Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus and Miix 510 Hands-on Impressions

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Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus and Miix 510 Hands-on Impressions

The updated Yoga Tab 3 Plus introduced at IFA in Berlin retains the line’s signature utilitarian design with the barrel hinge. This year’s Yoga Tab Plus marries the affordable price from last year’s Yoga Tab 3 along with the power and performance from the line’s Yoga Tab 3 Pro, which we reviewed.

If you’ve been a fan of Lenovo’s barrel design — a feature that aids with ergonomics when holding the tablet in portrait mode and helps provide endurance by cramming a large, cylindrical battery into an otherwise slim slate — then the Yoga Tab 3 Plus will impress, especially considering its starting price. Starting at $299, the Yoga Tab 3 Plus is $100 cheaper than Apple’s iPad Air 2 and Samsung’s 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2 after discounts.

Design
yogatabplus_design.jpgWith slimmer bezels than the standard 10-inch Tab 3, the Plus model matches the design of the flagship Pro model. Both tablets come with a cylindrical barrel — which houses a large battery, four JBL speaker array, a built-in kick-stand that offers a variety of viewing modes in the rear — faux leather trim, black metal construction and a spacious 10-inch 2K display.

The main aesthetic difference between the Plus and the Pro model is that the Plus model does not come with the integrated pico projector module. The move allows Lenovo to offer virtually identical power, performance and design from the Pro model at a significantly lower price.

Compared to the standard Tab 3, the thinner bezels framing the display not only makes the Plus and Pro models look sleeker, but it also helps to make the tablet easier to hold and maneuver.

yogatabplus_design2.jpgAfter having used several generations of Lenovo’s Android-powered Yoga Tab line, I have grown fond of the built-in kickstand, and I am glad that the feature is present on the Tab 3 Plus. Like the Pro, the metal kickstand is activated via a button on the rear of the tablet. Activating the button unlatches the kickstand, and you’ll have to use your fingers and a bit of force to open the kickstand.

The kickstand does a great job holding the tablet upright for viewing on a flat surface, like on a desk or tablet. On the Pro model, I found that the kickstand’s short lip had trouble balancing the tablet when I was trying to stand it on a softer surface, like a bed or couch, and I imagine that the Plus model will encounter the same issue given the design similarities.

There is also a notch in the kickstand, which is useful for hanging the tablet up on a wall. To do this, the kickstand must be fully opened so that it forms approximately a 180-degree angle with the slate. Lenovo reps told me that the notch design is inspired from wooden cutting boards in the kitchen, and this mode would allow you to watch your favorite cooking videos or catch up on Netflix while you’re preparing a savory meal.

Other modes that you can use the kickstand in would be stand mode, for lean-back media consumption. You can also use the kickstand for tilt mode, for lean-in content creation. Tilt mode props the screen of the tablet up a comfortable angle, which would also be useful for pecking out a lengthy email using the tablet’s on-screen keyboard.

The tablet comes with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and a 13-megapixel autofocus rear camera.

Multimedia
yogatabplus_multi.pngThe highlight of the tablet is entertainment, and Lenovo’s thoughtful consideration of hardware features will keep you immersed in video and audio content.

I had no issues with the 10-inch 2560 × 1600 display. Even though a would have preferred the iPad Air 2’s 4:3 aspect ratio or Surface 3’s 3:2 screen, shifting away from the wide 16:9 format of the Tab 3 Plus would have created an unwieldy device. Because of the barrel hinge and front-facing speaker design, a “taller” display in landscape mode would make the Tab 3 Plus top-heavy and less balanced when used with the built-in kickstand.

The four-speaker setup sounds great on the tablet, and the arrangement is similar to a speaker bar on a larger HDTV setup in a living room. The JBL sound delivers clean audio, but I wasn’t able to gauge audio fidelity in the louder meeting space of a hotel conference room. Audio produced by the speaker system sounds clean with minimal distortion, even at the highest settings, and if the Plus delivers the same audio quality as the Pro model, I have little doubt that Lenovo’s tablet can fill a small or even medium room.

Lenovo claims that the JBL speakers on Plus comes with Dolby Atmos technology, which allows the sound output to essentially mirror the action on your screen. This would allow for a more immersive entertainment experience. In reality, I did notice good speaker isolation for stereo sound, but the Atmos experience didn’t feel anywhere as robust as on the larger screen of your cineplex.

Power
yogatabplus_power.jpgBecause Intel’s recent change in strategy by shifting away from mobile, Lenovo executives told me that they had to move away from the Atom processor on then Pro model to an ARM architecture chipset on the Plus.

Powering the Plus is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 octa-core chip using ARM’s BIG.little architecture. Graphics is powered by the Adreno 510 integrated GPU. This places the Plus at the upper mid-range end. The tablet comes with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, a microSD card slot for expansion and optional micro SIM slot for 4G LTE connectivity.

yogatabplus_power2.pngFrom my hands-on time with the tablet, it handled most tasks well, and I didn’t experience any lags or stutters. We’ll have to test the Plus model with games to see how it performs with graphics-heavy tasks.

New to this year’s model is a USB 2.0 Type-C port. Lenovo says that it is moving its products to the USB Type-C standard for charging, so a unified charger to power your future laptops, tablets and smartphones may soon be a reality. The USB-C port on the Plus is used to charge the tablet’s 9300mAh battery, which Lenovo claims will last for up to 18 hours on a single charge.

yogatabplus_conclusion.pngLenovo brings the power, performance and design from its Yoga Tab 3 Pro model at a much more affordable price point with the introduction of the Yoga Tab 3 Plus. From its barrel hinge, integrated kickstand and front-facing speaker bar, the Yoga Tab 3 Plus essentially mirrors its premium sibling, but eschews the built-in projector and sheds $200 off the price.

At $299, the Plus is a competitive tablet with several unique features that allow it to compete against Apple’s and Samsung’s best. A useful kickstand, ergonomic barrel and immersive speaker solution coupled with a bright display are features that we wish more tablets come with.

You can pick up the Yoga Tab 3 Plus starting in October.

Miix 510
miix510_main.jpgIf you’re mourning the end of Microsoft’s more affordable Surface 3 tablet, Lenovo has you covered. At IFA, the company unveiled the Miix 510, a convertible tablet that integrates the best features of the Surface 3 into an even more powerful mobile computing experience.

Similar to Microsoft’s current tablet lineup with the premium Surface Pro 4 and the budget Surface 3, the Miix 510 will augment Lenovo’s consumer tablet convertible lineup by joining the premium Miix 700.

Rather than using the power efficient Atom processor on the Surface 3, the Miix 510 ups the ante with a more powerful Intel Core processor, and Lenovo reps say that the Miix 510 can be configured with Intel’s 6th generation processors up to a Core i7 chip. By using last year’s chip architecture rather than this year’s 7th generation Kaby Lake CPU, Lenovo is able to deliver the Miix 510 with better performance than the Surface 3 while keeping costs low.

In fact, despite its categorization as a more entry level tablet in Lenovo’s lineup, the Miix 510 comes with a more powerful processor than the more premium Miix 700, which tops out with a Skylake-based Core m7 CPU.

Design
miix510_design.jpgTo keep costs in check, Lenovo went with a metallic finish on the Miix 510, rather than pure metal construction like on the competing Microsoft Surface 3, HP Spectre x2 or the recently reviewed Acer Aspire Alpha Switch 12. With a Core i series processor, the Miix 510 shares more with Acer’s tablet than with HP’s or Microsoft’s.

Similar to Microsoft’s Surface tablet range, the Miix 510 comes with an integrated kickstand on the back. Lenovo uses a similar watchband hinge like on the Yoga 910 and the Miix 700, allowing the tablet to be adjusted to up to a 150-degree viewing angle. The watchband hinge is tooled, according to Lenovo, with 280 pieces of stainless steel for durability.

On the front of the tablet, the Miix 510 comes with a large 12.2-inch FHD+ resolution display. Even though the 1920×1200 resolution is a perfect match for the Surface 3, the 12.2-inch Miix comes with a larger screen than the 10.8-inch Surface 3.

miix510_design2.jpgDepending on how you’re looking at the difference in screen size, this bump in dimension could either make the Miix 510 less portable or more productive. With its screen size, the Miix 510 is more comparable to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, but with the resolution of the Surface 3. The Miix 510’s screen resolution and size is similarly shared by HP’s Spectre x2, but HP’s model comes with Intel’s mid-range Core m series processors rather than the mainstream Core i series. All the referenced tablets share the same 3:2 aspect ratio, which makes the tablet nice for reading documents when held in portrait orientation.

The nice part about the Miix 510 is the keyboard, and Lenovo claims that its backlit, island-style keys offer 1.5mm of key travel for typing, which should provide a very comfortable typing experience that matches what’s available on more premium enterprise class laptops.

miix510_design3.jpgUnfortunately, the Miix 510 wasn’t delivered in time for my meeting with Lenovo in San Francisco ahead of its IFA unveiling, so I didn’t get to spend time with the keyboard for impressions. However, given Lenovo’s heritage with ThinkPad keyboard designs and the advertised 1.5mm of key travel, I expect this keyboard to perform well, especially when compared against the Surface Pro 4’s Type Cover, which offers a more shallow 1.3mm of travel.

Like the Surface Pro 4, the keyboard will magnetically snap onto the Miix 510 and can be removed when not needed. The Miix 510 is billed as a tablet-first device with a comfortable keyboard that allows the slate to serve as a laptop replacement.

Staying Connected
miix510connected.jpgOne of the most requested features on Microsoft’s premium Surface Pro range that is only available on the entry-level Surface 3 is the inclusion of a mobile broadband radio.

Fortunately, to fill the gap left by Microsoft’s decision to end Surface 3 production at the end of the year, the Miix 510 features an optional LTE radio, which allows you to slip in a SIM card and connect to your cellular network of choice in areas where there is no Wi-Fi connectivity.

The tablet ships with the keyboard and the pen, and Lenovo says that the tablet weighs just 1.94 pounds without the keyboard and 2.76 pounds with they keyboard. This makes the Miix 510 slightly heavier than Microsoft’s magnesium alloy constructed Surface Pro 4, with its 1.73 pounds and 2.37 pounds weight, respectively.

The Miix 510 also comes with more robust configuration options than some of its rivals, including options for up to 8GB RAM and 1TB PCIe SSD storage. It is configured with a 2-megapixel web camera, 5-megapixel rear camera and dual-array microphone for video conferencing.

miix510conclusion.jpgLenovo says that the tablet has a battery life of 7.5 hours, but we’ll have to test these claims when we receive a review unit.

The tablet measures 11.81×8.07×0.39 inches, and the keyboard adds 0.23 inches to the overall thickness. The Miix 510 comes with a USB Type-C port, a USB 3.0 Type-A port, microSD card slot and audio combo jack.

If you’re looking for a Windows convertible tablet with the Surface Pro 4’s screen size and performance but also want a built-in mobile broadband radio for 4G LTE connectivity, then the should be at the top of your list.

Priced at $599, Lenovo offers a variety of different configurable options for the Miix 510, and at its starting price, the tablet has an equivalent cost of Microsoft’s more anemically powered Surface 3. Additionally, the cost of the keyboard is an extra $130, an accessory that’s included in the price of the Miix 510.

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