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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro review: A stand-out design with a built-in projector ...

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The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro's versatile design features a built-in kickstand and pico projector. Its HD screen is sharp and battery life is long. Its The front-facing speakers and rear subwoofer sound loud and crisp.

The Bad There's no app tray. The projector's brightness is rather dim in most rooms and its low resolution will disappoint fans of high-definition video. Also, it's a bit heavy.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro's design is great for at-home use and the built-in projector is handy for watching video or making presentations, but the UI is too stripped down.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is the most innovative tablet I've seen all year. The 13.3-inch mammoth features a familiar design with a unique twist; it packs a built-in pico projector.

Performance-wise, it's not a monster, but feature-wise, it's a unicorn. Like last year's Android-based Yoga tablets, this model has a distinct rounded spine with a built-in kickstand that makes hands-free movie watching and on-screen typing easy peasy. Turn on the projector with the push of a button and it also doubles as a quick way to set-up a mobile movie theater. It's a unique, versatile design that works well for entertainment and practical purposes.

However, it's not without its faults. Lenovo's watered down user-interface and bloatware will disappoint advanced Android users, but some newcomers will appreciate the simplified software and pre-loaded apps.

A good quality projector can easily set you back hundreds or thousands of dollars and the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro feels like buy-one-get-one-free deal. Judged only as a tablet, it's a smooth performing slate however, with an oversimplified Android skin. As a tablet with a projector though? It's awesome. From business presentations to movie night at your dorm, the innovative Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro offers a new way to share the tablet experience, and it's one heck of a deal.

Design

If you're familiar with Lenovo's Yoga line of Android tablets, this one should look familiar. If you're not, this 13-inch mammoth probably appears a little odd. It looks like a normal tablet, with the exception of its chunky, rounded spine. The silver, cylindrical looking appendage houses the front-facing speakers and, if you flip it, you'll find the built-in stand.

The rear kickstand easily pops out with the push of a button and can flip out to 180 degrees. You can stand it upright for an all-in-one-like experience or flip it over and place it down to stably type out an email. It feels sturdy, though it's a thin piece of aluminum, and, thanks the addition of the button, it's easier to adjust than last year's models.

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Projector-packed right edge Josh Miller/CNET

The stand can also be hung, thanks to a square hole in the middle of it that frames the rear subwoofer when it's stowed. During my time with the tablet, I never found a practical way to hang it, but I appreciate the option.

On the left edge, the power button is located on the top of the rounded spine. Next to it are the headphone jack, Micro-USB port and volume rocker. On the opposite end there's the projector and its separate power button.

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The kickstand is sturdy and sleek. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The tablet is bottom heavy, so holding it in your hands isn't very comfortable, unless you're holding it from the rounded spine. It's easy to grip in one hand that way, however at a little over two pounds, it gets tiring. It's no surprise that a 13-inch tablet isn't easy on the hands, but otherwise, the build is impressively purposeful. Anyone interested in using the tablet for home use will benefit most from the adaptable design.

Software

Running Android 4.4.2, it comes with a medley of pre-loaded apps, including the full suite of Google apps, and it features a custom overlay that's slightly better than last year's Yoga tablets. The tweaks simplify the Android experience from its often overwhelming customization options and settings, but in a way that I consider more limiting than user-friendly.

It looks very iOS-inspired, especially due to its lack of app tray. After being downloaded, apps are meant to be placed into prearranged categories like games, shopping and social. The categories can't be deleted or edited. You can place individual app shortcuts on one of the home screens instead, if you'd like.

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Chunky widgets require many home screens. Josh Miller/CNET

I'm assuming it's supposed to make things easier for users, but I found it annoying. Especially since if you're downloading an app in the background, once it's done, the system interrupts whatever you're doing with a prompt to place the app in its proper category and exits you from whatever app was open. Rude.

In addition, widgets take up a lot of screen space and you can't fit many on one homepage, requiring you to make multiple ones to accommodate them. In an effort to make things

The lack of an app tray isn't necessarily a deal breaker, however, the overlay reduces the Android experience to iOS levels of constraint. Sure, it's great for newbies, but it loses the loose charm that strongly differentiates Android-based tablets to the tablet titan iPad.

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A closer look at the subwoofer. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro houses a 1.86GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 CPU, Intel HD Graphics for BayTrail GPU, and 2GB of RAM. It comes with 32GB of internal storage and offers a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 64GB.

Performance

The large Lenovo tablet earns its "Pro" title with consistently swift performance. It handles basic activities like browsing the Web, checking email and streaming video without batting an eyelash, and switching between apps is equally smooth. Performance typically lagged when downloading large apps, but chugged along fine otherwise, even with many apps open in the background or taking full advantage of the multi-window function.

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The pico projector projecting. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Games, big and small, launch quickly and run without a hitch. Unfortunately, ones that are meant to be enjoyed on a smaller handheld tablets are a bit awkward to play.

Admittedly, the built-in pico projector sounds gimmicky, but it works well considering it's a tiny thing packed into the spine of a tablet. To turn on the projector, you can either press the power button next to it or select the projector option in the quick settings menu. Once on, it'll mirror whatever is on the tablet screen. Its resolution is charmingly low at 854x580, and, though images lack the HD polish, it's a decent image quality for such an unassuming feature. It can display an image up to 50 inches wide and, obviously, it looks better against a white backdrop in dark room.

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I turned the CNET Lab into a temporary movie theater. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The projector isn't very bright, but it's bright enough to see in a room with minimal ambient lighting. The focus button is a little awkward to slide up and down because it doesn't move very smoothly. It's a bit rigid and I found myself spending a lot of time adjusting it to get the focus just right.

There are a few projector settings and they're minimal enough to feel manageable. It offers a keystone correction setting, which fixes distortion caused by tilting the projector, brightness adjustment, and auto-off options.

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Focusing using the slider button is a bit tough. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

There were a few instances of trippy bugginess when using the projector. After switching between different streaming video apps, the screen froze and displayed an odd series of colorful, pixelated boxes that framed the screen. It looked like a psychedelic poster created on Kid Pix. The Netflix app also had difficulties (and often crashed). If fast-forwarding through a video, the last frame of the previous scene remained on the screen and the current scene appeared on top of it, off center and cut off. From an artistic perspective, it was pretty cool, but in terms of functionality, not cool at all. A restart quickly fixed these issues.

Not to let the projector get all the love, the 13.3-inch IPS screen boasts a sharp and bright 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution. Colors look satisfyingly saturated and contrast is richly deep. The only problems with the screen I came across were with gesture recognition. Sometimes the touchscreen didn't recognize taps or gestures. A harder press usually did the trick, though.

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A stand-up slate. Josh Miller/CNET

The Yoga Tablet 2 Pro's battery life is as big as its screen. I was able to stream about 5 hours of video using the projector on a full charge. During casual use it lasted me about a day and a half. Check back after we test it for a battery life test result.

I can only imagine the look on the face of a tablet-photography hater if they saw someone pull out this 13-inch honker to snap a pic -- because of course it packs a pair of cameras. The rear 8-megapixel camera doesn't auto-focus, but there is a manual focus option and various optimization settings. The sharpness and colors fall a bit flat, but it suffices for a quick snapshot. The front-facing 1.6-megapixel camera is equally decent, but nothing to selfie home about.

Conclusion

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is a rare bird. In a year where tablets were more ho-hum than cutting-edge, the tablet-projector hybrid breathes a refreshing air of innovation onto the slate scene. Like all tablets, it's not without its faults, but if you can look past the hapless Android skin, it's an attractive option with fun and functional features.

The qualms about the projector's quality are quelled by the fact that it's an extra feature, not the main act. The Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is a well-designed large tablet, however the inclusion of the projector infuses it with enough value to make it worth its asking price.

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