Lenovo Yoga Tablet: Ashton Kutcher Must Learn to Say ‘No’

An oversized tablet grip causes more problems than it solves.

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Jared Newman for TIME

Let’s assume for a moment that Ashton Kutcher’s new job as Lenovo Product Engineer isn’t just another shallow celebrity job title, but an honest effort by the superstar to create better technology.

If we assume this to be true, then Kutcher’s first product, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet, shows that he still has much to learn from his personal hero Steve Jobs, particularly this oft-cited Jobs lesson:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.

Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet is a device that should not have been mass produced, marketed or sold. The thinking behind it makes sense–make a tablet that’s easier to hold in one hand and prop up with no hands–but the product is a failure of execution. Kutcher, or someone else at Lenovo, should have said “no” and gone back to the drawing board.

The standout feature of the Yoga Tablet is a cylindrical edge that supposedly helps you hold the device, while housing a monster 18-hour battery. It sounds good on paper, and looks cool from across the room–though the appearance is eerily similar to an existing Apple product. But I have to wonder if anyone at Lenovo actually tried using this tablet for any prolonged period.

There is precisely one position in which the Yoga Tablet excels, at least for the 8-inch model that I tried: when you’re holding it straight up and down. Held this way–while fully-reclined on a couch, perhaps–the grip is much easier to hang onto than the small bezels of an iPad Mini or Nexus 7.

But in all other positions, the Yoga Tablet’s cylindrical grip becomes a burden. Because you’re hanging on by one side of the tablet instead of cradling it toward the center, the laws of physics dictate that the other side of the tablet will try to fall. It puts your hand in an awkward position, and there’s no good way to compensate for it. Around the back of the tablet, the cylinder doesn’t really fit the natural contour of your hands.

The mere presence of the cylinder hinders you from holding the tablet in more normal ways. Unlike other small tablets, the Yoga Tablet is too wide to wrap your entire hand around. And while you can cradle the tablet in two hands and tap the screen with your thumbs, the cylinder just gets in the way. In landscape mode, the Yoga Tablet offers no comfortable ways to hold it one-handed.

lenovoyogatablet2

Jared Newman for TIME

The cylinder hides another function: Rotating it outward produces a small stand so you can prop the tablet up on a couch for watching movies. It’s okay if the surface is stable enough, but on your lap or stomach it’s prone to tipping over. And because the stand doesn’t run the entire length of the device, you can’t use it to prop the Yoga Tablet up in portrait mode.

Having a big battery is nice, at least. While I haven’t done rigorous testing, I had it off the charger for four days with periodic use before it dipped under 50 percent battery life. But there’s a trade-off in terms of weight, with the Yoga Tablet weighing about 0.2 pounds more than Apple‘s non-Retina display iPad Mini.

The software doesn’t do Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet any favors. The underlying operating system is Android 4.2.2, but Lenovo doesn’t use the traditional Android layout, where the apps you don’t want on your home screen get stored in a separate drawer. Instead, Lenovo tried to shamelessly copy Apple and came up with something much worse.

yogahome

Lenovo

Visually, the Yoga Tablet’s home screen looks like iOS, right down to the 3-by-3 folder icons and the little dots that indicate which home screen you’re on. In practice, it’s a disaster to organize. Because there’s no app drawer, all of Lenovo’s bloatware is stuck on your home screen. Arranging lots of apps is a pain because there’s no iOS-style edit mode. You have to long-press every single icon you want to move. If you clear out an entire page of icons, there’s no option to remove it. And you’re stuck with four home screen pages even if some of them are blank.

There’s one other glaring flaw: The power button on top of the cylinder pulsates when you have notifications, but there’s no system-level way to disable the glowing light, and no “do not disturb” mode to keep it from lighting up your room at night. (The best you can do is schedule the tablet to power on and off at designated times.) This unbelievable oversight ensures that you’d never want to leave the Yoga Tablet by your bedside table. Again, it’s like no one actually used the product outside of a lab before shipping it.

At $250 for the 8-inch model, Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet isn’t exactly expensive, but much better options exist in this price range. Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX, both $229, have higher resolution screens and better software. Or for $300, you can step up to Apple’s iPad Mini, which has the best app selection of any tablet. Lenovo’s big selling point is negligible at best, and annoying at worst, and its unpleasant software is the nail in the coffin.

I doubt many people were considering the Yoga Tablet anyway, so mostly this is just a lesson for Ashton Kutcher as he dips his toes into gadget making: Learn to say “no,” preferably before you attach your name to the product.

5 comments
fred_yu_job
fred_yu_job

I do think the writer don't like, or don't want to accept this tablet even before seeing it!

For those who likes to play games on the tablet, this is not the good choice; otherwise, this is the best!

I've been playing this tablet for two weeks, I read books, watch movies, play small games, read news...

I had two tablets before, and this guy is the only one let me put my laptop down!

StephanieWilm
StephanieWilm

Finally an honest write up about a horrible tablet!  ..They spent $10 Million dollars on paying Ashton Kutcher in such a bad marketing ploy!  But consumers are too smart to fall for things like this!  The world did not pay attention. So does this become one of the most expensive marketing failures of the year?  What if they instead spent that money on hiring really smart product designers from Apple instead of wasting it on a "celebrity endorsement".   Apple and samsung still have the best tablets out there


tedinoue
tedinoue

I've had a number of tablets - the original Kindle Fire, a Nexus 7 and a Nexus 10. I also recently purchased an LG tab 8.3, which I returned immediately because of its poor ergonomics. Then I got the 8" Yoga and haven't put it down. This is the first tablet I've ever that I actually want to keep using. Why? Ergonomics. 

Every other tablet requires adding a case or stand, considerably increasing size and weight. Without this accessory, they don't stand up, nor are they easily holdable. I had 3 different cases for the Nexus 10 and two for the 7. The LG tablet was so slippery that I was always afraid of dropping it. All were simply unusable without a case. 

With the Yoga, I can naturally pick it up and just start using it. In portrait mode, I grip the rounded battery which fits comfortably in my palm. For hours, I flip through pages with a flick of the thumb. The experience has transformed the way I use tablets. My Macbook Air lies dormant most of the time. 

For typing, like I'm doing now, I simply flip out the stand and use the Yoga in landscape mode. With my other tablets, I had to fiddle with the case trying to find a good typing position. Look at all the praise Apple received for its magnetic flip case. The iPad couldn't work on its own so they had to patch it up. Add a case to any of these devices and the Yoga seems downright svelte! 

I do agree that Lenovo made a poor decision adding their own launcher. It truly mars the experience. But, since it's an Android device, I was able to fix this in about 2 minutes by installing a third party launcher. 

I've been using the Yoga tablet extensively since the day it was released and the experience continues to delight me. No way I'd return to the dull, flat panel that is every other tablet. 

Columbo
Columbo

I'm a happy camper since I picked up the Yoga 10 last week. The long battery life and form factor won me over. The price, micro sd card slot, and ability to use usb otg cable were also big selling points. I'm not interested in a tablet without an sd card slot or paying a premium for additional storage capacity. A tablet really isn't mobile if you have to be connected to the internet to enjoy it.  It's great to be able go places with it and not have to worry about the battery running down. I can also use it to recharge my phone in a pinch. The resolution is acceptable for me. If it had a high end display it would need a high end processor and the price probably wouldn't be acceptable. The Lenovo launcher and icons are truly hideous. Fortunately that issue was corrected by installing a 3rd party launcher from the play store.

vetjc
vetjc

Well, I've just been playing with the 10 model and I have to say I love its form factor. The battery ridge is pleasantly reminiscent of my old Sony S - still for me the best tablet shape - and it has enough juice for you to not have to worry about where your charger is currently living every 6 hours. With the kick stand down used in the 'third way', it props up just nicely for note taking. So far, bravo to the Lenovo engineers... HOWEVER! Whoever specc'd such a low res screen should be taken out and shot, and whoever was responsible for the Lenovo flavour of Android should join him. These two points alone are what is stopping me from running out and buying one.