Lenovo added two tablets to its convertible Yoga line in fall 2013 with the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10. Though they're aesthetically unique, with a design that features a rounded spine and kickstand, their identical internal specs, mediocre screens, and heavily-modified operating systems prove less than exciting.
The tablets get their Yoga names thanks to a kickstand on the back of each device, which props them up on a flat surface to give you a variety of viewing angles. They don’t, however, transform as much as other Yoga devices, since neither includes a keyboard.
At $250 for the 8-inch model and $300 for the 10-incher, the Yoga tablets are much cheaper than other tablets on the market. For those prices, the 8-inch is a solid value when you put it up against its competition. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for with the Yoga 10, whose low price gets you an overall unimpressive tablet that only has long battery life to brag about.
Design and features
A major selling feature of the Yoga 8 is its sturdy and unique design. It looks a lot like an Apple Wireless Keyboard, with its thin body and cylindrical edge on one side.
Officially, it measures 8.4 inches wide by 5.7 inches tall and at it’s thinnest point, it’s just .12 inches deep. It’s also weighs only .8 pounds. It has a silver polycarbonate textured back cover that looks like metal and feels smooth.
The tablet’s rounded edge (.30 inches), which I am calling the spine, houses the tablet’s battery and other components, allowing it to have a slim design everywhere else. It also changes the Yoga’s center of gravity, and makes it remarkably comfortable to hold. When I held the tablet by the spine, to read a book or Web site, it fit nicely in my hands.
The spine also props up the tablet so you can lie it flat on a surface and view it at a slight angle, making it easier to type on the screen.
There’s also an aluminum kickstand nestled in that spine, which folds away from the device to prop it up. The kickstand is awkward to open at first, but you quickly get used to it.
To open the kickstand, hold an edge of the tablet in one hand, grip the spine and rotate it away from the body of the tablet. Then, once the edge of kickstand lifts up, you can grab it and open it all the way. I don’t recommend trying to pry it open using your fingernails -- the amount of force needed means you’ll likely tear your nails.
There are two grip pads on the edge of the kickstand that are meant to give it extra stability. On the model I tested, they were applied crooked, and because of that, they didn't stop the tablet from sliding slightly on my desk each time I tapped the screen.
|Lenovo Yoga 8||Google Nexus 7 (2013)||Kindle Fire HD 8.9||LG G Pad 8.3|
|Weight in pounds||0.8||0.66||1.25||0.74|
|Width in inches (landscape)||8.4||7.8||6.4||8.5|
|Height in inches||5.7||4.5||9.4||5|
|Depth in inches||0.12-0.30||0.34||0.35||0.33|
Once the kickstand is open, you can adjust the viewing angle between roughly 80 and 30 degrees. You can also lay the back of the tablet on a surface and use the kickstand to prop up the spine end for typing. Just in case you’re wondering, you can’t use the kickstand in portrait mode -- it’s not large enough to prop it up that way. Behind the kickstand, there’s a microSD card slot that can add up to 64GB of extra storage.
On one end of the spine, there’s an oversize power button that’s easy to press, but recessed enough that you won’t accidentally hit it. It’s so large that you can blindly feel for it and press it without looking, which is nice. It will glow when the battery is getting low and you need to charge the tablet. Above the power button there’s a Micro-USB charging port.
The opposite end of the spine has a headphone jack that’s also slightly recessed. Above that, there’s a volume rocker, which is frankly too small for an 8-inch tablet. It’s hard to tell which end is volume up and which is volume down without looking at it.
One the front, there are two Dolby Digital Plus DS1 front-facing speakers. There’s also a 5-megapixel camera on the back and a 1.6-megapixel front camera for video chatting.
The most disappointing feature of the Yoga is its screen. It sports a 1,280x800 resolution (188ppi) IPS display, which is low compared to today’s top tablets. Many app icons look noticeably fuzzy, and overall the screen isn't sharp. Colors look off and aren't as vibrant as they should be. HD video also didn't look as sharp as it did on other tablets of the same size.
Luckily even tiny text is easy to read, which is one of the only positive things I can say about the screen. Additionally, though the physical display is reflective, it’s still easy to read the tablet in full sunlight at automatic brightness.
|Lenovo Yoga 8||Google Nexus 7 (2013)||Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch)||LG G Pad 8.3|
|Maximum brightness||438 cd/m2||570 cd/m2||395 cd/m2||289 cd/m2|
|Maximum black level||.42 cd/m2||0.44 cd/m2||0.39 cd/m2||0.24 cd/m2|
|Maximum contrast ratio||1,042:1||1,295:1||1,021:1||1,204:1|
|Pixels per inch||188ppi||323ppi||189ppi||273ppi|
The Yoga is running Android Jelly Bean 4.2, but has a completely custom design from Lenovo. There’s no app drawer, so all the apps live on your home screens, which can get messy. There’s also a lot of wasted space on the sides in landscape and at the top and bottom in portrait mode, which bothered me. This was especially a problem when trying to add widgets, as I would quickly run out of space, even when it looked like it had plenty of room.
There’s a custom home screen menu that you access by tapping the three dots on the bottom-right of the screen, where you can change the wallpaper, quickly jump to settings, and add widgets.
The tablet comes with a handful of custom apps from Lenovo, several third-party titles, and the typical Google apps suite. There’s a maps and navigation app called Navigate 6, a voice recorder, and a power management app, which changes settings to keep your battery alive longer. There’s also Norton Mobile Security, Kindle, AccuWeather, and Skype.
One unique feature allows you schedule when the tablet turns on and off in the settings menu. That means you could watch a video in bed at night and schedule it to shut off at 11 p.m., then turn back on at 6 a.m. so you can read the news in the morning. You could also use it to ensure your kids don’t stay up late reading bed, assuming they don’t know how to override it.
There’s a media shortcut menu called Smart Bar, which gives you quick access to books, movies, music, and apps. You can turn it on in settings and then, starting with your finger on the screen bezel, swipe left towards the middle of the display to pull it up (or swipe to the right in portrait mode).
Lenovo also includes on the Smart Bar three viewing modes which change the display and audio settings to fit the activity: Hold, Stand, and Tilt. Hold mode enhances the audio for music, Tilt changes the sound and video settings to ones best for gaming, and in Stand mode, the settings adjust for playing video. When you turn on any of those modes, the Smart Bar changes its layout to highlight certain apps. For instance, in Hold mode the Kindle app takes the top spot, while in Stand mode, large tiles for videos and photos appear.
Inside, there’s a quad-core 1.2GHz MT8125 MediaTek CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage.
The tablet’s 5-megapixel back camera with auto focus does a decent job of snapping both close-up and wide shots. It’s not a major selling point, but the performance is commendable.
|Lenovo Yoga 8||1.2GHz MT8125 MediaTek CPU||PowerVR Series5XT||1GB||Android 4.2.2|
|Google Nexus 7 (2013)||1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro||Adreno 320 (single-core)||2GB||Android 4.3|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8-inch)||1.5GHz quad-core Exynos 4 Dual (4212)||Mali T400MP4 (quad-core)||1.5GB||Android 4.2.2|
|LG G Pad 8.3||1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor||Adreno 320 (single-core)||2GB||Android 4.2.2|
For video chatting, there’s a front-facing 1.6-megapixel camera on the left screen bezel. It’s actually one of the better front cameras I’ve seen, as the image looks clear and there are minimal lighting problems.
Other features include an e-compass, accelerometer, GPS, and an automatic brightness sensor.
The Yoga’s performance doesn't blow me away, but it’s not bad either. Moving through menus and opening apps feels snappy, though applications that require a lot of processing power can be sluggish.
The tablet struggles to handle graphics-heavy games like N.O.V.A. 3. It took more than four minutes to load the first level, and the graphics in the game were occasionally blurry. It did, however, play Temple Run 2 without any issues.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The speakers have Dolby Digital Plus DS1 technology, which is meant to enhance the overall audio quality. There’s an option in the quick settings menu (which appears when you swipe down on the right side of the screen) to toggle the Dolby sound enhancement off and on, and there’s also an app where you can select sound profiles for gaming, watching movies, or playing music.
Despite all this, the sound quality isn’t impressive. The speakers sound very loud at the highest volume, especially with Dolby Digital Plus turned on, but the audio sounds flat with weak bass. With Dolby Digital Plus turned off, voices sound more prominent, but music sounds faint and, again, flat. With headphones plugged in, the sound gets better, but not by much. I also didn't notice any dramatic differences in sound quality between the aforementioned audio profiles.
The tablet’s impressive battery life makes up for its other weak points. There’s a 6,000mAh battery inside the Yoga 8. That should give you nearly all-day battery life and Lenovo says that it will last for around 11 hours while browsing the Internet on Wi-Fi with 50 percent brightness. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.
|Video Battery life (in hours)|
|Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8||14.2|
Despite its poor screen, weak internal specs, and an unattractive operating system, the Lenovo Yoga 8 is still a good deal at $250. Though competing tablets pack nicer screens and better specs, most can’t match that price, including the $400 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the $350 LG G Pad 8.3.
One exception is the $269 Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (from 2012), which has a better screen, better performance and LTE support. Still, with the Kindle Fire, you don’t get access to the Google Play store, which means you can’t get as many apps and games as you can on the Yoga.