Lenovo isn't widely known in the U.S. for their smartphones, but they have a good range of offerings in the Android tablet department and one of their latest, the Yoga Tab 3 8.0, attempts to give consumers a decent experience for relatively little money compared to some of the other options out there from other manufacturers.The 8-inch model of the Yoga Tab 3 which we've been reviewing can be picked up for $199.99. Can it hold its own at that price range against something which might cost a little more but come with more powerful specs? Let's take a look.
You may not think it's possible to get decent hardware in an Android tablet for under $250-$300, but that isn't necessarily the case. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8.0 offers up some pretty good specs for $200. It sports an 8-inch HD IPS display with 1280 x 800 resolution, is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 quad-core CPU that performs quite admirably clocked at 1.3GHz. It uses an Adreno 304 GPU for the graphics processing, and comes with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage with expandable storage support up to 128GB via a microSD card. if you need more space than the tablet gives you out of the box. Technically, the tablet features no front-facing camera, but that's because the single 8MP auto-focus camera it does have, sits on a rotating swivel towards the top left corner, so it can be used for either the front or the back, essentially making it an 8MP rear and front-facing camera for use, although there is no LED flash. When it comes to dimensions, the Yoga Tab 3 8.0 measures at 210 mm x 146 mm x 7 mm and weighs 466 grams. It sports a battery capacity of 6,200 mAh and comes running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box. It also supports Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi b/g/n for connectivity.
In The Box
You aren't going to get a ton of extras here which should be expected for the price, but that doesn't mean you get just the tablet and nothing else. Of course it comes with the AC wall adapter and microUSB cable for charging the device when needed, but Lenovo also packs in a nice little microfiber cloth for cleaning the display which is tucked neatly into a protective sleeve to presumably keep it free of dust and other particles. This is nice touch as micro fiber cloths can sometimes run upwards of $10 for a decent one, and with the included sleeve you won't have to worry about it collecting anything it shouldn't. Inside you'll also get the manual/quick start guide and the support information.
Considering the cost, there should be no illusions about what you're going to get and not get with the screen. This means it won't necessarily be as crisp and clear as the displays on something like the Galaxy Tab S2 or the HTC Nexus 9, but having said that the 8-inch display on the Yoga Tab 3 8.0 is still quite good compared to other tablets in this price range. It features HD resolution which helps to make things like videos, games, and web browsing look decent for everyday use. Blacks look deep and colors still tend to pop and look vibrant, and there were no visible pixels during use.
Having said that, some stuff wasn't as sharp as it would be on other tablets, which became more noticeable during gameplay of titles I tried out to test the performance handling. This wasn't the case though when simply browsing the web or using apps like Play Books or YouTube, so if gaming isn't going to be your primary function with this device, you shouldn't notice much any major loss in details. There didn't seem to be any image ghosting at all during my use of the device and the multi-point touch worked flawlessly as I was able to type relatively quickly without any issues whatsoever. The touch sensitivity was great, and this comes in quite handy for Lenovo's AnyPen technology which allows users to write on the display using anything that's conductive, like pens, pencils, keys, and Lenovo even mentions you could use a fork and it would still respond. As long as it's metallic you should have no issues. To test this I picked up the closest thing to me which fit this description which ended up being a microUSB cable. Using the microUSB end of the plug, I was able to unlock the device, transition between screens and open up apps without any issues. Overall, the display works just fine for generally anything including games, even they don't appear as sharp as some might like.
Hardware And Build
For $200, Lenovo was able to get some pretty great build quality out of this tablet. It feels solid when holding it and not the slightest bit cheap. It has a good weight to it, so holding it for extended sessions was comfortable and didn't make my hands or arms feel fatigued like they have with some larger screen tablets, and this bodes well when I wanted to read or play games on it which usually ends up being at least a two-hour affair. The majority of the tablet is made from a soft-touch plastic to keep it somewhat lightweight, although there are a few metal accents to give it a little more of a sleek design. The left edge of the tablet holds the built-in metal kickstand which can be accessed by unlocking it after pressing the metal button on the back, making the tablet easy to position in multiple viewing angles. This was perfect for watching videos but playing games like this was quite easy too, since I didn't really need to hold it up as long as I had something to sit it down on. Thanks to Lenovo's attention to detail, the hole in the kickstand can also be used as a place to hang the tablet from – making it perfect if you like to use your mobile device for cooking recipes in the kitchen. I found this to be the perfect use as it didn't take up extra counter space. The tablet only comes in black but the metal stand and stand release button take on a gunmetal look, as does the power button and volume rocker which actually look pretty nice.
The back has a nice textured feel to it which helps with grip, although the rest of the tablet isn't necessarily slippery by any means, so there likely wouldn't have been an issue without the textured design. The placement of the buttons is a little different than most people might be familiar with but it doesn't take much getting used to. Lenovo has positioned both the power button and the volume rocker up on the top side right and next to each other so everything is easy to access and in one place. The power button is also a fairly decent sized round shape so it isn't difficult to hit or find. In between the volume rocker and the power button lies the microUSB port for charging, and if you flip it over to the bottom you'll find the 3.5 mm audio port for plugging in headphones, as well as the mic for any voice related uses. Lenovo has also fixed the Yoga Tab 3 up with dual front-facing stereo speakers with one on either end of the integrated stand and rotating camera module.
Performance And Memory
The Snapdragon 210 is not an extremely old chipset but it also isn't the newest offering from Qualcomm. Having said that it performs well enough for most tasks and didn't seem to stutter at all when using most functions. Again, as with a little bit of the lower clarity with the screen, the only time a little bit of stutter was noticeable was when playing high-end games like Hearthstone, Implosion, and Need For Speed No Limits. It carries 1GB of RAM which is more than enough for most functions, and when doing less demanding things like browsing, or just listening to streaming music, everything works just fine. It also didn't seem to slow down too much when having multiple apps open so multitasking shouldn't be too much of an issue, but it will all depend on what apps you're using. If gaming is going to be a big thing for you, be prepared for a slightly less smooth experience, but ultimately it will work even for most 3D games with good graphics.
With less RAM you might expect it to perform a little bit sluggishly but Android has made great strides in the performance department for devices with less RAM, and Android 5.1 Lollipop runs mostly fluid on this device. It only took a second to open up the app drawer and recents menus and transitioning between screens was a fluid motion as well.
Although benchmarks aren't completely indicative of how a device will perform in real-life situations, especially since everyone will use their devices differently, they do serve their purpose of highlighting a portion of the strong and weak points. In this case, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8.0 fares how you might think with an entry-level processor like the Snapdragon 210. The scores and results aren't exceptional but that doesn't mean the device is unusable by any means. In fact, it did OK through most of my use with it. Check out the screenshots below for yourself.
Battery life on some Android devices can be less than desirable, but the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8.0 is not one of those devices. With its 6,200 mAh battery capacity I was able to personally take it through a few days use off the charger. This was including about 4-5 hours of screen on time while streaming videos through YouTube or music via Play Music and the occasional web browsing, and a little bit of gaming here and there. Having said that my screen brightness was not all the way up and there was time where the tablet did noting but sit idle in sleep mode, so battery life will definitely vary depending on how others might use this device. For long, drawn-out gaming sessions it might not last as long as games tend to be extremely demanding and drain the battery faster than general use. Most people likely aren't going to look to the Yoga Tab 3 for hardcore gaming with some of the most demanding games however, which should translate to some pretty good battery life for the average user.
Lenovo has the Yoga Tab 3 running on Android 5.1 Lollipop, and for the most part it feels like a pretty stock Android experience. There are a few Lenovo specific apps here and there, but the UI looks like any other stock Lollipop device without any Lenovo specific touches to the software design, that can be picked up visually. This is, other than the recents menu which has two rectangular buttons up top for "clearing all" and jumping into the task manager instead of the button down at the bottom of the display. The open tabs however do display just as they would on other devices running Lollipop so there's no visual difference in that regard. Because things are mostly stock, the software doesn't feel bloated and the device likely runs smoother than if Lenovo had decided to throw their own UI skin on it.
Everything feels right at home with plenty of material design inspired touches to the icons, the settings menu, and other elements, which is a big departure from the previous Yoga Tab where Lenovo had gotten rid of the app drawer and applied a skin to the user interface. For users that are used to and prefer something with an AOSP feel, Lenovo has done a good job here listening to what the customers have wanted on the next gen device. There does seem to be a couple of additions to the software though, like double tap and long press actions on the home button which you can use to open up apps or the app drawer, or any number of other functions, as well as an option to wake the device by pressing either volume up or volume down.
Sound was probably one of the better parts of the tablet and Lenovo makes it known by utilizing Dobly ATMOS audio technology for a 3D spatial sound-like experience. Lenovo states that the audio quality is best with headphones plugged in which I found to be the case. Even without headphones though, the dual front-facing stereo speakers pack put out some great sound too, and although not true spatial sound, the ATMOS technology used does make the audio feel a little more like it's surrounding you. This comes out exceptionally well when watching videos or playing games and really helps to immerse you in what you're doing.
While many people might prefer to use wired earbuds or headphones to plug directly into the tablet, Bluetooth headphones worked excellent as well and didn't seem to provide any diluted audio. Everything was just as crisp and clear as with wired headphones, although still a tad bit better than the speakers. Despite that, the speakers are still quite pleasant and much better than you might expect coming from a device that costs $200.
As with most tablets, you likely aren't going to spending a lot of time taking tons of pictures. Not just because tablets are bigger and make for a little more of an awkward camera, but also because most tablets don't come with the same quality cameras we have on our smartphones, and this is certainly the case here as the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 only carries an 8MP auto-focus camera. It does rotate however, making it dual use for both the front and back the back, although unfortunately there is no flash so it doesn't do as well in low-light situations.
Regardless of the lack of flash and a lower quality sensor, with good light, the pictures you get are decent and don't come with too much noise. color reproduction is OK and nothing to write home about, but once again this probably won't be your main camera and may end up serving most of its purpose as a video chat tool which it actually works great for. The fact that it swivels also makes it easy to get just the right angle without having to tilt the tablet itself which I found to be another huge benefit for the few times I did want to use the camera. For the most part the camera is pretty stock and you won't find too many advanced options or modes, but there are a few details here and there which can help to make for better images, like HDR mode. There are a handful of other modes as well including night time, candlelight, sunset, beach, and snow all which should help to adjust the camera to different lighting situations. I found that inside pictures came out decent under regular white lights, but the camera obviously performs its best while being able to shoot in a more natural light. While you won't have complete control over the camera as there is no manual mode, you can adjust the white balance, ISO, and exposure which just might make a difference in certain situations. Have a look at some of the sample shots below to see how the camera performs.
For $200, most people are going to want to get some value out of their purchase and there's nothing wrong with that mentality. Having said that, Lenovo delivers on almost every front. Sound quality is easily its strongest point, and the screen is decent and should provide anyone with a fine experience for browsing, emails, reading, watching videos and even playing the occasional game. The camera is not stellar but then again it's not supposed to be. It makes up for this though with the rotating function making it instantly turn into a better quality front-facing camera than generally any other tablet out there. The software also made things light and snappy throughout most of the use, which is ultimately one of the biggest factors to look for if you want something that is going to run smooth. Overall, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8.0 is a great little offering for the price, and Lenovo has them available on their site right now for just $169.99 as a special online price.