Navigating through Lenovo’s ever-growing lineup of laptops, Ultrabooks, detachable and 2-in-1 PCs, and tablets can be a chore. But while most of these devices are of course of excellent quality, every once in a while you come across a real gem. And while it’s still early, it appears that the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows is such a device.
I’m reviewing the 13-inch version, indeed specifically requested it. Lenovo also offers a more typically-sized 10-inch version of this device, but I find that screen size to be more ideally suited for tablet use than clam shell/laptop-type use. I’m glad I held out: The Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows may be the first truly usable 13-inch tablet. Heck, it may even be a great laptop.
A number of things become immediately obvious as soon as you open the box: This is no bargain basement device. Indeed, I was so surprised by the quality of the materials and construction that I checked Lenovo.com to make sure I hadn’t left out a number on the price. Nope: the Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows starts at $600, and yes that does include the keyboard cover, or what I’d call “a keyboard.” More on that in a moment.
What you get for that $600 is an Atom processor, yes— a 1.33 GHz Z3745 for those keeping score at home—but also 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of eMMC storage, and, most impressively, a gorgeous 2560 x 1440 IPS multi-touch screen. Connectivity is as you’d expect—802.11abgn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0—and expansion is on the light side: a micro-USB port (which you also use for charging) and micro-HDMI for video out. That make sense given the incredible thinness, but there’s no microSD port that I can see, which could be a bit limiting. There’s only one camera, on the front of the device.
UPDATE: There is in fact a microSD port. It’s behind the kickstand.
I don’t want to focus on the specs per se, because what I’m seeing here is a bit more intangible. That is, in the current market for PCs of all sizes, shapes and forms, I’ve begun leaning towards more traditional laptop-type devices for productivity and pure tablets for consumption, and certainly Intel Core i (or maybe Core M) for the former. The Yoga Tablet 2 breaks all of these rules. And yet.
Part of the appeal is clearly the quality of the design and of the construction. This is no cheap plasticky $300 laptop, and you really do see what you get for the additional money: A gorgeous, bigger, and multi-touch screen that is in fact a standalone tablet. An incredibly thin and light hardware Bluetooth keyboard “cover” that is miles better—and better made—than any Surface Type Cover. More RAM and more storage. It has Windows 8.1–smart—but it’s the 32-bit version, not 64-bit–dumb–so only 2.88 GB of the 4 GB of RAM is available.
It’s also a unique device with a barrel-like bottom that features a pop-out stand that can be arbitrarily positioned, and stiffly. On one side of that barrel is the power button, but on the other—in a cute move—is the headphone jack. Smart.
That Bluetooth keyboard “cover” can attach to the device for carrying, and the magnets that are employed will sort of hold the two pieces together in clamshell use. But the beauty of this system is that they don’t have to be connected. So you can position the keyboard and its integrated trackpad wherever you want, to your needs and comfort. Again, it makes Type Cover look silly in its limits. (On the bad news side, the trackpad feels weird and has a grippy surface.)
The other amazing bit here is that despite having a 13-inch screen, this device doesn’t seem overly huge to use as a tablet. Yes, the Yoga Tablet 2 does suffer from that weird extended feel in portrait mode—it’s unnaturally tall looking—but it just doesn’t seem huge or unwieldy. I could use this thing. By comparison, Lenovo’s 13-inch Yoga 3 Pro is like one of Moses’s tablets in portrait tablet mode.
I’ll bring this one on a trip this week—weather permitting; we’re getting another foot of snow on Sunday, go figure—and see if the reality meets the promise. But so far I really like what I see here. And the price just isn’t exorbitant.