You have a lot of options for inexpensive tablets these days. Our Editors' Choice is the Amazon Fire, which can't be beat for the price. But not everyone wants an Amazon-centric device. That's where the new Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8 ($169.99, 16GB) comes in. It's an affordable, media-focused Android tablet bolstered by Lenovo's unique, flexible design that's ideal for watching video in a number of different positions. Unfortunately, the tablet's display is just average, and it's certainly not a gaming powerhouse. If you're looking for an alternative to the Amazon Fire, you'll get more bang for you buck with the Asus ZenPad S 8.0.
The Yoga Tab 3 8 is similar in design to the two-year-old Yoga Tablet 8, with a cylindrical bump on one side that's great to hold onto when, say, reading on your daily commute. The tablet is relatively small, at 8.27 by 5.75 by 0.28 inches (HWD), but it weighs just over a pound. Lenovo has replaced the metal on the back of the old Yoga Tab with a matte finish, and made the Yoga logo a lot bigger.
At one end of the cylinder is the power button, and at the other end is a headphone jack. A swiveling 8-megapixel camera is also situated on the cylinder, near the power button end. You can rotate the camera backward and forward, so it can be used to capture traditional photos or selfies. It's a pretty neat trick, and one that wouldn't be possible without the cylindrical design.
The cylinder also holds a kickstand (there's a button on the back of the tablet to pop it out), so you can stand the tablet up in landscape mode to watch movies or TV. Under the kickstand you'll find a covered microSD card slot, for up to an additional 128GB of storage. You'll also find a SIM card slot if you opt for the $229.99 cellular model of the tablet.
The tablet's 8-inch, 1,200-by-800-pixel display is just average. Images and video look fine, but for a tablet geared toward media consumption, a higher-resolution screen would be nice. The ZenPad S, by comparison, has a much sharper 2,048-by-1,536-pixel display, which is much better for movies and games.
Software and Performance
The tablet runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, with a skin from Lenovo that offers a couple of neat tricks. Lenovo Smart Switch in the notifications menu lets you change the display settings based on the orientation of the tablet. For example, you can select Hold, Stand, or Tilt (depending on whether you're holding the tablet, or if it's standing or tilted on the kickstand), and the display will automatically select the settings for optimal brightness. Other than that, it's mostly standard Android fare. Lenovo has loaded the tablet with a decent amount of bloatware. Of the 16GB of internal storage, more than 5GB is taken up by the software load. Thankfully, the microSD slot lets you expand your storage options significantly.
Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 chipset, the Yoga Tab 3 comes up short on performance. It scored just 18,930 on the AnTuTu system benchmark, which is even less than the Kurio Xtreme 2 (23,122), a children's tablet. I experienced some lag while attempting to switch between multiple apps at once, although simple tasks like watching video is smooth if that's the only thing you're doing. Ultimately, real-world performance is on par with the Amazon Fire. The ZenPad S is a much stronger option than either tablet if you're interested in gaming.
The rotating 8-megapixel shooter takes surprisingly clear shots in most light setting. And because it rotates, you're getting a much higher quality for front-facing images and video than you do with the Amazon Fire's lackluster VGA front-facing camera.
Another area in which the Yoga Tab doesn't disappoint is battery life. The tablet lasted 7 hours and 47 minutes on our rundown test, which streams a video over Wi-Fi with screen brightness set to maximum. That's significantly longer than the Amazon Fire (6 hours and 5 minutes), as well as higher-end tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 (5 hours and 33 minutes).
The Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 8 is a decent choice if you don't want to be locked into Amazon's content ecosystem. It's also better than the Amazon Fire for watching video, thanks to its slightly higher screen resolution and unique design that makes it comfortable to hold in your hand or prop up on the nearest flat surface. But it's hard to ignore just what a good deal the new Fire tablet is; you can buy three for the price of a single Yoga Tab. And considering it offers comparable performance, the Amazon Fire remains our Editors' Choice for budget tablets. If you're willing to spend more, you're better off with the Asus ZenPad S. It might not have the same flexible design as the Yoga Pad, but a sharper display makes it better for watching video, and a faster processor makes it better for gaming.