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Lenovo Yoga tablet a bargain that stretches battery life

The Lenovo Yoga tablet has an adjustable kickstand (I call it the foot) that lets you use the tablet in three modes, dubbed hold, tilt, and stand. Be warned, though that the narrowness of the foot makes the tablet rather tippy unless it's on a firm surface.


When we hear "Lenovo Yoga", we might think of those amazingly limber laptops that fold every which way to suit the use case of the moment. But Lenovo is now expanding the Yoga line with, of all things, a couple of Android tablets (they run Android 4.2, Jelly Bean). And they, too, are limber, in their own way.

The tablet comes in two sizes: 8-inch, and 10.1-inch, and are just $249 and $299 respectively. We looked at the Yoga Tablet 10.

The shape of the tablet is the thing that first jumps out. Its cylindrical long side houses a 9,000 mAh Lithium-Ion battery that Lenovo claims gives you up to 18 hours of life. After three full days of mixed used, with Wi-Fi on and Bluetooth off, including some video, the meter tells me I still have 18 per cent capacity, so I'd say they've hit the mark. Your mileage, of course, will vary, but I think you'll be impressed.

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The battery is also designed to make holding the Yoga in portrait mode more comfortable. Since the tablet weighs about 1.3 lb, roughly the same as the 9.7-inch iPad 2 and a little less than the Microsoft Surface 2, it can be a bit of a strain to hold, and using the battery as a handle is definitely easier on the wrist. And if you peer at the back of the unit, you'll see that there's something that swivels out, using the battery cylinder as a hinge. It's an adjustable kickstand (I call it the foot) that lets you use the tablet in three modes, dubbed hold, tilt, and stand.

We've already talked about hold mode, in which the battery acts as a handle. The foot stays retracted in this case. But when you swivel the foot into position (which can be a challenge at first; it loosens up with use), tilt mode lets you set the tablet down on a surface and keep it at a comfy angle for typing on the soft keyboard, in landscape mode, while stand mode sits it up (you pick the angle) so you can watch movies, make video calls, or even use it as a monitor talking to a Bluetooth keyboard. Be warned, though that the narrowness of the foot makes the tablet rather tippy unless it's on a firm surface.

Lurking behind the foot is a slot for a micro SD card; Yoga will accept up to a 64 GB micro SD card to supplement its 16 GB internal memory. There's 1 GB of RAM, which is a bit skinny. The Yoga is WiFi only here (802.11b/g/n); in Europe and Asia-Pacific, Lenovo also offers 3G models.

The processor is a bit underpowered, so it's worth trying any apps needing oomph before you buy to see if you can live with the speed. Casual games like Angry Birds play OK, but I've heard grumbles about the performance of more demanding apps.

On a tablet, screen quality is key, and although the Yoga offers 1280 x 800 resolution (that is HD, albeit only 720p) it pales beside the Microsoft Surface 2`s 1920 x 1080 full HD (and they`re both topped by the 2048 x 1536 Retina display on the new iPad Air and the amazing 2560 x 1600 display on Kobo's new Android-based ereader, the Arc 10 HD). That means video is decent, but not spectacular. Audio, on the other hand, is quite good for the tablet world: front-facing speakers with Dolby technology, so things like this sound great.

The 5 megapixel rear-facing camera lives at the end of the cylinder, at what`s the top of the device in portrait mode. The 1.6 megapixel front-facing camera is dead centre. That means, of course, when the tablet is in landscape mode, sitting up on its foot for a Skype call, you`re off-centre in the image. It still works, you just have to compensate a bit. Image quality is pretty good; as on most tablets there's no flash.

There are few controls to fuss with on the Yoga, just a large power button on the left end of the cylinder, a micro USB port above it for charging, and an audio jack and volume controls on the right. From their location, and the Lenovo logo printed just above the battery, one can guess that Lenovo expects the Yoga to spend most of its time in landscape mode; the controls are a bit awkward to use in portrait mode.

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The funky shape presents another small challenge: the Yoga won't fit into most generic tablet cases. However, Lenovo offers a nice custom case for $29, complete with cleaning cloth and screen protector, that works very well. There`s also a keyboard/cover coming for $69.

Lenovo's flavour of the Android interface features big icons, big fonts, and a six item launch bar at the bottom. You can't complain it's not suitable for the fattest of fingers, though I wish things could be shrunk a bit; even changing font size didn't alter the icon labels, so long ones get chopped off. You can, however, download a different launcher from the Google Play store if this version really bugs you.

On the whole, this is a decent tablet. The display and performance may be merely adequate, but the battery life is stellar, the audio is very good, and it's a good price for a 10 inch tablet. But if Lenovo beefed up the specs a bit, and improved the display, it could be a killer device.

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