Asus ZenBook UX305CA Review and RatingsAs we took the 2.7-pound, $699.99-MSRP ZenBook UX305CA from its box, we experienced two sensations: one, that it was exceptionally thin, light, and balanced; and, two, that we had seen this 13.3-inch-screened laptop before. Our first observation we’ll discuss over the course of this review. The second, that we had seen this laptop before, is true—the identically priced ZenBook UX305FA we reviewed back in July 2015 was, in many ways (but especially appearance) much alike.

Apart from the version of Windows (Win 10 here, versus 8.1 on the UX305FA) and a different generation of Intel Core M processor, these laptops differ little. The ZenBook UX305CA’s processor is a second-generation version of the Core M. (We tested a 900MHz dual-core Intel Core m3-6Y30 in today’s review unit; the Core M-5Y10 in the earlier ZenBook was a 800MHz dual-core.)

Asus Zenbook UX305CA (Front)Unlike the first round of Core M chips, which were classed simply as “Core M” and seen in only two variants, this next generation comes in the familiar “3”, “5,” and “7” stepping that Intel uses with its higher-end Core processors. (It’s a parallel scheme; instead of Core i3, i5, and i7, Intel has stacked the new Core M chips into Core m3, m5, and m7 classes.) Core M is all about power efficiency and keeping heat in check in small spaces, and by providing finer slices of its Core M silicon than before, Intel has enabled makers of laptops and 2-in-1s more flexibility in these thin, thermally challenging designs. Just as entry-level and mainstream portables typically run on Core i3 and i5 CPUs, and models meant for resource-intensive games and media editing/processing are home to more powerful i7 processors, we should see similar stratification with these new CPUs.

Of course, with Core M designed for work in tighter confines than Core i, we can’t help but wonder whether even Core m7 chips, without cooling fans, will be powerful enough to act as media crunchers for high-res photos in Photoshop or as effective mobile video workhorses. [Jury’s still out on that, as we we’ve tested just one example; see our review of the Core m7-based HP Spectre x2 2-in-1 detachable for more. —Ed.]

We’ll see as more Core M comes to market, but if clock speed is any indication, Core M will be more about base productivity work than CPU-heavy load crunching. Early on, it looks like the primary differences within this new-gen Core M line circle around clock speed. The Core m3 CPU in our ZenBook review unit, for example, runs at 900MHz, while the two Core m5 processors in the wild when we wrote this in mid-January 2016 (the Core m5-6Y54 and Core m5-6Y57) run at 1.1GHz, and the Core m7-6Y75 in the Spectre x2 runs at 1.2GHz. All of the other base specs in the new line are the same.

While the Core M CPUs emphasize low wattage and other power-sipping options, one of their more attractive features is that they’re designed to be “fanless,” allowing laptop and tablet manufacturers to build near-noiseless laptops and convertibles. (Noise, then, becomes a factor of the storage drive, but for the thin portables that Core M makes sense for, the drive is almost always a silent solid-state model.) It’s also the reason that this ZenBook and its predecessor are so thin. Although the marketing moniker “ultrabook” is falling into lesser use, if not disuse, these days, plenty of laptops still fit the profile, and being thin and light has always been one of the primary attributes. Whatever these machines end up being called, Core M CPUs should help keep them that way.

Which brings us back to our review unit. Like with its ZenBook UX305FA predecessor, given the UX305CA’s $699 list price, you get a respectable set of components. The top-line ones: That Core m3 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), and an attractive 1080p HD display panel. On the whole, this is a respectable midrange ultrabook with an excellent mix of components that skillfully balances the perception of just-enough speed for productivity work without ever spilling into overkill. And like with the ZenBook UX305FA, we found very little to quibble with on this ultrabook’s design, assuming the level of performance matches the way you work.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper

Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro Review and RatingsBig-screen Android tablets are starting to look like bison on the Great Plains once the West was settled: thin on the ground. In 2015, we’re seeing fewer and fewer new full-size Android slates (models with screens around 10 inches) than ever. Part of the reason? The bar for these tabs is already pretty high.

The 2015 models we have seen, such as Dell’s Venue 10 7000 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 9.7, are elegant, high-performing devices for media consumption. Also, some of them, such as the Venue 10 7000 and the topic of today’s review, Lenovo’s $499.99-MSRP Yoga Tab 3 Pro, are constructed quitewell, with a balanced, polished solidity to them.

Similar to the Venue 10 7000, many of the Yoga Tab 3 Pro 10.1’s most impressive features center around a tube-like appendage, or in the case of the Yoga, what’s called a “barrel hinge.” In the case of the Venue 10 model, the cylindrical portion was used to fasten Dell’s accessory keyboard to the actual tablet. The barrel hinge on the Yoga Tab 3, on the other hand, connects a thin metal “kickstand,” as shown in the image below, to the slate. But that’s hardly all it does.

In fact, aside from this slate’s gorgeous 2,560×1,600-pixel screen, much of its pizzazz and unique functionality stem from that hinge and what’s inside it. The slate’s barrel contains a larger battery than the one on the Yoga Tablet 2 of the same screen size, for a terrific showing in our battery-life testing. Also, the speakers have been updated significantly, and this Yoga has a miniature projector built in for sharing the screen contents with others, flashed onto the doors and walls of your home or office. This kind of tablet-integrated “pico” projector made its debut in the earlier Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, which was a 13.3-inch Android from 2014. We’ll discuss the projector a little later in this review, but it’s by far the least common feature in this tablet.

Nearly every aspect of this classy tablet is new and improved. Compared to the competitors of the day, its Intel Atom processor, one of the company’s late-model “Cherry Trail”-family chips, performs relatively fast and seemingly glitch-free. With a pleather backing and a few other external refinements, the Tab 3 Pro is a little heavier than the Yoga Tab 2 of the same screen size was. But considering that this slate is designed to either prop up on (or hang from) its built-in kickstand—this slate’s other defining feature—and that the tubular portion is easy to grip, the extra weight is not a huge demerit.

Lenovo Tab 3 Pro (Kickstand)The bottom line for this tablet? Like Apple’s iPad Airs or Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs, it’s designed as a media-consumption device, primarily for movies, YouTube, Netflix, and other media sites and services that serve up digital video. As you’ll see in the Performance section later on, it also did better than we expected on our gaming performance tests, suggesting that it might fare better than most others on high-end, resource-intensive games down the line.

Our one major quibble we have with the Yoga Tab 3 Pro isn’t with the tablet proper but with one of the design decisions that affects the accessory prospects of this tablet: the lack of a detachable keyboard. Because of the barrel-like kickstand hinge, it’s not possible to snap an accessory keyboard onto this tablet to turn it into an impromptu Android-based laptop. For a tablet that has “Pro” in its name, we found that a bit of a disconnect; we’d expect a “Pro” tablet to offer at least thepossibility for keyboard-based productivity work. You can, of course, always supply a third-party, separate Bluetooth keyboard of your own, but it will always be, at best, a near match and a separate piece to wrestle with.

That said, as we’ll get into in the next section, this lack of a native keyboard accessory isn’t necessarily a drawback; this is a tablet that’s all about watching video. If you use it for its intended purpose most of the time—media consumption—the Tab 3 Pro will serve you as an impressive slate that’s likely worth the price, so long as you’re not jonesing after one of Apple’s iPads. (Those top tablets, the iPad Air and iPad Air 2, come in around the same price.)

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper

In late 2013, Lenovo released a couple of Android slates literally capable of standing on their own two feet. Well, strike that—they were capable of standing on their own one foot.

Literally and technically, it’s not a foot at all. As you can see below, it’s more like a kickstand…

 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Feet)

 

That stand is what has set apart Lenovo’s Yoga Tablets—the first generation, and the newer Yoga Tablet 2 models we’ve been looking at here in early 2015—from the rest of the Android and Windows pack.

The tablet aisle has become quite the crowded place, and Lenovo realized it had to be bold in its design. In the first Yoga tablets, the kickstand allowed you to position Lenovo’s tablets in three distinct and often quite useful “modes,” standing free in several possible orientations. With the Yoga Tablet 2 models, Lenovo has added a new orientation called “Hang mode” (which we’ll discuss in the Design & Modes section later on). Now, you can use the Yoga Tablets in even more ways that other tablets just can’t pull off as elegantly.

Also with this round of Yoga Tablets, you have more choices in terms of screen size. Up from two screen-size options in Android—in the original Yoga Tablet 8 and the Yoga Tablet 10—now you have three to pick from: the $229.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), the subject of this review, as well as a $249.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (10.1-Inch), and the $469.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13-Inch), all shown below…

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Sizes)

We should point out, though, that the 13-inch model, with its dazzling QHD (2,560×1,440) display, low-power built-in projector, and JBL speakers, is actually more of a high-end entertainment device—a sleek, premium slate not really in the same class as the 8- or 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2. Here seems a good place to point out that we classify tablets with 9-inch or larger screens as “full-size,” and slates with displays smaller than 9 inches as “compact.” With the emergence of 13-inch models, though, we’re considering calling models in that size range “oversize tablets”—far bigger to handle than the dominant 9- and 10-inch tablets that orbit the Apple iPad’s dimensions.

The Yoga Tablet 2 8-incher is quite on the other end of the spectrum from “oversize.” It has roughly the same screen size as an Apple iPad Mini 3, and in our opinion that’s the smallest truly acceptable screen size for Android tablets these days. Given prices in 2015, much of the gloss has come off of 7-inch models for us, and as high-res screens have crept into tablets this small, the difference between a 7-inch and an 8-inch tablet is that much more pronounced.

While physically this Yoga tablet looks much like its 8-inch predecessor, inside it’s a completely new animal, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on. An ARM-based MediaTek processor powered the previous Yoga Tablet 8. The Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), as well as the other two Android Yoga Tablet 2s mentioned above, have gone Intel, running on Atom CPUs. (Many competing compact slates from first-tier makers also now use Atoms.) As we’ve seen with other recent tablets, the Atom chip greatly improves performance—especially compared to some of the midrange ARM processors found in the entry-level compact slates of late 2013 and early 2014.

Even so, despite its CPU, the Yoga Tablet 8 came within about $50 (given its $249 list price) of winning our Editors’ Choice nod back when we reviewed it in late 2013. We thought—and still do—that the Yoga Tablet 8 was a $199 slate, and we think the same about this newer model. So far, though, we haven’t found it anywhere online for less than its $229.99 list price, and in places for slightly more, suggesting that Lenovo’s not having any trouble selling it.

While the Intel Atom CPU certainly beefed up this tablet’s performance, most recent competing compact models have also stepped up to the same or similar Atoms. In other words, the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) is faster than its predecessor, but so are most of its competitors. And where the 2013 Yoga Tablet 8 was generally faster than many compact slates of that era, today’s model, performance-wise, is just average—even if average isn’t so bad, nowadays.

Battery longevity is a different dynamic. On the first Yoga Tablet 8, we saw a whopping 15-plus hours in our video-playback test. Comparatively, the 8-inch Android Yoga Tablet 2 came up short by nearly 3 hours. But it still lasted long enough this time around to deliver at least a couple of days of everyday work, such as browsing the Web and answering e-mails, before we had to recharge.

As we’ve pointed out in numerous Yoga Tablet reviews, the Yoga Tablet design is unique because of the cylindrical hinge and stand built into the bottom of the device (assuming the slate is in wide/landscape orientation). In addition to providing plenty of room for a capacious battery, it also makes for a great grip point for holding the tablet in one hand while operating it with the other, as shown here…

 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch, Android) (Hold Mode)

We decided, even back with the first Yoga tablets, that we were fans of the overall design and its various modes, which we’ll get into on the next page. But the new innards and higher-resolution display of this latest 8-inch Yoga Tablet make this 2015 model much superior to the Yoga Tablet 8. Plenty has changed in the tablet market since we reviewed that tablet, but the improvements here outpace the field: Screen quality and performance have increased significantly, and the price went down by $20.

We’d still like the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) better at $199, but this new compact model is, nonetheless, a very nice tablet for the money.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo Tab A8 Review and RatingsDuring 2013 and the first half of this year, we’ve tested and reviewed a bunch of compact Android tablets. Over that time, as a class, compact tablets have diversified in a big way; earlier, the only common screen size that small Android tablets came in was 7-inch. (Nowadays, we classify slates with 7- to 9-inch screens as “compact,” while tablets with larger screens are “full-size.”) The big growth has been in 8-to-9-inch models, likely thanks to the emergence and success of Apple’s 7.9-inch-screened iPad Mini.

Some of these, such as LG’s G Pad 8.3 (whether the standard, Google Play, or Verizon LTE versions) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, were premium, high-performance slates ranging between $300 and $400, while others, such as Dell’s Venue 8 and Acer’s Iconia A1-830, were inexpensive, entry-level tabs under $200. Then, too, a few recent “classic compact” models with 7-inch screens, such as our Editors’ Choice favorite of last year, Google’s Nexus (2013), have persevered despite premium prices (in the case of the Nexus, $200 to $300).

Lenovo Tab A8

Without question, we’ve no shortage or lack of variety in compact Android tablets.

That brings us to the subject of this review, part of the recent wave of 8-inchers. Lenovo’s $179.99-list Tab A8 is a low-cost 8-inch model with 16GB of storage, a 1,280×800-resolution screen, and an entry-level MediaTek quad-core processor. What all this adds up to is an under-$200 slate that stacks up well against like-priced competitors, less so against higher-priced models. When compared to Google’s $229.99-list 32GB version of the Nexus 7, for example, the Tab A8 comes up short, even with its larger screen, and even more so when pitted against one of the elegantly designed LG G Pads.

You can buy the Tab A8 in only one configuration—with 16GB of onboard storage, plus the core components mentioned in the previous paragraph. However, Lenovo says it will offer the A8 in four different colors, as you can see here…

Lenovo Tab A8 (Colors)

When we wrote this in early July 2014, though, only the Midnight Blue was available.

In addition, Lenovo says it will offer a 3G version, which will connect you to the Internet via your wireless provider wherever it delivers service. Like the other three chassis colors, the 3G-ready model had not yet materialized. When and if it does, though, it will come with ostensibly upgraded audio: a pair of stereo speakers, rather than the single speaker that graced our Wi-Fi-only test unit. Plus, it’s expected to have proximity and ambient-light sensors, neither of which you’ll find on the Wi-Fi model.

Lenovo Tab A8

The Tab A8 is part of a refresh of the company’s budget-friendly A-series tablets, including the 7-inch IdeaTab A1000. The line comprises three different models—the Tab A7, Tab A8, and Tab A10—each, according to Lenovo, designed for different kinds of use. The smallest of the lot, the Tab A7, is intended primarily for reading and browsing, where the A8 is designed as an entertainment-consumption slate. The 10-inch A10, on the other hand, is meant to serve both productivity and media-playback functions.

With such a wide selection of feature sets and prices available, choosing the right compact slate is often a matter of evaluating overall value in each model—in short, what do you get for the money? In the case of the Tab A8, you get a nice-looking display, reasonably competent audio for a single-speaker tablet, and acceptable performance. We think this Lenovo slate provides good value for its $179.99 list price, but it’s not a breakaway product at that price. We’d like it much better discounted by a Hamilton, a Jackson—or maybe even one of each.

Read entire article at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Review and RatingsLast year, we watched as two-in-one convertible laptops battled for dominance, making 2013 the first round of the Windows hybrid wars. Laptop makers trotted out machines that twisted, turned, and bent over backwards to switch to tablet mode. Some were highly inventive and useful, while others (Acer’s Iconia W700 comes to mind) were well-intentioned but awkwardly implemented.

Over the past months, few convertibles have impressed us as much as Lenovo’s Yoga series, whose screens fold a full 360 degrees to bring the display and keyboard back to back, turning the laptop into a tablet, with handy “tent” and “stand” modes in between. Since testing the Yoga 13 in November 2012, we’ve reviewed several Yoga models, most recently giving an Editors’ Choice to the Yoga 2 Pro, with its fourth-generation “Haswell” processor and ultra-high-resolution 3,200×1,800 screen, in December 2013.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga modes

A Lenovo illustration of the Yoga series’ four operating modes.

One complaint those reviews have had in common, however, is that we haven’t been thrilled with the way the downward-facing keyboard hangs out in the breeze while using the Yoga in tablet mode. Although the keyboard’s disabled as the screen swings past 180 degrees, feeling the keys give way beneath your fingers as you hold the tablet is distracting and awkward.

Dell’s Yoga-like convertible, the XPS 11, addresses the exposed-keys issue by making the keyboard a flat surface, similar to the touch-sensitive slabs Microsoft sells for theSurface Pro. We found holding the XPS 11 in tablet mode less awkward than Lenovo’s approach, but when it came to comfortable typing, Dell’s hybrid was far from ideal.

Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which is not only the first Yoga to bear the Chinese computer giant’s famous business brand but the first with a so-called “lift ‘n’ lock” keyboard that elevates the keyboard deck as you open the lid past 180 degrees. The deck slowly rises until it’s flush with the (disabled) key tops, making the bottom of the tablet a flat surface—and, in our opinion, successfully and cleverly addressing the distraction caused by the keys protruding and giving way beneath our fingertips while using the device as a tablet or in stand mode.

So the question now becomes, how well does this ThinkPad hold up to the competition as a business-centric PC? In addition to the signature ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint and touch pad pointing devices, this Yoga is built around a powerful fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, making it one of the better-performing ThinkPads to date. We also liked our review unit’s great-looking 1080p HD screen. Then, too, there’s the exceptional ThinkPad build and materials quality.

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga flat

Our bottom line? We loved last year’s Yoga 2 Pro, except for the exposed keys in tablet and stand modes. The ThinkPad Yoga resolves that issue, but at a price. To get one configured similarly to our review unit, with a 1,920×1,080 display and stylus support, you’re likely to spend upwards of $1,500. Our test model rang up at $1,669, which is frankly a lot for a 12.5-inch notebook.

Still, this is one well-performing, well-built laptop. That it seconds as a tablet, with a couple of other useful positions between that and laptop mode, provides significant additional value, making this not only our new favorite ThinkPad, but also one of the better business-oriented convertible notebooks of early 2014.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 Review and RatingsSeldom do we prefer the smaller, cheaper iteration of any product over its larger, costlier version, but that’s the case with Lenovo’s $249-list Yoga Tablet 8. We liked this 8-inch model better than the $299 Yoga Tablet 10 that we reviewed a few days before it. In fact, the 2-inch difference in screen size between these two tablets is the main reason we found the 8-inch unit slightly more attractive than its 10-inch sibling.

That’s because the two tablets feature the same screen resolution, despite the difference in display sizes. Following from that, the compact-class screen on the Yoga Tablet 8 has a higher pixel density, with more elements crammed into each screen inch. Plus, the Yoga Tablet 8 performed a little bit better on our benchmark tests than its full-size big brother. (We classify tablets with 9-inch or larger displays as “full-size,” and slates with screens smaller than 9 inches as “compact.”)

Yoga Tablet 10 and 8 Comparison

The Yoga Tablet 10 (left) and Yoga Tablet 8 (right).

You can buy the Yoga Tablet 8 with either 16GB of flash memory for storage (as in the unit we’re reviewing here) or 32GB, for $249 or $269, respectively. Considering that this is a difference of only $20, the 32GB version seems clearly the better value between the two. However, both models have a MicroSD card slot, which will allow you to expand the storage by up to 64GB, for a total of up to 80GB or 96GB, depending on the version of the tablet you buy. However you slice it, an additional 16GB of onboard storage for just a Jackson seems to us like a good deal.

As you can see in the above image, this 8-inch version really is a miniature version of the larger Yoga Tablet 10. In addition to an identical CPU inside, it comes with the same complement of RAM and essentially the same hardware across the board. Like its larger sibling, this 8-inch iteration is well-built, thin, light, and smart-looking. The Yoga Tablet 8 also has the same round, grip-enhancing hinge-and-kickstand construction, shown in the image below

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 (Hold Mode)

That cylinder serves two purposes. An oversize battery lives in inside it, and it also houses a hinged stand that allows you to use the tablet in one of three positions, which Lenovo calls “modes.” It’s these modes, of course, that make the Yoga tablets (as well as Lenovo’s Windows-based Yoga convertibles), so different from other tablets and laptops. However, unlike the three Windows-based Yoga convertibles we’ve tested to date (the Yoga 11s and the Yoga IdeaPad 13, as well as the Windows RT-based Yoga 11), which all have permanently attached keyboards and touch pads, the Android-based Yoga Tablet 8 and 10 have only that kickstand. Unfortunately, unlike the Yoga Tablet 10, which has an optional, matching Bluetooth keyboard/cover available for it, an equivalent keyboard accessory was not available for the Yoga Tablet 8 when we wrote this. When we asked Lenovo when a keyboard dock might come available for the Yoga Tablet 8, the company told us it “had no information” about when or if one might debut.

If, however, you can live without a matching keyboard/cover and don’t need the fastest tablet around, we found several reasons to like the Yoga Tablet 8. First, of course, is the clever kickstand. Then, too, there’s this tablet’s performance on our tests. Like its larger sibling, the Yoga Tablet 8 turned in unremarkable scores on our performance benchmark tests, but, for the most part, both slates scored well within ranges indicative of satisfactory performance for most tasks. The Tablet 8 might, for example, struggle with the most resource-intensive games, but it will do just fine with Web browsing, e-mail, and media consumption—what most people use their tablets for. And where the Yoga Tablet 8 lacked performance pep, it made up for it in superb battery life.

As we said about the Yoga Tablet 10, the Yoga Tablet 8 will please low-tech families and first-time tablet users, and most buyers will find the kickstand flexibility interesting. But compared to our current compact-slate Editors’ Choice, Google’s $229 2013 refresh of the Nexus 7, the Yoga Tablet 8 falls short in overall performance and display quality, even with its inch-larger display. To be blunt, unseating the Nexus 7—with its excellent performance, high-resolution screen, and all-around good value—is going to take a very special tablet, and the Yoga Tablet 8 isn’t quite it. In fact, compared to the Nexus 7, the only way this Yoga makes sense for the money is if the kickstand and slightly bigger screen are must-haves for you. Otherwise, the Nexus 7 slate is an all-around better buy.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention two immensely popular, non-Android contenders with the same screen size: the 7.9-inch iPad Minis. Apple’s original iPad Mini (that is, the 2012 model) sells for just $50 more than this Yoga, and the 2013 version, the iPad Mini with Retina Display, starts at $399, or $150 more than the 16GB Yoga Tablet 8. While iPads don’t come with hinges and kickstands for working in various modes, they do tap into the largest repository of tablet apps on the Internet, and they have the largest collection of slate-specific accessories at their disposal. iPad Mini versus Yoga Tablet 8, then, largely comes down to an iOS versus Android choice, seeing as the pricing is so close. (One point in the Yoga 8’s favor: The $299 iPad Mini does have a lower-res screen.)

All told, considering its price, its thin and highly attractive exterior, and the long battery life, the Yoga Tablet 8 provides overall decent value if you’re set on Android. Considering the competition, though, we think $199 to $219 might be a better starting price for that 16GB version.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s Review and RatingsLenovo’s popular business laptop line, the ThinkPad T Series, contains both a thin and light model, the ThinkPad T430s, and an ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u. The first T Series to combine Lenovo’s high durability and business standards with Intel’s ultrabook requirements, the T430u represents an affordable alternative to Lenovo’s elegant ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Unlike the Carbon, though, the T430u is not—by ultrabook standards, anyway—all that light. In fact, it weighs slightly more than the T430s (4.1 versus 4.0 pounds).

Now Lenovo is giving slimline shoppers a third choice. Not only is the new ThinkPad T431s about half a pound lighter than the first T Series ultrabook (3.6 pounds), it has a few other features that make it more appealing, such as a 1,600×900-resolution display, up from the lowest-common-denominator 1,366×768-pixel panel of its predecessor.

In a further attempt to make the matte black brick ThinkPad more fashionable, Lenovo has also made a few cosmetic changes to the T431s. Though perhaps not as alluring as the brushed aluminum cases we’ve seen on other ultrabooks, this one’s semi-gloss lid, slender side profile, and thin display bezel make for an all-around more attractive laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s openOne change that ThinkPad loyalists may not like, however, is the new glass touch pad. Instead of three tactile buttons at the top of the pad, you now get the flat, no-button integration we see on many consumer-oriented laptops. TrackPoint pointing stick enthusiasts, we believe, will find this change a minus, because it’s now more difficult to distinguish between the left, right, and middle mouse buttons.

We were also a little disappointed with the Lenovo’s display. While the 14-inch screen displayed text, graphics, and images well enough for everyday business applications, it left something to be desired in overall brightness and vibrancy. In addition, its lack of in-plane switching (IPS) technology made for relatively narrow viewing angles—when viewing the screen at any angle other than straight on, the contents started to appear washed out and distorted.

Overall, though, the ThinkPad T431s, like most T Series models, is a strong business-class laptop. It’s built solidly, with the durability we’ve come to expect from ThinkPads, and it performed reasonably well on the majority of our benchmark tests. It’s thin, light, and comfortable to use, making it a solid travel companion. We don’t recommend it as a consumer-oriented media-consumption machine—there are a number of ultrabooks better suited for that. This ThinkPad means business, and we like it as a highly portable workstation.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 Review and RatingsIf nothing else, the debut of Windows 8 and Windows RT (the lower-powered ARM tablet version of Microsoft’s latest operating system) has brought an increase in system flexibility—and we mean that in the dexterous physical sense, not in the sense of systems actually doing more. Over the past few months, we’ve seen notebooks, tablets, and hybrids whose screens flip, turn, and detach every which way. The convertible tested here, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11, literally bends over backwards.

Apart from its smaller stature, the 11.6-inch Yoga 11 looks identical to the 13.3-inch IdeaPad Yoga 13 we reviewed back in November 2012. However, except for the innovative 360-degree hinge connecting the screen to the keyboard, the two are quite dissimilar in terms of power, capabilities, battery life, and software availability.

With its third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), the Yoga 13 is a full-blown Windows 8 laptop capable of running virtually any Windows program. The Yoga 11, on the other hand, has an Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU, 2GB of memory, and 64GB eMMC flash memory drive in the $949 configuration discounted at presstime to $599 on Lenovo’s site.

It’s basically, despite its non-detachable keyboard, a Windows RT tablet, limited to the apps it comes with—not an inconsiderable set, since Microsoft Office Home & Student is included—and other RT titles you can download from the Windows Store. Rather than the Yoga 13, it should really be compared to Microsoft’s Surface RT and Asus’ VivoTab RT.

What makes the Yogas similar, of course, is the articulating hinge (highlighted in the image below) that allows you to position and hold either Lenovo as a laptop, a tablet, or to manipulate it into a couple of useful in-between positions, which we’ll discuss on the next page:

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 hinges

These 360-degree hinges permit you to place the Yoga 11 in several interesting positions.

The Yoga lets you fold its lid (the back of the display panel) back until it meets the bottom of the chassis (or back of the keyboard), which in turn lets you position it into four different setups or what Lenovo calls modes: notebook, tablet, stand, and tent. At first glance, this flexibility appears to be highly innovative and useful—and yet so simple that you may be asking yourself why somebody hadn’t thought of it sooner. After spending a few days with it, even though we liked it overall, we also found a few drawbacks to this design. (More on that, too, on the next page.)

You can buy the Yoga 11 in either silver or orange, in either of two storage-size configurations, 32GB or 64GB. Lenovo sent us a silver one with the higher storage capacity—listed on Lenovo.com, as mentioned, for $949 but given an “eCoupon” discount to $599. The 32GB eMMC model is $849 with no discount, which we think answers the question of which one to buy.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 colors

The Yoga 11 comes in either silver-gray or orange.Compared to the 10.6-inch Surface RT and 10.1-inch VivoTab RT, the Yoga 11’s screen is larger as well as non-detachable. Aside from the huge difference of the attached, articulating keyboard, the Yoga 11 came configured and performed much like the other RT devices. As we see it, the flexible keyboard, then, is the primary reason for choosing this model over the others.

Overall, as Windows RT devices go, we liked the Yoga 11 enough to recommend it—as long as you understand the limitations, what Win RT can and can’t do, before you take the plunge.

See complete review at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo IdeaTab S2110A Review and Ratings

With the glut of midpriced Android slates now on the market, it’s difficult to get excited about yet another one—especially when it’s another me-too model with little to differentiate itself in terms of price or features. That’s the dilemma we have with Lenovo’s IdeaTab S2110A. Lenovo has priced this slate at $339 list for the tablet alone, or $429 with its complementary keyboard dock. Our assessment? It’s a passable tablet with a few clear flaws, but little to recommend it above a horde of similarly priced models.

Lenovo IdeaTab S2110A

This IdeaTab reminded us most of all of Lenovo’s IdeaTab S2109, a 9.7-inch slate we looked at a few weeks before. Our primary disappointment with both of these tablets is that they’re built around less-efficient dual-core processors, instead of the quad-core CPUs we see in many recent mid-level tablets, such as Asus’ $399.99-list Transformer Pad TF300 and Acer’s $449-list Iconia Tab A510.

While the IdeaTab S2110A’s processor, compared to some other dual-core slates, performed reasonably well on our suite of benchmark tests, the slate as a whole fell far short in one key area: battery life. Many quad-core tablets we’ve looked at this year delivered from four to seven more hours unplugged runtime than this IdeaTab. The way we see it, a tablet at this price that runs for only seven or eight hours without recharging is borderline unacceptable.

Furthermore, while this plastic-encased IdeaTab is thin, light, and attractive, it feels too pliable. That said, when we weren’t test-bending the S2110A, we found more than a few things to like about it. Its 1,200×800-pixel screen was bright, clear, and colorful, and, as we mentioned, the tablet itself performed well. Sound-playback quality was good, and we shot some nice-looking photos and video with the rear camera.

Our review unit came with 16GB of storage, as well as a black-and-silver keyboard dock in the same box—a combo package Lenovo sells for $429 list, and you can buy a 16GB tablet-only version for $339 list. There’s also a 32GB tablet-only version for $419 list, and a combination 32GB tablet-and-dock package for $499 list.

To our eyes, the $429 or $499 packages are the best deal. The keyboard dock (displayed in the image below) turns this slate into a small laptop-like machine for basic e-mailing and Web work, and the dock holds an additional battery, which Lenovo says can add an extra 10 hours of battery life.

Lenovo IdeaTab S2110A KeyboardOverall, we were underwhelmed with the IdeaTab S2110A, primarily due to its build quality, short battery life, and somewhat dated dual-core CPU—all of which we’ll discuss in detail over the course of this review. You can find better-built slates, such as Asus’ Transformer Pad TF300, with a keyboard dock, a quad-core processor, and a longer-lasting battery for not a whole lot more money.

Lenovo IdeaTab S2110A Review and RatingsFinish reading this article at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo IdeaTab A2109A Review and Ratings

We’ve looked at a few Lenovo Android tablets over the past year or so, and, so far, none of them has blown us away. They’ve been able enough efforts, but none of them had that little bit extra to push it over the top.

The most recent of them was the, a 9.7-inch Android slate with a dual-core processor. It has only 8GB of storage, yet it’s still more costly than the IdeaTab we’re reviewing here: the $299-list IdeaTab A2109A, which is a 9-inch slate with 16GB of memory and a Tegra 3 quad-core CPU.

Lenovo IdeaTab A2109A

While $299 is a decent price for an Android tablet of this size built around a quad-core chip, this one has a few drawbacks. First, the A2109A’s cameras are subpar, compared to those in some other slates we’ve tested. Second, and far more important, is the display: Its screen is mediocre, and a tablet is nothing if not its screen.

Consider that this IdeaTab’s display is the same resolution (1,200×800 pixels) as the $249-list , a very popular 7-inch model with a great-looking, highly detailed screen. Even with its extra spread, the A2109A’s display panel is not nearly as vibrant and clear as the Nexus 7’s. Tablets—any tablet—should display graphics, videos, and photos well, but, as you’ll see in the Features & Apps section later in this review, this IdeaTab falls short in this way.

Lenovo IdeaTab A2109A

 

Aside from the less-than-stellar screen and cameras, though, the A2109A was a solid Android citizen. It performed well in our suite of benchmark tests, even on our Battery-Rundown Test. It also comes with an SRS-enhanced sound system that delivers better-than-average audio—for a tablet, that is.

Music, video soundtracks, and games sound good, but, unfortunately, the lackluster display makes this a poor choice if you’ll be using your tablet mainly as a media-consumption device, such as for watching movies. The Google Nexus 7, even considering that the screen is smaller, displays videos much better, as does the aforementioned IdeaTab S2109 and several other slates near the same price.

Although this IdeaTab contains a respectable set of connectivity options, such as USB and HDMI-out, before we can recommend it as a personal entertainment device, it would need a better screen. As is, it’s a good fit for browsing Web sites, managing e-mail, texting, listening to music, and performing other non-graphics-intensive tasks. Quite a few other models of the same screen size (or smaller) work better for viewing videos and photos, though.

Finish reading this at Computer Shopper.