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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 review: Sturdy design can't make up for subpar screen

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MSRP: $299.00
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The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10’s superslim, unique design makes it easy to hold. It’s also only $300.

The Bad The tablet’s low-resolution screen looks fuzzy and oversaturated, and the heavily modified operating system is downright ugly.

The Bottom Line Though it feels well-built and has a handy kickstand, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet’s poor performance makes it hard to justify even the low cost.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 4

Review Sections

Lenovo added two tablets to its convertible Yoga line with the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10. Though they're aesthetically unique, with a design that features a rounded spine and kickstand, their identical internal specs, mediocre screens, and heavily modified operating systems prove less than exciting.

The tablets get their Yoga names thanks to a kickstand on the back of each device, which props them up on a flat surface to give you a variety of viewing angles. They don't, however, transform as much as other Yoga devices, since neither includes a keyboard.

At $250 for the 8-inch model and $300 for the 10-incher, the Yoga tablets are much cheaper than other tablets on the market. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for here, and that low price gets you an overall unimpressive tablet whose best feature is its long battery life.

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10. James Martin/CNET

Design and features
A major selling feature of the Yoga 10 is its sturdy and unique design. It looks a lot like an Apple Wireless Keyboard, with its thin body and cylindrical edge on one side.

Officially, it measures 10.3 inches wide by 7.1 inches tall and at it's thinnest point, it's just 0.12 inch deep. It also weighs only 1.3 pounds. It has a silver polycarbonate textured back cover that looks like metal and feels smooth.

Lenovo Yoga 10 Google Nexus 10 Toshiba Excite Pure Asus Memo Pad FHD 10
Weight in pounds 1.3 1.33 1.39 1.24
Width in inches (landscape) 10.3 10.4 10.3 10.1
Height in inches 7.1 6.9 7 7.2
Depth in inches 0.12-0.32 0.35 0.4 0.37

The tablet's rounded edge (0.32 inch), which I am calling the spine, houses the tablet's battery and other components, allowing it to have a slim design everywhere else. It also changes the Yoga's center of gravity, and makes it remarkably comfortable to hold. When I held the tablet by the spine, to read a book or Web site, it fit nicely in my hands.

The spine also props up the tablet so you can lie it flat on a surface and view the screen at a slight angle, which makes it easier to type on the screen.

Lenovo Yoga 10
The fully extended kickstand. James Martin/CNET

There's also an aluminum kickstand nestled in that spine, which folds away from the device to prop it up. The kickstand is awkward to open at first, but you quickly get used to it.

To open the kickstand, hold one edge of the tablet in one hand, grip the spine, and then rotate it away from the body of the tablet. Then, once the edge of kickstand lifts up, you can grab it and open it. I don't recommend that you try to pry it open using your fingernails -- the amount of force needed means you'll likely tear up your nails.

There are two grip pads on the edge of the kickstand that are meant to give it extra stability and, on this model, they worked well to prevent the tablet from sliding around when I tapped the screen.

Once the kickstand is open, you can adjust the viewing angle between roughly 80 and 30 degrees. You can also lay the back of the tablet on a surface and use the kickstand to prop up the spine end for typing. Just in case you're wondering, you can't use the kickstand in portrait mode -- it's not large enough to prop it up that way. Behind the kickstand, there's a microSD card slot that can add up to 64GB of extra storage.

Lenovo Yoga 10
Here you can see the tablet's spine and over-sized power button. James Martin/CNET

On one end of the spine, there's an oversized power button that's easy to press, but recessed enough that you won't accidently hit it. It's so large that you can blindly feel around for it and press it without looking, which is nice. It will glow when the battery is getting low and you need to charge the tablet. Above the power button there's a microUSB charging port.

The opposite end of the spine has a headphone jack that's also slightly recessed. Above that, there's a volume rocker which is frankly too small for an 8-inch tablet. It's hard to tell which end is volume up and which is volume down without looking at it.

One the front, there are two Dolby Digital Plus DS1 front-facing speakers. There's also a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a 1.6-megapixel front camera for video chatting.

Unfortunately for the Yoga 10, it has the same 1,280x800 resolution (150ppi) that's on the smaller Yoga 8. On an 8-inch screen, that resolution isn't terrible, but stretched to 10 inches, it looks, well, stretched out. Icons look fuzzy and photos aren't as sharp as they are when viewed on other screens. Luckily, all but the tiniest text is easy to read, so you won't have trouble reading books or websites.

Lenovo Yoga 10
Colors on the Yoga 10's screen look artificial. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

The problems with the screen don't end with the mediocre resolution: There are also issues with how colors look on the tablet. They're very vibrant, but also oversaturated and unnatural. This was a problem I encountered in many places on the tablet -- on the home screen, in games, and while playing video.

While watching a HD animated show, lines looked distorted with a stair-stepping effect, a problem that arises when a screen doesn''t have enough pixels to make them appear smooth. On live-action video, fine details are hard to distinguish and faces occasionally look murky.

Lenovo Yoga 10 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) LG G Pad 8.3
Maximum brightness 435 cd/m2 570 cd/m2 395 cd/m2 289 cd/m2
Maximum black level .39 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2 0.39 cd/m2 0.24 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,115:1 1,295:1 1,021:1 1,204:1
Pixels per inch 150ppi 323ppi 189ppi 273ppi

Software features
The Yoga is running Android Jelly Bean 4.2, but has a completely custom design from Lenovo. There's no app drawer, so all the apps live on your home screens, which can get messy. There's also a lot of wasted space on the sides in landscape and at the top and bottom in portrait mode, which bothered me. This was especially a problem when trying to add widgets, as I would quickly run out of space, even when it looked like it had plenty of room.

There's a custom home screen menu that you access by tapping the three dots on the bottom-right of the screen; here you can change the wallpaper, quickly jump to settings, and add widgets.

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