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Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 review: An affordable Android tablet with functional flair

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The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 has a practical design that features a built-in kickstand. There is a rotatable camera that takes sharp photos and front-facing speakers that provide rich and clear audio. Battery life is long.

The Bad It's a bit heavy for its small size. Large games are slow to load.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 is the tablet to get if your needs are simple and your budget is low.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 is one of the most unique tablets you can buy under $200. Not only does its refreshing design exude a balance of innovation and functionality, it has two of the rarest features you can find on a tablet: powerful speakers and a sharp camera -- a camera that can also rotate 180 degrees.

Its design deviates from the traditional slim, rectangular tablet aesthetic, due to its cylindrical spine. The chunky aluminum clad edge is comfortable to hold in one hand, and it additionally houses a built-in kick-stand in the back for when you want to lay back, relax and catch up on "The Walking Dead."

An immersive pair of front-facing speakers on the 8-inch tablet further accentuates the portable viewing experience. Dolby Atmos technology and the preloaded Dolby app help make dialogue in TV shows and vocals in songs sound crisp and clear, while sound effects in games and movies dynamically travel between the speakers for an enthralling experience.

The only thing harder to find on a tablet than good speakers is a good camera. The Lenovo has one of those, too. It has a solitary 8-megapixel camera located on its spine and it rotates 180 degrees to double as a front and rear camera. This isn't just a fancy gimmick; the camera actually takes sharp, evenly exposed photos with accurate colors. I'm not saying it can beat the Apple iPhone 6S or Samsung Galaxy S6 in a shoot-out, but it definitely blows most other tablet cameras out of the water.

At its $170 starting price, the Yoga Tab 3 isn't all sunshine and rainbows. In order to offer the tablet at its wallet-friendly price, Lenovo had to skimp somewhere. This is why its software features fall on the dull side of things. You won't find a bevy of trial magazine subscriptions like you will on the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 , or a content-rich operating system, like the Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet. Instead, you get a basic Android experience with no fancy bells and whistles. An operating system offering only the bare necessities is the tablet's biggest fault, but since it's such a solid piece of hardware, it's not immensely detrimental to its appeal.

The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3's crystal-clear speakers, sharp rotatable camera and uniquely useful design pack a practical punch that similarly priced tablets simply don't have. With its performance and screen quality in the wheelhouse of comparable models, the Yoga Tab 3's distinct features gives it the oomph it needs to stand out from the pack.

Design

If you've ever seen one of Lenovo's Android-based Yoga tablets, the Yoga Tab 3 will look familiar. If you haven't, it might look a little odd. Instead of your uniformly thin, simple rectangular-shaped slate, this tablet features a chunky rounded spine. Its aluminum construction feels velvety smooth and its extra girth makes it easy to grip in one hand, like holding a paperback book with its pages folded back.

Dimensions compared

Tested spec Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Amazon Fire HD 8 Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0
Weight 1.04 pounds (471g) 0.68 pound (311g) 0.69 pound (313g)
Width (landscape) 8.3 inches (210mm) 8.4 inches (214mm) 8.2 inches (208mm)
Height 5.74 inches (146mm) 5 inches (128mm) 5.4 inches (137mm)
Depth 0.13 inch (3.3mm) 0.3 inch (7.7mm) 0.29 inch (7.4mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.69 inch (18mm) 0.68 inch (17mm) 0.75 inch (19mm)

On the left end of the spine is the power button, with the Micro-USB port and volume rocker above it on the tablet's slim edge, and on the opposite is the headphone jack. The spine is also home to the front-facing speakers and a camera. The camera (you'll find more about it in the Performance section) can rotate 180 degrees, so it cleverly doubles as both a rear- and front-facing camera.

The tablet's back panel bears a finely textured matte finish, and it provides a nice grip when holding the tablet in landscape orientation. You'll also find that the aluminum that the cylindrical spine is made of extends to about a quarter of the tablet's back. There's an oval button at its center, and when pressed, the small aluminum panel pops out. It can then flip out to 90 degrees, for using as a kickstand, or to about 160 degrees, for hanging it, if that's more your style. Thanks to its sturdy construction, it feels solid when propped up or laid down.

lenovo-yoga-tab-3-4577-010.jpg

A different profile.

Josh Miller/CNET

I really like the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3's comfortable and convenient design. I found myself using the tablet in portrait orientation more that other tablets, because I preferred holding it by its chunky spine, but I mostly utilized the kickstand, unless playing a game that required both thumbs on the screen. It's extremely convenient when watching video -- I was free to lie back and relax.

Sure, you can buy a case that doubles as a stand, but the built-in functionality of the Yoga Tab 3's design is a thoughtful addition that eliminates that extra step. Even though it's a bit heavier than its comparable tablets, its smart design and solid feel outshine the competition.

lenovo-yoga-tab-3-4577-010.jpg

The built-in stand is useful for longterm use.

Josh Miller/CNET

Features

In contrast to its excitingly innovative design, the Lenovo Tab Yoga 3's software features are less exciting. It runs a mostly pure version of Android 5.1.1 and comes with some preloaded software. In addition to the full suite of Google apps, like Gmail, Maps, YouTube and Drive, Lenovo packs the Yoga Tab 3 with SyncIt HD, ShareIt and McAfee Security.

SyncIt is a user-friendly app for backing up your contacts and data to a microSD card, or for restoring data from an microSD card. ShareIt lets you share documents between Android, iOS and Windows devices, without the need of Wi-Fi. Instead, it activates the device's hotspot (if available) for a direct connection to the other device. Though it works fine to send a few files, in the time it took for my phone to find the tablet, I could've sent the same files via e-mail at least twice. Also, since it doesn't work with Macs, it wasn't very useful for me.

lenovo-yoga-tab-3-4577-010.jpg

A simple operating system for a simple tablet.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 provides everything you need for a pleasant Android experience. It doesn't offer anything extra (like exclusive free apps or a modified operating system overlay) to make using the tablet special. If you need a tablet for basic use, this isn't a bad thing. In fact, you're getting exactly what you're paying for.

Hardware

The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 houses a 1.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm APQ8009 processor, Adreno 304 GPU, 16GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM. It houses a microSD card slot that can accept cards with capacities of up to 128GB. It also offers Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi.

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