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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

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.

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5.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 4

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.

The tablet comes with a handful of custom apps from Lenovo, several third-party titles, and the typical Google apps suite. There's a maps-and-navigation app called Navigate 6, a voice recorder, and a power management app, which changes settings to keep your battery alive longer. There's also Norton Mobile Security, Kindle, AccuWeather, and Skype.

Lenovo Yoga 10
The tablet is running a modified version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

One unique feature allows you to schedule when the tablet turns on and off in the settings menu. That means you could watch a video in bed at night and schedule it to shut off at 11 p.m., then turn back on at 6 a.m. so you can read the news in the morning. You could also use it to ensure that your kids don't stay up late reading bed, assuming they don't know how to override it.

There's a media shortcut menu called Smart Bar, which gives you quick access to books, movies, music, and apps. You can turn it on in settings and then, starting with your finger on the screen bezel, swipe left toward the middle of the display to pull it up (or swipe to the right in portrait mode).

Lenovo also includes three viewing modes, Hold, Stand, and Tilt, that change the display and audio settings to fit the activity. Hold mode enhances the audio for music, Tilt changes the sound and video settings to the ones that are best for gaming, and in Stand mode, the settings adjust for playing video. When you turn on any of those modes, the Smart Bar changes its layout to highlight certain apps. For instance, in Hold mode the Kindle app takes the top spot, while in Stand mode, large tiles for videos and photos appear. You can switch between modes in the Smart Bar.

Hardware
Inside, there's a quad-core 1.2GHz MT8125 MediaTek CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage.

The tablet's 5-megapixel back camera with auto focus does a decent job of snapping both close-up and wide shots. It's not a major selling point, but the performance is commendable.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Lenovo Yoga 10 1.2GHz MT8125 MediaTek CPU PowerVR Series5XT 1GB Android 4.2.2
Google Nexus 7 (2013) 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Adreno 320 (single-core) 2GB Android 4.3
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch) 1.5GHz quad-core Exynos 4 Dual (4212) Mali T400MP4 (quad-core) 1.5GB Android 4.2.2
LG G Pad 8.3 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor Adreno 320 (single-core) 2GB Android 4.2.2

For video chatting, there's a front-facing 1.6-megapixel camera on the left screen bezel. It's actually one of the better front cameras I've seen; the image looks clear and there are minimal lighting problems.

Other features include an e-compass, accelerometer, GPS, and an automatic brightness sensor.

Performance
The Yoga's performance doesn't blow me away, but it's not bad either. Moving through menus and opening apps feels snappy, though applications that require a lot of processing power can be sluggish.

The tablet struggles to handle graphics-heavy games like N.O.V.A. 3; it took more than five minutes to load the first level and the graphics in the game were often blurry. It did, however, play Temple Run 2 without issues, though the colors looked oversaturated.

N.O.V.A. 3 Level 1 load time (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

3DMark (Normal)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The speakers have Dolby Digital Plus DS1 technology, which is meant to enhance the overall audio quality. There's an option in the quick settings menu (which appears when you swipe down on the right side of the screen) to toggle the Dolby sound enhancement off and on, and there's also an app where you can select sound profiles for gaming, watching movies, or playing music.

Lenovo Yoga 10
The front speakers use Dolby Digital Plus technology to boost audio quality. James Martin/CNET

Despite all this, the sound quality isn't impressive. The speakers sound very loud at the highest volume, especially with Dolby Digital Plus turned on, but the audio sounds flat with weak bass. With Dolby Digital Plus turned off, voices sound more prominent, but music sounds faint and, again, flat. With headphones plugged in, the sound gets better, but not by much. I also didn't notice any dramatic differences in sound quality between the aforementioned audio profiles.

Lenovo Yoga 10
The Yoga 10 has a silver polycarbonate back. James Martin/CNET

The Yoga 10's long battery life helps makes up for its other weak points. It's sporting a 9,000mAh battery, which is on par with the batteries you find in laptops. That should give you nearly all-day battery life and Lenovo says that it will last for 13 hours while browsing the Internet on Wi-Fi with 50 percent brightness. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video Battery life (in hours)
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 12.4

Conclusion
Given that most 10-inch tablets are used as at-home entertainment devices for watching videos and playing games, it's hard to recommend the Lenovo Yoga 10. Though its kickstand makes it really easy to prop up the tablet on a table so you can sit back and watch a movie, the awful screen and poor speaker quality really put a damper on the whole viewing experience.

Really, the tablet's only two redeeming qualities are the 13-plus hours of promised battery life and its $300 price tag, which is lower than its competition. If cost is crucial for you when picking a tablet, the Yoga is at least a better value than the equally priced Toshiba Excite Pure, which has an even lower-resolution display.

However, for $100 more, you can get one of our top picks for a 10-inch Android tablet, the Nexus 10. The Nexus 10's screen is far superior to the one on the Yoga, it has much better performance, and it's running a pure version of Android. Another highly recommended choice is the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, which costs $379 and bests the Lenovo Yoga in both screen quality and performance. If either of those tablets are in your price range, I suggest you pick them over the Yoga.

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