To tell you the truth, I'm not really a tablet sort of person. We have one in our family -- a Nexus 7 -- but it's seldom, if ever, in my hands. That's not because it's being hogged by my partner -- I just don't have much use for it. Most of my media viewing/reading/creating is done via a TV, a smartphone or a Chromebook.
There is some chance that the new Lenovo Yoga tablet may change my mind. The tablet, which was introduced yesterday, may not be revolutionary, but it does have some design differences that, if they work as promised, could distinguish it from the pack of other Android tablets on the market.
On first glance, the specs are promising, if not spectacular: The Yoga tablet contains a 1.2 GHz quad core processor with 1GB RAM, and features a 1280 x 800 HD display, 16GB storage with a slot for an SD card, and two cameras: a 1.8-megapixel front-facing and 5-megapixel rear-facing. It runs Android 4.2 and will come in either an 8-in. $249 version or a 10.1-in. $299 version.
However, the actual design of the hardware -- what Lenovo calls "multimode" -- may help it stand out from the crowd. Rather than being a simple slim, rectangular shape, one of the longer sides is dominated by a long, silver cylinder. This holds the two-cell Li-Polymer battery that, according to Lenovo, enables the Yoga to last about 18 hours for somebody browsing w/Wi-Fi enabled. A small kickstand flips out from the back of the tablet, just above the cylinder, allowing the tablet to stand at a variety of angles; if you reverse the tablet so that the kickstand is at its top, you can lay the Yoga down and use the stand to tilt it at an angle comfortable for on-screen typing.
I was able to play with the tablet briefly during a press briefing today, and I thought that the design was ingenious. The cylinder actually does create a comfortable handhold, and I felt more secure holding the tablet that way than I usually do with the more traditional flat tablet. The Yoga might not fit into bags and briefcases quite as neatly as its more traditional compatriots, but if Lenovo's promises of long battery life hold out, I don't think many users will mind.
Most of the controls and ports are on or near the cylinder. The power button is on one end, along with the USB port for powering it up; the headphone jack is at the other end, with the volume control along the edge of the tablet just above it. Two speakers are on the front left and right of the battery unit, so that they face the user when the Yoga is in standing position; I was impressed with the sound (or as much of it as I could hear in the noise of the crowd).
In fact, the only complaint I heard was from a colleague was that, because the back-facing camera lens is also on the cylinder (near one end), he accidentally took a photo of his finger.
The Lenovo Yoga tablet reminded me a bit of Motorola's Moto X: It may not have the bleeding edge specs that many of its competitors have, but it's a well-designed -- and different -- device at a very reasonable price, and with a battery life that should take travelers through a long car or plane ride without giving out a few hours into the trip.
Certainly, I will be looking forward to reading the longer hands-on reviews (we hope to have one from our own JR Raphael in a few days). Who knows? This may turn out to be the right tablet for those of us who haven't, up to now, been tablet-friendly.