are my two favorite resolutions to work in. Pen input is accurate and responsive with only the slightest degree of parallax. With drawing and rendering apps that support it (like Artrage, or Photoshop CC), the pen does have some tilt and position sensitivity.

The display is very bright, once you've wrestled control of it away from Windows. You will want to go into advanced power settings and turn off all the adaptive brightness settings, and set the toggles to 100% under dimmed display brightness. I was disappointed in the display until I found out Windows was "helping" me save power at the expense of my own desires as the user.

The pen stylus experience on the main display is decent to poor out of the box, until you've done a few things to fix it. The first thing you'll want to do is go into Lenovo Vantage and open Hardware Settings -> Input (Keyboard, Pen) and touched the screen in the box with the stylus. It'll prompt you to download the pen settings app from the Windows Store. That app is frustratingly hard to find without this method, hit the link if all else fails. The Pen Setting app, once you have it, is great, and lets you customize buttons and shortcuts with your pen stylus.

Next, you'll need to install some WinTab drivers. Lenovo provides WinTab Drivers for virtually all Thinkpads, even traditional clamshells that take pen stylus input like the X1 Extreme and P1. As far as I know, Lenovo does not have an official WinTab support option for Lenovo 700, 900, or C-Series Yoga products. So, I searched for the Surface Pro 4 WinTab Support Page, hit download, scrolled to the bottom of the dropdown menu for generic 64 bit WinTab Drivers, and installed them.

After I did all this, pen stylus input was awesome, in virtually every app I tried. I'm not satisfied with how the pen buttons work in some apps, and I'm still looking for the best support option. If I find the Excalibur of WinTab drivers for the Yoga Book C930, I'll add to this review.

 

Yoga Book C930 Pen Stylus

 

The Yoga Book C930 stylus pen is one of the better ones I've tried for general use. For taking notes, doing sketches, marking up PDFs, and similar it's great. For doing digital artwork it's not as good as some of the Wacom branded stylus pens that come with a nib kit. This can be mitigated somewhat with an art glove, but the stylus pen comes with what look to be proprietary hard plastic nibs. They are very durable, and a single one will probably last the duration of owning the device. It takes a single AAAA battery, that should last a year under normal daily use.

 

If one were to lose or damage the stylus pen that came with their Yoga Book C930, they’d want to get this one as a replacement. If you want more of the same nibs, this also looks to be the only option at the time of writing this. There’s another reason you might want to get a second stylus pen as well. Kids. Not that they’ll lose one, but that they both might want to draw on the device at the same time.YBC930_06.jpg

 

 

One concern I had was that there might be some lag when switching from the primary LCD display and the E Ink display. I expected there to be a hiccup rendering the cursor on one display, then jumping to the other. Lenovo took the high road and has the cursor rendered on both screens at once. If you had two people (or children), each with a stylus pen, they could draw on each of the two displays at the same time.

 

How many tablet devices could occupy two aspiring artists at once? Lenovo went way above and beyond here.

 

The (sold separately) Lenovo Pen Pro also charges via USB-c (no more batteries!) and it's just nicer than the pen stylus that comes with the Yoga Book C930. The buttons are just better, and the power indicator light on the side very handy. It's probably the nicest general use AES 2.0 stylus pen you can buy right now. It doesn't stick to the lid via magnets like the included Yoga Book C930 stylus pen, however.YBC930_05.jpg

 

 

Performance & Gaming

Photoshop doesn't perform well on the Yoga Book C930. It's usable, but you won't be painting at 300 DPI with any sort of decent pen latency. I would tend to put the blame more on Adobe, because I recall having a better experience with Photoshop CC on the Gen 1 Yoga Book. These days, Photoshop CC seems to be better on a system with more resources for it to hog.

Autodesk Sketchbook, Leonardo, Concepts, and Sketchable work well right out of the box. If you're going to use GIMP, Krita, Mischief, or Artrage, I recommend installing WinTab drivers first. Once you've got them, these apps come to life and work very well on the Yoga Book C930. Pen latency varies between apps and at different resolutions. For your own style, definitely shop around, there's probably more than a few that will work for you.

My favorites are Autodesk Sketchbook, and Mischief for pen latency, accuracy, and performance.

For games, stick to ones that rely on 2D sprites and backgrounds. Anything that is asking your system to render complex polygons or wireframes is going to struggle. Axiom Verge, Don't Starve, Hollow Knight, Hyper Light Drifter, Shovel Knight, Torchlight II, and Transistor are some examples of games that run well on the Yoga Book C930. I managed to get some good old games like Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind to run as well.

Playing Hyper Light Drifter with a game controller, earbuds, and a dark room is great.

Write speeds are excellent with the Yoga Book C930. Updating windows, copying video files, or syncing your cloud storage is very quick, a nice change from the Gen 1 Yoga Book. The MicroSD storage read/write speed is pretty decent as well. I moved my Dropbox storage over to it to free up more space for games.

LTE v WiFi

In testing the Yoga Book C930 with WiFi against the one with LTE, I didn't notice a really big difference with battery life. I expected there would be pretty noticeable difference, but with my mixed usage, I get about 5-6 hours of battery life with either model.  Granted, this is my usage (accessing/syncing Slack, email, cloud storage) with a single carrier, in the Midwest United States.

I'm by no means an expert, and the Yoga Book C930 is really the first LTE-equipped computer I've had lengthy access to. Your results may vary. Still, I think if it's easy to get the LTE version in your locality, I'd go ahead and spring for it.

Lenovo Support has generously extended my time with the LTE model so I can take it traveling next week. It'll go with me from the Midwest US, to the Western US, up to Alaska, and back again. I'll be using it as my primary device for about eight days, all over the place. I'll update this review with any new information discovered. 

Quibbles and Foibles

 

The Yoga Book C930 swapped out the second camera in the Gen 1 Yoga Book for a finger print sensor. I liked using the second camera with the screen as a view finder for taking quick pictures of physical media, for marking up later. It was a keen use of the device, especially for trips to IKEA. Smiley Wink

 

With a USB-c hub, with power pass through, you can set up a pretty decent mobile office with the Yoga Book at the center. If you plan to have a second USB-connected portable monitor, the Yoga Book can push it if it is connected to power. However, that power source can be an external battery like you'd use to charge a tablet or smartphone.

 

Lenovo also announced their Thinkvision M14 portable monitor at Mobile World Congress this year. For people looking to build the ultimate mobile office with their Yoga Book C930, keep an eye out for that as well. Not sure if it will work, or work well with the Yoga Book C930, but I'm definitely going to give it a try.05_Thinkvision_M14Inch_Hero_Front_Facing_Right.jpg

 

 

If you intend to use the Yoga Book C930 for digital art (for web), and the included pen is too low resistance for you, I'd recommend getting Wacom's dual protocol pen and nib kit. Or, a matte screen protector with a little bit of grit or resistance, and an art glove. Or, both.

 

Battery Life really depends heavily on usage. You can burn the battery down with heavier tasks in a couple hours, or stretch it out to eight or nine by limiting screen brightness and connectivity. It's nice to be able to push it a little beyond what a 10" form factor would normally be able to get away with, but you will see it impact the longevity of the device during the day.

Conclusion

Of the various form factors being put forward to the public that deviates from the standard clam shell laptop, this is my favorite, and the one with the most potential. With Lenovo recently investing in CLEARink, it boggles the mind to think of what might be coming in the third generation of the Yoga Book teased at Computex.

The future is exciting.

2 Comments
SeniorGuru

Thank you very much for your interesting review of the new Yoga Book and for the Thinkvision M14 too.

Token Ring

I found a better solution than the generic Microsoft WinTab drivers. I really liked the WinTab support for my X1 Extreme, so I tried those drivers in the Yoga Book C930 review unit. So far, pen input in many applications is greatly improved. May have found a solution! Smiley Happy Need to test all the things now, but so far so good.

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