Lenovo’s Yoga tablet may be the company’s most intriguing Android slate yet.
Announced tonight at a massive media event starring Ashton Kutcher — Lenovo’s new celebrity spokesperson for the tablet — the Yoga brings the company’s “multimode” concept from Windows 8 tablets down to an inexpensive $249 Android device.
The Yoga Tablet, available in 8-inch and 10-inch versions ($299), sports a kickstand that props the tablet up, ideal for watching movies. You’ll also notice a cylindrical handle, which makes it easier for you to hold the Yoga with one hand and also serves as a helpful angle for laying down the Yoga flat (which makes typing on the screen a lot easier). Both Yoga models will go on sale tomorrow.
The cylinder also holds the Yoga’s battery — and since it offers up much more space than a typical thin tablet, Lenovo claims it gives the Yoga 18 hours of battery life. (Even stranger, Lenovo says it has two laptop-style batteries shoved into the cylinder.)
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Under the hood, the Yoga is powered by Android 4.2 and a quad-core processor. A Lenovo representative tells me the two models are exactly the same hardware-wise, aside from the different screen sizes. The 8-inch version weighs 0.88 pounds, while the 10-inch is 1.34 pounds.
In my brief hands-on time with the tablets, I found myself drawn to the smaller model. It felt light yet sturdy thanks to a thin design and metal case, and its bulbous end actually made it easier to hold with one hand. Lenovo didn’t skimp on the Yoga’s kickstand either: It’s crafted out of metal, and it felt impressively sturdy as I unfolded it. When the kickstand is resting inside the tablet, it fits flat and neat. The 10-inch model felt similarly sturdy, but more awkward when held one-handed (typical for big tablets.)
For a $249 tablet, the 8-inch Yoga also feels surprisingly luxurious. It’s only $10 more than the new Nexus 7, which feels less professional (no metal there). And its 18 hours of reported battery life are around double what most other tablets offer.
The Yoga’s rounded edge reminds me a bit of what Sony attempted with its Xperia S and Z tablets, which mimicked a folded magazine to make it easier to hold. Lenovo’s implementation feels more ergonomic though, and it’s priced much lower.
Kutcher’s role in the announcement felt somewhat bizarre, especially since Lenovo claimed that he helped with its design (it’s hard to tell if that was just a bad corporate joke or if the company is being serious). In a livestream event tonight, Kutcher recounted his history with technology and his admiration for Lenovo as a company that dares to try new things. (With Shakira working with T-Mobile and Alicia Keys at BlackBerry, I probably shouldn’t be surprised when tech companies nab celebrity mascots. )
Check out a brief demonstration of the Yoga’s different orientations below with one of Lenovo’s product representatives.