Chinese manufacturer Lenovo hasn’t been put off by the lukewarm reception its debut Yoga tablet received last year. Now it’s taking things up a gear with a whole family of new slates, including the new Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 – here’s our full review.
Lenovo and Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher have joined forces to retool the Lenovo tablet design with a bigger, better battery, a more powerful Intel chip and a choice of sizes and operating systems. But have those updates made this a serious iPad contender?
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review – Design: Lean back
What makes the Tablet 2 stand out is its rolled up magazine-like appearance. Along one edge of the tablet there’s a rounded cylindrical section, whose lines blend into the body of the device. It looks like somebody’s folded over the pages of a mag and this form factor serves several functions.
First and foremost, the rounded metal element performs as an excellent grip, making the Yoga Tablet 2 easy to grasp, carry and manipulate with one hand. In fact it’s one of the easiest 10-inch tablets to carry around, great news for those who like to work on the go, in whatever orientation.
The tablet also features an adjustable kickstand – the hook of the Yoga design. This allows you to prop the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 in various different positions or ‘modes’ depending on how you want to use it.
Laying the Yoga Tablet 2 flat with the stand folded away means it’s well suited for word processing, responding to emails and so on. Flip the stand into the first position and it’ll sit upright. Dubbed ‘stand mode’ this orientation is ideal for watching videos, or should you wish, turning the Yoga into a digital photo frame. The cylindrical region of the body also features dual stereo speakers, which help boost the tablet’s entertainment chops, especially in this position.
The newcomer for this revision of the tablet is ‘hang mode’, which refers to the stand’s most extended position and the chamfered hole that’s been cut out from the middle of it. The idea is that you can hang the Yoga Tablet 2 on a nail or hook against a wall for cooking or working hands-free at face height. However, to advertise it as a key feature seems a little pointless, as for most it’ll likely be the most underused of the Yoga’s modes.
The grip-cum-stand also holds the Yoga Tablet 2’s highly touted ‘all-day battery’ and conceals the microSD card slot too. At one end there’s an illuminated power button, whilst at the other you’ll find the headphone jack. Despite the premium metal finish of this section, the rest of the Lenovo’s back is a silver plastic. Although it’s still resilient to bumps and scrapes, this plastic design doesn’t offer the same level of premium finish and cheapens the overall look and feel.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review – Screen: Brighten up
Those interested in Lenovo’s latest tablet should be aware that it comes in two sizes: an 8-inch and a 10-inch model. We tested out the latter, which comes complete with a 10.1-inch IPS LCD, sporting Full HD (1920×1200) resolution. Note that the 8-inch model also uses a Full HD panel.
Whilst it’s certainly a pleasant display, boasting nice, accurate colours and whites, it struggles on a number of fronts, mainly with regards to brightness. Primarily as a result of the glass on top, in bright light it can be pretty tricky to see what you’re doing and fingerprints can be a real issue on the Tablet 2’s front too.
Auto-brightness is also unusually hit and miss, often slow to respond to changes in lighting and often hitting a lower brightness level than what’s required in a specific instance.
Next on the chopping block is the bezel surrounding the screen. For a 10.1-inch tablet, the display’s expansive bezels, although making it easier to hold, are extremely broad and cheapen the aesthetic of the device as a whole.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review – OS: It takes a little getting used to
Lenovo’s heavily-skinned take on Android 4.4 KitKat certainly takes some getting used to, but does feature a number of useful tools and tweaks. Whilst in the tablet’s multitasking view for example, swiping down on an item will ‘lock’ the app ensuring that, should you choose to close all the applications currently running, it’ll avoid the cull and keep ticking along until you unlock it again.
Lenovo has also added a number of widgets with a futuristic aesthetic to them. The stylisation of these and some of the icons won’t be to everybody’s liking, but they play nice with the physical design of the Yoga Tablet are all well optimised to operate in portrait or landscape layouts.
Another pair of distinctive differences fall to the notifications and quick settings panels. Swiping down from the top only offers access to the latest notifications (unlike stock Android), with the connectivity toggles for things like Bluetooth and WiFi, brightness controls and a link through to the full settings menu available by pulling up from the bottom of the display. Awkwardly, Google Now is also accessible from a vertical swipe upwards, provided you press and hold the home button first.
The MultiWindow view lets you run two applications side-by-side for added productivity, although the number of apps able to utilise this feature is extremely limited (there are just six). To sweeten the deal however, Lenovo has added its own ‘DOit’ apps suite, including SHAREit – which lets you fire files to friends over any available network connection, SYNCit which can double up your text messages and contacts, and CLONEit which serves as a transfer tool from another device to the Tablet 2 (including apps). The small drawback with all of these is that you have to be willing to create separate Lenovo account to use them.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review – Performance: Inconsistent Intel
A key change that Lenovo made jumping from the first to the second-generation Yoga tablet is the origin of the processor. Qualcomm’s been shown the door and in its place is a quad-core 1.33GHz Atom Z3745 chip courtesy of Intel. Whichever Yoga Tablet 2 you choose, whether it’s the smallest 8-inch version or the top-tier 13-inch Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, you’re granted the same silicone brain to run the show.
In practice, performance would best be described as inconsistent. Initial startup appears quick, but laggy UI interaction rears its head all too often, when multitasking, opening and closing intensive apps, swiping down the notifications and even waiting for the accelerometer to detect that you’ve rotated the tablet. That said it’s not a full time occurence, just something you’ll notice on occasion.
Storage is a fairly standard affair, with 16GB built in and room for an additional 64GB microSD card to bolster space when needed. The battery however is the star of the show. Lenovo promises all day battery with the Yoga Tablet 2 and based on our experiences we’d say it can offer a lot more, even after heavy use. Typical usage should see you through two days per charge and there’s technically room to stretch it even further if you’re careful.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review – Camera: Sizable snapper
As we’ve said before, taking pictures on a tablet is never advised, primarily as there’s a strong chance the phone in your pocket will do a better job anyway. The Yoga Tablet 2 offers usable snappers on the front and back, but don’t rely on them for anything special.
The 1.6-megapixel front-facer is sharp enough for video calling over services like Skype, and if you want to snap a few stills there are tools for brightening and setting up a timer too. On the back is a more impressive 8-megapixel sensor. Still quality is a bit hit and miss, with decent performance in macro and low light environments, but poor detail across the board and narrow dynamic range, particularly when trying to deal with high contrast situations.
There’s Full HD video recording too, which lacks image stability but delivers good image quality, colour balance and a fast auto-focus. Its biggest shortcoming is its tinny audio recording which shouldn’t be used for anything other than context as it’s extremely tinny.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review – Verdict: Sit down or stand up?
So has Lenovo’s second stab at the Yoga Tablet proved a success? Well, Almost.
Whilst we commend the company for delivering on its promise of all-day battery life, creating one of the most ergonomic tablet designs out there and giving users a great entertainment option, these skills alone won’t be enough to win the masses over.
There are other impressive offerings for around the same £250 price tag that deliver similar convenience, the same focus on entertainment and all the while forgo some of the shortcomings found in the Yoga Tablet 2.