One of the nice things about working with Lenovo is the opportunity to check out a wide variety of different tablets and laptops, for better or worse. As is the case with pretty much any company out there, you’re going to get your high end products, and your lesser quality products. It’s no different for Lenovo, and while I’ve had the pleasure of checking out some excellent products (the Yoga 11S comes to mind), I also welcome the chance to review some of the more “under the radar” entries.
Today we bring you reviews of both the Lenovo Miix 10 and the Yoga 8 tablets. Both are tablets that represent a mid/lower-tier for their respective operating systems (Miix 10/Win8, Yoga 8/Android). Despite the fact that the Yoga 8 has Ashton Kutcher in the new ads, don’t be fooled…this isn’t going to be competing with any iPads or Nexus tablets anytime soon. But, we’ll get to that later, for now, we’ll focus on the Miix 10.
The Miix 10 is an affordable Windows 8 tablet. I say “affordable” as opposed to “budget” because when the term “budget” gets thrown around, more often than not people think “cheap.” This is not the case with the Miix 10. While it’s not the most powerful Win8 tablet out there, “cheap” is not an accurate description since the Miix 10 is actually a well put together tablet with decent materials. It feels nice to hold and never once felt like it was going to break.
Of course “affordable” is all relative, because $479.99 is pretty pricey in the overall scheme of things, especially when compared to something like a Nexus 7. But take a look at other Win8 tablet prices (like the Surface 2) and you’ll find that the Miix 10 is actually quite competitive.
The Miix 10 sports these specs:
– Atom Z2760 (1.8 Ghz)
– Windows 8
– 10.1” LED display (1366 x 768), 5-point multi-touch
– Intel HD video graphics
– 64 GB HDD (up to 32 GB add-on via micro-USB)
– 2 GB LPDDR2 RAM
– 1.0 front camera
– 6800 mAh battery (approx. 10 hours)
– Micro-SD, Micro-USB 2.0, Micro-HDMI, audio jack
If I had these specs and I was running a tablet with a mobile OS like iOS or Android, I’d be thrilled. But to run Windows 8? It leaves a lot to be desired.
When compared to some higher end Win8 tablets, the Miix 10 comes off as extremely slow and sluggish. Perhaps if one had not ever used a Surface 2 Pro or a Yoga 11S before, they might not realize that something was wrong, but having used those two products in the past, I can say that I spent quite a bit of time twiddling my thumbs waiting for stuff to load. Moving around the UI is laggy, and switching in and out of apps is a slow process. It’s like using a computer that has never had a virus scan before…everything is just slow and buggy.
With that being said, however, you ARE getting a Win8 tablet for under $500. As long as you understand that you are getting what you pay for, then the Miix 10 may actually be what you’re looking for. Toss in the keyboard case for an additional $50 and you essentially have a cheap laptop, albeit a sluggish one. Surprisingly enough though, there is a market for lower-end laptops. I know this because recently I needed to buy a secondary laptop and rather than a powerful and smooth one, I opted for a $300 cheapo one which makes me want to rip my eyes out due to it’s lagginess, but it does exactly what I needed it to do. This is basically the position that the Miix 10 finds itself in.
If you’re looking for something that can run Microsoft Office, stuff like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and you have some weird affinity for using the Windows Desktop with a touchscreen, then the Miix 10 should suit your needs just fine. It’s a fairly basic Win8 tablet (upgradeable to Win8.1, by the way) that won’t blow anyone’s socks off with speed or performance, but it will get the basics done with no issues and will probably end up being the most affordable Win8 tablet out there.
The Yoga 8 Tablet is the next product I was provided with. You may have seen the recent commercials with Ashton Kutcher promoting this new line of tablets. That’s perhaps the most impressive thing about the Yoga 8, the fact that they got a celebrity to promote it. Let’s put it this way; when I first turned it on I thought to myself “Wow! I can’t believe they’re actually using Honeycomb!” Wrong. The Yoga 8 uses Android Jelly Bean, but you could have fooled me. Lenovo has warped the UI almost to the point of being unrecognizable.
Oh, and BLOATWARE GALORE. Even in the quick toggle pulldown menu.
Let’s start with the good first. The Yoga is easily one of the most comfortable tablets I have ever held, and this is due in part to the extended bulge on one side that houses the built-in kickstand and battery. By designing this cylindrical bulge on one side, users now have a very comfy grip to hold, in addition to a spot to house the On/Off button, which wouldn’t fit anywhere else on this amazingly thin device. As someone that is constantly holding my 2 month old son in one arm ALL THE LIVELONG DAY, having this bulge to grip is a lifesaver, as the Yoga just feels more secure in my hands than my Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The rest of the device is made up of an attractive brushed aluminum finish, with a textured, laser-etched backing. At the risk of sounding like a tech-perv, I just want to point out that I love the etched backing. It’s incredibly attractive and nice to touch. Everything about the Yoga just looks nice, which is a shame because the performance doesn’t really match up to its good looks.
Before we delve into the nitty gritty of the specs and performance, I just want to point out that I understand that the Yoga is not necessarily targeted at the Android power user. If you’re someone who uses an Android tablet heavily for games, multimedia, multi-tasking for work, etc, then this tablet is not for you. This tablet is for those who want a Facebook machine and can’t tell the difference between HDTV and standard def. Basically, this is a tablet for my dad. At $249 for the 16 GB Yoga 8, the price could have been a little more forgiving for what it offers, but compared to say, and iPad Mini, it’s a pretty fair price point. Compared to something like the Nexus 7? Well…
So, the performance. The best way I can describe it is that it isn’t terrible; it just isn’t good either. It just is. It’s not the slowest tablet I’ve used, but it certainly isn’t a smooth, zippy experience either. It offers just enough to not throw it against the wall, but damned if the Yoga will go beyond that, which is mostly due in part to the 1.2 Ghz processor and 1 GB of RAM.
The first thing you’re going to notice is the fact that the homescreens come packed to the brim with apps. You can’t remove any of these (there’s no app tray, all those app icons have to go somewhere!), which really hurts customization. There’s something distasteful about getting a fresh new tablet, turning it on, then seeing your homescreens filled with icons for Power Manager, Dolby, ES File Explorer, Norton, etc. and realizing there’s no way to actually remove these from your homescreens. In fact, everything else aside, this is probably the single thing I dislike the most about the Yoga. Even a casual user would probably grow sick of all these icons that they can’t remove. Trying to drag one off the screen brings up either an Uninstall option, or a straight up denial. Not cool.
Your casual user may not notice the quality of the display, but those who have dabbled in other tablets will notice that the display is not as crisp as others. The Yoga comes with a 1280×800 display, which is not too noticeable on the 8 inch version, but sticks out like a sore thumb on its bigger brother. The colors don’t “pop” as much as other tablets and seem muted when compared side by side.
When watching movies or playing something like Angry Birds, it’s not too bad, but if you peer closely at text from websites, you’ll notice a bit of muddling. Again, the casual user would probably not care, and truth be told, it’s not something even the power user would really notice unless they were nitpicking and specifically looking for tiny details like that.
One of my favorite things that Android 4.2 brought to us was the inclusion of a quick toggles pulldown menu. With my Nexus 7, for instance, I can simply drag down from the right side of the top notifications bar to reveal a quick toggles menu. If I need to switch wifi channels, I just pull down the menu, tap on the wifi button, then it takes me straight to my wifi settings. While the quick toggle menu is present in the Yoga, it doesn’t appear to be as functional as it is on other devices. Using the wifi again as an example, rather than taking you to your wifi settings page, tapping on the button merely turns the wifi on and off. To access the settings, you still need to go into your global settings page to select wifi. There also appears to be some added bloatware to the quick toggles in the form of a Dolby button and a Lenovo Sound and Visual button. I never really used them, so I wasn’t too happy with their inclusion in the menu.
The best thing about the Yoga 8, however, is arguably the battery life. This thing lasts forever, up to 18 hours. It’s like the Droid Razr Maxx of tablets. I typically have to charge my tablets once a day if I’m using them on a semi-regular basis, but the entire time I’ve had the Yoga (over a month at this point), I’ve had to charge it maybe 4 times. Of course, that’s using it sporadically and mostly only for review purposes (my daily driver is still my Nexus 7), but it’s still a pretty amazing lifespan between charges.
For something that has created such a hoopla in the media with Ashton Kutcher as a spokesperson, I expected the Yoga to be a bit more than what it is, but then it struck me.
There’s a reason why Ashton Kutcher is the face of the Yoga and not someone like, say, Sundar Pichai (Yes, I know he runs Android, but for the sake of argument, just bear with me). The Yoga isn’t interested in targeting tablet power users or technophiles. Lenovo knows that demographic already their tablet of choice. For the Yoga, Lenovo is targeting everyone else; the people that would buy their tablet at Wal-Mart as opposed to Newegg (for lack of a better comparison). These are the people that still don’t own a tablet but might be interested in seeing what they have to offer. A familiar face like Kutcher will catch their attention and maybe force a second look. For the casual user, the Yoga could potentially be all they need, and that’s why the Yoga exists.
more info and models at Amaozn: Lenovo Miix 10, Yoga Tablet 8