Lenovo Yoga Smart Tab Review

I watch a LOT of youtube, and the vast majority of said watching is done on android devices. I've owned quite a few android tablets over the years, and I can honestly say there is NOTHING which can even compare to the Lenovo Yoga Tab line when it comes to video watching.

I've owned one of every generation of the Yoga Tab line, and my current daily driver (up until about a week ago) was the Tab 3 Pro. I've been using the Yoga Tab 3 Pro pretty much since it came out in 2016, and it's gotten heavy daily use ever since. It's now really showing its age. It's stuck on Android 6, it's incredibly sluggish, and it loves to randomly crash out of both Youtube and whatever blue light filter I try (If you don't use one in the evening you're really doing yourself a diservice).

I'd been patiently waiting for the 4th installment, and it arrived this month! I picked one up just over a week ago, and I'll share my first-week thoughts here.

First Impressions (software)

It's clear from just the name of the Smart Tab that the main selling point is supposed to be easy integration with Google Assistant. I have no interest in putting wiretaps into my house, so I made sure one of the first things I did was head into settings and disable the Assistant app.

With that out of the way, I took to exploring the default UI of the tablet, and it's ... not to my tastes. It's one of those UIs which tries to copy Apple and put all icons on the screen with no app drawer. Some people may like this, BUT it doesn't work with non-play apps. The second thing I did with the tablet was install F-Droid, which I then could not find on the homescreen or figure out how to launch from a settings menu.

This meant I had little choice but to put Nova Launcher on the tablet (which I use for the previous one, so it's no biggie) so I could actually find F-Droid.

With Nova configured I could finally look around at what bloatware came pre-installed with the device. Luckily - not much! The tablet comes with what I assume is every app made by Google, including ones I didn't know existed like Google Files and Google Podcasts.

I count a total of 4 non-standard apps pre-installed:

  • Kids Mode - Probably does what you think it does. I haven't launched it.
  • Tips - Not sure what this does, it popped up a Privacy Policy which I just declined, and the app quit.
  • Tablet Manager - Your usual task killer RAM cleaner thing.
  • Wallpapers (Uninstallable) - Some wallpapers, which for some reason need their own app. I uninstalled this.

In terms of responsiveness, the tablet feels incredibly quick and responsive. I may be biased since the Tab 3 Pro is now particularly sluggish, but I currently have absolutely no complaints about the speed of the Smart Tab.

The only place it doesn't keep up is when putting in my PIN. I can type it super-quickly, and it often will not register one of the numbers. As a side-note, I really dislike how newer versions of android did away with the enter button on PIN entries - now it auto-submits as soon as you enter as many characters as the length of your PIN. This is nothing but an annoyance.

Hardware Thoughts

The Yoga Tab 3 has one huge front-facing speaker, which is fantastic for video watching. The Smart Tab has two side-facing speakers at the bottom, which I first thought would make them inferior. Boy was I wrong. Somehow they feel louder than the Tab 3 with both units at the same volume, and they're very bassy. I actually had to play with the Dolby equilizer app to make them better suited for voice playback, since that's what I mostly listen to on Youtube.

I'm guessing the speakers are so good because the tablet is made to be used as a "smart" photo frame, so the sound will need to fill the room when in use by someone far away asking Google for the time or whatever.

While they sound fantastic and go very loud, the placement is sometimes annoying while on the move. I tend to hold the tablet by its side when I need to hold it, and this means I'll unintentionally cover on of the speakers. An annoyance for sure, but the vast majority of the time the tablet is sat on a desk, so hardly a deal-breaker.

Another thing it does slightly worse than the Tab 3 Pro is the kickstand. The kickstand on the Tab 3 Pro is almost the entire width of the tablet. For some reason the Smart Tab's kickstand is only about a third of the width, and it is a bit less stable when I put it on an uneven surface which the Tab 3 would have been fine on, such as the backrest of my computer chair.

The screen is super bright and great to look at. It handles 1080p video fine.

As should be expected, the Smart Tab uses usb-c for charging, which means 1 less device to keep a micro-usb around for.

Final Thoughts

If you watch a lot of video and prefer to do it on a portable device, there is nothing I can recommend more than a Levovo Yoga Tab. The built in kickstand is a must, and the shape of the tablet means it can be put down (or held comfortably) in any position.

The Smart Tab being the latest in this line means it is probably your best bet when buying a device today. If it still had software support, I would prefer the Yoga Tab 3 Pro over it, but for today's standards the Tab 3 is far too slow and buggy.

The Smart Tab is a fine device, and I am happy with the purchase. If you are on the fence and not itching for an upgrade like I was, perhaps wait to see if a Pro version comes out for this model, as there are obvious areas for improvement.

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