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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 review: Unique, sturdy design can't match subpar screen

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MSRP: $249.00

The Good The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8's super-slim, unique design makes it easy to hold. It’s also only $250.

The Bad The tablet’s low-resolution screen is dull and the heavily modified operating system is downright ugly.

The Bottom Line Though it feels well-built and has a handy kickstand, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet’s poor performance makes it hard to justify even at its low cost.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5

Review Sections

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.

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8. James Martin/CNET

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 Yoga has a rounded edge that houses a kickstand. James Martin/CNET

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.

The tablet is superthin. James Martin/CNET

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.

Lenovo Yoga 8 kickstand
The fully extended kickstand. James Martin/CNET

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.

Lenovo Yoga 8
Colors look flat on the Yoga's display Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

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

Software features
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.

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