Lenovo launches orientation-busting Yoga Tablet to do for Android what Yoga did for Windows

Lenovo is putting on sale today what it announced just yesterday, and the product is certainly an intriguing one. Launching in 10-inch and 8-inch variants, the Yoga Tablet is an Android-powered slate with mid-range specs and relatively low prices that demands attention from its peculiar ergonomics.

Unlike most tablets, Yoga stores its battery in a cylindrical compartment on one side of the device, leading to a lopsided frame that invites the hand to wrap around it. In practice, it makes one-handed use quite easy, though the magnesium body on the 10-inch model weighs a modest 600 grams (1.3lbs), while the 8-inch frame costs 400 grams.

We had a chance to play with both models and came away impressed with their multi-function progress, though some users will find it confounding to hold it in landscape mode with such odd weight distribution. This is because the battery housing doubles as a slight riser to propping the tablet slightly, while housing a slide-out kickstand that manages to convey the right angle for on-screen type. Turning it around in this orientation also delivers a 135-degree stand for media consumption or unaided reading. The device will look extremely similar to anyone familiar with Sony’s first stab at an Android tablet, the Tablet S.


There is a lot to like in the Yoga Tablet’s design, none more so than the integration of a perfectly-calibrated power button on one side of the cylinder, and a headphone jack on the other. Orienting the device towards you in landscape mode reveals stereo speakers, as well.

It is in the nitty gritty hardware that the Yoga Tablet fails to impress. With a tepid 1.2Ghz quad-core MediaTek 8389 SoC and 1GB of RAM, the device manages to feel underpowered on Android 4.2.2 despite only conveying a screen resolution of 1280×800 pixels. While the low resolution smarts less on the 8-inch model, we’ve become used to sharper displays across all price points — the new Nexus 7 spoiled us in this regard — and WXGA just doesn’t cut it anymore. Most apps and games ran well in our initial testing, but there is no getting around the fact that this is last year’s tech in this year’s chassis.


Still, Lenovo has done a fine job with its Android skin, taking some of the best parts of Jelly Bean and eschewing the rest. For example, the launcher contains no app drawer to speak of, but an increasing number of home screens that expand to meet a user’s growing list of apps and widgets. While 16GB of storage comes standard on both models, there is a microSD slot for the avid media consumers, and we had no trouble enjoying the works of David Fincher with the speakers cranked high; Dolby DS1 algorithms are pre-installed for a wider soundstage.

While we haven’t been able to test Lenovo’s claims, the company promises 18 hours of mixed usage from the 10-inch model, and slightly under 15 from the 8-inch variant, with 9000mAh and 6000mAh batteries respectively. We wish Lenovo hadn’t skimped so much on the processor — the MediaTek SoC inside the Yoga Tablet is comparable to a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 from early 2012 — and RAM, but the tablet should have ample power to acquaint itself with most Android apps.


Where Lenovo is really taking a risk is by partnering with renowned tech lover Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher has been hired as a “product engineer,” and is apparently getting down and dirty with the company’s R&D team, already working on the next line of tablets. While it’s uncertain whether the arrangement is just a spokesperson under a different guise, Kutcher’s early product demos have been quite entertaining.

The Yoga Tablet is available from Best Buy in Toronto at Bay & Dundas and online at Best Buy or directly from Lenovo. There is also an optional $29 sleeve and screen protector bundle, along with a $69 Bluetooth keyboard accessory.