The first part of this was the question going through my mind when I first unboxed the Lenovo Yoga 10 tablet. You see, historically Apple products were more about design than performance. You could always get a PC that would out perform a Mac but you’d be hard pressed to find a better looking product.
When it came to physical beauty, with few exceptions, Apple was the market leader and Apple buyers were proud to pay for and own technology that often was seemed more pretty than practical.
But Apple truly hit it out of the park when it created a product that was both pretty and practical. The second generation iMac was like that as was the first iPod. These products had a unique balance - they didn’t try to be too thin so they weren't fragile or uncomfortable and focused as much on ergonomics as they did being pretty. I think the new Yoga Tablet has created a similar balance, as it is very attractive but also incredibly practical. I believe this balance is what makes this Android based product so impressive.
Let’s take the appearance part of this first. The product uses a dulled metal finish, except on the back where it is checkered - emphasizing the Lenovo brand, and the design language emphasizes looking thin like Apple products do. It also has an iconic appearance and an optional keyboard that extends the design language to the key accessory. It feature an edge-to-edge glass screen which is also consistent with high design tablets, along with an integral kickstand which, when closed, vanishes into the metal back maintaining the sleek design and, when extended, still looks consistent so the product is attractive in both modes. The power button borrows from an automotive start button in that it is round and large but it is also consistent. Meanwhile, the headphone jack is partially concealed in the circular base - providing an artistic concentric circle appearance, though I personally would have preferred a brushed rather than a polished finish myself.
The thin tablet transitions into a cylinder which allows for larger batteries (18 hours of battery life) and provides a better gripping surface if you are using the product as a reader or a traditional slate tablet. If you want to use it like a mini-laptop or to watch movies this also places the weight at the bottom. Coupled with the kickstand, it makes the device more stable sitting on a desk than most other designs. The tablet is equipped with standard micro-USB and it has, hidden behind the kickstand, an SD slot for memory expansion. If dropped, because the weight is on the cylindrical component, it should tend to land there and not on the more vulnerable edges. This also places most of the weight in the hand, making the tablet feel lighter than it actually is. Exchange email works right out of the box, not need for a third party client (common with Android products). Finally, with starting prices at $249 for the 8” and $299 for the 10” product at 16GB and only a $10 additional charge to move to 32 GB this tablet is priced very reasonably coming in well below iPad equivalents.
Wrapping Up: Applauding the Differences
This is a really different product and I’ve often been concerned when one vendor, even Apple, has too much control over a market so that everything ultimately kind of looks like a poor imitation of one of their less practical offerings. The Yoga feels nice in the hand, the battery life is amazing and it is one heck of a deal for the money, though I’d likely be willing to pay more for a bit more performance personally. I mean, if you want something like an iPad there really is nothing better than an iPad but if you want something different why not embrace a product that truly differentiates?
I’d like more vendors to explore creating products that do things differently because we weren’t all made the same. What you and I like may be vastly different - and so we should have the option to buy products that map to those difference. The Lenovo Yoga Tablet is for folks who use their tablets a lot off power, who want to listen to music, or watch a movie without having to hold the device, who have big hands or need a firmer grip on their tablet and want something that others don’t have. In the end if we want choice, we need to applaud the vendors that give us choice and I like the choice Lenovo has given us with their very reasonably priced Yoga Tablet. Nice work, folks!
Oh, even Ashton Kutcher, the guy who played Steve Jobs in the movie likes it! Apparently he is now channeling Steve Jobs at Lenovo. I’ve often argued that given Steve’s public image was crafted (the public and private Steve Jobs were very different) an actor could likely do a nice job of filling at least some of the gap we now have in the industry as a result of Jobs passing. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. You know, Kutcher may actually be the most interesting part of this. We’ll have to explore that later.