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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 review: A handy design stuck with a hapless Android skin

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MSRP: $299.99

The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 has a useful design with a built-in kickstand and long battery life. The front-facing speakers are loud, and the Dolby app punches up the audio quality.

The Bad The heavily modified Android overlay lacks an app tray and customization features. Some text looks pixelated, and the touchscreen sometimes fails to recognize taps. Apps occasionally crash.

The Bottom Line The Yoga Tablet 2's unique design can't overshadow its tragically stripped-down UI and irregular performance issues.

Visit for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

Lenovo tablets are known for innovative designs that thoughtfully take into account the functions of a tablet in everyday use. The Yoga Tablet 2 hits that nail on the head but disappoints almost everywhere else.

While most manufacturers are busy building razor-thin, light-as-air slates, Lenovo takes a more practical approach. Its best feature is the built-in kickstand, which is undeniably useful for activities like watching video, playing games or emailing.

Good design only gets you so far, however. The Yoga Tablet 2 has a plain user interface that oversimplifies the Android experience and cuts out some of the customization features the OS is known for. The slate's unique build can't save it from that awful overlay, and its lackluster performance also doesn't help the cause, making the tablet tough to recommend.

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2's starting price is set at $269 in the US, £200 in the UK, AU$299 in Australia and €299 in Europe, though you can currently find it on Lenovo's website for less.

Design

The Yoga Tablet 2 is similar in design to last year's models. Coming in 8- and 10-inch sizes, the tablet has an aluminum frame that culminates in a chunky silver spine on the bottom. The rounded edge is home to the front-facing speakers and, on the rear side, the built-in kickstand.

The kickstand is easier to pull out on this Yoga than on the 2013 models -- you simply pull it down by twisting at the spine -- and it securely locks into a 90-degree angle, though you can easily adjust it to your liking. The stand also has a little hole in the middle of it, in case you're the type who likes to hang a tablet.

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The round power button is on one end of the spine. Josh Miller/CNET

The Yoga Tablet 2 can sit upright or be set down at a lower angle. I found myself using the tablet propped up, for the most part. It's great for hands-free casual use, especially watching video.

On the left edge, at the tip of the spine, you'll find the power button, with Micro-USB port and volume rocker located slightly above. The headphone jack is found on the opposite, right end of the spine. The spine is smooth, but the back of the tablet has a bumpy texture, offering some grip support.

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The kickstand is useful for many tasks. Josh Miller/CNET

Thanks to the chunky rounded spine, gripping it in one hand is rather comfortable -- in portrait orientation. Holding it in landscape orientation took some adjustment; my hands naturally gravitated to the comfier bottom edge, causing me to hold it like a barbell. Personally, I was fine with this, except my tendency to accidentally hit the power button became frustrating after a while.

Features

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 runs on Android 4.4 KitKat, and it features a regrettably familiar overlay. Just as on last year's models, the Android skin on the Yoga Tablet 2 is simplified to a fault.

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It's comfy to hold via the rounded spine. Josh Miller/CNET

Mostly notably, the UI lacks an app tray. Instead of all of your app shortcuts being in one organized place, they're placed on the homescreens. You can make folders to organize your shortcuts and choose which homescreen to place them on. Organizing everything, though, can be time-consuming, especially if you don't stay on top of it.

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 has multiwindow capabilities that work well for nominal multitasking. For a relatively basic tablet, it's a nice addition if you want to do several simple activities, like respond to an email while watching a movie. Not all apps are multiwindow-capable; however, the Chrome browser is, and I found it to be the most useful.

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Multiwindow capabilities allow you to surf the Web and catch up on Serial. Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

In a weird move, the notification panel and quick settings menu are separate. Swipe down from the top and you'll see notifications. Swipe up from the bottom and you'll find a variety of easy-access settings such as brightness and Wi-Fi. It's one of the quirks of the user-interface that I assume is supposed to make things easier, but I didn't find it any more useful than the typical one-stop pull-down menu.

The stripped-down skin and minimal design lack a finesse that would otherwise elevate the Android experience on such a well-designed tablet. Maybe I'm a traditionalist who likes the alphabetical consistency of an app tray, but I find the lack of one a tragic choice, and the tweaks that make navigating the UI simple also take away from the customization-crazy nature of Android.

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Gandalf's side-eye looks sharp on the 10-inch screen. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and houses a 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor and 2GB of RAM. There' 16GB of internal storage, and it's expandable up to 64GB with a microSD card.

Performance

Performance was fast and smooth for simple tasks, but the Yoga Tablet 2 suffered from many performance hiccups. The touchscreen reacted slowly to taps, and I frequently encountered crashing apps and Wi-Fi connectivity issues. The bugginess occurred randomly, making it hard to find a cause or reason.

Big games launch fast, even with many apps open in the background, and once loaded they perform smoothly. The biggest downside for game aficionados is the tablet's alternative design. For games that require that approach, it doesn't really lend itself to comfortable handheld positions. The design -- and kickstand -- work better for simple mobile games that don't require the tablet to be in your hands.

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Typing comfortably on a touchscreen is possible. Josh Miller/CNET

The 10-inch touchscreen boasts a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution IPS display, and it's bright and colorful enough, but it disappoints in sharpness. Text doesn't looks as crisp as it should, though quality varies depending on whether it's an app or a website you're on. Despite the pixels, words are still readable.

There's an 8-megapixel camera located on the spine, near the power button, that takes washed-out photos. It has a manual focus option, but photos don't come out very sharp. The 1.6-megapixel camera in the front also produces comparable quality selfies.

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Awkward placement for awkward photo-taking. Josh Miller/CNET

Lenovo has a good history of outfitting its tablets with speakers that outshine the competition. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 2 follows this tradition with a front-facing pair of speakers that sound good when taking full advantage of the Dolby app. Easily accessible as a widget, the Dolby app noticeably optimizes sound for movies, music and podcasts. In a small room, they sound pretty loud and tend to hold up at full volume.

The Yoga Tablet 2's battery life was impressively long. On a full charge, it lasted me about two days with casual to heavy use. Even after streaming lots of video and long periods of gaming, the battery life remaining was always more than I expected it to be. Check back once we're done testing it in the CNET Labs for final results.

Conclusion

The Yoga Tablet 2 delivers what we've come to expect from Lenovo's Android tablets: good design and an awful Android overlay. I'm not a fan of the simple skin Lenovo tends to tack onto its tablets, but on the other hand, the bare-bones interface is appealing to new users. However, anyone who knows their way around Android will be disappointed by its stripped-down features.

Aside from the built-in kickstand, the Yoga Tablet 2 is nothing special. In fact, without it, it would be pretty disappointing. It's another commendable effort from Lenovo that falls short of its potential. Put a projector on it , though, and maybe we'll talk.

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