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Blog posts and video from Steven as he “COMBS” through the minutia to discover tech, retro-computing, physical computing, gadgets and sci-fi.

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26 September 2020

REVIEW: Lenovo YOGA TAB with Google Assistant

by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
tags: lenovo - android - tablet - assistant - google - unbox - unboxing

I posted an “open-the-box” video for the Lenovo Smart Tab with Google Assistant. In the video, I mention a follow-up video review. Many folks called me out for not producing this video so I decided to provide my review as a blog post. You can check out the video in question below and afterward, read my review.

YouTube Video: OPEN THE BOX: Lenovo YOGA TAB with Google Assistant

In the video below, I open the box on a Lenovo Yoga Tab with Google Assistant:

Specifications

Before I share my thoughts about the Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab with Google Assistant (whew!), let’s find out what makes this thing tick and along the way, I’ll share why it is either good, or not so good.

By the way, if you need a case for this device, I found this $12 MoKo case works well and it comes in several colors. I chose boring black.

# MoKo Case Fit Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab 10.1 (YT-X705F), Ultra Compact Protection Premium Slim Folding Stand Cover Case for Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab 10.1 (YT-X705F) Tablet (#Ad)

Device

The design, while still reminiscent of a tablet, is unique due to the two small, but powerful speakers built into the tablet. We’ll talk more about the speakers later. But at first glance, this is a tablet with a book spine and a built in metal stand that you can use to hang the tablet!

System

Android 9, affectionately know as Pie, is the OS for this device. I’ve had enough Pie and there’s no way to upgrade to Android 10 or 11. This limits device features such as swipe gestures, dark mode integration, and updated share sheets. It’s not a deal breaker, but come-on, Lenovo. You kill the user’s tablet longevity. The device has the specs necessary to run these later versions of Android. Thankfully, Lenovo is concerned about security and updates are delivered on what appears to be a quarterly schedule; not monthly like we find with Pixel devices.

CPU

Let’s talk hardware. The Lenovo is powered by the now 3 year-old Qualcomm Snapdragon 439 64 bit, 2 Ghz, octo-core/thread processor. You would think with all that giga, octo, and thread count, this would be a monster processor; however, online descriptions tout this chip as a “lower mainstream system on a chip (SOC).” In other words, don’t expect amazing performance but “just enough.” The chip is fine for this device and most operations are smooth. App launching is tidy and multitasking is seamless. More on this as we talk about memory.

![](https://www.stevencombs.com/images/posts/lenovo/cpu.jpg

GPU

Graphics are the work of the built-in Adreno 505. Again, three years-old and not what you would call a pixel pusher. It’s fine for 2D display and minimal poly-count games, but try something like a modern shooter, and you will need to lower rendering requirements. I’m not a hardcore gamer, so this is fine. On occasion, I will watch video on the device (especially since it has this amazing sound system — again, more on that later) and this chip will spit out 1080p video at 30 fps without hesitation. Not fabulous, but it gets the job done.

Memory

Many low end tablets stick you with 2 Gb of onboard RAM. Thankfully, Lenovo stepped up and added an additional 2 Gb (for a total of 4 Gb) that helps the tablet perform admirably. I’ve never felt the tablet drag along.

microSD card location

Internal storage comes from a suitable, but not massive, 64 Gb eMMC Flash Drive. About 50 Gb is available to the user. Add more storage (but no offloading of apps) using the microSD card expansion under the built-in stand (see video above). 64 Gb is plenty for my use, but you might need more if you want to carry around a bunch of video with you or play a lot of games, but remember that games gotcha!

Battery

Battery life is good. My primary use for this tablet is reading and video. I can easily get 10+ hours out of the Li-Po battery.

Fast charging is not supported on the included USB-C port. A full charge takes several hours. Some say this is because the trickle charge is easier on the tablet’s battery when the device in ambient mode. That may be true, but it sure would be nice to have the option to fast-charge; however, it’s not been a showstopper for me.

Display

Technically, the display is HD but it is a few pixels short at 1920 x 1200, versus 1920 x 1280; however, it’s a beautiful 10” IPS LCD screen with a 60 Hz refresh rate. HDR is not supported but colors are bright and blacks are dark. There has not been an environmental situation that has caused me any issues with the screen. I do admit, I don’t use the tablet outside often and when I am in the sun, I’m a vampire, so I use it in the shade.

Camera

Camera quality is good but not near the quality you expect on a modern phone. Taking a tablet out to take pictures, to me, is goofy and cumbersome. The front camera is “good enough” for a Zoom or Teams meeting.

Sensors

Holy tricorder, Mr. Spock (how about that mashed up of two 70’s pop culture references?). This thing has 28 sensors that cover both internal and external environmental variables. Why it has a step sensor is beyond me. It’s not as if you are going to strap this thing on your back and go for a hike. My guess; it’s leftover remnants from the mobile processor which helps to explain why Android on tablets is such a mess. On the plus side, this thing includes any sensor necessary to make light gaming a pleasure.

Ports

The tablet includes both headphone and USB-C ports. The headphone port works as expected. The USB-C port provides all I/O features and charging; however, charging is trickle and not high speed. Someone explained to me that the rational for trickle was the tablet’s use of Ambient mode (when it acts like a Home Hub). In this mode, the tablet remains plugged in and trickle charge is easier on the battery and provides longer life. Good guess and I’ll go with that.

What’s to like

Okay, let’s sum it all up and talk about what I like about this tablet.

  1. Form factor is just what I was looking for in a tablet.
  2. You can grab this thing for around $200. Now that may seem like a lot of money when you compare with a Kindle Fire; however, with the Lenovo, you get the full Google Play Store experience, Home Hub features, and the Google Assistant.
  3. No Android tablet sound this good. Kick on Dolby and those two tiny speakers really belt out the sound. Great for watching your favorite online video or YouTube music video.
  4. I like how the speakers create a kind of faux spine for this tablet making it feel more like I’m holding a book when reading.
  5. I really like the built-in stand. You obviously need it for ambient mode; however, it comes in handy when you want to set the tablet up on a desk or table to keep an eye on email or to pair a keyboard and mouse and use the tablet like a PC.
  6. I’m extremely pleased with the on-screen keyboard. The haptic feedback made typing on this device more intuitive than an iPad.
  7. Here’s a plus! The tablet includes face recognition to unlock and it works really well. Not sure how secure it is, but the tablet never leaves home so it sure beats pounding in a PIN.
  8. It includes an FM radio! Yes, and old fashioned, tune the dial, FM radio. You must plug in a set of headphones to the headphone jack so it has an antenna, but it works amazingly well with the included FM radio application.

What’s a not to like

There’s a lot to like, but the tablet also has a few drawbacks.

  1. No Android upgrades. Android 9 far as she goes. What a waste. While security updates continue about every quarter, it sure would be nice to move to 10 or 11. The tablet can handle the upgrades, why not provide them?
  2. Don’t purchase this tablet if you are into hardcore gaming. You will not like the experience. Casual gaming is great though.
  3. No fast charging; however, see my notes above and in reality, it’s not that big a deal.
  4. If you want a tablet that’s as flat as a 15th century earth, this form factor ain’t it.
  5. Not all Android apps are optimized for tablets. Some don’t rotate or scale properly and some just don’t work period. This is where Apple has a leg up on Android. Apple’s curated tablet store ensures excellent app quality whether on phone or tablet. Google really needs to get their act together in this space if they want to compete with Apple in the tablet space. I don’t think they do. I think we will soon see Chrome OS as the predominant tablet OS. Heck, I’m writing this blog post on the ultimate Chrome OS tablet, a Pixel Slate.
  6. Skip the built-in Lenovo Launcher and use a third party. I like the Rootless Launcher. It doesn’t pack a bunch of features, but does a great job mimicking the Pixel Launcher which keeps things consistent across my tablet and my Pixel phones.

Final Thoughts

The Lenovo is a 2019 product and age in 2020. I believe this will be my last Android tablet. I plan to use the device for the remainder of the year, but can see myself upgrading to another device, say a Chrome OS tablet like a second generation Lenovo Duet in 2021.

While I like Android as a phone OS, I just can’t get over the limitations of Android on a tablet and as Google continues to build in Android and Google Play features into Chrome OS, a device like the Duet just seems to make a lot more sense. Chrome OS devices receive regular updates; run Android apps, run Linux apps, can have a tablet formfactor, and can be used as a full fledge computer.

If you can find this tablet on sale for less than $200, grab it. If you understand the limitations I share, I think you will have a pleasurable experience.

There; I’ve lived up to my video promise by providing a full review. I hope readers and YouTube watchers find this review helpful.

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