Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10 Inch – Review

by on January 15, 2015

Before Christmas, I recieved two surprises from Lenovo – the Yoga 3 Pro, which I’ll review next week, and the Yoga 2 Tablet 10.1″. So, it’s been a month, time for a review!

Specifications

This tablet is only available in one configuration in Australia, and happens to be the one I received. It has a quad core Intel Atom Z3745 CPU running the show, running at up to 1.86GHz. On the storage front, there’s 16GB of flash storage that’s expandable by MicroSD card under a panel in the rear of the tablet, and there’s 2GB of RAM available for use.

The display is a 16:10 1920×1200 IPS display and is driven by an Intel HD Graphics chipset. No AC Wi-Fi, alas, only BGN Wi-Fi, but Bluetooth 4.0 is present for pairing with wireless headphones and other gadgets.

On the front there’s two front facing speakers, on the left there’s a MicroUSB port for charging and data transfer, and on the right there’s a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones.

Software wise, it’s currently updated to Android 4.4.2, with no word as to whether or not it will be seeing an update to Lollipop.

The tablet is available for purchase in Australia direct from Lenovo, JB Hifi and Harvey Norman for around $399.

Software

Lenovo have in the past taken a rather light handed approach to Android skinning – for example, the S6000 tablet was described by PC World in Australia as having “Vanilla-ish Android”, and said of the modifications to Android that they felt that “the company has simply tried to genuinely improve on it”.

Sadly, for the Yoga, this approach was thrown out the window, and a skin that looks and feels a lot like what would happen if Android and iOS were to have a baby was implemented. And it does bear a startling appearance to iOS – even the icons for the preinstalled apps share the same kind of shape and style of icons on iOS.

The main difference that you’ll notice is that there’s no app drawer. Instead, additional home screens to house all the app shortcuts will be created. If you like iOS and the way it works, you’ll appreciate this and probably enjoy using it. If you don’t (like me), you’ll be wondering why on earth they made this rather baffling design choice.

Fortunately, as Android is highly customizable, you can install an alternate launcher and do away with this rather strange choice – I ended up installing the Google Now Launcher from the Play Store.

Another baffling customization made is that, no matter how many notifications you have, only three of them will be displayed on the notification bar: to see more you have to pull the bar down. Seeing as, at worst, there’s 1200 pixels of resolution to play with and an average notification icon appears to be 40 pixels wide including padding on each side, this seems like a rather pointless limitation as a quick calculation suggests that the notification bar could easily fit thirty icons.

That said, there are some useful customizations that have been made. The quick settings that are often stored on a second screen on the notification pane are stored in a second pane that you access by swiping up from the bar along the bottom that houses the Back, Home and App Switch buttons – fortunately, it persists regardless of launcher chosen.

As for preinstalled software, there isn’t much that is too awful or useless – the usual Google apps are preinstalled, and a few Lenovo utilities:

  • SYNCit HD will allow you to sync your contacts to the cloud and back up some data to the SD card. As my contacts are synced with Exchange and most of my Documents are all on OneDrive this was of limited use to me, but the backup feature would be handy if you used the included Kingsoft Office suite.
  • SHAREit is actually a pretty nifty idea. You install the app on your other devices (versions for Android, Windows Phone and iOS are available), and you can send and receive between devices without having to use cables, transfer data to memory cards or upload to a cloud service and then download it again. Initially, I had some issues (in that it wouldn’t work at all), but this was fixed by updating the app on the tablet. A 200MB video file transferred from my desktop with a D-Link AC1200 Wi-Fi adapter to the tablet in 34 seconds and all I had to do on the tablet was open the app and tap Receive.
  • Lenovo eFrame turns your device into a very expensive digital photo frame and can play music in the background as it scrolls through the photos on the device. A clever feature is that it can do this automatically as it’s charging – for example, you can pop the tablet up on its stand as it charges and have it scroll through photos from a recent holiday. The main drawback is that the photos must be on the local device, it can’t grab them from cloud services.
  • The Dolby app allows you to adjust the audio output, either by using some included presets or by tweaking a graphic equaliser to your own liking. If you’ve used one of the Dolby apps that comes preinstalled on some PCs (or equivalents from DTS and other providers), then you’ll be familiar with the Dolby app on here.
  • Gamestore was something I didn’t use (I’m not a huge gamer) apart from updating it when it wanted to be updated. I’m not too sure about the quality of the games seeing as the ones that I saw seemed to be ripoffs of other games – examples include FarmFest and Catch The Candy. You will probably find better games in the Play Store.
  • File Browser is exactly what it says on the tin – it lets you traverse the file system of the tablet and manage files. It’s actually one of the slickest I’ve seen, with a polished interface as well as being easy to use. It’s definitely better than my usual file manager, Astro, which I install on my devices.
  • User Guide is also exactly what it says on the tin – it provides instructions on using the device. It’s well written, has some good illustrations and covers pretty much what any novice user would want to know about the device. The only real downside is that it’s not searchable.
  • Yoga Tablet 2 is essentially a promotional app for the tablet covering various aspects of it (e.g. how the round end is good for holding onto while reading).
  • Navigate is an app powered by Route 66 navigation, and allows you to use the tablet as a giant GPS. The maps it used were reasonably accurate for my area, however for more up to date points of interest and maps you will want to use the navigation built into Google Maps. Also, having a 10″ tablet as a GPS may not be the greatest idea due to the potential for increased distraction.
  • Security HD is a bit of a misnomer really. It provides tweaks and adjustments that would normally require root access to provide, such as an ad blocker and the ability to control what apps are allowed to push notifications to the notification bar. It can also disable apps and move them to an inserted SD card, as well as revoke permissions from apps – don’t want Facebook to be able to use the camera? You can turn that off and keep the other functions of the app.
  • Smart Switch adjusts certain settings on the tablet based on what you’re doing, e.g. if you have it in portrait mode, it would enable a mode called “Matte”, which makes white more yellow to make the device allegedly more suitable for reading, if you had it in Stand mode it would switch to the Movie Dolby profile and so on. To be honest, I found this annoying (I can’t stand off white backgrounds for text) so disabled it and made the adjustments as required.

All in all, the apps that were installed were largely useful, or apps that I could see a typical user having a use for. I’m glad to see that Lenovo has provided some common sense with regards to the app preload, it’s just a pity that the standard launcher isn’t that great.

Build

This is one area where the device really impressed me. While only the stand is metal, (the rest of the build is either glass for the front, or plastic for the rear) nonetheless quite sturdy feeling. The cylindrical area that houses the stand and battery was excellent for reading due to its larger size, allowing for an easy grip – after all, for things like this being the thinnest tablet in the world isn’t particularly helpful.

The stand was quite flexible and would happily balance the tablet at various angles – I often found myself propping the tablet at a 45 degree angle in the kitchen as I dried dishes, for example, to allow for IMing and video playback at a comfortable angle. It was as strong as the hinge found on the Microsoft Surface, which is always a good sign. Throughout testing it remained strong and didn’t seem to lose any of its tension.

Performance

Day to day use, this tablet is fine. Most operations complete in a timely manner as expected, but there is some stuttering on transitions between home screens and as apps open. This seems to be a common theme with Atom tablets, though: I was not expecting great performance to being with due to hearing of negative experiences people were having with the Galaxy Tab 3 which was based on an Atom chipset.

The issues, however, were nothing that adversely affected the tablet in any way, and were just minor quirks.

Display

This is one area where the tablet really should shine – it does have quite a high resolution display so there’s no excuse for it being awful. Sadly, I was rather underwhelmed by it. For some reason, text seemed to be blurry, even with my glasses on, and it was certainly worse than I’ve seen on lower resolution devices – it’s as if though some kind of filter has been applied to make things look more natural but has gone wrong. It’s noticeable at first but you will get used to it. Video playback was fine, with none of the noticeable blurring that text had.

On the colour front, colours seemed to be accurate, if a little bright, and the tablet has excellent viewing angles due to the IPS display – you’ll definitely be able to get a group of friends around and watch some video on it quite comfortably.

Audio

Thanks to the decently sized front facing speakers, as well as the Dolby software, audio without external speakers or headphones was better than most other tablets I’ve used. I watched a few episodes of various TV shows on ABC iView and Netflix, and found that in both cases the sound was suitable for that, but if you really want the best audio quality you’ll be connecting a pair of Bluetooth speakers or plugging a good set of earphones into the 3.5mm jack.

Battery Life

Lenovo market this tablet as having 18 hours of battery life – certainly a lofty claim.

With light use (a couple of hours reading each night and a half hour of video every other day, syncing email in the background ), I easily got six and a half days of battery life out of the tablet. A more formal video test involved playing back video at full brightness for 40 minutes, and attempting to calculate battery life based on that showed that battery life. Over the 40 minutes, 7% of the battery was used, so battery life based on that scenario would be about 9.5 hours – so not quite the 18 hours as specified but still quite respectable nonetheless – it would certainly see you through the bulk of a long flight.

That said, checking the Battery Status in settings showed that 86% of the battery use in that time was due to the screen, which was quite bright as it was at full brightness. Therefore, playing back at a lower brightness would result in not only a more comfortable viewing experience but also extended runtime

Conclusions

As far as tablets go, I was quite impressed with the Yoga Tablet 2. Ergonomically speaking, it’s one of the best tablets around due to the stand allowing it to be set down easily so you don’t have to constantly hold or nurse the tablet, and the stand mount is also excellent for holding. The real let down is the text clarity on the display, something that should not be a problem at all on this tablet. One of my main concerns is, at this point, there’s been no announcement of an upgrade for the Yoga Tablet 2 to Android Lollipop, which is something that would be a welcome addition.

Other options in the $350-$450 price range include the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1″, which lacks in build quality compared to this tablet due to primarily plastic construction which makes it feel like one should have paid $100 less than they actually did for it. It also has a lower resolution screen (1280×800) and 512MB less RAM compared to the Lenovo. That said, like the Lenovo there’s no word yet as to whether or not the Tab 4 is getting Lollipop.

Also in this price range is the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1″. It too has 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage, like the Lenovo tablet. However, it adds a higher resolution screen at 2560×1600, an eight core processor as well as AC wireless – something you may want to consider if you have an AC wireless router in your home or workplace. I haven’t handled it so can’t comment on the build quality, but reading on the internet is that it has a similar build to the Galaxy Note devices. Unlike the Galaxy Tab 4, though, there are whisperings (but nothing concrete) that it will be getting an update to Lollipop sometime in the next couple of months. Again, nothing definite – but better than nothing.

If you’re willing to go down the iOS route, you can get an iPad Mini. The downside is that if you’re already invested in the Android ecosystem you’ll have to start all over again, and that the Mini is only an 8″ tablet compared to the 10.1 inches that the other models have that may be of more value to you.

Those aside, I think most users would be well served by the Yoga Tablet 2 – it combines a good blend of features, performance and value for the price, and most of the software quirks can either be disabled or dealt with to make the tablet suitable for use.

What’s happening with it?

Now that I’ve reviewed this tablet, it’s going to be donated to Boandik Lodge – a local, non-profit aged care facility – for use with their residents there. I’ve had a working relationship with the staff there through my employers as their IT provider, and I am sure that the residents there will be able to make great use of the tablet! I’ll be taking it next week so stay tuned for an update.

Comments

I faced the same stuttering issues during window transitions. There was a firmware update which kinda resolved this. Switched to apex launcher now, and all seems to be well.

Yes, I’ve downloaded the firmware updates. I may have to give Apex Launcher a go before it goes to its new home next week. Thanks for the invo, Vijay 🙂

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