“There’s more to the Yoga Tablet 2 than its unique kickstand”
When it comes to design-centric innovations in the world of smartphones, there are a very few examples. While brands do try to one-up each other based on the game of numbers (high-speed SoCs, large camera sensors, bigger and high-res displays and more), a very few of them have to tried to differentiate their offerings in terms of design... and that too is limited to sleek bodies and use of materials like metal and bamboo. The said innovations are even rarer in the tablet segment, with all the devices being just rectangular slabs.
Lenovo, however, changed that with its Yoga line of tablets released last year. The Yoga slates offered several modes, allowing you to use them the way you want, that too comfortably. While the devices won appreciation for their design, they were a bit of disappointment in aspects such as the display quality and performance. Now, the brand has outed the successor to the series, aptly called Yoga Tablet 2 (first impressions). Not only do the new-gen tabs aim to overcome the problems with their predecessors, they also support an additional mode and come in a variety of sizes and options to suit the needs of different consumers. The slate comes in three screen sizes – 8-inch, 10-inch or 13-inch, with Android, as well as another 10-inch variant running Windows 8.1. We have the middle member of the trio, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10) with us and we've been using it since the last couple of weeks. Here's our review.
The hallmark of the Yoga tablets, without a doubt, is their multi-mode capability. In fact, this time around, the second-gen Yoga Tablets takes these modes to the next level as compared to their predecessors. But we’ll get down to discuss these modes once we take a look at all design aspects of the device.
From the front, the 10-incher Yoga Tablet 2 looks like just any other tablet out there with a large screen dominating its face. However, the 10-inch display panel of the slate is surrounded by noticeable amount of bezels. The monotony of black sides around the screen is broken by a front-facing camera on the left side. When held in landscape mode, you will also notice a cylindrical bar at the base of the device flanked by two speakers.
The tablet has slightly tapered metallic edges with its thickness lowering from the cylinder to the other end. While the top is completely free, the left spine of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 houses the volume keys and a micro-USB port, along with a large circular power button. Around the power button, there is a light that blinks while the slate is charging. On the right, you will find a 3.5mm audio port and a microphone.
The silver back of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 features a textured finish, allowing for good handling as well as grip. Along with the Lenovo branding in the middle, the rear houses a kickstand attached to the cylindrical bar. A primary camera is present alongside this bar, and this seems like an awkward placement, since most slates offer a camera in the centre making it easier to capture the subject.
The unibody device feels great in hands, and while the 619 gram weight might seem bulky, we didn’t find it to be a problem since the weight has been distributed well across the slate. Constructed with the use of plastic and metal, the Yoga Tablet features solid build quality as well.
Now, let’s talk about how you can use the kickstand in Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 to your benefit. With the kickstand, you can keep the device straight vertically, referred to as the ‘stand’ mode, making it a great option for watching movies. If you keep the tab on a surface horizontally in the tilt mode, then you can use it for typing comfortably. While the ‘stand’ and ‘tilt’ modes were present in the slate’s predecessor as well, Lenovo has gone ahead to allow you to rotate the kickstand 180 degrees for a ‘hang’ mode. With this, you can hang the Yoga Tablet on a wall, which is a great option for some use cases, such as working in the kitchen and reading a recipe on the tablet. The default option with the device is called ‘hold’ mode, since the cylindrical bar makes for comfortable holding with a single hand, though you can only use it in portrait mode.
With the help of these modes, you can use the tablet over a variety of situations comfortably. The hold mode, for instance, can be a boon for commuters since they can use it with a single hand. We also watched a litany of movies on the slate, and the different modes definitely helped in the viewability.
One complaint with the kickstand would be that there’s no handle to pull the kickstand out, which means that you have to fiddle around with the cylindrical bar first. Below the kickstand, the tablet features a slot to insert a microSD card.
The kickstand might seem a simple feature, but goes a long way in enhancing the usability of the tablet. It also gives a distinct character to the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2.
As mentioned before, we are reviewing the variant falling in the middle of Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet 2 range, which is based around an IPS display panel of 10.1-inches. The display bears a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. This is a big upgrade from last year’s Yoga tablets since they featured HD resolution, and hence the display quality was average at best. This time however, the display on the slate delivers beautiful colours and sharp text. Apart from movies, it's also great for reading eBooks. Moreover, the large display of the slate resembles a hardbound book, offering more text on a single page, and thus not requiring too many page flips to read.
However, the display isn’t perfect by any means – contrast levels leave something to be desired since the blacks aren’t absolutely black, and the viewing angles aren’t great either.
If you simply glance over the interface on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2, then we bet that you might mistake it for an iOS device. Yes, it’s that similar – right from the lock screen to the unified homescreen (there's no separate app launcher and home screen), and even the settings panel which can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. In reality however, the custom skin is based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat.
The colourful interface looks pleasing to the eyes, though it might be a matter of personal preference, and also brings forth custom icons for default apps. While swiping from the top brings the notification shade, the settings menu is available when you swipe from the bottom. This placement is quite thoughtful since due to the large screen, it’s easier to quickly toggle anything or change brightness. Along with these quick toggles, it also gives you the ability to open the camera, capture a screenshot, access settings and more.
To make use of the large screen, Lenovo also offers an option called Multi Window, which is akin to Samsung’s popular feature bearing the same name. Available towards the bottom of the screen, it allows the user to use multiple apps simultaneously. At any point of time, you can open up to four apps together, which includes Email, Gallery, Chrome, File Browser, Calculator and Video. You can also resize the app windows. The feature works well, though it isn’t as refined as Samsung’s since there are very limited number of apps that support it and you can’t make use of advanced capabilities like dragging and dropping of files between windows. We also found that the Chrome browser wasn’t rendering websites properly in this mode.
Similar to its smartphones, Lenovo has added quite a few preloaded apps in the Yoga Tablet 2, including Security HD, SYNCit HD, SHAREit and CLONEit. While SecurityHD takes care of the security aspects of the tablet, allowing you to speed it up or block ads, the other trio of apps makes it easy to back up contacts or transfer files between devices quickly. The tab also comes preinstalled with WPS Office, allowing you to create, view and edit documents, presentations and spreadsheets.
Lenovo’s Smart Switch feature allows the device to automatically set the display and audio based on the mode it’s being used in. In hold mode, for instance, the slate will change the display quality to matt, which is great for reading something since it doesn’t strain your eyes.
Overall, interface of the slate is decent, and while it may seem to be an iOS copycat, it doesn’t hog system resources and offers some useful features.
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 houses an Intel Atom Z3745 chipset inside, which utilises a quad-core processor clocked at 1.8GHz. Augmenting the processor is 2GB of RAM and the combination handles all tasks with ease. Over the course of two weeks of reviewing the device, there was not even a single instance of lag and using it was a delight. Switching between multiple apps and browsing even heavy websites was snappy. Even playing casual games was not a problem, though the same can’t be said about intensive titles such as Gun Bros 2. We also noticed that the slate started to heat up whenever the processor was stressed.
The storage department offers 16GB flash memory, out of which you will get around 10.8GB to use and the rest of the space is taken by the operating system. Thanks to the availability of expansion slot, it can be increased further.
The device is loaded with the usual wireless connectivity options including dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.
While we discussed the advantages of the cylindrical bar in the design section, it also offers another benefit – a great battery life. The company claims a battery life of up to 18 hours with its brawny 9,600mAh Li-ion battery and we’d agree with that. While using it for internet browsing and reading eBooks, it can surely last you a full working day. In our standard battery performance test, we got impressive results of more than 12 hours of HD video playback at 50 percent volume and brightness, while Wi-Fi was turned off.
We have already admitted that the tab is great for watching movies. The experience is further augmented by the fact that the Dolby-certified speakers on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 are really loud – so much so that we preferred using them instead of plugging in earphones to enjoy our movies. The quality of the sound is good too, thanks to Wolfson Master HiFi audio processing technology.
Like all tabs, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 features a pair of camera sensors, though we can’t stress enough how odd it looks while taking pictures with it. However, unlike other slates, the 8-megapixel autofocus snapper at the back shoots decent images, good enough for sharing purposes. But, it takes its own sweet time to focus on the subject and can’t be used in dimly-lit environments since it lacks any form of illumination. The front camera is decent for video calling, but not impressive for selfies. Here are a few images captured by the primary camera on the slate.
Priced at Rs 28,900, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10) definitely commands a premium over similarly-spec’d slates, which are available for as low as Rs 20,000. In fact, many Indian vendors offer keyboard case-cum-covers with their Windows-based offerings, which also allow such devices to be used easily in stand mode. Moreover, the large-screen tablet territory in the premium price band is reigned by Apple’s iPad, with the Cupertino’s latest Air 2 available at slightly more cost than the Yoga Pro 2 at approx. Rs 33,000.
Where the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10) wins is that it allows you to use it across multiple situations, without the need of any additional accessory. A solid build quality, good display, decent performance and great sound output also justify its high price tag. Moreover, the brand has addressed all the issues we had with the first-gen Yoga Tablet. If money is no bar and you need an Android tablet, then the Lenovo’s offering should be amongst the top of your shortlist.
Photos by Raj Rout
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