Lenovo has crammed just about everything it can think of into the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro to make it interesting, with the exception of a stylus and a can opener. And it is interesting, from a purely technical point of view - it has a huge 13" screen, 2.1 JLB speakers, integrated kickstand, and oh yeah, a built-in pico projector. This machine epitomizes one of the best things about Android hardware: a diversity of manufacturers can yield an amazing variety of features.

Unfortunately, Lenovo's design is more ambitious than its execution. With a build quality that's only average, some questionable hardware decisions, and a software experience that's poor at best, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro simply won't be worth a look for most people. Even those who find its unique hardware features useful will struggle to get past Lenovo's derivative Android skin. There are a few bright spots like the kickstand, battery life, and a surprisingly good camera, but they can't raise this tablet above the pack.

  

There are some isolated use cases where Lenovo's bombastic design makes sense, but they're few and far between. Unless you've got a very particular niche that the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro fits perfectly, it's a very hard tablet to recommend.

Specs

Display 13.3" screen
Size 2560x1440 LCD
CPU Atom Z3745
RAM 2GB
Storage 32GB, MicroSD card slot
Battery 9600mAh Li-ion
Camera 8MP rear, 1.6MP Front
Software Android 4.4.2, Lenovo skin
Dimensions 331.9 x 223.7 x 22mm
Weight 2.09 pounds
Other Integrated kickstand, pico projector
Price $469.99

The Good

Unique form factor The large screen and kickstand open up a lot of options, especially for travel and at-a-glance viewing.
Screen While not great, the screen uses resolution well and works great for video.
Camera The 8MP rear camera is surprisingly good for a tablet.

The Not So Good

Build quality Despite the high price tag, the build quality screams budget, with the exception of the kickstand.
UI Lenovo's software skin is a shameless Apple rip-off, but they forgot to include the intuitive part.
Apps The bloatware on this tablet includes some of the worst built-in apps I've ever seen.

Hardware

The Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is, first and foremost, enormous. It's not the biggest Android tablet ever made by screen size - Toshiba's Excite 13 had a 13" screen, and in any case there are weird outliers like the Nabi Big Tab. But at 331.9 x 223.7mm and 2.09 pounds, it's probably the biggest device currently in production that anyone might consider for a "primary" tablet. It's even bigger than those dimensions might suggest, thanks to the curvaceous battery bump/handgrip/kickstand thing that is the hallmark of the Yoga series. It's 22mm wide at its thickest point, if you're wondering. As for the actual design of the tablet, it's somewhat schizophrenic. While parts of it feel very high-quality indeed, other parts are a major let-down.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13.3"), Toshiba Chromebook 2 (13.3"), NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet (8"), Motorola Nexus 6 (6"). LEGO Han Solo for scale.

Screen

Let's begin with the screen: it's a 13.3" LCD panel with a resolution of 2650x1440. Unlike certain phones, that's not overkill at this size: Android shines on a large screen with a high resolution, as owners of bigger Samsung tablets will tell you. And while the LCD panel on the Tablet 2 Pro isn't exactly astonishing, it's more than capable of handling anything you can throw at it. Brightness is good and colors are well-defined, if a little cold (the screen has a noticeable blue tint). There's some light bleeding on dark backgrounds, but that's not exactly unexpected with a screen this big.

You read the resolution right, by the way: unlike most other Android tablets, the Pro 2 uses a 16:9 aspect ratio. I'm guessing that Lenovo is repurposing OEM parts from its enormous laptop division, where 16:9 is the standard. The aspect ratio will hurt usability down there in the software section, but there's another drawback: the bezel size. On a device that's already huge, the relatively ordinary 18mm bezels don't help, and that isn't including the huge speaker and kickstand arrangement at the bottom. While other manufacturers seem to be slimming bezels as much as possible without sacrificing usability, Lenovo appears content to let them hang out there.

Build Quality

The Tablet 2 Pro is made of plastic. Lots and lots of plastic.

The Tablet 2 Pro is made of plastic. Lots and lots of plastic. Now, just because something is plastic doesn't mean it's automatically bad - Nokia's phones are plastic and they're practically bomb-proof, and Samsung's Tab S series is plastic and it feels wonderful. Even cheap devices like the Nexus 7 can do plastic right. But this is not the case for Lenovo. The entire rear panel feels like it's ready to come off with just a little coaxing, and that big, heavy body is prone to creaking and flexing. I get the distinct impression that the silver paint will start to look worn quickly, like a cheap keyboard. Even the parts that really need to withstand some abuse, like the focus slider for the integrated pico projector, are light and cheap.

The exception is (thankfully) the kickstand. I'm a huge fan of integrated kickstand designs, and the all-metal kickstands on the Yoga series are probably the best ever made for tablets. They achieve this by making the entire design bigger, but for a certain type of user, it's well worth the effort. The kickstand on the Tablet 2 Pro is big, stiff, and ready for any position. (You, in the back. Stop that giggling and see me after class.) The hinge has just the right amount of resistance to hold it in any position, whether it's upright or propped up magazine style. Combined with the screen, the kickstand makes the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro perhaps the best "desk companion" tablet ever - I almost wish I could keep this review unit just to have an extra screen for Gmail and Twitter all day long.

 

The kickstand folds neatly back into the tablet body, and is released again with a button that's integrated into the 8MP camera and subwoofer panel. (Yes, there's a subwoofer. More on that later.) There's a small cutout to allow the access to the camera, speaker, and release button, and Lenovo really hopes you'll hang the tablet from this hole. For some reason. It's technically possible - the kickstand extends nearly 180 degrees - but I never found an instance where this would actually be desirable or practical. I dunno, maybe if you like long relaxing baths you could nail it up somewhere in your bathroom.

The left side of the tablet holds the oversized circle-shaped power button, the volume rocker, the USB 2.0 port, and the headphone jack. The opposite side is where the pico projector lens hides, along with a physical button to activate it. Underneath the kickstand itself is a flip-up tab to hold a MicroSD card slot, plus a lonely space where a SIM card slot would be if anyone in the US ever sold mobile-equipped Android tablets. I think with the size of the device Lenovo probably could have included a standard SD card slot (and made an excellent camera companion). Throw in the dual JBL-branded speakers on the front, and that's about it as far as hardware goes.

Speakers

The speakers on the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro are one of its biggest marketable features, thanks to a partnership with JBL. It's a 2.1 setup: stereo speakers beneath the screen on the front, and an integrated subwoofer beneath the kickstand on the back. And they're... OK. Just OK. That's kind of shocking: I wasn't expecting perfect sound, even from a large tablet like this, but I would say that the output and quality are about the same as a cheap laptop. While the sound has more range and depth than the stereo speakers on my Nexus 6, they're considerably weaker. That's almost paradoxical.

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Since the Tablet 2 Pro shares a lot of hardware with low-end laptops, I decided to compare it to my Toshiba Chromebook 2, which also has branded sound from Skullcandy (a name with far less trust than JBL, I might add). The laptop blows it out of the water. All this wouldn't really be a problem - I mostly listen to tablets with headphones anyway - but considering the presence of the pico projector on the Tablet 2 Pro, weak speakers are almost inexcusable. Even in a quiet room, a group of people would need to literally sit around the tablet to hear the dialogue of a movie or TV show. If you want to take advantage of the projector or the large screen for sharing video, you'll need external sound of some kind, which is a real bummer considering the all-in-one design of the tablet.

One last thing to note: the Tablet 2 Pro comes with a free pair of JBL-branded earbuds. They're considerably nicer than most of the standard throwaways you might get with a new gadget (and even those are pretty rare these days). The bass is a little light, but the earbuds are a much better option than using the tablet's speakers in most situations.

Storage

The tablet comes with 32GB of storage, which is (finally!) becoming the standard for high-end devices. No complaints here, though again, I think Lenovo could have included a standard SD card slot on a tablet this big. Lenovo's build of Android 4.4 takes up 6.5GB, leaving users with a little less than 28GB for apps and media. Not bad.

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Battery Life

Lenovo uses that kickstand/projector/speaker "hump" to cram in a three-cell cylindrical battery with a size of 9600mAh. That's quite big for an Android tablet... but considering the size of this tablet in particular, and the extra vertical space it's using, it's actually not all that remarkable. The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 fits in a 9500mAh battery, nearly the same size, in a conventional "flat" form factor.

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Even so, the battery life of the Tablet 2 Pro is more than satisfactory. When using the tablet with my normal combination of web surfing, videos, email, and light games, I was able to get 8 hours of screen time, and in some cases up to 10. The large, high-res screen obviously uses more juice than a comparable 10-inch tablet, but a single charge should be able to last you several days of normal use, especially since the standby time is good for at least a week. Lenovo rates the tablet with a 15-hour battery life, which is probably doable if you only use it for browsing or reading and don't bump up the brightness.

I do have to knock the Tablet 2 Pro's charging. It's weirdly specific: the included wall-wart adapter outputs 1.8 volts, and the tablet won't charge at all from standard phone adapters, or from low-power USB ports on computers. (Most tablets accept a slower charge from just about any USB source.) The tablet would charge from higher-output sources, like my Nexus 6 adaptor with Quick Charge, but it lacks any quick charge capacity itself. That's something it could really use, because a full recharge takes several hours.

Camera

We've been trained to expect poor cameras from tablets in general, but surprisingly, this one isn't bad at all. Even with medium light and moving subjects, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro managed to grab some decent still shots with the 8MP rear camera, probably thanks to the F/2.2 lens. It tends to overexpose a tad, but considering some of the competition, I'd say it's towards the front of the pack.

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Video is predictably jittery - it doesn't help that you're holding what feels like a serving dish while shooting - and the front-facing 1.6MP camera is serviceable for video chats and not much else. If you're one of those weird people who really like to take photos with your tablet, this one's pretty decent.

Projector

This is clearly the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro's crowning feature, right? It's only the second mobile Android device with an integrated projector (behind the Samsung Galaxy Beam), and the 8-inch and 10-inch version of the current Yoga don't have one. Lenovo's intention is for users to whip out the projector for easy video sharing on the road, or for presentations for business users. But as anyone who's spent time with unconventional consumer electronics might be able to guess, the results are a mixed bag.

The tablet's pico projector has to make a few understandable compromises to fit into a mobile product, even one this large. For starters, its resolution is far below that of the tablet screen at 854x580. The brightness is also far lower than you'd see on a standard projector. Lenovo doesn't give the lumen rating, but you're going to want a dark room for any kind of visibility, and even in pitch darkness the contrast isn't going to please video buffs. Lenovo recommends projecting onto walls at up to 50 inches. Even at smaller sizes, you're going to notice the lower resolution.

Here's the process for watching a video: find a big patch of white wall in a dark room. Find a table or other flat surface to rest the tablet on. You also might need something to prop up the tablet if you're trying to get the projected image high on the wall, which can get awkward with the large size and kickstand. Oh yeah, the kickstand: go ahead and flip it out to exactly 87 degrees, because while the projector lens can compensate for a vertical tilt, it doesn't rotate or adjust horizontally. (Some kind of mark or locking mechanism would have helped here, but it's sadly absent.) Great! Now you're ready to activate projector mode by pressing the button next to the lens and confirming the pop-up in Android. Now slide the focus adjustor, a little tab on the tablet's hump, to get the picture in focus.

If all that seems like more hassle than it's worth, it generally is

It doesn't help that the tablet seems to seriously struggle to play some kinds of video in projector mode. When trying to play videos from Google Play or YouTube, projector mode will attempt to display the video via the projector and not on the tablet screen, Chromecast-style, which seems to make the hardware chug. There's usually a significant wait (sometimes for up to 3 minutes), and about half the time the app will crash. In apps that don't have this oddly restrictive behavior, like Netflix or Chrome, they tend to play just fine.

If all that seems like more hassle than it's worth, it generally is, especially since you already have a 13" screen that's pretty great for watching movies. I'd say that using the screen directly is preferable, unless you have a group of three or more people who need to see the content you're displaying... and even then, you'll have to satisfy the conditions above and ideally get an external speaker. All in all, the projector is usually more trouble than it's worth to use.

Software

Home screen and software skin

There's no nice way to say this. Lenovo's Android skin is a shameless iPad rip-off.

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The home screen is abysmal, unless you're really into placing all your icons on various screens or in folders, because there is no app grid. And even then, the use of space is completely unintuitive - widgets eat up huge amounts of real estate, and there's very little in the way of customization, more or less like iOS. It's baffling to me why Lenovo felt the need to completely ape Apple, especially when the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro's hardware is (for better or worse) so unique.

It doesn't end at the home screen. Here's the notification bar. Yes, this is Android 4.4. See what's missing? Everything except the notifications.

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To get to Lenovo's completely custom quick settings menu you have to swipe up from the navigation bar. Not only is this unintuitive for anyone who's used any other Android device, it means you'll be accidentally activating it all the time, especially when using the Google Now swipe-up gesture. To be perfectly honest, the rest of the skin isn't terrible, but it is amazingly jarring. The screen's 16:9 ratio doesn't help matters: because Android puts the navigation bar on the bottom for tablets in all orientations, and the kickstand encourages you to use the tablet in horizontal mode, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro's screen always feels uncomfortably cramped.

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Lenovo includes a multi-window mode for the tablet, but unfortunately it only supports six apps. One of them is Chrome and five of them are proprietary Lenovo "floating" apps that you don't care about. So, yeah, unless you're browsing the web and using the calculator at the same time, it's basically useless.

Apps

Aside from Lenovo versions of built-in apps, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro also includes social networking app Brewster, "4D" app DAQRI, Evernote, a non-Play Store game store called, uh, Gamestore, the Kingsoft office suite, Route 66 navigation, "Security HD," a proprietary file syncing app, and a handful of Lenovo extras. Just to illustrate the lack of care that Lenovo has displayed when it comes to these pack in-apps, here's a screenshot from "Gamestore."

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This app wants me to pay for an Android game with gift cards from Burger King

This app appears to want me to pay for a non-verified Android game with a debit or credit card, a direct bank transfer, or gift cards from Burger King, Circle K, and Dollar General. Words fail me.

Lenovo is taking the same approach with Android tablets that PC makers tend to take with rock-bottom Windows PCs: load them up with junkware to make the hardware margins bigger. That might be OK in a budget device, but this thing is going for nearly $500 online! This is a premium device, or at the very least, Lenovo is pricing it like one. I'm extremely disappointed in the software in just about every way.

That isn't to say that the overall experience is horrible. You can always load up an alternate launcher (which I encourage owners to do) and uninstall or disable unwanted apps (ditto). It's perfectly possible to use the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro in an effective way... but Lenovo doesn't make it easy.

Performance

The Yoga Tablet 2 Pro runs on an Atom Z3745 processor and 2GB of RAM. That's respectable, if not exactly top-of-the-line (and probably not what customers want out of a $500 machine). Once I loaded up the Google launcher, I was able to navigate most apps and functions with only a tiny bit of lag, which is sadly par for the course for Android running on x86 hardware at the moment.

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Here are the benchmarks. Not much to write home about, but the real-world performance was more than acceptable. High-intensity games like Asphalt 8 and Hearthstone run at or near ideal framerates, which is no mean feat on a 2560x1440 screen.

Using The Tablet

Most of the review above is pretty negative, and if you examine the Yoga piece by piece, it is indeed a pretty poor device. But I have to say, it fills a very specific niche very well. The heft of the device makes it unwieldy for extended use on its own, even with the very grippable cylindrical section. Poor placement of the power and projector buttons means that even if you're comfortable using a two-pound tablet, you'll activate popups more often than you'd like. But if, and only if, you use the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro on a table or desk, it shines.

The kickstand makes this tablet an ideal work companion for me, since it's much faster to rely on notifications and widgets for email than to open them in a desktop browser. Using the kickstand in a lower position makes the large screen ideal for touch-typing. And of course, the size of the tablet means it's a great video machine, sound issues notwithstanding. It's a decent travel companion if you don't mind the weight (and you're not also bringing a laptop along), and the large screen also makes it relatively easy to connect a keyboard and mouse for remotely accessing desktop computers.

I have to say, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro fills a very specific niche very well

Can you justify such an expensive machine for any of these niche cases? Probably not. You've probably already got a laptop that does at least some of these things well. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention them.

There are a few people out there who will really enjoy the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro. I'm not one of them. I could see it being a decent purchase for the road warrior who has no need for a full laptop, or maybe parents who want a tablet for their kids to share (who might actually get some use out of the integrated projector). A few other isolated cases, like someone who wants an Android-based heads-up display for their office, might also enjoy it.

But for most consumers, the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro will be too much of something. Too big, too gimicky, too cheap, and definitely too expensive. If you really want a huge tablet, I have to recommend Samsung's 12-inch options instead, even if you have to lug along a stand. If the lackluster hardware doesn't sink your enthusiasm for this tablet, then Lenovo's poorly-implemented software certainly will. I'll give them points for some innovative ideas, but there's a distinct lack of execution that really brings the whole experience down.