The best portable cinema tablet. Honestly.
Let’s face it, tablet-makers. You’re not going to beat the iPad. Lenovo is sensibly not even trying, instead coming up with something completely different in the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro.
Not only does its flip-out stand make it quite unlike anything else out there, with some hybrid DNA but no keyboard, it fits in a projector too. Yes, it’s a bit mad.
However, if you’re up for getting a bit freaky, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro actually makes a lot of sense in person. Heck, even the projector is more useful than you might expect, and at under $500 (just) it’s a surprisingly sound deal too.
Before we deal with the real odd Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro bits, let’s get our heads around the design. This is a tablet with an inbuilt stand, letting you rest it at loads of different angles, a bit like like the Microsoft Surface Pro.
The stand is metal, and opens up smoothy rather than only sitting at a couple of preset spots like the smaller 8in Yoga Tab 3. Not only does this let the thing hold itself up, maybe on your desk at work, a deliberate hole in the flip-out part lets you hang the tablet on the wall.
Where? Wherever you like, although an obvious spot might be next to those rarely-opened pots of mixed herbs in your kitchen. Bit of Netflix while you stir that risotto? What’s not to like?
I’ll admit, I didn’t do this. There aren’t many loose nails hanging about my flat. I also found that thanks to the weighting of the tablet, it’s kinda easy to make the thing keel over just by prodding the touchscreen when the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is upright. The only physics solution to this would be to make the thing heavier. And we don’t want that.
It already weighs 665g, and combined with the chunkiness of the stand part it feels a lot less immediately portable than something like the iPad. However, and here’s the big surprise of the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro, I think I’d rather take this tablet on holiday rather than just about anything else out there. If I could spare the suitcase space, anyway.
Why? Two reasons. First, the battery is massive. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro has a 10400mAh unit, bigger than just about any other tablet’s battery.
Stamina isn’t quite as hot as Lenovo’s claim. It says you’ll get up to 18 hours; I got 11 when playing a locally stored video. Or you’ll get around four hours when using the projector. The latter may not sound like too long, but you need to consider that little handheld standalone pico projectors like the Aiptek PocketCinema only last 90 mins to two hours.
Now we come to the projector. My first reaction to the idea was probably the same as a lot of you: what a bloody silly thing to do. It has puny 50-lumen brightness when even entry-level projectors pump out 3000 and the resolution is just 854 x 480, using a tenth the number of pixels of the actual display.
In theory, it should be totally horrible. And in a room with any light, it is. It can’t even compete with a bright-ish bedside lamp. However, I’ll still admit feeling a thrill when I blasted the image up to about 80in, stretching American Horror Story across one entire wall of my lounge. Even though the brightness is pathetic, in a totally dark room the image is still very watchable.
The way it works is very smart too. You turn the projector on by just long-pressing a button on the end of the hinge. It then mirrors whatever’s on-screen, and uses the tablet’s accelerometer to judge the angle and fiddles with the image orientation to make it look right. Or right-ish. This is called keystone correction, and actually involves distorting the picture, cutting into it and therefore further reducing the number of pixels you’re seeing. Get it straight if you can.
Lenovo’s claim for the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro projector is that it can stretch up to 70in. It can, but you also need to take into account the way projectors work. The larger the image gets, the dimmer it gets. You need a seriously dark room to make a 70-80in film fun to watch.
It’s also not much cop for gaming. Turning on the projector seems to cause a serious performance hit, making the screen less responsive and causing lag even in 2D games like Adventure Time: Ski Safari. Stick to Netflix and iPlayer.
It could be better: just imagine if it was 1080p. However, I was surprised by how much I didn’t hate the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro’s projector. There’s an unmistakable appeal to watching TV projected on the ceiling as you lie in bed, even if it is SD-quality.
Back down to the regular world of tablets, we have the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro’s QHD screen. It’s a 10.1in 2560 x 1600 screen, so is more ‘widescreen’ than an iPad and larger than is currently trendy. Everyone’s into 8in tablets these days, granddad.
However, there’s nothing “me too” about this tablet and the larger screen suits the style well. Plus there’s an 8in non-Pro version if you’re desperate for a smaller model (it has a much worse screen and no projector, mind).
Screen quality is typical of a high-end IPS LCD. Its sharp, the colours pop nicely without roasting your eyeballs and viewing angles are great. Prop it up on an airplane seat tray and it’s a sure-fire way to make a Jetstar flight much more bearable. More holiday points for the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro.
The software isn’t too invasive either. There’s a custom Lenovo UI, but it’s simple, feeling similar to Android Lollipop bar the different-looking apps menu. Lenovo has packed-in a few extra apps too, all of which are too boring to talk about.
It feels more-or-less like Lenovo has let Android be, even if there is a custom UI here.
The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro has a decent amount of power too. It uses an Intel Atom CPU like quite a lot of previous Lenovo tablets, the 1.4GHz Intel Z8500. It’s a quad-core CPU at a time when loads of cheaper mobile devices have eight cores these days, but as usual Intel’s cores pack a meaty punch.
In Geekbench 3 the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro scores 3214 points. In Snapdragon terms that means it sits somewhere between the mid-range Snapdragon 617 and the top-end Snapdragon 810.
I didn’t find the performance perfect, though. As with several other fairly high-power Intel devices I’ve used in the past, gaming chops aren’t quite on-par with the numbers you see in benchmarks. In Dead Effect 2 and Need for Speed Most Wanted, frame rates are noticeably less than 100 per cent smooth when those visual effects are amped up. Only slightly under-optimal, but the hardcore crowd will notice.
I also stumbled onto a few crash bugs during play too. Add this to the even shabbier performance when the projector’s on and you have a tablet that isn’t quite as good as you might assume for gaming. This is probably down to a combo of things. First, Android devs aren’t going to optimise as much for the Intel Atom chipset as Qualcomm’s goodies when so few devices use them. The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro also has an awful lot of pixels to drive, way more than a 1080p tablet.
In most situations, I’d rather use a slightly smaller, more conventional tablet for handheld gaming anyway. While the hinge gives you something to grip on when the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is held portrait, in landscape it feels a bit awkward.
There’s also the odd style of the back to consider. The bottom bit of the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is plastic and, in the hinge part, metal, but the rest of the rear is padded fake leather, designed to give off a luxury whiff.
I don’t think this is a particularly luxurious or beautiful tablet, though. That said, it’s not as though anyone’s going to stumble into buying a Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro thinking they’re getting the thinnest, lightest tablet in the world. And its screen surrounds are narrow enough for the modern tablet look.
Next up are the cameras, the specs of which sound pretty promising, particularly for a tablet. There’s a 13-megapixel sensor on the back and a 5-megapixel one up front. It seems a shame Lenovo didn’t pool resources and make a single twisty camera like the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8in, but it’s likely because this model is roughly based on the old Yoga Tab 2 Pro body.
The specs are good, but the performance isn’t quite so hot. There’s loads of shutter lag when using the rear camera, making it feel as though you wait a small eternity between pressing the button and the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro actually taking a picture.
Image quality isn’t as good as what you’d get from a decent 13-megapixel phone like the Moto G either. It really seems as though the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro has a high-res sensor in order to make it appear a step on from the Yoga Tab 2 Pro, rather than an indication of real concerted effort to make it crank out great shots.
Still, there are tablets with much worse cameras out there. They’ll do the job for casual shots.
This is much more a media tablet than anything else. And sure enough, as well as 32GB storage that can be topped up with a microSD card, the Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro has pretty loud-punchy speakers on its front. They’ll even do the job for supplying sound for the projector if you don’t have a Bluetooth speaker. The sound does distort a bit at maximum volume, though. Keep it to 80 per cent or below and you have an unusually punchy-sounding tablet.
It uses ‘Dolby Atmos’ JBL speakers. But I’d advise not reading too much into the Dolby branding. It may sound good for a tablet, but if you bought a Bluetooth speaker that sounded like this you’d still be deeply, deeply disappointed.
The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro is a tablet that doesn’t play by the conventional rules of the game. It’s quite heavy, pretty chunky and has a projector built into its hinge.
Don’t barrel in thinking you can replace your TV with this tablet. To do so would be a silly move. The projector’s fun to play with but looks terrible in all but the darkest rooms.
It is certainly a media device, though, with its stand and decent battery life propelling it into the tablet big leagues. Honestly, having expected to turn my nose up at the Tab 3 Pro, I’m kind of smitten with the thing.