The Yoga Tablet 8 is one of Lenovo's biggest launches in 2013. Here's our review of the firm's latest Android tablet.
The other big tablet launch is a 10in version of the device but the Yoga Tablet 8 is a little more interesting. Lenovo has priced it at £199 matching Google's Nexus 7 2013 model and comes with a somewhat fresh approach to tablet design. The cylinder section down one side is key to the way it works.
The design of the tablet is the main selling point, partly because it's something a bit different and partly since the specs aren't anything special. The Yoga Tablet earns the first part of its name by being 'multi-mode' this means the tablet can be used in various different positions.
Like any tablet you can hold the Yoga in portrait or landscape. That's called 'hold mode' but in portrait it's much easier to hold that others because the vast majority of the weight is on one side and therefore in your hand. Its svelte shape also makes it look sleek and desirable.
The wedge style shape means that, when placed on a flat surface, the tablet is angled slightly towards you, again making it easier to use. It's called 'tilt mode' and flipping out the built-in kickstand angles it further but isn't its main use.
It's primarily for 'stand mode' which does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows the tablet to stand up on its own without the help of a case or anything else for that matter, a bit like the Surface kickstand. Unlike Microsoft's tablet, the Yoga Tablet's stand allows the viewing angle to be adjusted a reasonable amount.
All of these design features make the Yoga Tablet a versatile tablet. We find hold mode makes most sense on the 8in model while stand mode lends itself better to the larger screen of the 10in version.
It's nice to see a tablet other than the iPads coming with some aluminium. The Yoga Tablet's kickstand is made from the shiny silver metal, as is the edging around the sides. However, the remaining parts of the device, bar the glass screen, are plastic. The rear cover has a nice micro textured finish but feels cheap and slightly tacky.
If you want a good looking and versatile tablet then the Yoga Tablet will suit, especially when you consider its reasonable price tag. However, if specifications are important then read on before you part with your cash.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8: Hardware and performance
While the Yoga Tablet has an impressive and innovative design, its hardware doesn't go very far in impressing us.
It's got an adequate 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 1GB RAM backed up with 16- or 32GB of internal storage, although we can only see the former on Lenovo's store. A plus point is the microSD card slot which is neatly hidden behind the kickstand and can accept up to 64 GB cards.
A speedy quad-core processor might sound good but we didn't find performance of the Yoga Tablet 8 to be anything special. Like the (much cheaper) Tesco Hudl, it's nippy around the homescreens but more demanding tasks show signs of lag. Scrolling through the Play Store, for example, is often jerky and switching between open apps can take a couple of seconds.
This is reflected in the following benchmark results which shouldn't be used to making a buying decision. Geekbench 2: 1322, GLBenchmark 2.5: 13fps and SunSpider 1.0: 1565ms.
The screen is 8in giving a little more real estate than its rivals, apart from the iPad mini, but it has a uninspiring resolution of 1280 x 800 which the new Nexus 7 puts to shame (remember it costs the same amount). It does offer great viewing angles though and since the 10in model has the same resolution, things are crisper here at 187ppi.
We have unfortunately found it occasionally glitchy, flickering and stuttering.
There are front and rear facing cameras on the Yoga Tablet 8 and although stand mode means hands-free video chats, the camera is positioned at the side when in this position resulting in a slightly strange angle. The picture quality is fairly good. The rear camera, rated at 5Mp is also ok, but won't take any astoundingly good shots.
One thing we particularly like is the front facing stereo speakers which is an area often overlooked on tablets. If you're going to watch video content on Netflix or BBC iPlayer then these will be a real boon.
There's little else to mention hardware wise as the Yoga Tablet 8 is fitted with standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. There's no NFC or other features such as an infrared transmitter. However, if you want data on the go, the device will be available in a 3G model (not 4G) - this feature adds £30 to the price.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8: Software
Both Yoga Tablet models come pre-loaded with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. That's a little out of date now with the arrival of the Nexus 5 and version 4.4 KitKat. We don't know when an update will be released so we'll stick to what the tablet is like on 4.2.
The interface isn't a complete overhaul but Lenovo hasn't exactly left it alone, either. We're not massively keen of the cartoonish style but that's personal preference – switching the them to 'age' helps this slightly. Lenovo has gone down the unnecessary route of removing the Android app menu which forces all your app icons to sit on the homescreen cluttering it up unless you group them into folders.
We do like the Smart Side Bar which gives access to app shortcuts, media content and the different sound and visual settings for the tablet's different modes. However, this is switched off by default and doesn't work unless you're on the homescreen. It also confusingly comes in from the left in portrait and from the right in landscape. We found all this out for ourselves as there's no indication from the software itself, even in the 'features guide'.
There are a number of pre-loaded apps apart from the usual Google foray including AccuWeather, Skype, Navigate 6, ES File Explorer, Norton Mobile Security and Kingsoft Office. Should you find these not useful, they can be uninstalled.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8: Battery life
A 10 hour battery life for a tablet is great, but Lenovo touts up to a whopping 18 hours. However, read the small print and this is with quite a varied usage consisting of two hours video playback, two hours of MP3 audio playback, two hours of internet browsing using Wi-Fi followed by 12 hours of eBook reading.
Nevertheless, we were very impressed with a result of 12 hours streaming BBC iPlayer video content over Wi-Fi. That means it outclasses the Nexus 7 by more than three hours.