Tablets! Everyone wants one, but a lot of us don’t want the same old slab. We’re in a great era where you can get a decent tablet without breaking the bank, but you usually have to make some sacrifices. Today we’re looking at the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8″. As the name implies, it’s the third generation of Lenovo’s Yoga Android family. I looked at the original Yoga Tab back in 2013, but that’s forever and a day ago in tech time. What’s the latest version like?
I’m not going to mess about – this is a great looking tablet. Lenovo has kept the same basic design, which is great because that was the best part of the device. The bezels feel a little large, but not too much so. You have an 8″ 800 x 1280 display housed by a plastic body that feels solid. The Yoga’s big design feature is the cylinder along the side (or bottom/top). This tube doesn’t just make a nifty handhold. It also feature the audio jack, power button, swivel camera, a metal kickstand with a wide range of motion, speakers, and most importantly the battery. The over-sized battery is rated for 20 hours of normal use. Using for heavy video and wi-fi, results were darn close. Note that the USB Micro port is USB-OTG, so with the right adapter you can even use it to charge your phone.
Getting back to that screen for a second, you’ll find it’s not as intense as even the 720p screen on the Nexus 7 2013 (my day-to-day device) but it will absolutely get the job done. The quad core chip inside serves up video with no delays or stutters. A totally smooth experience from start to finish. Then there’s the extra inch: don’t listen to anyone who tells you it doesn’t make a difference- they’re fibbing. I found it particularly useful for reading comics on public transport. Not as “bulky” as a 10″ tablet, but even a bit more screen makes a difference. Although if you are someone who needs a 10″, Lenovo has that model too.
For Audio, Lenovo put Dolby Audio on board and it makes cheap, junky headphones usable. With a great pair of headphones the Nexus 2013 is fine, but the Dolby makes even my backup paid sound okay. Thankfully, if you don’t like the feature, you can disable it in the pull-down shade. Using without headphones, they result in a better experience than many table speaker’s I’ve tried – they blow the Nexus out of the water. I doubt “killer audio” is on anyone’s list of must have features for a tablet, but it’s certainly not a feature that will turn you off of this one.
One thing I hated on the original Yoga Tab and on a lot of Lenovo Android devices would be the skin. Lenovo has been adding their own twist on the Android UI since their first tablet. Thankfully, they’ve recently stepped back. The Tab 3 8 (and 10 and 10 Pro) have an Android OS that is barely touched. The addition of “task manager” and “clear all” buttons when you go into your app switcher are one example, as is the inclusion of toggles for the Dolby sound, timeout, and Screen orientation in the pulldown menu. The latter is a bit silly to me, as Android already has this, but Smart Switch is meant for people who wish to take advantage of the Lenovo’s different poses.
Lenovo also listened to users about bloatware. All they’ve added is Dolby app (for managing sound), Gallery app (by default Android 5.1 only has a Photos app), McAfee (deletable), a Music app(in addition to the great Google Play music app) Lenovo SHAREit app, Lenovo Sound Recorder, and Lenovo SYNCit HD. Very light compared to what they used to put on, but nothing to write home about.
Two other changes to the Yoga is a swivel camera. Instead of choosing between a front or rear facing camera, you have one camera on the tubular part and you can rotate it. This is actually a smart move. I’d rather have one adequate 8 MP camera than one on back and a mediocre front one.
Check that picture above again. Notice that hole in the kickstand? That’s an added “pose” for the Yoga – you can hang it like a photo. It’s also the hole that the quick release on the back uses to latch tight. I find the latter feature more important than the first, but the two times I used it I rather enjoyed it. In general the kickstand is very useful for watching media and for typing long articles (just not this one) via a Bluetooth keyboard.
Speaking of wireless protocols, note that the Lenovo tab 3 8 does not possess an NFC chip. This is still an underused tech, but if you depend on it, you’ll have to skip it. They do have a nice MicroSD slot under that kickstand, which my Nexus doesn’t have. Also, keep in mind that due to the customization of the tablet OS, you might not be able to bank on future full OS updates. Personally, I love Android 5.5.1 and think it’s suitable for years to come, so that’s not something you should lose any sleep over. However, if you’re someone who likes to mod your tablets, be aware that Lenovos usually are not the best candidates for this either.
With those caveats, we still have one more feature to talk about: price. Right now Lenovo is selling the Yoga Tab 3 for only $169. That’s a great price for a solid, stylish Android device.