Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+
23rd Oct 2014 | 14:11
A Lenovo tablet that can do a little bit of yoga
It is quite hard to stand out in the mid-range 10-inch Android tablet market, but if anyone has a chance it is Lenovo.
Well known for innovative laptop designs and very high quality products, this Chinese powerhouse has found amazing success over the past few years by really pushing what is possible in that traditional form factor.
Lenovo has a significant portfolio of mobile phones (sold mostly in China) and is going to be a manufacturer to watch in the coming years, especially as it tries to push into relatively mature Western markets with the acquisition of Motorola.
In a clear attempt to bring its core values of innovation, differentiation, and quality to the tablet market, Lenovo launched two Yoga tablets in 2013 to a mixed response.
Trading on its almost bullet-proof brand name, these tablets unfortunately lacked in screen quality and performance and came with unattractive software. Now though, Lenovo has launched the Yoga 10 HD+ with some serious upgrades in all areas.
One thing that didn't change with this second generation device is the design and hardware features, which are easily the most unique you can find on any tablet this side of a Microsoft Surface. In fact, the Yoga tablets share some ideas with the Surface.
The Yoga 10 HD+ has a large cylindrical enclosure down one long edge of the tablet, called the battery cylinder, which is where all the magic happens.
Firstly, that cylinder holds a huge battery rated at 9000mAh, which gives a capacity of 33.3Wh. By comparison, a Samsung Galaxy Pro 10.1 has a capacity of 30.4Wh.
More interestingly though are the other tricks that hide here, and they are the clue as to why Lenovo gave this tablet its Yoga branding. There is a very sturdy small stand that you can roll out by twisting the bottom of the tablet. Once the stand is exposed, the Yoga 10 HD+ can be stood up at almost any angle.
Once stood up like that, the Yoga becomes a superb tablet for consuming media on its rather lovely and bright screen.
The experience is made even better by the stereo front facing speakers, which go very loud. However, they are not of great quality, lacking bass and distorting slightly at very high volumes.
The power button is located on one side of this metallic cylinder and it has a rather subtle LED notification light embedded in the button. It is rather too subtle, bordering on useless, as I have only ever noticed it when trying to find the power button anyway.
On the other end is the headphone jack that is actually really well positioned for most uses.
Unlike the original Yoga 10, the 1920 x 1200 pixel screen resolution is rather nice. While its sharpness won't compare to an iPad Air 2 or a Samsung Galaxy Tab S, it is still very nice to use and has plenty of brightness, a major upgrade on the old model.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC with four cores all clocked at 1.6GHz is also a serious upgrade from the weak processor used last time.
This chipset is found in all sorts of devices including the much praised Moto G, but this is the first time I have come across a device asking it to drive such a high resolution screen. It manages this without any notable slow-downs, cementing its reputation as the chipset of choice for the mid-range.
Lenovo has also included 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage in the Yoga 10 HD+ along with microSD card expansion. No corners cut here then.
There's an 8MP camera housed on the back of the ever-present cylinder behind the power button. I found this to be a really annoying position, especially for taking landscape orientation pictures where I had to hold the tablet with two hands. But I can let Lenovo off for this one slip up.
The 1.6MP front facing camera is mounted at the top of the Yoga 10 HD+ when it is held in portrait orientation. This made video calls with the tablet propped up on its in-built stand quite awkward, something I find harder to forgive.
Unfortunately, at launch the Yoga 10 HD+ arrived with Android 4.3 and a rather heavy and clunky Lenovo user interface. There has now been an update taking the tablet to Android 4.4.2 and actually removing a large chunk of Lenovo's customisations, giving the Yoga a nice software build. Kudos to Lenovo for this.
So it seems there is not much wrong with the Yoga 10 HD+ but one look at the price can shatter this illusion. At £299 (around US$300, $552) for the Wi-Fi only model reviewed here it is quite expensive compared to other, better-specified, tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Pro 10.1.
It is still cheaper than most high-end Android tablets at this screen size, but it does only have mid-range specs.
The 3G model represents better value in my view at £330 (around US$546, AU$607), but can either model really compete for honours in this class?
The most interesting, unique and important feature on the Lenovo Yoga 10 HD+ is the rotating stand that is integrated into the tablet.
Just like the Microsoft Surface, this allows the Yoga to stand up at various different angles. In my testing it could be held up at almost any angle at all.
Lenovo even sells a funky little keyboard accessory, which you slide the Yoga into to form a protective shell but then use as a Bluetooth keyboard when you want to get some serious typing done.
There are in fact three modes that the device operates in which Lenovo call tilt, stand and hold.
Tilt mode is where you just leave the stand closed and put the tablet on a table or some similarly flat surface. This is how I use the Yoga 10 HD+ most of the time but there is one design choice that I think Lenovo got wrong.
If you put the tablet on a table with the cylindrical part closest to you the screen tilts away from you, which I find quite uncomfortable. Turning it the other way round is great except the Lenovo logo is now upside down. Every time I pick the device up I wonder why they put a logo on it the way they did. It's not a huge problem, but it does show a lack of thoughtfulness in the design.
Stand mode is what I have already described. It works brilliantly as a media consumption device when stood up and I have watched a few films on it that way.
It has proved a great second screen for me to watch some sport on a streaming TV channel while working on my computer screen next to it. The speakers point directly at you and it is great to have the stand built in.
Hold mode makes great use of the shape of the device. It is as it sounds - you hold the Yoga by the battery cylinder in portrait orientation. Despite being a fairly heavy and large tablet, it is actually really comfortable to hold for fairly long periods of time.
I quite enjoyed reading while holding it like that but in the end its weight and size do count against it. The similarly designed eight-inch version of the 10 HD+ would probably be a great e-reader type device.
While the versatile stand and the subsequent design are probably the tablet's most important and most positive hardware feature, there are a few downsides that are well worth considering.
Firstly, the size. No doubt quite a fair bit of bulk has been added to the Yoga 10 HD+ with its design and at over 600 grams, it is one of the heaviest large tablets of recent times.
More problematic though is trying to interact with the device using two hands in any orientation. This is especially the case when it comes to typing. I normally thumb type by holding a tablet in two hands and using my thumbs, but with the Yoga this is almost impossible.
With the battery cylinder at the bottom or top of the device, the weight of it makes holding the tablet level quite awkward. With it on either side of the device while holding it in portrait, my thumbs are nowhere near long enough to reach over and be able to type comfortably.
On the software side there are a number of interesting features that Lenovo has included. The Shareit app uses Wi-Fi Direct to connect any two mobile devices together and perform file transfers. It is up to sixty times faster than Bluetooth and incurs no data charges, as the devices connect directly to each other.
Shareit is available for Android, iOS and Windows and even supports transferring data from an old device to your new one with its Cloneit feature. It should be noted that the Lenovo website doesn't link to the Play Store for the Android version but provides a direct download, which is odd as the app is in the Play Store.
Syncit allows you to sync your contacts to the Lenovo cloud or to your installed SD card and then later restore them. I am not certain of the value of this, but if you don't store your contacts in any other cloud, it is a useful backup. The major problem here is that the app forces you to use portrait orientation.
Security HD serves multiple purposes including a task manager, ad blocker, app manager and permission manager.
The task manager portion of the app gives you control over which apps run at system start-up, as well as being able to stop apps at any time and clean up your internal storage. Ad blocking is largely focussed on apps that put ads into your notification bar.
The app manager helps with uninstalling apps including a bulk uninstaller. It will tell you if you need to move apps to your SD card should storage be getting low and most interestingly, you can freeze apps without uninstalling them.
With the permission manager, you can see which apps have rights to perform a range of different actions from sending an SMS on your behalf to opening the camera and accessing your location.
You can remove permissions for each app and for some types of access ask for the Yoga 10 HD+ to prompt you before allowing the app to proceed.
The added security options on the Yoga are very welcome and show Lenovo's understanding of the enterprise market. This is a clever way to circumvent some of the angst around Android permissions even if the problems might be over stated at times.
Interface, performance and battery
Now that Lenovo has endowed the Yoga 10 HD+ with Android 4.4.2, the interface is much simpler than it was.
Lenovo's custom launcher is rather different to stock Android though. There is no app drawer, instead app icons intermix with widgets and new app icons get added to the end of your home screens when they are installed.
A maximum of thirteen home screens are available but folders can be created to help organise that space. This is done in the normal way by dropping one app icon onto another.
Adding widgets is a little bit fiddly, being accomplished through the use of a small horizontally scrolling drawer, which is shown at the bottom of the screen if you long press on an empty space on a home screen.
The only downside to this launcher I could find was the persistent menu button bottom right. Lenovo should really get rid of this hangover from Android past, even if it does provide some useful option. It could no doubt be put somewhere else.
Lenovo have changed the quick settings accessed by pulling down from the top right part of the screen. These are a part of stock Android, but Lenovo has changed which options appear there and I couldn't find a way to customise them.
Usefully, Lenovo includes the ability to run up to four apps side by side. Open one app, press the task switch button and drag another app into position next to the already open one.
It works well enough though it is slow to get everything running. Tapping between the open apps is nice and slick though. Not all apps work with this multiwindow feature and it seemed pretty random as to which did.
The calendar app on the Yoga 10 HD+ is pretty good. It is clearly based on the Google Calendar app, but is far better optimised for the screen size with options for viewing a day, month, week or year. The only missing option is a quick way to return to the current date.
Contacts are displayed in a nice two-pane layout, which works as well as you might expect. The search facility is very fast too. Editing a contact is clunky though, as you are sent into a single column list of fields that just stretch out across the expansive screen.
Overall, the interface is fairly clean and intuitive. Lenovo doesn't really take anything away from stock Android and what it adds tends to be useful and generally optimised well for the large screen.
Another area where Lenovo have clearly done a good job with the Yoga 10 HD+ is in performance. This is a snappy device that is pleasant to use most of the time despite its relatively humble innards.
A decent score of 1496 on the Geekbench 3 multicore test backs up the feeling of a device with reasonable oomph, and there is little to complain about in day-to-day usage.
Apps open instantly and most operations are fast and fuss free. There is some slight lag in some animations, but in general, this is an accomplished device.
Gaming is a decent experience especially with those front-facing speakers. But keep it light or the Yoga gets quite warm and struggles with frame rates, as you would expect given its specs.
The large battery contained in the battery cylinder is responsible for the epic endurance I have seen from the Lenovo Yoga 10 HD+. I can easily get 10 hours screen time in general use over a couple of days from the tablet which is truly impressive.
One caveat must be made to this exceptional performance. I kept the tablet on auto screen brightness at all times, which on the Yoga means a fairly dim screen. It will ramp up in brightness very quickly outdoors, which would reduce its longevity, as would manually adjusting the volume.
Most impressive is the video performance of the Yoga 10 HD+. I ran the standard TechRadar battery test, which involves looping a video for ninety minutes at standard screen brightness, which is 300 lux, or about 65% of the way along the Yoga 10 HD+ brightness slider. From fully charged, the battery dropped only to 90% suggesting up to fifteen hours of video consumption.
The test was conducted while connected to a strong Wi-Fi signal and I had all my accounts syncing in the background. The Yoga has amazing battery life.
There is a power manager on the Yoga with a power saver mode should you need it. Though I cannot imagine why you would need it when endurance is this good. There is a screen brightness mode called sine-wave power saving which can reduce power consumption, but in my testing I couldn't tell the difference.
In the power saver, each app's power usage can be examined in detail along with how much power the radios and screen have used. This is a bit more detailed than the usual information Android gives, but doesn't offer enough to be really useful, other than a quick shortcut to freeze an app direct from the list.
A persistent notification in the notification drawer shows the current percentage of charge remaining along with an estimate of how long that will last.
A fairly powerful two-amp charger is included in the box but even with this the Yoga 10 HD+ takes a long time to charge. It is definitely a device that needs an overnight charge.
Given the relatively high price of the Yoga 10 HD+, you would hope it gets the basics right and thankfully it does.
The Yoga comes with the standard Google Keyboard pre-installed and that is probably one of the best options on a large screen Android tablet. It works as well as you would expect.
Wi-Fi signal remains consistent and strong at all times with no dropouts and good speeds. The Yoga 10 HD+ reported internet speeds as good as any other device and I actually found the Wi-Fi signal would remain strong further away from my router than most devices.
The Play Store is pre-installed as well so you have access to Google's vast collection of apps, music, books, videos and TV series.
Reading on the Yoga is a particular pleasure due to its large and reasonably sharp screen. Just be careful how you hold it as the Yoga is not a light tablet.
Google Play Music handles audio playback, but there is a rather nice video player provided by Lenovo. It has the ability to play video in a little pop-out window, even over multiple apps, meaning you can perform other tasks on the device at the same time.
I couldn't find a way to resize the window but nonetheless, a useful feature. The video app also lets you grab a single frame as a screenshot from whatever video you are watching.
A Lenovo gallery app present on the Yoga 10 HD+ is quite basic, but has a nice slideshow feature. Images can be edited and cropped including applying pre-set filters to your photos. It is quite versatile and simple to use and is particularly pleasing on such a nice large screen.
The 8MP rear facing camera on the Lenovo Yoga 10 HD+ is basic in its output but is quite versatile and has a reasonable UI to help you get the most out of it.
There is manual scene adjustment including a sports mode, as well as sliders for changing brightness, contrast, exposure and more. Manual control of ISO is a nice to have feature but really the camera is not good enough to warrant adjusting many settings and I left it in auto mode most of the time.
There are a number of shooting modes including a surprisingly well-executed sweep panorama mode. Night mode does little to enhance fairly weak overall low light performance. Speech photo had me confused at first, but it is just a single photo capture to which nine seconds of audio can be attached.
On the front of the Yoga is a 1.6MP camera, which is really rather good quality for making video calls even in lower light situations. I suspect larger pixels on that front facing shooter help in some conditions.
Video is captured at up to 1080p and can be set to record for just 30 seconds or for an unlimited time. The continuous focus mode tries hard to produce a steady video but ultimately fails as it hunts around a little too much.
One point of note is that the preview on the screen is artificially brightened by default although this setting can be disabled. I am not sure why Lenovo bothered with this, as it is a bit deceptive.
It is a comprehensive interface and fairly simple to use. It is just a shame the pictures the tablet produces are not up to much.
At £299 (around US$300, $552), the Lenovo Yoga 10 HD+ is trying to mix with the big names in the tablet market and it kind of pulls it off. The hardware is unique and unusual and has the potential to be a decent device both for media consumption and doing a bit of work when in stand mode.
For the money though, I would expect a little more power. Yes, it is fast enough mostly, but the interface lacks that slickness that higher end devices provide.
The battery cylinder and stand make up for it if superb battery life and a tablet that can stand itself up are key to your needs, but otherwise there are better options out there.
Amazing battery endurance makes the Yoga a reliable performer. The sharp and fairly bright screen combined with stereo front facing speakers make for a great media experience.
A relatively simple and clean software build that includes a couple of useful apps makes for a pleasant user experience. Added security options give excellent control over what apps can do on your tablet.
The bulk the battery cylinder adds makes holding the Yoga 10 HD+ a bit awkward and makes it heavy. It is priced a bit too high for relatively meagre specs and doesn't offer the slickness of performance that I would expect at this price point.
When using the Yoga in tilt mode, the Lenovo logo is upside down. The Android ecosystem doesn't offer great support for tablets of this size.
If you are looking for a 10-inch Android tablet, you can do worse than the Yoga 10 HD+, but if its key features are not important to you, devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 come in at a similar price.
As a combined Android tablet for media consumption and a bit of work, the Yoga is appealing with its front facing stereo speakers enhancing media consumption and the stand working well with a Bluetooth keyboard connected.
If you will use it on the go, the LTE model is only £329 which changes the value proposition quite a bit. And at the end of the day, you won't find an Android tablet with better battery life right now.
Ultimately it comes down to your needs. As a general use Android tablet it falls behind the competition at any price as it is bulky and awkward to hold and use for any length of time. Its strengths are in its versatility, but I am not convinced that is a price worth paying.
First reviewed: August 2014