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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with AnyPen review: A stylus-friendly Windows tablet with a tiny screen

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The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 features AnyPen technology that allows you to use any metal object as a stylus. Its rounded spine makes it easy to hold, and the kickstand is a welcome addition. Battery life is stellar.

The Bad The small screen isn't ideal for a desktop-like PC experience, and it lacks a keyboard accessory. There are miniscule port options.

The Bottom Line If you can live with the fact that its screen is too small for the full Windows 8 experience, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2's comfy build and cutting-edge stylus technology are compelling enough reasons to own it.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 9

Say goodbye to the anxiety of losing your stylus. The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 features AnyPen technology, which allows any metal object to be used as a stylus. Eight-inch Windows tablets that pack the perk of a stylus are few and far between. Lenovo's implementation, with its cutting-edge twist, makes it stand out even more among its competition.

Starting at $299 (£195 and AU$370, converted) the Yoga Tablet 2 features an ergonomic and useful design that's conveniently compact. Like other Lenovo Yoga tablets, the 8-inch Windows model houses a built-in kickstand for propping it up vertically or on its side, and its chunky rounded spine makes holding it one-handed as comfortable as a well-worn paperback book.

Despite its high-tech stylus capabilities and innovative design, its average performance is less impressive, though typical for an 8-inch Windows tablet in its price range. If you're fan of using a stylus, this is one of the most portable, stylus-friendly tablets out there. However, don't expect it to replace your desktop PC; the screen is just way too small to run Windows 8 comfortably.

Specs compared

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Asus VivoTab Note 8 Acer Iconia W4-820-2466 Dell Venue 8 Pro
Price $299 $329 $349 $300
Display size/resolution 8-inch, 1,280x800 touchscreen 8.1-inch, 1,280x800 touchscreen 8.1-inch, 1,280x800 touchscreen 8.1-inch, 1,280x800 touch screen
PC CPU 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3745 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D
PC Memory 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1,066MHz 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1,066MHz 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 1,066MHz 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 32MB Intel HD Graphics 32MB Intel HD Graphics Intel HD Graphics
Storage 32GB SSD hard drive 32GB SSD hard drive 64GB SSD hard drive 32GB SSD hard drive
Optical drive None None None None
Networking 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 (32-bit) Windows 8.1 (32-bit) Windows 8.1 (32-bit) Windows 8 (32-bit)

Design and features

It doesn't look unique if you're familiar with Lenovo's line of Yoga tablets, but when compared to the rest of the 8-inch Windows models available, the Yoga Tablet 2 is exceptionally distinct. Its build culminates at the chunky rounded spine on the bottom. It makes holding the tablet in one hand ergonomically comfortable, and it also houses the built-in kickstand on the back. By utilizing the kickstand, you can prop up the tablet for easy hands-free video streaming, lay it down for a comfortable typing angle (or writing, in the Yoga Tablet 2's case), and you can even hang it up if you so wish.

The power button is located at the right end of the chunky spine, with the volume rocker and Micro-USB port above it. Similarly, the headphone jack is on the opposite end of the spine, with the Windows button sitting atop it.

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The left edge houses the power button and volume rocker. Josh Miller/CNET

In a weird move, the rear camera is located on the left-rear edge of the spine. Adjusting your hands to grip the tablet while keeping your fingers from blocking the lens is a bit awkward. The good news is that the camera quality isn't half bad. The 8-megapixel photos come out sharp with lifelike colors.

North of the rounded spine, the rest of the tablet is impressively thin at 2.5mm. It's also relatively light, weighing in at 0.31-pounds (426g). Primarily slim and sleek, it's a refined mix of fashion and functionality, but tablet traditionalists might eschew the out-of-the-box concept for a more basic build.

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No need to hold onto this tablet in order to use it. Josh Miller/CNET

The Windows 8.1 model of the 8-inch Lenovo Yoga Tab 2 (there's also an Android version ) is the first tablet to boast AnyPen technology. Allowing you to use any metal object as a stylus, feel free to bust out your pocket knife, pen, pencil or house keys to navigate the OS, write notes or create your magnum opus.

The versatility of using any nearby utensil to write with is an unparalleled feature, in comparison to other stylus-bearing tablets. I found pens left small ink marks on the screen, which are easy to remove with a microfiber cloth and a little bit of elbow grease, but I preferred to opt out of the constant screen maintenance and just use a pencil.

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Using a pen to utilize the AnyPen technology. Josh Miller/CNET

Writing and drawing with the makeshift stylus worked smoothly, yet every once in awhile I encountered an item that wouldn't respond well to the screen. I also found taps and other gestures inconsistently responsive, so navigating around the Windows 8.1 system is easier using a finger.

Lenovo ships the Yoga Tablet 2 with a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365, and OneNote comes preloaded on the tablet. The AnyPen functionality on OneNote worked well, with fast and consistent response to the stylus. There aren't any other stylus-geared apps preloaded onto the tablet, but you can easily download programs like the free painting app, Fresh Paint, which gives you enough creative tools to reveal your inner Monet.

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Propped up or down, the kickstand makes using the tablet easier on your eyes and hands. Josh Miller/CNET

The sharp IPS LCD screen dons a 1,280x800-pixel resolution, average for an 8-inch Windows tablet in this price range. On such a small display, a higher resolution wouldn't make a dramatic difference. It's not a bad-looking screen, but it's also not great. Viewing angles are wide, and HD video looks crisp and colorful enough. However, small text can look pixelated at times.

The Yoga Tablet 2 also houses Dolby-powered speakers. The pair face the front of the tablet -- a useful yet understated design choice -- and audio quality is crisp at medium levels. They can sound a bit harsh at full volume, not to mention lacking in bass, but both of these are common downsides to tablet speakers.

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Look, Ma! One hand! Josh Miller/CNET

Connections

Video None
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 Micro-USB 2.0, microSD card reader
Networking 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance and battery

Connection options on the Yoga Tablet 2 are limited. It offers a microSD card slot that's hidden behind the built-in kickstand and Micro-USB port. Lenovo doesn't include or offer a keyboard dock that's especially for the tablet, so expect to use a universal Bluetooth keyboard is needed.

Powering the tablet is an Intel Atom Z3745 processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that's expandable up to an extra 64GB via microSD card. The Atom CPU is typical for an affordably priced 8-inch Windows tablet, and the 32GB of internal storage is as well. However, if you like downloading a lot of apps or loading HD content onto your tablet, that's a low starting point; 64GB might be a better option.

lenovo-tablet-2-anypen-8500.jpg
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Paint like a high-tech Picasso. Josh Miller/CNET

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
468
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2
973
Toshiba Encore 2
1118

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
109
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2
399
Toshiba Encore 2
412

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video playback battery drain test

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2
702
Toshiba Encore 2
436
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
314

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3745; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 64MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core M 5Y71; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5300 Graphics; 128GB SSD

Toshiba Encore 2
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3735F; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SSD

Though I never faced any dramatic issues, I wasn't very impressed with the Yoga Tablet 2's performance. The tile-based Windows 8 menu ran smoother than the desktop, however a sluggish response to swipes and stuttering screens while navigating was a frequent occurence for both. Launching and downloading apps, as well as switching between them tended to lag for more than a few seconds. I also found websites to take some time to load if my Wi-Fi connection wasn't strong.

What the Yoga Tablet 2 lacks in speed it -- not surprisingly -- makes up for in battery life. The battery lasted an impressive 702 minutes (11.7 hours) in our battery drain test. That's about four-and-a-half hours longer than its closest competitor, the Toshiba Encore 2, which lasted 436 minutes (7.3 hours). Both systems clobbered the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi's battery, which lasted a paltry 314 minutes (5.2 hours).

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As sharp as an old Cutco knife. Josh Miller/CNET

Conclusion

If you need a compact tablet for casual use -- with a productivity-centered approach -- the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 stands out from similar 8-inch Windows tablets, thanks to its versatile stylus functionality and thoughtful design. If a stylus and handy-dandy kickstand are of no importance, there are better choices out there.

More affordable options include the Asus VivoTab 8, another rare model that offers a stylus; the Acer Iconia W4 , which features great battery life and enough ports to support basic productivity; and the Dell Venue 8 Pro , one of the better-looking 8-inch Windows tablets around.

Unlike some of the more robust Windows 8 tablets, the Yoga Tablet 2 is not an ideal desktop replacement. The screen is likely too small for the things you want to do on a Windows 8 machine, and its lack of ports and connections, as well as absent keyboard accessory, don't help. It makes a good on-the-go tablet for students, creative professionals and other working people that need a portable workstation to supplement their desktop PC.

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