Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 Review
Lenovo may not be the first company to come to mind with regard to Android gadgets but its latest tablet — the Yoga Tab 13 — was recently sent out for review and is something different entirely.
Announced at $679, this tablet offers a new take on large-scale Android devices. While that isn’t an entirely fresh take, it does offer the first real competition for certain other companies’ devices that we’ve seen in years. At least in the US. And it does so at a lower entry cost.
What’s more, it doesn’t just compete. It delivers a real reason for Google to improve Android on tablets and for Samsung to step up its own tablet game. So let’s take a deeper dive into what makes this exciting new entry into the world of Android tablets well worth your consideration.
Hardware to rival the top name in Android tablets
The launch of the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13, on paper and momentarily ignoring the results of this review, is significant. Summarily, it marks a noted return to the premium segment of the market. At least in terms of competitive top-end gadgets. Especially given that Android tablets have been a failing industry for so long. And that so many competing devices are effectively budget-level with mid-range prices. And that’s not going to be the case for Lenovo Yoga Tab 13.
Diving into the Yoga Tab 13 review unit sent by Lenovo, it was immediately clear that significance isn’t relegated to how things look on paper.
To begin with, this tablet matches top-ranked gadgets from Samsung and others in terms of materials used. An all-metal frame is coupled here with an Alcantara-coated back panel. That covers the majority of the rear, met with more metal near the lower half held in landscape mode. And surgical grade steel for the square-style kickstand. All of which feels fantastic in hand, at a weight of 1.83lbs and thickness of just 6.2mm at its thinnest.
Near the bottom, things widen out significantly with the inclusion of a round, bar-shaped extrusion. That houses two of the four JBL speakers, which we’ll discuss later on, as well as a USB-C port and Micro-HDMI port. And serves well as a holding point, coupled with the all-angles kickstand, when used in portrait mode.
The materials in use here are, in a word, comfortable. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 feels sturdy and the stability of the ports, the inclusion of a Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable, 3.5mm/USB-C audio adapter, and overall design back that up further.
The kickstand, conversely, can be flexed to just about any angle, including straight upward, as shown in the images above. Meaning that it can even be hung up on a wall or in a car for long road trips as needed. That’s if the headrests are narrow enough, on the latter front. And during my review, it didn’t move at all in use. Whether undertaking more strenuous tasks such as drawing with a stylus or left alone. Although it did creak quite a bit when under pressure.
One feature that is actually missing from this tablet, however, is a rear-facing camera. That’s not the primary reason most users will buy an Android tablet, of course, but it is something that users sometimes expect. In terms of front-facing cameras though, this one is not just great. It’s brilliant for a tablet.
Lenovo packed in an 8-megapixel sensor, just for starters. But also enhanced that with a time-of-flight sensor for better detail and focus control. And, of course, AR. That meant that the experience in any meetings I had or other uses with the front camera was far superior to just about every other tablet I’ve used. If you’re buying an Android tablet that will be used frequently for video calls or chats, this is the one to buy.
Whether you need a larger screen than 10-inches or not, this one is great
Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 is easily one of the largest Android Tablets around. It also only packs a 60Hz refresh rate that, at least on paper, gives the appearance that it isn’t as good as some competitors. After all, Samsung has a refresh rate of 120Hz on its Galaxy Tab S7. But refresh rates aren’t everything and 6oHz still appears incredibly smooth under most circumstances.
At 400 nits, with 100-percent sRGB Dolby Vision support, this 13-inch screen is still more than capable of playing with the top tablets around. And that’s before we consider that this is a 10-point touch 2,160 x 1,350 resolution panel.
Under review, the lower refresh rate never became a both. Most apps and entertainment usage isn’t going to take full advantage of a higher rate anyway. So the only place it became noticeable — granted, that I am accustomed to screens with a higher refresh rate — is in movies and streaming media. The resolution and Dolby Vision support very nearly make up for that.
But one of the biggest benefits of this particular display is what it does that most tablets don’t. Lenovo built the Yoga Tab 13 with a Micro-HDMI port and includes a cable. That’s with HDCP 1.4 support. So what this tablet does in addition to running Android and generally having a great screen for that segment is act as a second display. Namely, in support of another device that you’ve attached it to.
During my review of Lenovo Yoga Tab 13, that came in useful. Especially when my Samsung Galaxy Chromebook display started acting up. I simply switched over to my older Windows machine and had access to a better display than that computer had. In fact, this screen will arguably be much better than the overwhelming majority of laptops ship with, in 2021. Or at least those that aren’t top-tier. And even for those that are, it makes a great display expansion for productivity purposes.
Although that does come with the caveat of no longer supporting touch inputs. In that mode, touch is used to control aspect ratio, screen brightness, and to provide a battery indicator for the tablet itself. Unfortunately, there’s no HDMI output with this device. Or at least that didn’t work during my review. But it’s still a feature that almost no other Android tablet can boast.
Additionally, Lenovo engineered its Yoga Tab 13 to work with its Precision Pen 2 active stylus. So, although that’s an add-on, the option to use this tablet for art or pen-based productivity is there. And for just under $60 more.
Last but not least, the Yoga Tab 13 packs a screen rotation feature called “Smart Rotate.”
As might be expected, that changes the way apps are displayed in landscape and portrait modes. But, more specifically, ensures that apps that only support portrait mode will display in landscape mode properly. Which is, in and of itself, a big step toward solving issues with Android on the tablet platform.
Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 isn’t using budget internals
On the inside, Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 isn’t using the latest Snapdragon 888 processor but that really didn’t matter much in terms of performance under review. Especially since, in addition to the Adreno 650 GPU and 128GB of storage, Lenovo is utilizing more RAM than leading competitors. The Yoga Tab 13 comes with 8GB of memory.
Better still, that’s LPDDR5 memory. That’s as opposed to the LPDDR4 memory many OEMs are still utilizing.
What that means in real-world uses is that I could easily put this tablet through its paces. And then some. Everything from AI-related tasks to everyday app usage is just smoother with this tablet than others in its price bracket. Multi-tasking even the most intensive applications and games, for example, or in photo and video editing apps, didn’t cause any slow-downs at all. Neither did running those apps in tandem with one another in split-screen.
If you’re looking for a powerhouse that can get real work done, beyond even its use as a second display or gaming, this tablet will do it. And it won’t complain or lag while it does. The screen, processor, and OS all remained responsive and snappy, regardless of what I threw at it.
Battery life from Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 is much better than advertised
Lenovo claims, following its results from the Google Power Load Test, that its Yoga Tab 13 will gain around 12-hours of battery life but that’s not what I saw under review. The result of my own battery test was interesting not least of all because I put this tablet through its paces. Moving it between data connections, keeping the screen brightness and volumes turned up. And jumping between video streaming in FHD resolution — and up — with the stream continuing to run while gaming online.
That should, theoretically, represent a high-drain scenario. Especially with some web browsing tossed in and using Bluetooth for audio for good measure. But, in spite of my heavy testing, keeping the screen turned on the entire time, I saw just 10 minutes short of 15 hours in my own battery test. Lenovo’s claimed 12-hours of battery life is, it would appear, an understatement.
Summarily, “12 hours” feels like a conservative estimate based on the heaviest users. And only the most intensive users are likely to see that number. Let alone any less.
Charging, however, is less impressive. It took the fast-charging adapter included with the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 just over 2.5-hours to fuel the tablet back up. So although this tablet is certainly going to last a lot longer than many might expect, charging back up will still take some planning. At the very least, that’s if buyers plan on using this tablet for more productivity-focused purposes.
Audio in this tablet, as with the display, is all about Dolby and JBL
Audio is another area where tablets have typically been lacking. But Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 didn’t disappoint at all under review. And that may be at least part of the reason why there’s no 3.5mm jack on this tablet. Instead, Lenovo includes a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter. And rounds that out with support for truly spatial audio via Dolby Atmos and Lenovo Premium Audio.
That may already, at least for those in the know about the technology, be enough to make a conclusion about the sound here. For those who aren’t, Dolby Atmos is a surround sound tech designed to ensure audio clearly comes from its source. Whether that’s behind, to the left or right, all around, or above and below. Lenovo Premium Audio, conversely, refers to the tuning done by the company.
Taken in conjunction, these solutions would be expected to provide a great audio experience in terms of balance, punch, spatial placement, and frequency support. Paired with no fewer than four JBL speakers, they go a bit further than that in real-world testing. These are, hands down, the best speakers I have heard to date on any Android device. Tablet or otherwise and on all of those fronts.
Dolby Atmos-related software on the device, on the other hand, improves matters further. Allowing you to set the sound tuning automatically in Dynamic mode, or specifically for movies and music. With the ability to enhance dialogue or set EQ settings comprehensively both for the tablet speakers and headphones plugged into the tablet.
All of which worked exactly as I’d hoped, albeit much better than I would expect from tablets based on my review experiences.
Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 software is at once minimal and feature-rich
One of the biggest drawbacks to this tablet is that it comes with Android 11. Of course, that is the latest version of Android as of this writing but there’s been no talk of update support either. Given that Lenovo is a top OEM for everything from Motorola and self-branded smartphones to computers, it makes sense that it would update its flagship Android tablet. But, as of this writing, it hasn’t made any promises.
Setting that aside, Android 11 is more than capable and delivers all of the features you’d expect with this tablet. In addition to some tablet-first optimizations already laid out here. But Lenovo takes that one step further with at least one feature. Namely, Google Entertainment Space.
That feature takes the place of Google Discover — ordinarily placed behind a swipe to the left from the left-most home screen page. And it does what’s its branding implies. It provides users with an easy-access hub for all of their signed in streaming and media accounts. As well as for games. Meaning that I didn’t have to go digging through my app drawer or folders on the home screen to find the apps. Let alone digging through apps for various offerings from the different providers.
In terms of software, aside from the performance aspects already covered here, that’s minimal. At the very least in terms of bloatware.
Aside from utilities such as a Sound Recorder, Kids Space, Microsoft Office and OneNote and device use Tips, there are only two non-Google apps installed. Those are Amazon Music and Netflix. And those can be uninstalled, as can many of the Google-made apps.
Under the hood, things are also fairly close to stock. With the exceptions of settings for the optional Lenovo Pen, AI controls, and Lenovo ID. And, of course, controls for security settings such as Face Recognition. Otherwise, all of the settings are as they should be for Android 11. Making for a great user experience without a huge learning curve or hassle.
Connective options from this Lenovo tablet won’t leave you wanting
Now, the inclusion of Micro-HDMI support alongside USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 for data transfers and audio playback — with an adapter — were big highlights during my review of Lenovo Yoga Tab 13. But they weren’t necessarily the biggest features. At least not for those that want next-gen everything.
Lenovo also ensured its new tablet supports WiFi 6 in 2×2 MIMO for incredibly fast networking for those with a compatible network. And it backed that up with Bluetooth 5.2. The latter of which offers better range, stability, and efficiency, among other things. Theoretically, that means that the experience on the connectivity front would be better than ever. And my experience matched that expectation.
I didn’t experience any hangups on either technology during my review and my speed stayed at least as fast as my router supported too. This only serves as another way that this tablet should perform well for more productivity-focused purposes. In addition to performing above-average when it comes to streaming media such as movies or games.
If you’re in the market for a new tablet, Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 is the way to go
When it comes to Android tablets, there isn’t necessarily a huge stack of selections to choose from. At least not in the premium end and certainly not from well-known brands. That’s in part down to the fact that Google has arguably neglected tablets with regard to Android support in general. But this particular tablet does solve at least some of the issues on that front.
What Lenovo most obviously presents with its Yoga Tab 13 is an Android tablet that’s worthy of the Yoga branding. And that means “high-end” in terms of specs and performance, as well as in display tech and build quality. Although the screen does have that one caveat here. Battery life wasn’t forgotten in all of that either, at nearly 15-hours of screen on time at max brightness.
Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 also puts forward a better-than-expected media consumption experience. Coupled with software aimed at serving the users’ needs rather than partners, the audio and visual experiences are comparatively stunning. Even compared to many laptops.
Stacking in the latest in networking, Micro-HDMI input for second screen use, support for an active stylus, a built-in kickstand, and great front-facing camera experience only furthers this tablets placement in the premium bracket.
For under $700, Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 is undeniably the best premium tablet the company has released. And arguably the most high-value premium tablet running Android in 2021.