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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows, 10-inch) review: An awkward keyboard dock can't keep a great tablet down

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The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 bundles a useful kickstand, an attractive high-resolution display, long battery life and a great keyboard into a package that's light and inexpensive.

The Bad Weak magnets make the connection between tablet and keyboard dock a tenuous one.

The Bottom Line If you're willing to overlook the flawed keyboard dock, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows offers the full Windows 8 experience in an inexpensive package.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows is a $369.99, AU$499 device with a built-in kickstand and a high-resolution 10-inch display. And it runs Windows 8.1, so you can bring all of your favorite apps along for the ride. (While the tablet will be available in the UK, dates and pricing have not yet been announced; directly converted it's about £243.)

If the device looks a little familiar, that's because we've already seen an Android-flavored version -- my colleague wasn't impressed with its heavily modified Android overlay and irregular performance. I, fortunately, had a much better experience: Windows 8 shines on the Intel Atom processor, and the bundled keyboard (an optional extra for the Android model) makes this a compelling travel companion -- provided you don't mind being a little careful.

Design and specs

The Yoga Tablet 2's 10-inch display has a 1,920x1,200 resolution. It looks good: colors remain true no matter what awkward angle I turn the screen to, and the screen holds up reasonably well in a well-lit office environment -- reflections become problematic in more direct light and you'll run into trouble outdoors, but it was never very problematic.

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Slap on the keyboard, and you've got a svelte productivity machine. Josh Miller/CNET

It wouldn't be a Lenovo Yoga device if it didn't contort awkwardly. In this case, a built-in kickstand spins out from the cylindrical battery. Twist at the spine and it folds out, locking into a 90-degree angle but adjusting rather easily. There's also a hole in the kickstand for a hook, so you can hang your tablet somewhere. I have no idea why you'd want to hang your tablet. But the hole doesn't detract from the experience, so maybe others will find creative uses. The headphone jack sits on the right side of the battery, while the power button sits on the left.

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The keyboard's spacious keys make for fast, accurate typing. Josh Miller/CNET

Unlike Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 there's a keyboard bundled in, so you don't need to worry about paying extra. And Lenovo tends to make great keyboards: this one connects via Bluetooth and is light and thin. The roomy, spacious keys make for fast, comfortable typing. The keys also offer a fair amount of travel distance with every press, so my typing was generally rather accurate, too. There's also touchpad: it's accurate and works well enough, but on a device this small with a readily accessible, responsive touchscreen, I generally prefer to just use the touchscreen. That said, I also spent a lot of time with the keyboard and display separated, so having the touchpad as an option is nice.

But the separation between tablet and keyboard is also precisely where things fall apart. The keyboard connects to the tablet by way of rather weak magnets on the lip. The tablet makes the whole arrangement rather top heavy, so it's obvious that you shouldn't grab it by the keyboard. But I'm still tempted to lift it by the display, which causes the keyboard to flop right off. I imagine that any mechanical solution to latch the keyboard to the tablet would add to the weight and bulk, but this solution feels half-hearted. The keyboard also technically doubles as a cover, but those weak magnets strike again: it tends to slide about and will come off readily when tucked into a bag or carried about.

Software and features

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The touchscreen is responsive, if you'd rather not fuss with the keyboard. Josh Miller/CNET

The Yoga Tablet 2 runs Windows 8.1, and is a typical Windows 8 PC. And that's precisely why it's a great example of how awesome Windows 8 can be, given the right hardware.

The tablet end of it does typical tablet things, and is great for checking out movies and general web browsing. When you need to get things done just slap on the keyboard: and this is proper Windows 8 (and not Windows RT), so all of your regular apps are welcome. The high-resolution display looks great, but if 10-inches is a bit too small there's an HDMI port on the right side -- just plug it into a larger display. This device would make a very welcome traveling companion, especially if you plan to get a lot of writing done.

Performance

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Weak magnets attach the keyboard to the tablet, but it slides easily. Josh Miller/CNET

The tablet is powered by a quad-core, 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3745 CPU paired with 2GB of RAM. This'll be a fine device for getting some work done, with a little bit of entertainment peppered in-between. The tablet tackles HD video streaming with ease, and never felt sluggish as I fired up apps or slid about Windows 8. Tablet friendly games like Halo Spartan Assault skipped along without missing a beat, but anything with more stringent hardware demands will bring this device to its knees. Things aren't flawless: on two separate occasions the device simply locked up, forcing me to hold the power button to restart it. It's hard to say if that's a hardware or software issue, though. There's only 32GB of storage space, but you can add a 64GB microSD card if you need a bit more room.

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The camera disappoints with dull, washed out images. Josh Miller/CNET

The pair of speakers sound can get reasonably loud, and while they can't push out much in the way of bass they still sound reasonably good when cranked up. More importantly they're front-facing, which is great: I never worried about blocking the audio while holding the thing, or leaving it propped up. The cylinder also serves as the the battery: Lenovo claims you'll see up to 15 hours of battery life.

My use consisted of lots of video streaming and web browsing, and I easily made it through two days before plugging the tablet in. The keyboard is a little tricker to gauge, as there's no word on it's estimated battery life. Both the tablet and keyboard charge by way of a Micro-USB cable, so plug the keyboard in from time to time and you should be fine.

There's an 8-megapixel camera, but you're better off skipping it: it takes dull, washed out photos in the best condition.

Conclusion

Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows is almost the perfect budget Windows 8 device. A high-resolution display, loud, clear speakers, and solid productivity and media performance are packed into a svelte package and bundled with a great keyboard -- all for just $369.99, AU$499. As it stands, it's a great tablet with a really awkward oversight.

But maybe you'll get over it: I did. If you're careful you can use the tablet in your lap, but I generally found it far more comfortable to set the display up on my desk or connect it to a larger display, and just work from afar with the wireless keyboard. If you want a full Windows experience in a small shell and don't want to spend much, you'll do well here.

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