Lenovo's beautiful Yoga Book should run Chrome OS, not Android

Lenovo's new Yoga Books are simply beautiful. If you haven't yet seen what I'm talking about, take a minute, scroll down and watch our hands-on video — really, you need to see it. With a full size (10.1-inches) touch screen keyboard that doubles as a drawing surface, 64GB of storage and modest but adequate internals (Intel Atom, 4GB RAM) it flips all the switches that tell me to buy it. Except one. It should be running Chrome OS.

Lenovo was smart enough to make two versions — one runs Windows 10 and one runs Android — so potential buyers have a choice. Unless you're an ultra power user of some sort, the Windows version should be able to handle anything you need while away from your desk, and the Android version gives the mobile experience for folks that prefer it. We still get to make a choice, but either can be a sleek Yoga Book with a sexy Halo Keyboard. It remains to be seen how well the fancy keyboard and drawing surface actually works for people who need or want to use either input method. I can't see myself fiddling around in the back-end of AC at 60 words per minute too often while typing on glass, but it's so damn pretty I want to try the Windows version.

All this gushing (dare I say excitement?) is echoed by most people talking about the Yoga Book, so Lenovo is probably happy. Yet every time I watch that video or read the words someone had to say about it, the Android model is still just an Android tablet. There's plenty you can do with an Android tablet, and some things are even better than they are on other platforms — watching YouTube or Google Play Movies, for example. But when it comes to using it on the internet through a browser, nothing is better than a Chromebook. I'll say it — a Yoga Book running Chrome OS would be better for folks who primarily work or play through the browser than both the Windows and Android models. Chromebooks are faster, more secure and maintenance free. Plus, they run Android apps. All the Android apps.

A Chromebook can run all the Android apps as well as the very best web experience.

That's the kicker. A Yoga Chromebook could have been done exactly like the ASUS Flip (opens in new tab). It runs Chrome OS, which includes a complete Android subsystem and everything from the Google Play Store(s). Any app you can use on the Android model would also run — exactly the same — on a Chrome model. And when it comes time to hit the web, Facebook or Google Docs or any other website is better on a desktop browser with full extension support than it is on anything built for Android. This is a no-brainer. Nothing is lost, and for all of us who would primarily use the thing on the web, things just got a whole helluva lot better.

The Yoga Book is both innovative and beautiful. And I really do want to try the Windows 10 version and see if it could be a MacBook Air replacement or if the keyboard just doesn't cut it. If nothing else, I could use it to draw cartoons of me being frustrated at the keyboard. But I have no desire to buy the Android model. I already have a Pixel C and Google's folio keyboard, and the pretty factor doesn't sweeten the deal enough for me to spend my hard-earned dollars. And honestly, with an ASUS Flip in my bag I couldn't go back to using something only half as good.

Unless there is a third model coming later in the year, I haven't found the Flip replacement I've been looking for. Sorry, Lenovo.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

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  • I've yet to find a use for my Chromebook other than pulling up a website from the couch when I'm too lazy to go grab my laptop. For anything serious I need Windows, and for everything else I can do more on my phone than I can with my Chromebook (still waiting for that Android app support). I'm going to be surprised if ChromeOS even exists five years from now. I think it is much more likely they will consolidate and Android will win out.
  • I have such a different experience and perspective. I think Jerry is absolutely right. I use a Chromebook Flip (now with Android apps) for all my portable computing needs. For the occasional really heavy or complex task I have a desktop, but otherwise the Chromebook is the choice. Having a keyboard and trackpad is very different than using a phone or tablet interface. Matched with a personal hotspot, the small size. low weight, long battery life, simplicity, low overhead and security are excellent for my untethered work or diversion. For my circumstances, Android OS is great for a phone, but falls short for a laptop replacement. I'm looking forward to Chrome OS devices improving and diversifying in partnership with Android.
  • Serious question. What do you consider serious in regards to work on a laptop?
  • This varies by the individual but for me where Android tablets fall short in the laptop replacement arena is in the ability to work with large files and in cross platform capability within the same file formats. An example of large files for me would be a 100 page PDF of 24x36 inch plans scanned at 300 dpi gray-scale that could be upwards of 100mb in size. I can open the files on my Android tablet but annotation and moving around is time consuming and tedious (zooming in on a part of a page and scrolling around forces refreshing etc.). An example of cross platform capability would be that working collaboratively with others on a MS word file with special formatting, comments and track changes can be challenging if such options aren't available in the mobile version of the application. As files get passed back and forth formatting or content can be messed up. This particular issue isn't limited to just mobile apps but rather it's a failure of Microsoft to ensure full functionality across all platforms. I have to run a virtual Windows machine on my MacBook Pro because of this BS too, but it is an issue with mobile versions of the office apps nonetheless. These are just a couple of examples of daily business related use stuff that I would like to be do on a smaller device than my MacBook Pro so the Windows variant of the Yoga Book intrigues me.
  • For me, editing even a simple Sheets spreadsheet is much more awkward on my Android tablet and key board. I can start more quickly on the tablet if my desktop is powered off. That advantage quickly dissipates after a few minutes of use. My laptop is also superior to my tablet/keyboard in that respect.
  • I use chromebook to run a business and the only thing I use Windows for is Dragon Naturally and sometimes Atom for programming but now I'm exploring cloud based IDEs so that i can do all my programming on chromebook.
  • Add in crossover and a chrome os yoga book really could be awesome.
  • Pretty sleek, but holy fingerprint magnet Batman.
  • @Jerry,
    Has AC pinged Lenovo to find out why they didn't go the Chrome OS route since it seems such an obvious question? I don't know enough about Chrome OS to know if Lenovo could simply release an OS update to the Android version and, voila, it's suddenly running Chrome OS?
  • I figure that they didn't announce a Chromebook one yet because Android apps on Chrome OS aren't at public release yet. And you definitely want to launch this with Android apps already on board
  • They're not going to update the Android version to ChromeOS. That'd be like updating the Android version to run Windows.
  • They definitely won't just push a chrome OS update but it is theoretically possible. I mean the Chrome OS update that adds Android app support literally just pushes a fully integrated version of Android with it so it could be done, then again that was Google which is a lot more code savvy than Lenovo.
    I expect a third device after androids apps for chrome hits stable. I don't know if I should expect a higher price point than the Android version because it is more desktop like or a lower one because they don't have to build the updates, Google just pushes them to chrome os
  • First thing i thought when I saw it. What a waste.
  • Another thing to point out is the ChromeOS version would get instant updates and security patches from Google , whereas the Android version would have to wait for Lenovo.
  • There wouldn't even be any waiting it would never come.
  • They'd come from Google, and have to be pushed by Lenovo. The device may get a few security patches, but not as well as a ChromeOS version would.
  • Definitely. Although I'd still recommend the windows version over it :p
  • Uh yeah
  • I wouldn't. 64gb of storage on a Windows device isn't nearly enough, since most will be taken by the OS. When it comes time for the big annual updates, users probably won't have enough storage for the update, so they'll have to go a complete wipe and clean install.
  • Nah, 64 GB is plenty. Although more is always better. A windows 10 install takes 10 to 20 GB depending on the version. Add in the way SD cards are addressed and you should be fine.
  • I have no idea how this could possibly work. The first thing I do with a new PC/Laptop is partition the hard drive so I can out the OS on the C Drive and my apps and data on the D Drive. It's always a pain since many apps insist on putting crap on the C drive anyway (Chrome is an excellent example which is why I hardly use it. Prefer Firefox). But the biggest culprit are Microsoft apps and most importantly Windows OS. It may start of with a 20GB install. But then over time and updates it just swells into ridiculous numbers. Right now on my PC, just the Installer and WinSxS directories under C:\Windows are taking 20GB. C:\Users is 25GB. I used to give 50GB to the C Drive. But these days I give 100GB to the C drive. This is the one big reason I don't buy any Windows tablets. If you want to have it work with Windows Store apps, it may work. Light browsing and mail it may be fine. If you want to do real work, you need a laptop. If that's the case, why go with the Surface at all. Might as well just get an Android tablet. I use the Nexus 10 (very long in the tooth now) and the Nexus 7. The Nexus 9 sucked and I'm not going to buy any hardware anymore that doesn't get updated by Google no matter how good the hardware. This tablet is interesting, but it's certainly not for me. I'm not typing on glass. I don't really need to draw. And if I do, I should be able to do that right on the glass. What I need is a real keyboard. I'm not really seeing the point of drawing on a secondary surface. You don't do that on a paper. Why would I do it on this?
  • What in the world are you doing that makes your C:\Users directory 25GB? That's all YOUR AppData stuff, unless you're one of those jokers that has 10,000 things on their desktop or in My Documents.
  • My Surface has 64GB of space and it's more than enough, especially once you add in my SD card
  • With its ten inch screen and "can I get used to it?" keyboard this is not meant to be a productivity powerhouse. A MacBook air replacement? really? Apples to oranges.
  • The MacBook air is on its deathbed, it's unbelievably not competitive right now unlike it's golden 2012/2013 days.
  • If we wanna get technical, my Pixel running a semi-customized Debian/Arch/Ubuntu Linux install using VMWare to run OS X is a much better MacBook Air replacement. I meant for the average user. For most people, a $500 light laptop that can run photoshop or Eclipse in a pinch would be a fine MBA replacement as long as the input method doesn't completely suck. Remember, a MacBook Air was never a productivity powerhouse either.
  • Jerry your pixel sounds awesome. I want to be on your level.
  • Saaaaame
  • Can you please write that article? I'm a developer considering a Chromebook. Linux VM would rock
  • Sure! I'm glad to see interest in it :) It's far easier now, too. Quick version if you wanna get started: Make a USB recovery stick (Google your model) Download GalliumOS https://galliumos.org/ for your model. Gallium fixes two big issues that I had to fix myself -- a wonky trackpad and kernel watchdog timers. The trackpad uses the native Chrome driver, and the watchdog timer is disabled in the kernel so battery life doesn't suck. As a bonus zRAM is also enabled so 4GB models run a little better. Copy Gallium to a thumb drive and boot into developer mode. Open a shell and set the boot flags for your model (Google these) Reboot from USB stick (google this, too) into a live image and use the installer tool. It's a pretty nice fit, especially for older models. Light and quick with most developer tools already installed and the rest available through synaptic or apt-get   if you wanna go the hard way, use crouton to install ubuntu server CLI and use arch/ubuntu/Debian sources to build what you want or need. When I find something to replace my pixel, I'll probably try building completely from scratch
  • USB ports? How many? What type?
  • Apparently it has a micro USB and a micro hdmi
  • Spot on, Jerry. When I saw the first article, I was hoping Android was a mistake by the writer. Nope. As Maxwell Smart used to say, missed it by THAT much.
  • I wish they could make it dual boot. That would be awesome.
  • No lol they've tried
  • I seem to recall awhile back someone wanted to do dual boot Windows and Android and I believe Microsoft went ballistic and threatened all kinds of nasty things to any hardware vendor that produced such a device. Edit: I think Google and Microsoft both came out against dual boot Windows and Android. Hard to believe they actually agree on something... http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/03/google-and-microsoft-are-out-to-s...
  • Darn
    I've dual booted windows and Android on my surface because the x86 desktop Android project who's name I can't remember is pretty good.
    But it's not being sold that way, which makes sense. Which is a pity, cause that would be awesome.
  • RemixOS
  • 1. This thing was being designed long before Lenovo knew that Google was bringing Android apps to Chrome OS. Without Android apps - and touchscreen capability/support in general - Chrome OS would have made no sense for this device. 2. That being said, Lenovo said that a Chrome OS version of this device was forthcoming. http://www.omgchrome.com/lenovo-chromebook-no-physical-keyboard/ 3. You should also go a bit further: Chrome OS should simply replace Android going forward. Why? "Chromebooks are faster, more secure and maintenance free. Plus, they run Android apps. All the Android apps." Including ... the dialer app. A Chrome OS phone with a USB Type C port with the HDMI out ENABLED (not disabled the way that it is on the Galaxy Note 7 FOR NO REASON) plugs right into a hub to which you can connect your monitor, mouse and keyboard. Otherwise? It goes back to being a phone. Why the "Google but no longer Nexus" phones aren't going to do this, who knows. Even if Chrome OS isn't quite ready for prime time next, replacing Android with Chrome OS should come in an update. It would be 4 GB of RAM, 32/64 GB of storage and a Snapdragon 820/821 SOC. Instantly the best Chromebook on the market ...
  • Because Microsoft is having so much success with their phones doing to same thing /s
  • You are right ... that is TOTALLY a valid comparison. Microsoft = Windows, an OS that everyone has hated for 10 years, and who has alienated everyone with their ridiculously overpriced and increasingly difficult to use Office Suite. People went to iPhones, iPads, Android phones (and to a lesser extent Android tablets) to GET AWAY from having to use Microsoft products. Oh yes ... Microsoft's app store is garbage. That is the single biggest thing holding them back. Meanwhile, a Chrome OS phone would A) solve all of the updates, fragmentation, security and bloatware issues and B) still have access to Google Play. Please point out the downside.
  • I believe that he was saying that windows phones do what that guy was implying. Called continuum, it's really cool.
    Also, he added /s at the end of the comment. In the land the internet, that means that the above text is sarcastic
  • "an OS that everyone has hated for 10 years"?
    Really? I must not be part of that "everybody" then.
  • #1 Android apps on Chrome has been a thing that partners were aware of for well over a year.  #2 — that's going to be a 13-inch model that's a true convertible. Not a bad idea, but not a "better tablet" like the 10-inch model could be. #3 — No reason Chrome couldn't power a phone. If they think the market (read: money) is there I can see Google doing it. As far as HDMI over USB type C, the license for it just became valid today. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160901005070/en/HDMI-Releases-Alternate-Mode-USB-Type-C84%A2-Connector Look for someone to be using it soon enough. Would make for a great connection to VR, too.
  • Dude, a 13 inch ChromeOS version? I'm buying one day one.
  • I said the same thing when I saw both Phil's review and Mr Mobile video review. Perfect size for an on the go college student. Jerry great article (all of your most recent ones have been great too).
  • I love the size of my Yoga 900 (13 inches). I've been leaning towards getting a Chromebook lately, then using the CrossOver Android app for the very few Windows programs I need. This Lenovo convertible may be perfect for me.
  • "If they think the market (read: money) is there I can see Google doing it." it is not like they have much to lose. Nexus phones have not exactly been setting the world on fire in terms of sales. A fact that Google evades by referring to it as a "reference device". Selling a Chrome OS phone would be a differentiator that might give them a leg up on Samsung ... er the competition. But since I went ahead and named the 1000 lb. gorilla ... I can't see Samsung giving up all they have invested in things like TouchWiz and the S Pen to replace Android with Chrome OS in their devices.
  • Google isn't competing with Samsung. Google doesn't give two craps about selling Nexus phones. They care about eyeballs looking at ads and people using their services. Samsung sells a lot of Android phones, so they and Google have a symbiotic relationship, not competitive.
  • I'm really thinking about getting one of these, Windows 10 with a 256gb sd card. Productivity in a mobile device, on Verizon network would be great.
  • Totally agree, although the Android version should be the third and chrome should be one of the first two.
  • I can see a reason for it to not have ChromeOS (and be a Chromebook). A very simple reason.
    Lenovo is an international non-American company. And outside the USA, no one wants or cares about Chromebooks. There's simply not enough demand for them.
    Android on the other hand, holds over 80% of the mobile marketshare. And Windows holds 90% of the PC marketshare. The logic move? Release it with the two most popular operating systems. Windows and Android.
  • Android is a popular mobile OS, not necessarily a popular 2-in-1 OS.
  • I feel ya. But what people aren't understanding is that Google Play and Android on a Chromebook could be exactly like an Android tablet with a better desktop and a better browser. There is no other difference. You could literally call it Android and someone who has never used ChromeOS would be none the wiser and think they were using the best Android laptop they've ever seen. Android atop Chrome is the best thing Google has ever done. When it launches for more models out of beta, people are going to realize how good it is. I hope you get to give it a try.
  • Didn't Chromebooks outsell MacBook last year
  • Hey Jerry, Would you recommend this for someone looking to replace a Nexus 10. I've been looking at the Pixel C and Dell Venue 10 7000 Series. I really don't like laptops, especially for viewing videos and casually browsing the internet. I prefer tablets, but sometimes you want a keyboard for some heavy email, forum post, Doc, Sheets, etc. usage. Maybe a better question, would you prefer this over the Pixel C if you didn't already own one?
  • Unless you would use the pen, go with the Pixel C. Especially coming from a Nexus 10. Direct support from Goggle is hard to beat.
  • Great, thanks for the response.
  • If you want Chrome, run the Chrome app. Both Android and ChromeOS are Linux-based. ChromeOS runs a single application (Chrome), and other apps/extensions run under that. Android lets you run over 2,000,000 apps - of which one is Chrome.
  • Huh? ChromeOS has a complete application layer. You can run programs without ever starting the browser process.
  • I doubt Chrome OS has any support for a stylus. I don't think it's even an option at this point.
  • Linux has had support for digital pens for years. Since this is a Wacom pen/tablet, the window server and DE just need to treat it like any other input method (touch, keyboard, mouse, trackpad). It's fully supported by both Wacom and third-party libraries and drivers.
  • Isn't Nougat getting pen support, or does that not matter for a ChromeOS version anyway?
  • Active stylus support (Bluetooth or USB/wireless) was added in Marshmallow. This is different, The part that needs support is the tablet/drawing surface. Wacom provides that, so it won't be part of Android, It will be a handful of binaries that get put in the right place and a couple configuration entries. The user environment doesn't matter because it's just another HID-compliant input method.
  • While Linux does, that doesn't mean the functionality necessarily works its way up to the Chrome level in any meaningful way. The software-level support has to be thereto make it worth it.
  • Please check your "facts" before spewing nonsense. You can use a stylus for handwriting input anywhere that you can enter text. You can also draw, though I've honestly never personally had an interest in using PC apps to draw. Almost every time that I read some claim about what a Chromebook can't do, it's wrong. People should use a Chromebook for a while -- or at least watch a few YouTube videos about it -- before pretending that they know enough to disparage them.
  • What "facts?" Your reaction is ridiculous. I said nothing negative about Chromebooks. I'm a big fan. But there's a giant difference between taking a stylus as basic mouse-like input and Wacom functionality.
  • When an apparent pundit presents careless remarks as an opinion, people see that as "fact" and blow off Chromebooks. As for Wacom:
  • Why are you so determined to be so consistently rude? "Pundit?" Seriously? Where did I project myself as a pundit? And my remarks were hardly carless when not stated REMOTELY as fact. "I doubt" isn't a statement of fact no matter how much you try to make it one. It leaves the door WIDE open for someone to disprove me, as you've attempted to do. Unfortunately the comments on your link indicate EXACTLY my concern: while it will, indeed, accept it as an input device, they weren't able to get control over things like sensitivity and pressure and double-click and many of the other things a person expects a Wacom to do. It's acting like a glorified finger on the screen right now. Nice, but not remotely what people expect from a Wacom. My error in my wording was in not being precise enough when I said "I doubt Chrome OS has any support for a stylus." I meant ACTUAL SUPPORT for the stylus beyond being used as a base-level pointing device, which throws out most of the cost benefits of building Wacom tech into this thing. So far your links have only managed to continue to back up my position.
  • Glad that you learned something.
  • I love that they are calling it a virtual keyboard. There is nothing virtual about it. Just because a key doesn't depress doesn't make the keyboard less real. It's an on-screen keyboard. Nitpicking for sure but dial it down a bit Mary. It's really cool and I want one, but for casual use only, not to replace a Pixel or a more input friendly Chromebook. Design is great, not knocking them. Just dial down the magical words. And I am speaking to Lenovo here, not the press.
  • This hardware should run Windows tolerably well for at least a few weeks unless, of course, you install applications. Chrome OS, on the other hand, would be nimble and responsive as always. But I like the old-fashioned feel of tactile keys. I'll stick with my Asus Flip.
  • As much as I like Android, I agree with Jerry on this. Chrome has been my daily driver for work going on 3 years now. With this running Chrome, I can get my office work done. Android is a good supplement, but not my main work tool. I have ZERO use for Windows any longer.
  • According to OMG Chrome a Chrome OS version will come also.
    I think Lenovo chose Android because they can customize it more for the special hardware, OEM don't have much controll on chrome OS. They are not able to add dedicated Software in it to take advantage of the touchpad.
    Google is planing to let OEM load their custom Android apps to Chrome OS in future, when that day comes we will see a Chrome OS version
  • Correction: Chrome OS doesn't/won't run every Android app. Google directly said in the I/O 2016, Chrome OS won't run Launcher, 3rd Party Keyboard, Widgets, Any Customization Tool and apps that require Administrator permission to function.
  • No, screw Chrome OS. The entire time I was using it all I could think of was "Why the hell isn't this just android?" If google spent half as much time as they did making chrome, as they did into making something similar to Remix OS, we would have no need for Chrome OS. Worst.
  • rofl - nerdrage
  • I'm pretty sure you are missing the point. Exotic input methods need hooks in the software to make the most of them. Given the limited control OEM's have over Chrome OS it may not have been possible to make a satisfactory experience. I would hazard a guess that the Windows version will be a much more schizophrenic experience than the Android, and mostly exists for business customers who would require it.
  • Have you tried running or even installing one of the Chromium OS flavours? Like Neverware's Cloudready or Arnold the Bat's Special Builds?
  • Nonsense. Microsoft has put a lot of effort into the pen/drawing experience in Windows 10, and Android/ChromeOS has put in exactly dick all. A stylus simply functioning at a basic level is not the same as an OS tailored for it.
  • http://www.omgchrome.com/lenovo-chromebook-no-physical-keyboard/ "A Yoga-branded Chromebook that uses the innovative touch panel, replacing a physical keyboard lock, stock and key, is planned, says Jeff Meredith, the vice president and general manager of the (lengthily named) ‘Android and Chrome Computing Business Group’ at Lenovo."
  • That's EXACTLY what I want.
  • Triple facepalm. Not a Chromebook that runs Android apps.
    MicroUSB with proprietary charger instead of USB-C. That's inexcusable in any device launched in the latter half of 2016.
    Mobile radio is CDMA-centric. Also inexcusable unless this model is going to be a Verizon Droid. And Droid-locking this to Verizon would also be inexcusable What a waste of what could have been the most innovative device of the year.
  • i have the Win10 version and it runs fine, i have a lenovo Yoga tab 3 Pro with android, it runs . . . .not! Lenovo make good hardware but they always has trouble with the software, with Windows less then with Android, My issues right now are a 64GB mirco SD, sometimes no wake up after longer sleep, and the vibration drivers i have delete, after it was not working anymore (but this is not really a problem, because i would deactivate the vibration feedback) So silent typing is great!
  • The Windows Verson can be dual booted with CloudReady at least, and that's about as close as we can get to that. If anyone knows how to install other operating systems on the Android tablet should say cus that would be very good.