The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ is no ordinary tablet. Just once glance at the cylindrical bulge to its side edge, which doubles as a built-in flip-stand, confirms that.
Now in its second-generation configuration, it seems Lenovo has been listening to criticism and has addressed the main issue with the original model: the display resolution. The key addition of "HD+' to its name is the obvious clue here, as the Yoga Tablet now boasts a better-than-Full-HD screen. Score.
But with its unconventional format does this latest Lenovo make sense to have as a do-it-all tablet, or does its design render it more a successful concept than desirable product? We've been investigating what it's like to live with the Yoga Tablet HD+.
Dare to be different
If you're the kind of person who would always keep a tablet in a flip-stand case then the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ looks to offer an alternative complete solution straight out of the box. Its integrated flip-stand design is its obvious point of difference, that rounded silver edge being not only a striking part of the design, but a functional feature on a number of levels.
Whether that strikes a chord with you for good or bad is going to be a matter of taste. The stand's integration adds physical bulk, so the Yoga Tablet sort of feels less tablet-like and more Microsoft Surface-a-like to some degree.
The design adds weight compared to many regular tablet devices, but beginning at 626g for the Wi-Fi only model, the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ isn't going to break any wrists. It might be heavier than more conventional competitors, such as the 469g iPad Air, but the weight gap closes when adding a case with integrated stand. And let's face it: the idea of a stand has to be important to you if you're looking to buy this particular Lenovo.
READ: Apple iPad Air review
Given that a lot of cases we've seen tend to be a bit naff we think Lenovo has got the quality of design just right too. The metal stand is solid, and while the rest may be a metallic plastic wrapper it looks decent at this price point.
The Yoga Tablet's extra bulk doesn't go to waste either: in the portrait orientation it makes for a really comfortable grip. So much so that if you always read text this way then we don't think we've held a more comfortable tablet.
That defied our expectations because, at first glance, we weren't convinced it would feel so natural to hold. Lenovo calls this Hold mode, as if it needed an actual name, but select the setting from Sound & Visual in the menu and it will adjust contrast, colour, brightness and vibrancy of the display too. Everything looks like it's cigarette stained to our eyes in this mode though, supposedly for comfortable reading.
In landscape orientation it's a bit of a different story when hand-holding. Firstly the bezel proportions are more similar to the Sony Xperia Tablet Z2 - and we'd have liked a daintier edging. Secondly that bulging edge gets in the way of a two-handed grip when to your near side; flip the tablet so the bulkier edge is faced away from your body and it adds additional weight that feels less balanced than a normal tablet.
With an integrated stand the likelihood is you won't be holding in landscape orientation though. So it's time to flip the stand out. If you can, because at first it's a royal pain to twist out and into position - something that improves with use. But with slippery palms you'll be repeatedly twisting and trying to grab the stand - it's almost like trying and failing to put a key on a keyring.
But once succeeded that stand is sturdy enough to hold the tablet rigid throughout varying angles. Lenovo calls this one Stand mode, and while the orientation is fine, select the preset from Sound & Vision and it really pushes the vibrancy. Indeed skin tones stop looking natural and more like someone's brushed varnish everywhere.
With the stand out the tablet can be flipped down as if flat, but the stand holds it in a rigid tilted position of around 30-degrees. Or stow that stand and benefit from the subtle incline the stowed stand edge provides. This one is Tilt mode, naming convention fans, which we found worked well on a lap or low-slung desk. The colours and contrast from the Sound & Vision preset (also called Standard in some menus) are the most natural here, so we opted for this preset irrelevant of how we were using the tablet. Say goodbye to excessive vibrancy or cigarette stained colours - things look natural and clean with this option selected.
Resolution on the up
Although to look at the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ is no different to its predecessor - as its display is the same 10.1-inches in scale - it now benefits from a 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution. That's a considerable boost compared to before and the exact area that Lenovo needed to fix.
And fix it has. The IPS panel means viewing angles are great and the crisp resolution and punchy colours (in the right preset mode, anyway) make for a decent viewing experience.
Our only slight issue is the screen's coating: it's a little glossy. Not so glossy that it feels wildly different to other tablet competitors, but when in transit and trying to watch a movie those "fat chin selfie" reflections can be distracting. Our solution was to switch off auto brightness and push it to maximum output to give the moving image pride of place.
A half-way workaround is to take benefit from the built-in stand. It's easy to tweak the positioning through varying angles, so if a light source is too direct then lean the tablet back a touch more, for example, and you'll end up with a better line of sight.
Also on the up is the Yoga Tablet's core power. It's out with the MediaTek processor of old and in with the Qualcomm Snapdragon S400 and 2GB of RAM for the HD+ model. That's twice as much memory compared to the original device, which is great for keeping apps running in the background without needing to worry about overloading.
Although a Snapdragon S400 isn't top-of-the-line tech any more, it's more than ample enough. We had no problems browsing, watching movies, firing emails out and even playing games such as Angry Birds. Everything looked crisp and ran smoothly in our use and the device didn't feel excessively warm due to the processor choice.
Whatever we threw at the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ it seemed to just keep on going and going too. Its 9,000mAh battery provides a huge capacity that's a step ahead of most of its competitors. Paired with Lenovo's Endurance power-saving application it's also possible to be more sparing with consumption. At a normal brightness without any apps running and the Yoga Tablet told us it would keep on going for 42-hours. Obviously we want to use the tablet to actually do things, but even after two full days of weekend use the battery hadn't fully depleted - and that was around 15-hours of use. Very good.
Internal storage options come in 16GB (as tested) or 32GB capacities, but as there's a microSD slot tucked behind the built-in stand that can be loaded with a card to bump up that capacity without breaking the bank. As the system software eats into over 4GB of local storage we would advise looking at the larger capacity model of the two, or buying a 64GB microSD card minimum.
We've been testing the Wi-Fi-only Yoga Tablet, but if you want on-the-go data use then add £30 to your purchase price and there's a 3G model available. No 4G LTE this time around and you'll need to buy a micro SIM with ongoing cost attached, but it's good to see options available for UK users.
With Android 4.3 available at launch, the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ doesn't have the latest Android 4.4 rollout available, but that won't have a huge impact on its use, apart from the absence of multiple user profiles. Lenovo hasn't left Android in its raw form either, instead tweaking the system in a number of areas for its own individual look.
The interface comprises four main screens by default, expandable to 18 screens, each of which can be dressed with various icons and widgets. It's all fairly straightforward stuff and looks reasonable, but it's not as detailed or "live tile" like as something like Samsung's Magazine UX. As there is no apps tray a glut of app icons sprawl across the majority of the screens too, but a quick tidy and that's soon addressed to your liking.
In addition to the left- and right-side swipe-down notifications and settings drop menus there's an optional side-swipe menu - a bit like getting to settings on Windows 8.1 - comprised of video, photos, books, Sound & Vision presets and some core app icons. Thing is, it can only be accessed from the home screens rather than when in another application which seems to largely defeat its point.
Camera & audio
The Yoga Tablet has two seemingly puny speakers to its front and while they can project sound towards the listening in a convincing way, they sound thin overall. Until, that is, you open up the Dolby interface which is, in short, amazing. We know that equalisation can do a lot for audio, but here the intelligent equaliser and pseudo surround stereo separation give an experience 10 times better than the standard output. It's a considerable boost and there are loads of customisation options.
Saying that, you need to have your expectations in check. A tablet isn't going to deliver giant bass as it can't within such physical confines. But if that's a problem them simply plug a pair of headphones into the 3.5mm jack and listen away to top quality audio.
The HD+ also updates the camera, adding a new 8-megapixel snapper to replace the 5MP offering of the original device. Now we're never that fussed about cameras in tablets as they're not hugely useful, but the presence of one - and it's certainly better than its predecessor - ticks another box. It's not a particularly wide-angle lens on offer, however, which might mean you'll be taking steps back from things when you (never) use the camera in public. The front camera is a 1.6MP offering to cater for Skype and the like.
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ is a significant improvement compared to its predecessor, but then you'll need to fork out more cash for the pleasure of owning one. It's a tablet that sticks its neck out by trying something different - that's fairly typical of Lenovo - and succeeds far more than we had initially anticipated.
If you're taken by the unusual design - and that's going to be a binary decision, as the distinctive shape as a result of the built-in stand isn't going to appeal to all - then the multiplicity of ways it can be held and self-supported by that built-in stand is really useful.
Add epic battery life, expandable storage, an HD screen and there's a lot to like. It's different, most likely divisive, but the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ scores well for being an exuberant alternative to other tablet devices. It won't suit all, but after a long weekend's use it's turned our preconceptions around far more than we had anticipated.