Tablet makers don’t often try very hard to make their tablets look like something other than rectangular slabs. That’s odd, really, since doing so could give them the edge over the competition.
Sony has taken a stab at doing something a bit different with its wedge shaped Tablet S, and now Lenovo has also moved away from the norm with its Yoga tablet design. This comes in 8-inch and 10-inch versions and we took a look at the smaller size.
One of the long edges is a tube that’s grippable when you are working in portrait screen mode. It is weighted as it contains the battery. The power switch is at one end, headphones slot at the other.
To the left and right are speakers that bash out a reasonable volume and quality of sound. It’s comfortable to hold, and simply filling it with a large battery is good enough reason for it to exist. But there’s more.
The tube doubles up as a stand when the Yoga Tablet 8 is on your desk, sitting the screen at a slight angle, which makes it a bit easier to see than the screens of tablets that lie flat. It’s handy for touch typing on the screen, which you can do at decent speeds thanks to the elevated angle.
Much more interestingly, you can flip out a stand. This can be used in two ways. It can raise the angle slightly more than you get from the tube section in which case typing out text is even more comfortable as is sitting back on the train to watch a movie.
Or you can flip the Yoga onto its side and stand the screen almost upright, at which point it makes a very good picture frame, clock or second screen on your desk showing whatever web site interests you. And you can angle the stand to get the screen just how you like it.
The black and silver look is run of the mill but the silver edging to the frame is quite classy. The stand is metal which adds a feel of quality to the build, the rest of which is plastic. The overall look, we must note, is not dissimilar to that of Apple’s wireless keyboard.
There are two versions of the Yoga Tablet 8 with a 3G option priced at £229.99 and a non 3G option at £199.99. The SIM slot is protected beneath the stand, and that’s also where you will find a microSD card slot to boost the built in 16GB.
Putting those two expansion options in this location helps keep the sides of the tablet tidy and allows them to taper to an end considerably thinner than the 7.3mm thickness quoted in the specs. We measured the thin end at 4mm.
This is all very good stuff, but apart from good battery life the specifications fall more towards the average side than the design might lead you to suspect – or want. There’s a quad core 1.2GHz processor supported by 1MB of RAM keeping things going.
It felt a bit sluggish at times and if you want to play demanding games you might want to look elsewhere. The screen’s 1,280 x 800 pixels are below par – take a look at the Nexus 7 which shares the non 3G pricing for better screen specs.
Android 4.2 is behind the times. It’s not heavily skinned, but Lenovo has added a few apps to the basics and dispensed with the apps drawer, instead putting apps directly onto your home screens.
Lenovo has also added a neat feature called the Smart Side Bar which is a settings and shortcuts area you call up with a sweep and which even lets you make different screen settings for the different stand use modes. It’s a shame you can’t call it up from within apps, only from a home screen.
It is also weird that the front camera is on a short edge rather than the long one nearest the stand. This tablet is perfect for Skype when resting on its stand in wide screen mode, but the camera position is not helpful.
Lenovo potentially has a really good tablet on its hands here. The rethinking of tablet design is both welcome and successful; it’s just a shame that the device overall has been saddled with such average specs and lacks real attention to detail. A few choice tweaks for the next version and it could be a stunner.
Review written by Sandra Vogel