Review: Lenovo Yoga Tablet

Can the Yoga allow Lenovo to break into the UK tablet market?

When Lenovo first introduced its Yoga tablet last month, it enlisted the support of its newest product engineer, Ashton Kutcher, the latest in a long list of celebrity tech partnerships that includes Alicia Keys and Shakira.

Kutcher of course has his A-Grade Investments venture capital fund, which has invested in more than a dozen online ventures, and told the audience that he likes to take risks.

The Lenovo Yoga tablet isn’t really a risk, but it is arguably the next necessary step the Chinese manufacturer needs to make it if it is to break into the market and become a more recognisable brand.

Lenovo’s breakout tablet

Ashton Kutcher Lenovo © Getty Images for LenovoThe company is now the biggest selling PC maker in the world and has figured out how to expand its business in a slumping market, but it sells more smartphones and tablets than desktops and laptops. The problem is the majority of these are in China.

Is the Yoga Tablet’s form factor a risk? Not figuring out a new form factor seems more risky. Apple users will buy iPads and Samsung makes tablets in just about every size, with and without the option of a stylus. The only thing Samsung’s tablet portfolio doesn’t include is a tablet that can do all the gymnastics that the Yoga Tablet can.

Which is to say, still more succinctly, if you’re interested in a modestly priced Android tablet that can stand on its own without the addition of a separately priced cover; can tilt itself toward you on the desk, for easier use and viewing; and can offer a handle of sorts, making it easy to hold while reading and even enable one-handed use, then the Lenovo Yoga Tablet is an excellent choice.

It’s available now in two sizes, an 8-inch model for $249 exclusively at Best Buy in the US and a 10-inch version for $299 is more widely available.

Yoga bends to accommodate lifestyles

Here’s the part where I come clean about something: I don’t own a tablet. I feel I don’t have any need for one. I work from home and am in front of a laptop all day. When I’ve reviewed other tablets, they’ve generally sat on the printer in my home office until I pressed myself to spend time with them.

I just didn’t have reasons to grab for them that my laptop, phone or TV didn’t satisfy (I understand that other people do). The form factor of the Yoga Tablet changed that, though, mostly because the Stand Mode is so convenient.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 4I had a sick toddler home with me during my review period. I wouldn’t trust her to hold a borrowed tablet, but I was comfortable standing it on the nightstand so she could lay in bed and watch a movie, setting it on the breakfast table so I could get work done while she ate, and even, dare I admit, setting it on the bathroom counter encouraging her to … stay seated.

While cooking, I used the Yoga in tilt mode to consult a recipe, and then transitioned it to Stand when the counter got too crowded and I wanted to listen to a podcast (the two front-facing Dolby speakers are really nice—strong and clear).

E-reading prowess

I understand that these things can be accomplished with other tablets and a properly positioned cover, but I found it compelling that the Yoga Tablet could do it on its own.

Maybe I’m a curmudgeon. It drives me a little crazy that Apple works for a year to tirelessly shave off millimetres and create an exquisite, cutting-edge piece of technology that people will pay $850 for and then cover with essentially a 5-cent piece of rubber. (It was vindicating the day Chinese consumers laughed off the iPhone 5C cover as looking like a potato peeler.)

But covers also don’t offer the book-like spine that the Yoga Tablet has in Hold mode. Lenovo sent me both its 10-inch and 8-inch models. The 10-incher gets heavy in the hand pretty quickly, but the 8-inch has a comfortable weight of 0.88 pounds, and when my hand got tired, I just flipped the tablet over and used the other hand.

There were several nights I found my husband reading a downloaded book in bed on the 8-inch tablet—a thing he’s not only never done before but has given impassioned dinnertime speeches about having zero interest in.

Display woes

One of my few complaints about the Yoga Tablets were their displays—I wish they were sharper.

The iPad Air’s 9.7-inch display has a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536. The Yoga Tablet’s 10.1-inch display is 1,280 by 800. The difference is like wearing smudged glasses.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2Another complaint is their weight. Lenovo needs to shave it down. The iPad Air weights 1 pound; the 10.1-inch Yoga Tablet weighs 1.33 pounds. The latter is a weight at which Hold mode becomes compelling for doing things such as showing a chart to a colleague or photos to relatives, but not reading at length.

Also—and this is may be more of a wish than a complaint—since one is always flipping the Yoga Tablet this way and that, it’s easy to become disoriented about which side the power button and volume rockers are on. Some of that Lenovo red paint would come in handy, or some kind of indication from the top, saving the user from feeling around for them each time.

I pulled the Yoga Tablets out of their boxes with some doubts—their “spirals,” as I came to think of the cylinders alongside the screens, make the tablets seem instantly heavy, instead of wow-factor light. But it’s a very good, practical and convincing form factor. Now, Lenovo just needs to perfect it.

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Lenovo Yoga Tablet

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Lenovo Yoga Tablet

Originally published on eWeek.