Lenovo has had a rough time of it in the tablet segment thus far. It was uncharacteristically late in launching a tablet, and when it did get a tablet out in the market, it failed to generate any significant consumer interest. This year though, Lenovo is looking to fix that with the Yoga line of tablets. The Yoga tablet series is a line of products from Lenovo that have been designed to be flexible as far as the device’s form factor is concerned. And this is true of the Lenovo Yoga 8. The tablet comes with a kickstand that allows it to be used in a variety of different configurations. While the tablet does feature an interesting design, the distinctly lacklustre hardware leaves a lot to be desired for. Let’s delve in and find out what you’re exactly getting with the $250 8-inch tablet.
The Yoga 8 tablet features a unique design that sets it apart from every other tablet out there in the market. Constructed out of polycarbonate plastic and aluminium alloy, the tablet is sturdy to hold and use one-handed. The laser-etched back is also comfortable to hold on to, and overall the tablet feels very well-built.
The Yoga 8 is incredibly thin at 0.12 inches, and comes with a distinctive cylindrical handle that consists of the battery, with the power button and 3.5 mm audio jack featuring on either end on the handle. Another unique characteristic of the tablet is its aluminium alloy kickstand that can be used to prop the device up to watch movies, videos or read content. Also, the device does not lay flat against a surface thanks to the bulging cylindrical handle, and once it is laid down on a surface like a table, it is awkward to pick it up as it is very slim on one side and bulging on the other.
For some obscure reason, Lenovo has etched its logo at the front of the tablet. While the logo looks fine when you hold the device with the kickstand, it does look awkward when you’re using the tablet one-handed, or in any other orientation. And the placement of the camera sensor isn’t also ideal. It is at the back of the cylindrical handle, and if you’re holding the device one-handed, you tend to cover the camera lens with your fingers. The fact that the lens itself is at the bottom of the tablet is also a design flaw, as you have to rotate the device constantly when taking images.
The design of the tablet allows for holding the tablet easily one-handed, but it is awkward to use it in any other orientation due to the uneven weight distribution.
For a tablet that offers convenience of use with a kickstand, the Yoga 8 comes with a fairly sub-standard screen. The 8-inch screen is of the IPS LCD variety, but a resolution of 1280 x 800 means that it is not the best screen out there. The overall pixel density comes out to a measly 189 ppi, which is slightly more than half of the density that devices like the Nexus 7 2013 boast.
It isn’t all about the resolution of the screen though. Colors on the Yoga 8 seem washed out, and it isn’t the ideal device to view movies and other HD content on. It is a major let-down considering the fact that the Yoga 8 tablet comes with a set of stereo speakers that deliver sound that is loud, clear and vibrant.
Hardware and performance
The Yoga 8 comes with a MediaTek MT8125 SoC that has a quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU. MediaTek is the go-to vendor for manufacturers looking to build value for money devices, and the MT8125 is the tablet version of the MT6589 that is widely used in budget Android handsets. Other hardware details on the Yoga 8 include 1 GB RAM and 16/32 GB internal storage along with a micro-SD card slot that can boost storage to 64 GB.
In benchmark tests, the Yoga 8 does not fare as well, scoring a measly 13,500 in AnTuTu benchmarks. To put this number into context, the Nexus 7 2013 achieves a score of 19,700, with the first generation Nexus 7 managing to net over 12,400. Benchmark scores by themselves aren’t indicative of how fast a device is in terms of real-world usage, but in the case of the Yoga 8, they hit the mark. The device is unusually laggy and stutters when you launch a game or exit a utility to go back to the home screen.
It is clear that Lenovo hasn’t undertaken any major design changes since the days of Android Gingerbread 2.3 as far as the user interface on its devices is concerned, and this fact is immediately reflected on the Yoga 8. The icons look cartoonish, and do not look modern in the least. Lenovo has also done away with the app drawer, and instead lists all apps one after the other, like iOS. There are no customizable home screens, and launching widgets is an onerous task.
Even though the Yoga 8 comes with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, it does not feel like it thanks to the heavy amount of customization. The level of customization combined with the MediaTek MT8125 processor means that all transition animations are sluggish and unnecessarily laggy.
Lenovo has decided to go with software navigation buttons in favor of hardware buttons, but instead of the standard Back, Home and Multitask buttons, there is a Menu button to the right. This launches a home screen customization pane, one that can be usually reached via undertaking a long hold gesture on other devices. Clearly, Lenovo was trying to make it easier for users to customize various elements of the device, like background, theme and access system settings easily. But the execution of this feature is far from ideal, with the settings menu looking distinctly out of place when seen against the rest of the user interface.
Furthermore, Lenovo has included a bevy of software “utilities” with the Yoga 8. There is a utility called Navigate 6 which is a navigation tool with a user interface that is decidedly archaic. There is no reason for Lenovo to include this feature when Google offers one of the most robust navigation clients for Android devices.
Then there is a utility called ShareIt that allows users to send and receive files between devices without an Internet connection. The utility works via Bluetooth, QR code, email and a Zero Traffic mode that utilises WLAN to transfer files.
While all of these utilities seem to serve some function, there is a utility called Feature Guide that aims to show novice users how to navigate the Android interface. It comes with a host of hand-drawn diagrams that showcase basic features like the home scree, navigations bar, using the camera UI, browsing the web through the stock browser along with adding and syncing contacts. Such a feature would have been a valuable addition, but Lenovo has covered just the basic outlines of each feature instead of delving in to elucidate users on how a feature works.
The utilities that are useful include a file browser, voice recorder, Kingsoft Office, power management utility and a default browser.
The Yoga 8 tablet, thanks to its kickstand, can work in three different modes. Lenovo has included a Sound and Visual quick toggle setting for changing between modes, and clicking on various modes automatically changes device orientation and settings like screen brightness. The first mode is Tilt Mode, and this is when the device is left flat on a surface. Then there is a Stand Mode, which is when the kickstand is fully extended, and a Hold Mode, which is when you hold the device one-handed.
For a device that offers such versatility, the Yoga 8 does not live up to its name, and is awkward to use with the kickstand. Unless the kickstand is fully extended, using the tablet in any other angle causes it to become very unstable. The hinge is a valuable addition, but it is clear that Lenovo needs to tweak its design further.
The camera on the tablet is a 5 MP offering that comes with auto-focus. Lenovo thankfully did not alter the camera UI all that much from the stock Android camera UI, which is a good thing. That is about the only positive thing as far as the camera section is concerned. Images taken from the Yoga 8 lack any detail, and colors are washed out and fuzzy. There are also no image enhancement and retouch features that manufacturers usually include in their offerings.
Battery life is one of the few areas that the Yoga 8 has a clear advantage in, with the 6,000 mAh battery lasting the device a full day of heavy usage on a single charge, with the device managing to last for over three days on normal usage. Battery life has been a major issue with devices of late, as manufacturers look to add more powerful hardware. With the Yoga tablet, however, it is not an issue and the device lets you watch over 6 hours of video or 11 hours of surfing the Internet over Wi-Fi. Heavy-duty tasks like gaming cause the device to lag incessantly, but most social games like Subway Surfers run without too many issues.
While the battery life is good, the tablet does take an inexorably long time to charge.
While the idea behind the Yoga 8 tablet is novel, Lenovo’s execution was far from ideal. Its idea to include a hinge does make the tablet more useful, but when it actually comes down to doing stuff, like gaming or watching high-definition content, the tablet fails to deliver. It has the potential to be a great tablet, but underwhelming hardware and a bad screen let the tablet down.
It does feature a unique design, loud speakers and a battery life that is far better than every other device in this category, but ultimately fails to justify its $249 price tag.