The 8-inch Android version of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 has two rare features that help distinguish it from other Android tablets: a built-in kickstand and a powerful pair of speakers.
The apex of the notable design is the chunky rounded spine that, when twisted, reveals that small, sturdy stand. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but if you're using the tablet every day, it is. The 8-inch Lenovo can lie down at an angle for easy typing, stand up for Web browsing or hands-free video watching and, if you wish, you can even hang it.
They don't come in as handy as much as the built-in kickstand, but the speakers are still a big deal for heavy media consumers. When used with the preloaded Dolby app, movies come to life, podcasts sound crisp and music richly flows out of the front-facing pair -- an odd sight on a tablet, or sound in this case.
Starting at $229 in the US and £169 in the UK (Australia availability has yet to be announced), the affordable alternative is a smart deviation from the status quo and in its price range, the 8-inch Yoga Tablet 2 is the pick of the litter.
Editors' note: The Yoga Tablet 2 is also available in a 10-inch model , and parts of this review are similar.
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.
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.
With the exception of the rounded spine, the 8-inch model is rather slim. I found it easy to transport and, even when using the kickstand in public spaces, it didn't take up too much space.
On the left edge, at the bottom 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.
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. The awkward positioning motivated me to utilize the kickstand to its full potential.
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. 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 home screens.
You can make folders to organize your shortcuts and choose which home screen to place them on. Organizing everything, though, can be time-consuming, especially if you don't stay on top of it.
I'm partial to an app tray because I download a lot of apps and only make folders on my home screens for my most frequently used ones. It's a different quirk, distinct from iOS, that makes space for a truly custom experience. The UI will disappoint traditional fans of the Google OS, but newcomers may enjoy it as an easy transition to Android from the world of Apple.
The 8-inch model also suffers from weird widget constraints. Each home screen can only accommodate two or three widgets, even if -- in my humble opinion -- there's space for more. Devout widget users will have to utilize multiple home screens in order to reconcile.
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, but the Chrome browser is, and I found it to be the most useful.
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.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 houses a 1.33GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a microSD slot that accepts cards of capacities up to 64GB.
The tablet performed swift and smooth during casual use. Streaming video were quick to load, Web pages loaded quickly and most apps quickly launched within one or two seconds -- with the exception of large apps and games. Those took a bit longer, but not by much.
Even with many apps open in the background, the tablet performed with no issues -- for the most part. I frequently encountered apps crashing the moment I tried to open them, followed by an error message about an unconnected Wi-Fi connection. Trying again usually resulted in a successful launch, but it's a weird bug that's hopefully fixed in the next OTA update.
Like its larger counterpart, the 8-inch tablet has a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution IPS display. The smaller model wears it better, boasting higher pixels per inch. The LED display is notably sharp and colorful. HD video looks vibrantly lifelike. The screen itself doesn't get very bright, which makes it hard to use outside on a bright day, but indoors I had no issues. Also, the auto-brightness setting often misjudged my environment and often set the brightness too low.
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 at full resolution. The 1.6-megapixel camera in the front also produces comparable quality selfies. That said, they're not half bad for tablet cameras.
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.
Lenovo states that the 8-inch version of the Yoga Tablet 2 can last up to 18 hours (in certain conditions, of course). On a full charge, with heavy use it lasted me about 6 to 7 hours. 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.
Lenovo's function-over-fashion approach effectively helps its models stand out (pun not intended) in a crowded room of tablets. Though people who know their way around Android will be disappointed by its stripped-down features, the Yoga 2 is one of the best budget options.
The Amazon Fire HDX 7 is a cheaper family-friendly option that performs commendably swift. However, it has a smaller screen and its UI is as restricted as the Lenovo's. The Nvidia Shield tablet is one of the best Android tablets available, housing a state-of-the-art Nvidia chipset and running the latest version of Android. Unfortunately for frugal shoppers, it's also more expensive. If looking solely at performance and price, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 is a worthy compromise between the two.