Lenovo Yoga A12 Android Tablet First Impressions

Posted on February 10, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Hardware with 12 Comments

Lenovo Yoga A12 Android Tablet First Impressions

The Lenovo Yoga A12 is an interesting beast. It’s a low-end Android 2-in-1/tablet that provides the best innovations found in the firm’s niche Yoga Book products, but at a reasonable price point.

And while I write this with some trepidation—I’ve been burned by Android tablets far too many times—I think I really like this thing.

If this holds up, the Lenovo Yoga A12 might actually be the first decent Android tablet since the fabled second-generation Nexus 7. It’s been a long time.

But, my, is this is an odd device.

On the one hand, it is absolutely a low-end device.

Lenovo Yoga A12 costs just $300, sports an Intel Atom processor, and has a laughably low-resolution screen. It also lacks the elegant watchband hinge from Yoga Book. And it doesn’t support the Wacom handwriting functionality from the Yoga Book, which was a worthless demoware feature anyway. So it seems like we’re not off to a good start.

The hinges are solid, but the device doesn’t actually lay flat.

But you know what? This thing works. There is something very right happening here.

For starters, it appears that Lenovo has finally found a viable use case for its innovative Yoga Book form factor, which is held back by the smallness of the device and by its use of Windows 10. (Yes, there was an Android version too.)

Lenovo Yoga Book (top) compared to A12 (bottom).

That is, the A2 is the right size: Where the Yoga Book makes no sense at all from a form factor perspective, the Yoga A12 makes plenty of sense. The larger size helps a lot—it sports a 12.2-inch IPS display, albeit running at 1280 x 800—which is far nicer and more usable than the tiny Yoga Book.

Another size comparison.

That size also helps the goofy “Halo” keyboard on the lower deck make sense as well. Where this keyboard was basically unusable on the smaller Yoga Book, and with Windows in particular, it works well here. Both because it’s larger and because this kind of touch keyboard better fits the type of usage one would expect Android. Which is to say, you use it mostly incidentally.

The A12 comes with Android 6.

Thanks to its 360-degree 2-in-1 design, the A12 is thicker than most tablets, of course, but it’s not particularly thick or heavy, and it’s made of a pleasant and premium-feel aluminum material. So its attractive, and of high quality. But it’s also very usable: Even if you never intend to type on that weird keyboard, the clamshell design means that the tablet can hold itself up like a laptop. Or in tent or presentation modes. This is a big deal, as any tablet owner can tell you: If there’s no kickstand built-in, you almost need to purchase a cover to prop up the device. Not so with the A12.

If you do aim to be productive on this device, it’s kind of a mixed bag. The laptop-like design makes it seem like a laptop, but the typing experience is similar to typing on glass, not on a real keyboard. But there is a trackpad, meaning that an on-screen mouse pointer will appear—and work—when it’s used. Which is weird, in Android.

Weirder still is that the A12 supports both full-screen and floating app windows. But just not in the way you’d expect. When full-screen, apps look and work as they do on any Android tablet. But when you restore these windows (you can do so by double-clicking or -tapping on the title bar), they appear like phone apps. And cannot be resized.

Floating app windows are phone app windows.

But there are neat touches. You can use ALT + TAB to cycle through available apps, sort of like in Windows, for example. The Halo keyboard has a Home key instead of a Windows key, and some nice Android/device-specific function keys. It’s pretty well thought out.

I don’t have a handle yet on whether the device’s low-end specs—an Atom x5-Z8550 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of eMMC storage (with microSD expansion)—impact day-to-day performance, a problem that dogged previous hopefuls like the woeful Google Nexus 9 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (2015). But I can see already that the low-resolution 1280 x 800 display doesn’t offer the visual clarity I’ve come to expect on modern devices though. In apps like Amazon Kindle, the text quality reminds me of the very first years of Microsoft ClearType. It’s OK. But it’s not super-clear.

An e-book displayed in the Amazon Kindle app.

But … It’s not terrible. Movies look surprising crisp and, even more impressive, the sound is incredible: This thing packs Dolby Atmos sound and you can really hear the quality.

Google Chrome, full screen.

So, I’m not sure. I don’t know yet whether this device will live up to its early promises, and I’m nervous from past experiences, and from the low-end specs, that it will fall apart over time. The one thing that is really holding me back, I guess, is that screen: If it were just Full HD or better, I think I’d accept some of the other potential pitfalls. But for now I’m just not sure.

I will say this. The Lenovo A12 is a fascinating little device. And it gives me hope for the future of Android tablets, even if this rendition turns out to be a failure.

 

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