The smallest version of Lenovo's Windows-powered Yoga Tablet 2 is a solid, portable productivity slate with innovative stylus technology baked in. The 8-inch model is the first tablet equipped with Lenovo's new AnyPen technology, which lets you jot down digital notes using any regular pen or pencil, or even a car key — no special stylus needed.
So is this the ultimate digital notebook for business users? Not quite. The pen technology is unique, but the tablet lacks pressure sensitivity, and palm rejection is unreliable, making for a mediocre writing experience. Still, this pint-size Windows 8 slate has a lot to offer business users, with a handy kickstand, an attractive design and epic battery life.
The Yoga Tablet 2 is a handsome little tablet, with the same distinctive design as other models in the line. Like those devices, it has a large cylindrical battery along one edge, which can be rotated to reveal a flip-out kickstand.
The all-black design of the Windows-powered Yoga Tablet 2 is more understated than the shiny silver of the Android version, and I think that's a good quality in a work device. I also like the metal edging and kickstand, which add a bit of premium appeal to the hardware. The slate's textured plastic back, meanwhile, is easy to grip.
The slate's asymmetrical design might look a bit awkward, but it actually makes the device easier to hold by giving you something to grab onto. When set on a desk, the cylinder also keeps one end of the device propped up by about an inch, giving you a nice, angled view of the screen.
It’s not the lightest 8-inch slate out there, since the big battery adds some heft. At 0.94 lbs., the Yoga Tablet 2 weighs nearly as much as the 0.96 lb. iPad Air 2, which has a much larger 9.7-inch display. Dell’s 8-inch Venue 8 7000 weighs a bit less (0.86 lbs.), while the 7.9-inch iPad Mini 2 weighs a lot less (0.73 lbs.) Regardless, the Yoga Table 2 still feels quite light, and is easy to hold up.
The Yoga Tablet 2 doesn't come with a stylus, and that's just fine. Thanks to Lenovo's new AnyPen tech, you can actually write and draw using any object with a capacitive tip, including the metal tip of a ballpoint pen, a car key or even a fork. The graphite tip of a pencil also works nicely. I was pleasantly surprised to find that those objects work just as well on the Yoga Tablet 2 as any capacitive stylus. You can't do that on any other tablet.
If the thought of taking an ink pen or key to your tablet’s screen makes you cringe, you're not alone. While testing the device, I cringed while sliding the tip of a key over the glass display. However, Lenovo says the screen is covered by a special chemically strengthened glass that resists scratches. For what it's worth, I didn’t notice any scratches on my review unit, even after jotting notes with a fork, paper clip and screwdriver. Whether or not the glass can withstand that kind of abuse over time is yet to be seen.
So that's how the tech works — but how does it feel? Unfortunately, not that great. To be fair, writing on the Yoga Tablet 2 works as well as using a standard capacitive stylus on any other basic tablet, and the ability to use any writing utensil you choose is certainly convenient — especially since there's no slot to stow a stylus on the tablet's body.
That said, it’s a shame that the slate can’t detect different levels of pressure – in other words, how hard you’re pressing down with your pencil. Tablets with a digitizer baked into the screen let you vary the intensity of your line by varying how hard you’re pressing down, for more precise and natural handwriting. The Yoga Tablet 2 can't do that.
While jotting notes on Lenovo's tablet (using Microsoft's OneNote application), the tablet frequently failed to register pen strokes, and often strung strokes together. For that reason, I saw better success while writing in cursive. My strokes were also noticeably wobblier than on a digitizer-equipped tablet like the $399 Toshiba Encore 2 Write.
The other big issue is that the tablet lacks decent palm rejection — meaning that I often found myself making stray marks with the sides of my fingers while I was trying to write on the screen. In OneNote, this also disables the pen until you lift your hand away. To avoid this issue, I had to keep my hand hovering over the display while I was writing, which I found frustrating. It's a typical issue when you're using a stylus with a capacitive touch screen, but it warrants a mention on a tablet touted for its stylus tech.
For those reasons, I actually found a stylus more useful for simply navigating around Windows 8.1, since most desktop Windows apps weren't designed to be used with a touchscreen.
Also note that AnyPen is only available on the 8-inch, Windows-powered Yoga Tablet 2. All other Yoga Tablet models lack the feature.
The stylus tech is neat, but like all Yoga tablets before it, the real selling point of this slate is its flip-out kickstand. Propping up the device on your desk takes you a long way toward making what would otherwise be a basic Windows tablet into a viable productivity machine — especially if you carry a Bluetooth keyboard to help you work on the go. I also like propping up the tablet next to my workstation, so I can use it to monitor my email inbox and social media feeds.
The kickstand also has a couple of other uses. First, you can pop out the kickstand and set the tablet down on your desk, which gives you a steeper-angled view. Plus, you can use a hole in the center of the kickstand to hang the device on any hook. That's nice for showing off business presentations on the larger Yoga Tablet 2 models, but I'm not sure how useful it will be with this model's small 8-inch display.
The Yoga Tablet 2 sports an 8-inch, 1,280 x 800-pixel display that's more than sharp enough to get the job done. After all, a higher resolution wouldn't do you much good on a screen with such small dimensions. Text looks sharp and colors pop.
But is the display large enough to work on? It's certainly roomy enough for basic business tasks like drafting an email or making light edits to a document or spreadsheet. Split-screen multitasking feels more than a little claustrophobic, however.
The Yoga Tablet 2's selection of ports is sparse, to say the least. The slate comes with a micro USB slot for charging, and a microSD card slot for expanding the slate's measly 32GB of internal storage.
The 10- and 13-inch Yoga Tablet 2 models also come with a microHDMI port that's handy for business presentations, but it's not included on the 8-inch model. And since the slate lacks MHL support, it's not compatible with HDMI adapters, either. There are still ways to mirror your display to a larger monitor via Wi-Fi, but it's not as convenient as it could be.
Since this device runs on Windows, you still might want to connect a keyboard and mouse on occasion. In that case, you can use a microUSB to USB adapter, or buy a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that can connect wirelessly.
The lack of connectivity options isn't unique to Lenovo's tablet. Small slates from Dell, Acer, Asus and other manufacturers also keeps ports to a minimum, which is one reason business users might want to consider a larger device.
A decent front-facing camera is handy for meeting remotely with clients and colleagues. As with most tablets, the Yoga Tablet 2's front-facing shooter isn't great; photos and videos appear grainy, with a fair amount of visual noise. Still, the image quality is fine for basic videoconferencing.
You'll want to hold the slate in portrait mode while videoconferencing, though, due to the placement of the camera along one of the short sides. If the slate is propped up in front of you using the kickstand, your image will appear low and off-center.
Specs and performance
The 8-inch Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows comes in a single configuration. It's powered by a zippy Intel Atom processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.
It's plenty fast for basic tasks like managing your email inbox, editing documents and spreadsheets, and Web browsing. I did notice a bit of slowdown while streaming HD video from YouTube while juggling a dozen apps in the Firefox Web browser, however.
The Yoga Tablet 2 comes with a fairly clean installation of Windows 8.1, with many of Microsoft's productivity apps preloaded. That includes Skype for basic videoconferencing, OneNote for digital note- taking, and OneDrive for backing up your work files to the cloud. You also get a free one-month trial of Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, although you'll have to buy a personal license to use the software after that. Plus, all buyers will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 when it launches later this year, a new version of Microsoft's operating system that promises better touch navigation.
If long battery life is your top concern, the Yoga Tablet 2 won't disappoint. The slate ran for an impressive 9 hours and 42 minutes during our battery life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing via Wi-Fi with the screen set to 100 nits of brightness. That's longer than the tablet category average (6:53), and it also beats the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (7:56). The iPad mini 2 lasted longer though, running for an amazing 11 hours and 6 minutes.
Also starting at $300, the iPad mini 2 is a good alternative to the Yoga Tablet 2. Apple's 7.9-inch tablet offers quick performance and a better selection of mobile apps, but it lacks a kickstand.
Samsung's 8.4-inch Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is another good option. It packs a sharper display than Lenovo's slate, but it runs on Android. As with the iPad, it's not a good option if you depend on a particular piece of Windows software for work.
Toshiba's Encore 2 Write is a slightly pricier 8-inch Windows slate, starting at $350. However, it comes with a pressure-sensitive display and a Wacom stylus, so it provides a better overall inking experience than the Yoga Tablet 2.
The Yoga Tablet 2 has its quirks, but it's still a great work slate at an affordable $300 price point. It offers a sharp display, good performance and epic battery life. The screen isn't big enough for serious multitasking, but it's a good size if you're looking for an ultraportable secondary device for light productivity on the go. The kickstand is what really makes this tablet a standout productivity device, though, letting you easily prop the slate up while typing with any Bluetooth keyboard.
But while Lenovo's AnyPen technology is useful for letting you navigate around the Windows 8.1 environment with any pen or pencil, it's not as useful as it sounds, since the slate lacks a pressure-sensitive screen. If you want a great digital notebook – and can do without a kickstand -- Toshiba's 8-inch Encore 2 Write is a better buy.