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Yoga Tablet 2 and Tablet 2 Pro review: Innovative but imperfect

JR Raphael | Nov. 26, 2014
Lenovo's new Android-based tablets have clever designs and unusual features, but there are some troubling flaws.

But then there are Android-style touches mixed in with that. Most non-system icons follow Android's design guidelines, for instance. Some icons even appear in different styles depending on where you look -- like the one for Chrome, which shows up with Google's standard Android icon on the home screen but is represented by an iOS-style icon elsewhere in the system. It's a mishmash of conflicting visuals that's like sandpaper on the eyes.

Other system elements are just plain bizarre -- like the legacy overflow-menu icon inserted next to the tablets' virtual buttons. That's the series of vertical dots that used to appear in Android back around 2011 to provide support for older apps that hadn't been updated past the Android 2.3 Gingerbread design standards. For some reason, Lenovo decided to make it a core part of its current software environment: It's present on the home screen and pops up periodically as a placeholder for hidden options elsewhere in the system, creating further inconsistency and confusion.

Android's top-of-screen notification panel is still present, meanwhile, though with a dated-looking design. And Lenovo has moved all the settings out of that area and into a separate (and equally dated-looking) bottom-of-screen panel that appears when you swipe up from the virtual Back, Home and Recent Apps buttons. Confounding things even more -- if you long-press the Home button, you'll see the standard Android shortcut to Google Now. Got all that?

I could go on, but you get the point. The Yoga Tablets' software feels like it was created in a vacuum with no awareness of current design trends or standards. Lenovo's attempt at creating an Android-iOS hybrid results in an amateurish and inelegant environment that's going to leave both Android and iOS users scratching their heads.

With Google's polished and cohesive new Android 5.0 Lollipop release now out in the wild and available on other tablets, this type of configuration seems particularly inexcusable.

Bottom line
When I reviewed last year's original Yoga Tablet, I said Lenovo had created an innovative and practical form but had failed the grasp the basics. I expressed hope that the company would revisit the form in the future with better components and more intuitive software, because it had a lot of untapped potential on its hands.

Here we are a year later -- and sadly, it's the same exact story: This year's Yoga Tablet 2 and Yoga Tablet 2 Pro are cool concepts that come up short. Despite their clever forms and commendable stamina, they suffer from underwhelming displays, subpar performance and one of the oddest and most confusing user interfaces I've ever encountered. No matter how much I want to like them, their deficiencies are just too foundational and the resulting user experience too poor to be forgiven.

So once again, I'll end by saying that Lenovo makes some fantastic hardware and has some wonderful ideas. If and when the company goes back to square one and gets the basics right, its Yoga Tablets will be nothing short of incredible.


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