Lenovo Yoga Tablet Is Compelling, Versatile, Not Light Enough

REVIEW: Lenovo suggested it took a risk with the Yoga Tablet, which does several things that no other tablet can do on its own. Risk? I think not.

Lenovo introduced both the Yoga Tablet and its newest product engineer, Ashton Kutcher, at a press event in Los Angeles Oct. 29. More than joining a category that includes Alicia Keys for BlackBerry and Shakira for T-Mobile, Kutcher's partnership with Lenovo was framed as an extension of his savvy as a tech venture capitalist—his firm A-Grade Investments has invested in Fab.com and ride-sharing site Getaround, among well over a dozen other online ventures.

Introducing the Yoga Tablet, which uniquely features a display attached to cylinder, for a silhouette like a spiral-bound notebook, Kutcher told the crowd: "I like to take risks. I like to do things that somebody in the world is going to go, 'What was he thinking?' And maybe if I succeed, somebody in the world will look and go, 'Why didn't I think of that?' But you'll never have anyone say, 'Why didn't I think of that?' if you don't do something that at first [makes people say], 'What was he thinking?'"

Kutcher continued, "For me, this is a risk. I'm risking because I like to compete, I like to win, I like to solve problems. And I think that there are problems out there that can be solved with these types of devices that haven't been solved yet."

While Kutcher may be taking a risk, Lenovo has, with the Yoga Tablet, arguably taken the next and necessary step in its efforts to break into the U.S. tablet market and become a more-recognizable brand in U.S. homes.

Over the last few years, Lenovo steadily pushed ahead and managed to grow its PC business, even as the rest of the PC industry was tanking. Today, it's the top-selling vendor in the world. And despite its top-of-the-mountain PC success, Lenovo sells more smartphones and tablets (the majority of them in China) than it does PCs.

Lenovo's smartphone success in its home market of China helped it pass LG Electronics during the third quarter of 2013 and make it the third-ranking smartphone maker in world, Gartner announced Nov. 14.

Lenovo has figured out how to sell PCs in a deeply downturned market, is selling Android smartphones in an Android-saturated market and now has set out to sell tablets to Americans. How to do it? There's no point trying to be a better iPad (Samsung's already doing that, plus reintroducing the stylus). Microsoft's Surface has the kickstand-and-keyboard angle covered. And Lenovo has already found success with its Yoga line of laptops.

Is the Yoga Tablet's form factor a risk? Not figuring out a new form factor seems more risky.

Which is all to say, it feels silly to talk about specs and smaller details of the Yoga Tablets without addressing the broad strokes. Apple users are going to, in very large part, buy iPads. Those who value thinness above all, and can afford it, should also buy the iPad Air. (Walter Mossberg, writing for the Wall Street Journal Oct. 29, called it the best tablet he's ever reviewed.)