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Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro review: A unique tablet for watching video with family and friends

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The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro has a built-in pico projector and an ergonomic design with a kickstand. Performance and gaming is fast. Screen is sharp and speakers are loud. Battery life is long.

The Bad It's a bit heavy and its cylindrical spine makes it awkward to hold in landscape orientation.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is the best Android tablet for watching video. Either alone or, thanks to its built-in projector, with a large group of friends.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

If you've seen one tablet you've seen them all, right? Not exactly. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro offers you what no other tablet will; a projector. Granted, it's a pico projector, not a full 1080p projector, but for a tablet with a starting price of $500/AU$699 (UK pricing and availability has yet to be announced; prices directly convert to £335), you have to check your expectations at the door, since most good projectors start around $700. That pico projector itself isn't amazing, but the fact that it's built-in to a tablet is.

Calling the Lenovo's pico projector a gimmick would be reductive; it's the cherry on top of an already sweet Android tablet. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is a speedy performer with powerful gaming prowess, loud speakers and a crystal clear screen. Its ergonomic design features a built-in kickstand and a cylindrical spine that makes it comfortable to grip in one hand. It also has a long-lasting battery. Finding all of these features in a tablet is a rarity. Throw in the pico projector and you've got the most unique tablet in the world.

Tell me more

Most tablets don a slate-like design. The Yoga Tab 3 Pro deviates from this norm with a cylindrical spine on the bottom edge, which also happens to house the battery. After testing it in the CNET Lab by looping a local 720p video (on its screen, not through the projector) in airplane mode at medium brightness, the tablet lasted 12.8 hours. That's impressively long for any tablet, especially one with such a big screen.

The 10.1-inch Yoga Tab 3 Pro looks like a larger version of the 8-inch Yoga Tab 3 with a few minor differences. Instead of a pico projector, the smaller model has an impressive rotatable camera. It also features a polished aluminum back, whereas the Yoga Tab 3 Pro has a soft leather-like back panel. For more details on the similar design, check out the Yoga Tab 3's review.

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The built-in kickstand is incredibly useful.

Josh Miller/CNET

Behind the grill that horizontally extends across the tablet's bottom edge are four front-facing JBL speakers. Also built-in is Dolby Atmos technology, which tries to replicate the way sound travels in real life. The speakers are satisfyingly loud and clear. If you use the pre-loaded Dolby App, it helps beef up the audio for a more immersive experience; by using the pre-sets it punches up vocals in music, sound effects in games and background noises in movies. They're not the best, but they're some of the best you'll find on a tablet, and they suitably complement the theater-like feel of the projector.

Performance-wise, the tablet is consistently swift when surfing the Web, streaming video and playing games. It slowed if apps were downloading or updating in the background; swipes took a few more seconds to be recognized and apps took longer to launch. This is typical for most tablets, however it occasionally happened if I started using the tablet after it had been asleep for awhile. It didn't happen often enough to hinder my overall experience, but it was annoying to deal with sometimes. Considering this could be fixed with a software update, it's not a deal-breaker. However, there's no word yet if Lenovo has any plans to improve performance.

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The pico projector is built into the rotatable spine.

Josh Miller/CNET

It's worth noting that the Yoga Tab 3 Pro has some impressive gaming prowess. It has the second best 3DMark gaming benchmark score, sandwiched between the Google Pixel C on top and Apple iPad Air 2 on bottom. It's also fast at launching big games, like Hearthstone and Dead Trigger 2. Unfortunately, for games that require both thumbs on-screen, its chunky bottom edge makes it awkward to hold in landscape orientation.

3DMark benchmarks

Google Pixel C
40922
Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro
25928
Apple iPad Air 2
22008

Note:

Longer bars indicate faster performance

The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro's screen has a 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution -- that's as sharp as tablet screens get these days -- with 299 pixels per inch (ppi). It's bright, crystal-clear and displays accurate colors, though in side-by-side comparisons, its color range is duller than the super-saturated Galaxy Tab S2. I still found it satisfyingly colorful enough for vibrant imagery when watching both animated films and live-action video.

Become a pro with the projector

It's important to remember that the Lenovo simply offers a pico projector, which isn't very sharp or very bright, especially in comparison to a normal projector. If you want something better, there are a variety of options, however none have the added benefit of being built into a tablet.

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There's a dedicated projector button for turning it on and off.

Josh Miller/CNET

I found the projector's video quality (480p resolution and 50 lumens that can project up to a 70-inch image) fine for casually watching TV with my partner and streaming endless puppy videos with my friends. It's very useful when you want to share what you're watching with other people. Only when I switched back to the tablet's touchscreen did I regretfully note the projector's lackluster quality.

Even though I have high standards for video quality, I still think the projector is a cool feature. It's not necessarily useful for me personally, but it's the type of creative tech that marries fun and functionality. The Yoga Tab 3 Pro definitely ranks among the best, however the route it takes to stand out from the pack is one that offers a unique, sharable viewing experience for you and your family and friends.

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Setting it up takes a little time and thought.

Josh Miller/CNET

After having used the tablet for awhile, I accrued some knowledge on how to best set up the projector. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Choose your location thoughtfully
  • Find the focus
  • Optimize audio

Choose your location thoughtfully

Obviously, a blank, white flat surface works best for projecting the image. That can be a wall, ceiling or bed sheet. Whatever works for you. If there aren't any in your home or wherever you'd like to use the projector, it's worth investing a few bucks on a large white poster board at your local drug or art supply store.

Once you've got your "projector screen," the tablet needs to be placed where the image can successfully reach it. Though you can technically use the projector anywhere, that doesn't mean setting it up will work well wherever you are. It has to be set up high enough to project onto your makeshift screen. The kickstand built into the tablet rotates up to 180-degrees (so you can project on the ceiling) however the image can look more trapezoid-shaped at some angles --despite some decent keystoning on the tablet's part -- so making sure the tablet is high enough for your screen results in a straighter image.

This is simple if there's a table at an appropriate height next to where you're sitting (e.g., coffee table in front of your couch), otherwise getting creative with chairs, stools and books works too. Additionally, like a normal projector, you can hang it on a wall using the little hole in the center of its kickstand.

The projected image looks brighter the closer it is to the screen. It's not incredibly bright, so the darker your environment the better it'll look. I didn't find a sweet spot for the best distance to place the tablet from the screen. It takes some time to find where works best for you, but once you got your placement set, the rest is a breeze.

Find the focus

The projector turns on by using the dedicated button on the right end of the tablet's cylindrical edge, or by swiping up from the home screen and using the shortcut settings menu. As I previously mentioned, the tablet automatically adjusts the image so it looks as straight as possible after you change the angle of the stand. You'll want to get your angle right first before adjusting the focus.

After the projector turns on, a window with a small dial in the center appears on the right side of the screen. You can rotate it left or right to adjust the focus. There's no wrong way to turn the dial, you just move it around until your eyes determine it's at its sharpest possible resolution. Tap anywhere outside of the window to make it disappear. You can access it anytime the projector is on by pressing the projector button on the side. Friendly reminder: it's not HD and it won't get as sharp as you might be used to.

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Adjusting the focus isn't an exact science.

Josh Miller/CNET

Optimize the audio

You won't find a tiny tinny speaker on the Lenovo like you will on the majority of other tablets. Make sure to fire up the Dolby app before starting your movie to get the best audio experience possible. If you like tweaking with the settings, you can customize the audio levels to your liking.

Why should I buy it?

If you love watching movies, streaming endless amounts of YouTube videos, or binge-watching the latest Netflix series, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro lets you enjoy your favorite content like no other tablet, even without the pico projector. The sharp screen, loud speakers, long battery life and built-in kickstand make it a winning choice for heavy video-watchers. Add the pico projector and it's unrivaled in its low-key theater-like experience to share with friends. That doesn't mean it doesn't have tough competition.

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You won't find this feature on an iPad.

Josh Miller/CNET

The tablet market is oversaturated. Anyone interested in a tablet for the typical reasons -- casual Web surfing, streaming video and gaming -- will find a plethora to choose from. Narrowing down your choices comes down to more specific needs. If you have any use for a lightweight projector, whether for business presentations or makeshift movie nights, the Lenovo offers a unique alternative to your average tablet or a standalone pico projector. The pico projector isn't the best, but as an added feature onto an otherwise impressive tablet, its shortcomings are forgivable.

The Apple iPad Air 2, Google Pixel C, and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 are three of the best-in-class due to their fashionably slim designs, fast performance and spectacular screens. The entry-level models have the same starting price as the Lenovo, however the Google and Lenovo tablets offer double the amount of internal storage than the Apple and Samsung models (32GB versus 16GB). As great as the Samsung, Google and Apple tablets may be, they're all pretty homogenous for tablets. Out of the box, one doesn't really offer more functions than the other. The Lenovo is a refreshingly different tablet with a unique appeal. Anyone who wants a tablet for watching a lot of video with friends should consider picking it up.

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