Believe it or not, product development is a process, and not just from initial designs and prototypes to a final commercial product, but also from generation to generation of a product in the marketplace. Like every other PC and device maker, Lenovo hasn't always delivered perfect products, but to its credit, the company does pay attention to feedback from customers and the tech media alike and is willing to adjust a subsequent generation of products accordingly.
So it is with Lenovo's refreshed line of Yoga Tablets.
There are six Yoga tablets in the new lineup. There are 8- and 10-inch Yoga Tab 3s, as well as a 10-inch Yoga Tab 3 Pro, and there are Wi-Fi-only and LTE versions of each.
|Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 (8-inch)||Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 (10-inch)||Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro|
|Display||8-inch (1280x800) IPS||10-inch (1280x800) IPS||10.1-inch (2560x1600) IPS, 299 nits|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 212, quad core @ 1.3 GHz||Qualcomm Snapdragon 212, quad core @ 1.3 GHz||Intel Atom x5-Z8500 (Cherry Trail) quad core @ 1.4 GHz 13MP|
|RAM||1 GB RAM||1 GB RAM||2 GB RAM|
|Storage||16 GB (expandable via microSD)||16 GB (expandable via microSD)||16 GB / 32 GB eMMC (Expandable with microSD)|
|Camera||8MP autofocus, rotatable||8MP autofocus, rotatable||-13MP rear-facing with autofocus-5MP front|
|Audio||-2 front-facing large-chamber speakers-Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound||-2 front-facing large-chamber speakers-Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound||-4-speaker front-facing bar-Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound|
|Connectivity||-Bluetooth 4.0-Wi-Fi only or 4G LTE||-Bluetooth 4.0-Wi-Fi only or 4G LTE||-Bluetooth 4.0-Wi-Fi only or 4G LTE|
|OS||Android 5.1 Lollipop||Android 5.1 Lollipop||Android 5.1 Lollipop 10,200|
|Misc.||Lenovo AnyPen||Lenovo AnyPen||-Rotating 70-inch Pico Projector, 50 nits, Digital Focus, Gesture Control-IP21 Splash Proof|
|Battery||6,200 mAh (up to 20 hrs on a charge)||8,400 mAh (up to 20 hrs on a charge)||10,200 mAh (up to 18 hrs on a charge)|
|Dimensions||-7.1 mm thick, 1.03 lbs (Wi-Fi model)-7.1 mm inches thick, 1.04 lbs (LTE)||-3-7 mm, weight TBD||-4.5 mm, 1.47 lbs|
|Price||-from $169 (Wi-Fi)-from $199 (LTE)||-from $199 (Wi-Fi)-from $249 (LTE)||-from $399 (Wi-Fi)-from $599 (LTE)|
Note that the Yoga Tab 3 Pro sports an Intel Cherry Trail chip as opposed to the Qualcomm SoCs found in the Tab 3's, and it has a front-facing speaker bar comprised of four speakers. All of these devices run Android; it appears that Lenovo has abandoned any version of Windows on these tablets.
That jibes with Lenovo's marketing plans; company reps described the Yoga Tab 3 Pro as the "ultimate entertainment tablet." In other words, they're no longer trying to paint these devices with any productivity tools.
The presence of the pico projector on the Pro device is fun, and all the tablets have Dolby Atmos 3D sound on board, which is tech that creates a more spatial sensation when you're under your headphones. The other two devices, you'll note, don't have front and rear cameras -- instead, they have a single 8MP camera that rotates from front to back. (More on this in a moment.)
The two non-Pro tablets also offer Lenovo AnyPen support, which is a terrific feature that lets you use virtually any conductive tip -- metal or graphite -- as an input tool on the device. (I was taking a sip of water when the Lenovo rep showed me this feature, and I almost did a spit take when he grabbed a fork and used it as a stylus.)
The prices are also worth mentioning, as they cover a wide gamut. You can snag the Yoga Tab 3 (8-inch) for just $169, which, considering the specs, appears to be a significant bargain (although you'd probably want to allow a little extra cash for a microSD card to augment the paltry 16 GB of onboard storage). On the high end, though, the Yoga Tab 3 Pro costs as much as a decent laptop. For a device that's purely for entertainment consumption, $600 seems too high a cost.
One thing we've enjoyed about Lenovo's Yoga tablets in the past is that the company is always poking at new ways to do things. For example, it put a projector into an earlier Yoga tablet, and others came with a flip-out kickstand. The primary chassis design of the series made use of a rolled base --meant to evoke the way a magazine felt in your hand when folded over -- which housed the aforementioned features and was also designed as the primary means of gripping the tablet.
However clever, the above innovations were by no means perfect. The projector itself was weak, and in order to manage how its image projected onto a wall, you had to prop it up with with books, or something equally inelegant.
In our hands on time with the Lenovo Tablet 2 (10-inch), we found that the kickstand was sturdy enough, but poorly designed. Lenovo actually ended up having to put a little sticker with instructions for how to flip it out, because some users were stumped; others were risking broken nails trying to dig into the kickstand out.
Finally, although we were intrigued by the decision to run a version of Windows on the older generation, there were some minor performance issues in real-life situations. The experience doing just about anything was a little slow -- something to be expected on a tablet -- but just because something is expected doesn't mean it's ideal.
Lenovo acknowledges all of the above, and it has addressed the issues in the latest round of new Yoga tablets.
The kickstand has been revised so that instead of having to grab and twist the barrel to open it up, you just click a little release button.
The projector on the Yoga Tab 3 Pro is now mounted on the barrel of the kickstand, so you can adjust it without necessarily fiddling with otherwise propping up the tablet. Lenovo doubled the brightness of the projector, too, bumping it to 50 lumens.
In a brief demo, a Lenovo rep laid the Yoga Tab 3 Pro on the table, turned off the lights, and swivelled the projector around to play a movie on the ceiling. You can see in the video that it's not a mind-blowing image, but it's good enough for a fun movie night snuggled down with the kids. (Or a very lazy Friday night alone at home, where you'd rather watch Netflix while supine instead of lifting your head enough to look at your TV.)
I found the color on the projection is remarkably vivid for a little projector mounted onto a tablet. You can adjust settings with a software dial, which you can see on the tablet's display. It's not a projector replacement -- it's a value-add feature for the Yoga 3 Pro -- but it's more than just a parlor trick.
It's also worth noting that the audio on the four-speaker bar was loud -- we wouldn't describe it as "room-filling," but it was close. The treble was nice and crisp and the bass response was predictably poor, but there was no discernible distortion, and it's totally fine for casual video watching. (You can always strap on some headphones for better-quality sound if you're watching solo.)
Lenovo took the lesson it learned with the projector swivel and applied it to the other Yoga 3 tablets. Why build in both a front and a rear camera when you can give the device one (reasonably high-res 13MP) camera, and mount it on a rotating 270-degree assembly.
Think about it: Every other smartphone and tablet has two cameras. This small innovation from Lenovo makes the two-camera design look a little silly in some cases, doesn't it?
It is highly unlikely that these tablets are perfect, but Lenovo most definitely improved them over the last generation. Further, from the choice of operating system to the tweaked chassis designs to the camera innovation and so on, it's clear that the company has applied some critical thinking here.