Lenovo Yoga Tablet review: A cool concept that comes up short

Lenovo's new Android tablet has an innovative form with a built-in stand. But its functionality may not live up to its form.

Have you noticed that tablets are starting to feel a little mundane? You've got a rectangular slate with a large display while the manufacturer's bragging about how it's some fragment of a millimeter thinner or some fraction of an ounce lighter than the last. Sure, we see improvements in things like screen quality and processing power, but not many companies are doing anything drastically different.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet
Lenovo Yoga Tablet

Lenovo wants to change that. The company's new Yoga Tablet takes a bold risk by shunning the standard slate approach and building a tablet around an unusual cylindrical battery -- which, in addition to boosting the device's stamina, serves as a multipurpose stand. It's an innovative idea that adds unique value to the product and makes it stand out from the pack.

But form alone isn't enough to make a tablet worth buying -- and that's where Lenovo runs into trouble.

First, the facts: The Yoga Tablet is available in an 8-in. size with 16GB of internal storage for $249 or 32GB for $269; it's also available in a 10-in. size with 16GB for $299 or 32GB for $309. Aside from the differences in size and storage, all of the models are exactly the same. The model I tested was the 8-in. 16GB version.

Body and display

The Lenovo Yoga Tablet looks like a normal tablet at its top (when held in landscape orientation). That's where the standard design stops: The device gets gradually thicker as you progress toward the bottom, leading up to its cylinder base. On the 8-in. model, the cylinder is about the thickness of a roll of nickels.

The base causes the tablet to be weighted heavily toward its bottom. It's actually quite comfortable to hold in the landscape position: The cylinder makes a nice foundation to grasp with your hands or rest in your palms, and the weight distribution makes it feel very natural in that orientation.

Where the cylinder really shines is in its stand capabilities: A sturdy metal panel pulls out from the device's rear side. You can deploy that stand all the way down to prop up the tablet at a 110-degree angle, causing the device to sit almost perpendicular to a table. You can also adjust it to sit at a lower angle -- up to 135 degrees -- so you can view content comfortably from any height.

The stand works in reverse, too: If you flip the tablet upside-down, it allows you to use the screen in what Lenovo calls "tilt" mode. The stand is at the top of the device in this position and causes the screen to be lifted up from a table, which is a nice touch if you're typing or actively engaging with content.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet
If you flip the tablet upside-down, it allows you to use the screen in what Lenovo calls "tilt" mode.

Unfortunately, that's where things start to get a little less positive. The screen on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet is downright dismal -- a 1280-x-800 panel that looks awful compared to the higher-end technology we're used to seeing on tablets today. Colors are dull and washed out, and lines on the screen -- in text, icons and images -- are actually visibly fuzzy instead of being crisp and sharp. That's hard to forgive, especially when you look at it next to the outstanding 1080p display on Google's Nexus 7, which actually costs 20 bucks less than the Yoga's cheapest model.

The Yoga does have commendable speakers: The dual front-facing speakers are enhanced with Dolby audio technology; they sound loud and clear.

The tablet has a standard micro-USB port on its left edge and a volume rocker on its right. The power button is on the left side of the cylinder, while the headphone jack is on the right end of that base. There is no HDMI-out capability.

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