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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows: Write on the screen with any pen or pencil (hands on)

This 8-inch Windows tablet is the first with Lenovo's Anypen technology that enables using any pen or pencil to write or draw on the screen. We go hands on with it to see how it fares.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 9 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Yoga Tablet 2

At the CES earlier this year Lenovo proudly showed off the new technology for touch tablets that permits writing on the screen with any pen or pencil. The Anypen feature is designed to work like tablets with special pens for drawing and writing on the screen.

The Yoga Tablet 2 is the first touch tablet from Lenovo with this technology. The 8-inch Yoga is much like the company’s other Yoga tablets with a cylindrical handle on one edge that houses the camera, kickstand, and a large battery. It ships with Windows 8.1 with Bing and is priced at $299.99.

Yoga Tablet 2 hardware specs as reviewed:

  • OS: Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • CPU: Intel Atom Z3745, quad core, 1.33GHz
  • Display: 8-inch IPS, 1920 x 1200; Anypen (write with any pen or pencil on screen)
  • Memory/storage: 2GB/32GB
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0
  • Ports: microUSB, microSD (up to 64GB); 3.5m audio
  • Battery: 6400 mAH; 24 WH; 15 hours
  • Cameras: Front - 1.6MP; Rear - 8MP
  • Weight: 0.94 lbs
  • Price: $299

Good Windows tablet

The construction of the Yoga Tablet 2 is very solid. While it feels like premium metal, the case is constructed of plastic. It is easy to hold for long stretches, especially using the cylinder on the side of the tablet in portrait.

The kickstand flips out of the cylinder with a little finagling, and forms a multi-position stand. This permits using the Yoga Tablet 2 at a low angle for handwriting, upright for viewing the screen, and hanging from a hook. Popping out the kickstand exposes a door covering the microSD slot. This slot handles cards up to 64GB, which will be needed given the 32GB internal storage.

Windows 8.1 runs very well on the Yoga due to the Intel processor. It’s one of the best Windows tablets I’ve used due to good performance, the nice display (1920 x 1200), and the kickstand. The start screen flows smoothly, as do most apps. With only 2GB of memory, it is surprising that it runs so well. That might not be the case if a lot of apps are run at once. It is a joy to use the Yoga Tablet 2, especially given the low price of $299.99.

Lenovo estimates the battery life at 15 hours, and in testing that’s what we experienced. The long battery life is due to the cylinder on the tablet which can hold a bigger battery than other thin tablets.

The cylinder also houses the rear camera and big power button that lights up when charging. Close to the cylinder are the Windows Home button on the left, and the microUSB charging port and volume buttons on the right.

The Yoga Tablet 2 has a decent audio system for such a small tablet. The stereo speakers are on the cylinder facing the front. Audio is not overly loud but louder than most tablets we’ve tested.

Anypen - where’s the rejection?

When Lenovo unveiled the Anypen feature at the CES earlier this year it sounded like a new pen technology that would work like active digitizers with special pens. In reality, Anypen is a touch digitizer that in addition to operation by fingertip, can also be used with standard pens and pencils.

This works OK, but writing on the screen with a pen/pencil is sometimes hit or miss. If you press down a little harder than normal it works better.

There is no special software for using Anypen on our review unit; it is handled by Windows 8.1. Handwriting is done through the Windows pen text entry panel, which works as we expected. Handwriting and drawing with a pen or pencil can also be done in any app that supports the activity. Drawing and inking in OneNote works as expected.

Anypen is simply a touch screen that allows pen/pencil use for more precision than possible with a fingertip. It doesn’t add extra features to touch control of the Yoga Tablet 2. Using a pen is like using a stylus on a touch screen but in our testing this often resulted in missed taps and we resorted to using the old fingertip to work the interface.

While writing on the screen in apps like OneNote using a real pen is cool, it doesn’t work well due to the lack of palm rejection. That’s the technology that ignores the hand when it’s resting on the page and only registers the pen input.

Long-time tablet users know how important palm rejection is for inking on the screen. Without it, writing with a pen is unnatural as you must keep your hand off the display and only touch it with the pen tip. That’s the case with the Yoga Tablet 2, and it’s a big failure to not have palm rejection. This reduces Anypen to largely a gimmick that is not practical for use.

In conclusion

The Yoga Tablet 2 is a nice Windows tablet, especially for the low price. It is fluid in operation, and the 8-inch display is great with Windows. The battery life is outstanding, and the integrated kickstand rounds out the offering.

Anypen is an interesting gimmick, but as implemented it's not practical for either controlling the Windows interface nor its intended use for handwriting on the screen. The lack of pressure sensitivity makes it useless for drawing on the display, which is virtually impossible without palm rejection.

On the plus side, the Yoga demonstrates what we found when testing the Dell Venue 8 tablet, that 8 inches is a good size for a Windows tablet. The display is large enough for easy viewing, yet small enough for comfortable use.

The Yoga Tablet 2 is a good value for $299.99 with Windows 8.1. It comes with a license for Microsoft Office 365.

Pros:

  • Fluid performance
  • Good price
  • Long battery life
  • Microsoft Office 365 license included

Cons:

  • Anypen
  • Lack of palm rejection

Reviewer’s rating: 8 out of 10

Lenovo sent us the optional sleeve for the Yoga Tablet 2 which is priced at $29.99. Since the cylinder on the tablet precludes the production of any type of smart cover case, buyers will likely want the sleeve to protect the tablet when out and about. A photo of the sleeve is included in the gallery above.

Other Yoga tablet reviews on ZDNet:

Review: Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 and 10

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

Yoga 2, 11-inch flexible Windows hybrid

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Yoga Tablet 2

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Yoga Tablet 2

Hardware specs as reviewed

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Yoga Tablet 2

Viewing mode with kickstand

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Yoga Tablet 2

Typing mode

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Yoga Tablet 2

Thin, other than the bulbous cylinder on one side.

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Yoga Tablet 2

Anypen in action, handwriting done with ballpoint pen.

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Yoga Tablet 2

Standing at attention

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Yoga Tablet 2

Optional sleeve ($29.99)

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