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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows, 13-inch) review: A good tablet undone by a cumbersome keyboard

The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 offers a useful kickstand, great battery life and attractive high-resolution display.

The Bad Weak magnets and an awkward edge design make the connection between tablet and keyboard dock a tenuous one. The tablet is heavier than most of its competitors.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2's 13-inch high-resolution screen delivers a great viewing experience, but its cumbersome keyboard keeps it from greatness.

Visit for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 8

The 13-inch Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows is the larger, chunkier version of the 10-inch tablet we reviewed a few months back. It, like its sibling, pairs an attractive display with a clever kickstand, but is bundled with an awkward keyboard.

I was willing to give the 10-inch model a pass, because of its compact size and low price. That doesn't hold true for the larger 13-inch model. The problem is that the magnets connecting the keyboard to the tablet are too weak to keep them attached. The same thing happened with the 10-inch model, but it's also smaller, and less cumbersome in your lap. The 10-incher is also just $369 (about £248 or AU$478) -- that makes a flawed bundled accessory easy to overlook.

The $599 (about £402, or AU$776) price tag on the 13-inch model puts it the same range as the Microsoft Surface 3 . The Surface 3 is a better performer, and its keyboard doesn't fall off on a whim. You will see better battery life from the Yoga Tablet 2, however.

The Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows isn't a bad device. The screen is sharp, and the battery life is long. But the Surface 3's price is so close ($630, after adding the optional $129 keyboard), that spending a little bit more will get you a far less frustrating experience.

Design and features

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows comes bundled with a detachable keyboard. Josh Miller/CNET

This Yoga Tablet 2's 13.3-inch display has a 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution. It looks good: colors remain true no matter what awkward angle I turn the screen to, and it holds up reasonably well in a well lit office environment. Reflections can be come troublesome in direct light and outdoors -- as expected -- but you'll be fine in most environments.

Like the rest of the Yoga Tablet 2 lineup, the built-in kickstand spins out from the cylindrical battery: just push the button on the back and the hinge will pop out. It will lock into a 90-degree angle, but it also adjusts to whatever angle you'd like rather easily. There is, once again, a hole in the kickstand for a hook. I still have no idea why you'd want to hang your tablet, but it doesn't get in the way, so I'm sure creative folks will dream up some uses. At 2.27 pounds (sans keyboard) it's not exactly cumbersome, but certainly heavier than competitors.

lenovo-yoga-tablet-2-windows-0375-006.jpg
You can hang your tablet, if you'd like. Josh Miller/CNET

Lenovo makes great keyboards, and the one bundled here doesn't disappoint -- at least, not at first. It connects via Bluetooth, and is light and thin. The roomy, spacious keys make for fast, comfortable typing, and the keys actually offer a fair amount travel distance with every press, so my typing was generally accurate, too. There's also a touchpad: it's accurate and works well enough, but I found myself reaching up to the readily accessible, responsive 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.

The separation between tablet and keyboard is, once again, where things fall apart. Like the 10-inch variant, the keyboard connects to the tablet by way of rather weak magnets on the lip. But both the tablet and keyboard are far too heavy for the magnets to maintain any sort of connection, which results in the pair separating with the slightest jostle or movement.

This was easy enough to deal with for the 10-inch version, but the 13-inch screen and complementary keyboard are massive by comparison, which makes wielding the two separately really awkward. The keyboard technically doubles as a cover, but those weak magnets means the two parts will slide about and readily come off if you stick them in a bag or try to carry them about.

The Yoga Tablet 2 runs Windows 8.1, and it's a good 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: you're getting a proper Windows 8 experience, so all of your regular apps are welcome. The high-resolution display looks great, and an HDMI port on the right side lets you plug it into a larger display if you need a bit more room to maneuver. The 10-inch version of this device could make for a handy travel companion, but I find the 13-inch model -- particularly thanks to that troublesome keyboard -- is a little too cumbersome to juggle.

Connections, performance and battery

The cylindrical hinge also hosts the beefy battery. There's a subwoofer back there, too. Josh Miller/CNET

The tablet is powered by a quad-core, 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3745 CPU paired with 4GB of RAM. This is an almost identical loadout to the previous model (the RAM has been doubled), so once again, don't expect miracles. We pitted the Yoga Tablet 2 against the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, which is equipped with an Intel Core M processor, and the Microsoft Surface 3 , powered by the new Atom x7 processor. Both the 10-inch and 13-inch Yoga Tablet 2s scored identically, and were trounced handily by their competitors in every segment expect battery life.

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. There's 64GB of storage space, and you can add a 64GB microSD card if you need a bit more room, bringing your storage total to 128GB.

The pair of speakers sound can get reasonably loud, and and you can crank them up a fair amount before before they start to sound a little distorted. Unlike the 10-inch model these aren't front-facing, which is a bit disappointing. They sit on either side of the tablet, and I find I block them occasionally if I hold the device in my hands. You shouldn't expect too much in the way of bass in a tablet this slim, but the subwoofer built into the back of the tablet will help out in a pinch.

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. In our official video-playback battery tests, the tablet lasted for just over 10 and a half hours -- the Surface 3 managed just over 7 and a half hours, while the Asus T300 Chi managed just over 5 hours. These results aren't surprising, as the Yoga Tablet 2's large cylindrical hinge serves double duty as its battery. The keyboard is a little tricker to gauge, as there's no official estimate on its 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.

Conclusion

The 10-inch version of Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows was almost the perfect budget Windows 8 device: it offered a nice screen and solid performance for just $369. The keyboard was cumbersome, but was easy to deal with thanks to the tablet's small size.

The 13-inch model's larger size means its problems are not as easily overlooked. The keyboard feels like a lunch tray, and I find it near impossible to confidently balance it on my lap, as the tablet-end of the pairing constantly threatens to split from its keyboard-base thanks to weak magnets.

And at $599, you've got quite a few more options. I'd recommend the sticking with the $369 10-inch model. Another good option is the Microsoft Surface 3 ($499), paired with the optional keyboard ($129). You'll pay about $30 more and get a slightly smaller 10.8-inch display, but the end result is something that's far less cumbersome to work with.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10-inch)
965
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (13-inch)
954
Microsoft Surface 3
764
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
468

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10-inch)
398
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (13-inch)
397
Microsoft Surface 3
300
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
109

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video playback battery drain test

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
314
Microsoft Surface 3
461
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (13-inch)
591
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10-inch)
643

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (13-inch) Windows 8.1 (32-bit) 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3745; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 64MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (10-inch) Windows 8.1 (32-bit) 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3745; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB SSD
Microsoft Surface 3 Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z8700; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core M 5Y71; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5300 Graphics; 128GB SSD

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