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.


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.



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.