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2 days ago

With Windows 10 on ARM, Microsoft is coming for the Chromebook — and might win

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Microsoft is taking on Chromebooks with a new ARM-based version of Windows 10, and everyone wins.

Microsoft is coming for your Chromebooks. No, they're not going to confiscate them like the TSA steals your water bottles, but more so in the competitive sense.

This week, Microsoft announced that it is launching an ARM-friendly version of Windows 10 in collaboration with Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC, which comes out next year. While most Android fans will know Qualcomm's work from such phones as nearly every product on the market, Snapdragon is increasingly capable, especially at the high-end, of powering tablets, 2-in-1s and traditional laptops.

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2 days ago

What is T-Mobile Digits and why do I want it?

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T-Mobile's Digits brings phone calls and texts into the 21st century, but at a time when people care little about those things, will it make a difference?

T-Mobile has unveiled a new service called Digits, making phone numbers less reliant on a SIM card, and expanding the simple phone number into the smartphone age.

But for all of its big talk, Digits is a bit confusing, so let's break it down.

What is Digits?

At its core, Digits is T-Mobile's way of utilizing its new IMS (IP Media Subsystem) backend to dynamically direct calls to any device, or store multiple numbers on a single device.

Basically, without the technical mumbo jumbo, it's a way to free the phone number from its legacy place, and to utilize the flexibility data-based nature of Voice over LTE and Voice of Wi-Fi to allow a call to take place, or to be received, in the most convenient place. This is very similar to Google Voice, and to many other Voice over IP services like Viber and Skype, but T-Mobile has one major advantage: it owns the network, and it distributes the phones.

So what can Digits really do for me?

Provided you're on one of T-Mobile's compatible postpaid plans (yes, this is yet another way for T-Mobile to upsell you), Digits can make it easier to manage phone calls in the increasingly inevitable situation you have multiple devices.

The basic idea is that if you receive a call on your traditional T-Mobile number, your phone should ring, along with any device — another phone, a computer, a tablet, even a connected smartwatch — at the same time. You can also make calls from any of those same devices without your phone nearby, and without the need to have a SIM card.

A secondary but for many people equally important feature is the ability to have more than one number available on a single device. So instead of having separate personal and work phones, you can have a single smartphone make and receive calls from two or more numbers.

This sounds a lot like Google Voice

Yes, it does. The major difference here is that T-Mobile is committing to a couple of things that even Google, which creates both Android and Google Voice, can't do:

  • It is integrating Digits directly into the Android phones it sells, working with manufacturers like Samsung to seamlessly add Digits support into devices like the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S7 and Gear S3.
  • It is making it easy to do so-called "SIM replication," which allows you to duplicate a phone number onto a second device, such as another smartphone or a connected smartwatch.

This is in addition to the Google Voice-like Digits app that's available for Android and iOS, to make and receive calls and texts from any device, anywhere. There's also a Digits portal on the web for people who sit in front of a computer all day and want to be able to initiate communications that way. And because the app is available natively and through an app, devices with SIM cards from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint — any carrier, really — can access Digits messages. If you lose your phone, for instance, you can download the Digits app onto a friend's device and make and receive calls and texts from there, too.

Like many cross-platform messaging services, call logs and messages also sync in real-time between devices, which is a huge boon to productivity if you don't always have your phone in front of you.

It's tailor-made for Android

Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits grow.

Digits is a cross-platform play, sure, but it is tailor-made for Android. Not only does iOS have its own cross-device communications protocol in iMessage, which may mess with Digits' ability to route texts, but Apple doesn't allow for any system-level alterations, rendering one of Digits' primary use cases moot.

Indeed, Android is the only platform on which T-Mobile can rely to help Digits proliferate, but by potentially limiting half of the population to merely an app-based experience, it is almost immediately cut off at the proverbial knees. Still, Digits has a five-device limit, and can easily be tuned to be used on an iPhone or iPad, especially since as of iOS 10 VoIP apps can take over the lock screen like a regular dialer.

The best Digits experience will always be on Android, and initially is only natively available on the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge +, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge or Note 5 purchased through T-Mobile.

So should I sign up?

Digits, while free during the beta period, won't be afterwards, and T-Mobile isn't saying how much it will cost.

Digits is an intriguing product, and an example of what it looks like when a carrier turns next-generation core technology like IMS and HLR (which works to virtualize SIM data on the core network) into something that is truly compelling to consumers.

There are a couple of caveats, though: Digits, while free during the beta period, will not be afterwards, and T-Mobile isn't saying how much it will cost. It's likely going to be just a few dollars per month, but users already need to have one of the carrier's postpaid plans such as T-Mobile One or Simple Choice. And only the primary account holder can actually sign up for a second line in order to carry two on a single device; secondary users can merely share their existing number across multiple devices.

During the beta period, which is indeterminate but should go into next year, T-Mobile will ask users to provide feedback on the service. This is a complicated thing, despite its upfront simplicity, and bugs will need to be worked out.

In the long run, though, Digits is coming to market at a time when the phone number is likely the least important aspect of a smartphone user's experience. Data, and the avenues to the internet it provides, is the backbone of the mobile experience. Phone calls and rich texts sent over a carrier network, even one as advanced as T-Mobile's, still feel somewhat anachronistic.

Nonetheless, the Digits beta seems like a great option for T-Mobile users running select Samsung phones on Android, and we look forward to trying it out!

See Digits at T-Mobile

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5 days ago

Android is not iOS, December 2016 edition

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Marshmallow rises while KitKat slowly melts.

December's Android distribution numbers are out, and they're boring. Android is still not iOS, and things don't change in large increments, so haters will still hate and defenders will still hate.

Impressively, Android 6.0 Marshmallow now holds the single version crown with 26.3% share. That takes over Android 4.4 KitKat, the previous leader, which dropped 1.2% to 24% even. Lollipop cumulatively holds the lead with 34%, divided between versions 5.0 and 5.1.

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5 days ago

Save $80 when buying an Amazon Tap and Fire tablet together

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Best Buy is currently offering an $80 savings when you purchase the Amazon Tap and 7-inch Fire tablet together. To get the offer all you need to do is add both items to your cart, and then the $80 will be subtracted. With the savings, it is essentially like getting the Fire tablet (normally $69) for free and $10 off the Amazon Tap (normally $129). With the Tap, you'll be able to use your voice to order Amazon items, check the weather and much more with Alexa, and the tablet is great for browsing the web, watching videos and playing some games.

So, for $119 plus tax you can get both of these great items, which is a pretty awesome deal. This offer is only good for today, December 5, so don't wait long to place your order.

See at Best Buy

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5 days ago

Android 7.1.1 is here for the Pixel and some Nexus devices

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Sideload or wait for the update? That's the question.

Android 7.1.1 is slowly rolling out to the Google Pixel and select Nexus devices, with Google updating its factory images and over-the-air (OTA) pages to reflect the new builds.

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1 week ago

Why the $49 Amazon Fire tablet is a great buy this holiday

In the past we've steered people clear of really cheap Android tablets at holiday time. Not this year.

The Amazon Fire Tablet is both really cheap and Android, though perhaps not the Android you're used to. There's no Google to be found, which means no Play Store or Google Apps of any kind.

But if you go for the 7-inch Fire you're only going to be asked to part with $49 of your hard-earned cash. Or as is often the way, even less than that, thanks to frequent sales like Black Friday just gone. I've been using one for some time and people keep asking me if it's worth buying?

The answer is yes.

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1 week ago

Today only, Amazon will sell you a Fire Tablet for just $33

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Amazon Fire Tablet

Stop complaining about specifics, this is a tablet for $33.

Amazon has the 7-inch Fire tablet with 8GB storage (and "special offers" ads) on sale right now for just $33. If that's all you needed to hear, click right here and buy one before they run out of stock.

If you aren't convinced right away, for 33 bucks you're getting a quad-core 7-inch tablet that can run Android apps from the Amazon app store or ones you sideload from other places. Basically, anything that doesn't need Google's Play Services integration. If you like to tinker with things, you can monkey with the software and install "regular" Android and/or the Google Play Store with a little bit of effort.

Read:Why you should try the Amazon Fire tablet

If you're not the kind of person who hacks away at tablet software, this is the best tablet you can buy for $33. In fact, it's the only tablet you should buy for $33. It's perfect to sit on the living room table to control your lights or TV remote. It's perfect to give to the kids (without the password for app purchases!) so they can shoot angry birds out of a slingshot or watch a video or two. Or 90. For $33, you can buy one for each kid so they aren't fighting over it and stuff them in a stocking so you look like a superhero when they grab it.

It's no iPad or Pixel C. But it's the best damn tablet you can buy for $33.

See at Amazon

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2 weeks ago

Best Android Tablet

The Android 7.0 update makes the Pixel C the best Android tablet you can buy.

Best overall

The Pixel C

See at Google

We liked the Pixel C when it first arrived at the end of 2015. We thought the aluminum design was striking, even at a time where we saw aluminum and other metal devices from all the people making phones and tablets and decided the added weight (a 10.2-inch aluminum tablet can be hefty) was a fair trade for the excellent way it was designed and built. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor handled everything well and the 1:√2 aspect ratio was easier to get used to than anyone had guessed. We really loved the display. The 2560x1800 display was bright and crisp and represented the Pixel brand very well. But we couldn't help but feel the tablet hadn't reached its full potential.

Android 7.0 and the native multi-window display feature changed that. With either of the keyboard folio covers, multi-window turned the Pixel C from yet another Android tablet with a keyboard case into something you really could use for light work or school. We're not trying to validate any company's claim that a tablet can replace a laptop when it comes to productivity, but when you need to do it, The Pixel C is the best way to do it.

Bottom line: No tablet is perfect. Neither is Android. But when you want to combine the two, the Pixel C is the best way you can spend your money until someone else can build something better.

One more thing: Because this is a Google hardware product, the Pixel C will be among the first Android tablets to be updated with new features.

Why the Pixel C is the best

A tablet that covers every need.

The Pixel C does everything you would want a tablet to do. YouTube or anything else on the web is great on the gorgeous screen, all the apps you love work well. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor is a screamer when it comes to gaming. This can be said about many Android tablets. The difference really did come with the Android 7.0 update.

Working, whether it's on a presentation for your boss or a paper for your professor, is very different on a tablet than it is on a more conventional computer. Apps are designed to be more simple and easy to use with a touch screen while omitting many of the battery-hungry features you would find in their desktop counterparts. The biggest hurdle has always been finding a way to organize the things you're doing on your screen while you're doing them. Samsung has had this figured out for a while, and even those of us who don't appreciate a split-window view on a phone will see the value on a 10.2-inch screen. The Pixel C now offers a native Android solution, with arguable better hardware (and a better keyboard) and current software.

The software has finally caught up with the excellent design and build and we put the Pixel C at the top of the Android tablet hill.

Budget power

NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1

See at Amazon

The Shield Tablet is a gaming powerhouse featuring NVIDIA's cutting-edge 2.2 GHz Tegra K1 processor. Forward-facing stereo speakers offer quality sound, and the now optional stylus opens up helpful functionality for day-to-day usage. But the Shield Tablet's software is what really sets it apart. Built right into the notification tray, for example, is the ability to stream what's on your screen to Twitch. Remote access software combined with the optional hardware gamepad allow you to play games that are running on your PC.

Alternatively, the GeForce Now cloud gaming service lets you do the same with games and computers hosted by NVIDIA. The Shield Tablet K1 recently received a mild refresh over the original, changing the exterior styling a little but more importantly reducing the price by $100. You no longer get a charger or the stylus included in the box, but the savings do give you enough extra cash to pick up the cover and controller. Which you really want if you're going to use the Shield to its fullest.

Bottom line: Even for those that aren't hardcore gamers, the NVIDIA Shield Tablet is a powerful tablet and offers excellent value for the price.

One more thing: The 8-inch Shield Tablet is great for people who want something smaller, but still very capable.

Slim and sleek

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

See at Amazon

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 brings together some of the best components available. As usual, Samsung delivers a high-quality display and manages to do it in a particularly slim package. To top it all off, it's got the processing power to handle just about anything you could throw at it.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is available in two sizes, 8 inches and 9.7 inches, each only 5.6 mm thin. The display resolution comes in at 2048x1536 pixels, which is more than enough for enjoying HD movies or 3D games. Inside you'll find a 1.9 GHz processor and 3GB of RAM. An 8-megapixel camera sits on the back, and the home button doubles as a fingerprint sensor. The Galaxy Tab S2 ticks all of the boxes on hardware and while Samsung's software still divides opinion, it's packed with useful features.

Bottom line: While a bit pricier than other Android tablets, the slim design and beautiful screen are things you won't find in any other tablet.

One more thing: The Galaxy Tab S2 also has a great fingerprint sensor built into the home button.

For the enthusiast

Nexus 9

See at Amazon

Google partnered with HTC to deliver the Nexus 9 tablet as a spearhead for the Android Lollipop release. As it stands, the Nexus 9's blazing fast 64-bit 2.3 GHz processor and direct affiliation with Google provide it with a healthy degree of future-proofing, despite the fact it's over a year old. The Nexus 9 shuns the 16:9 form factor favored by so many Android tablets and instead goes for a more portrait friendly 4:3 with a 2048x1536 resolution display. So it's much nicer to hold in either orientation.

The back of the Nexus 9 has a soft touch coating available in a few different colors, but what's great about it right now is that you can find it for some bargain prices. Deals are frequent and since it's a Nexus you're getting the latest software, usually before everyone else. If you want to get some work done with the Nexus 9, there's an optional keyboard cover for it, too.

For the nerds out there who like to be on the bleeding edge (or more so, developers), the Nexus 9 is one of the early devices with access to any Android developer previews. But think twice before putting them on a daily driver.

For Android enthusiasts, the Nexus 9 is an easy pick. But if you just want a big tablet, running Android and don't want to spend too much, check it out.

Bottom line: For the Android enthusiast, the Nexus 9 is an excellent test-bed for custom software installations. It's fully unlockable and factory software is readily provided.

One more thing: The Nexus 9 should be eligible for the Android beta software program for people who want the bleeding edge.

Conclusion

Like most things, there is no one Android tablet that's right for everyone. That's one of the big reasons Google was able to break Apple's dominance in mobile computing — they offer a choice for just about everyone. Whether you want the stylish look and thin profile of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 or the high-powered yet low-priced NVIDIA Shield K1 — or anything in between — someone is making a tablet that will work for you.

Our pick with the Pixel C is tough to beat. Great construction, an awesome screen, and current software with all the features you hear about directly from Google make it the one tablet we can recommend to everyone.

Best overall

The Pixel C

See at Google

We liked the Pixel C when it first arrived at the end of 2015. We thought the aluminum design was striking, even at a time where we saw aluminum and other metal devices from all the people making phones and tablets and decided the added weight (a 10.2-inch aluminum tablet can be hefty) was a fair trade for the excellent way it was designed and built. The NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor handled everything well and the 1:√2 aspect ratio was easier to get used to than anyone had guessed. We really loved the display. The 2560x1800 display was bright and crisp and represented the Pixel brand very well. But we couldn't help but feel the tablet hadn't reached its full potential.

Android 7.0 and the native multi-window display feature changed that. With either of the keyboard folio covers, multi-window turned the Pixel C from yet another Android tablet with a keyboard case into something you really could use for light work or school. We're not trying to validate any company's claim that a tablet can replace a laptop when it comes to productivity, but when you need to do it, The pixel C is the best way to do it.

Bottom line: No tablet is perfect. Neither is Android. But when you want to combine the two, the Pixel C is the best way you can spend your money until someone else can build something better.

One more thing: Because this is a Google hardware product, the Pixel C will be among the first Android tablets to be updated with new features.

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1 month ago

Lenovo Yoga Book review: The future is (almost) here

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It's easy to say that using the Lenovo Yoga Book feels like living in the future, but with its inclusion of (literal) pen-and-ink technology and an all-touch keyboard reminiscent of the first Microsoft Surface, it's just as accurate to call it a leap into the past. The result is an intriguing contradiction that only gets more interesting as you delve deeper into the custom Android software on this tiny tablet/notebook crossover.

Join MrMobile for the Lenovo Yoga Book review!

Get social with MrMobile

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1 month ago

Lenovo Yoga Book review: Almost amazing

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Lenovo Yoga Book

The Lenovo Yoga Book is the closest thing to the greatest Android convertible ever made, for whatever that's worth.

Lenovo's clever hardware is a great deal more functional than you'd think it could be, but have Android apps grown up enough to handle tablets and convertibles?

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2 months ago

Windows Central reviews the next awesome Android 2-in-1!

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A beautiful, ambitious 2-in-1 from Lenovo.

OK, OK, that title isn't entirely true, but it's half true. See, our friends at Windows Central have one of the first reviews out for what we thought was one of the more interesting announcements at IFA — the Lenovo Yoga Book. While, naturally, they are reviewing the Windows 10 version, we're excited about the form factor, safe in the knowledge that it will soon be released running a modified version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Here's what we said about the Yoga Book back in August:

The Yoga Book is perhaps the most visually appealing and interesting convertible Android tablet we've seen, and we have to applaud Lenovo for trying something entirely new rather than trotting out a simple detachable keyboard 2-in-1.

Now that we've gotten our hands on the Windows version, Mobile Nations' Zac Bowden has reinforced our first impressions of the hardware:

The Lenovo Yoga Book is an interesting device. It's a beautiful, premium-feeling 2-in-1, with tablet-class specifications. It's rocking a futuristic Halo Keyboard and Create Pad that's excellent for note-takers and artists alike, but not great for those who need to get real-work done such as typing an article/report or editing a video.

In other words, there's a lot to like here, but just as much to chalk up to early-adopter bugs, many of which will likely be resolved through software updates. The hardware keyboard (or lack thereof, really) may not be to everyone's taste, but it's the package as a whole — and the prospect of it eventually running Android 7.0 Nougat — that makes our heart flutter a little. That particular model is set to be released at the end of October.

Check out Windows Central's review of the Lenovo Yoga Book

See at Lenovo

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2 months ago

AC roundtable: Which Nexus was the best?

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The AC editors get all nostalgic, reminiscing about their favorite Nexus products over the years.

The Nexus line has always been for enthusiasts, but has occasionally broken into the mainstream, often by finding the right balance between price, performance and software accessibility.

Now that we're on the verge of a new era, one potentially without the Nexus name, we asked our editors to reminisce about their favorite model, and to think back to how it improved their lives over the years.

So here's the big question: Which Nexus product was your favorite?

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2 months ago

About that Samsung tablet that 'overheated' on a plane

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If you jam any modern tablet in an airplane seat, bad things are going to happen.

You don't need to look far for reports of Samsung things catching on fire these days. In the wake of the Galaxy Note 7 recall, the media — and public consciousness — is highly sensitive to anything that looks remotely connected to the Note's unprecedented battery woes. That's true whether we're talking about a completely different phone with no known issues, or a Samsung washing machine made by a completely different division of the company.

In any case, here's today's exploding Samsung thing: what appears to be a Galaxy Tab of some description, which started smouldering on a Delta flight from Detroit to Amsterdam.

The flight was diverted to Manchester after smoke was discovered in the business class cabin, then the (utterly destroyed) tablet was found wedged in a seat. The talk of "overheating" and "thermal runaway" here might make you think the tablet's cracked appearance is unrelated to the apparent battery fire. But what's way, way more likely is that the battery ruptured because of extreme physical damage — the kind that'll result from jamming it in an airplane seat.

As Jerry Hildenbrand explains in an earlier article:

Lithium batteries are designed to be lightweight, deliver high output, and be easy to charge. This means that the outside shell and the barrier(s) separating the electrodes are very thin and light, with most of the weight coming from the parts that can actually power your phone.

Because the partitions and case are thin, they're fairly easy to puncture or tear. If the structure of the battery itself is damaged in a way that makes the electrodes touch, a short circuit will happen. The instant electrical discharge is explosive, which can (and will) heat the electrolyte and create pressure to push it out through any ruptures in the battery case. It's hot, it's flammable and it's in contact with a spark. That's a recipe for disaster.

A Samsung statement given to The Telegraph blamed "external factors" — it's easy to see why given the extreme nature of the damage.

MORE: What makes a battery explode?

Everyone is more aware of exploding gadgets following the Note 7 recall, and as a result, incidents like this are often reported in the context of other Samsung gadgets catching fire. Case in point: Reports on a Galaxy Note 2 catching fire over India last week.

What we have here is a case of frequency illusion. (Sometimes called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.) This is a cognitive bias — a trick of the mind — where something which has recently come to the personal or collective attention seems to appear with much greater frequency shortly afterwards.

That's amplified considerably by the modern media, which is quick to jump on unrelated stories like the Note 2 catching fire over India, and present them in the narrative of the Note 7 battery fiasco. Had the Note 7 not had battery issues, a story about a single smartphone malfunctioning (albeit spectacularly) on an airplane, with no harm coming to anyone, wouldn't have been splashed around major news outlets as much as it has been.

The very same applies to a tablet battery rupturing after being crushed in an airline seat. Would this be getting so much traction if we weren't in the midsts of an unprecedented smartphone recall? Probably not.

MORE: Frequency illusion and exploding Samsung phones

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3 months ago

Huawei MediaPad M3 review: Excellent hardware meets frustrating software

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Huawei MediaPad M3

Huawei brings its top specs to a new, smaller MediaPad — and the result is basically an 8.4-inch phone.

Android tablets are in a weird place right now, with slow sales and relatively few compelling devices on the market. Huawei is one of the rising brands in Android phones right now, particularly in Europe, and thus the company has cash to plow into making high-end tablets where others might shy away.

The Huawei MediaPad M3 is the latest creation of the Chinese firm, with significantly upgraded specs from the previous-gen M2 — let's just forget about that thing, okay? — as well as refreshed software and refined build quality. Huawei's latest fits neatly into its portfolio between devices like the MateBook and P9 series, with an 8.4-inch display size that hits the same sweet spot as the iPad mini.

But can a company still struggling to find its way in smartphone software step up and create a worthy Android tablet experience? Read on to find out.

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3 months ago

Lenovo's Yoga Book aims to be the tablet-laptop convertible the Pixel C never was

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Lenovo Yoga Book

Lenovo's not new to tablets or convertibles — but the Yoga Book is something fresh and exciting.

The end game for any sort of tablet is, really, for it to transcend its status as merely being a tablet. And this is the stuff of legend, folks. We're talking about the likes of the aborted Microsoft Courier. We're talking about what ASUS tried to do with its Transformer line. Or, really, what Microsoft has managed to accomplish with its Surface devices. And we're also talking about what Google generally failed to do with the Pixel C.

And now we have the Lenovo Yoga Book. Two, really. One running Android, the other Windows 10. (With the latter named "Yoga Book with Windows.") Two huge swaths of glass, but only one is a display — the other moves between a touch-only keyboard and giant stylus tablet. And it's a really neat idea — let's take a look.

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