Lenovo is one of those manufacturers that we can't wait to see make their way into the US. They already have a few tablets available here in the US, but as far as phones go they are non-existent. Lenovo already has the brand recognition, much like HP and Acer. So they'd do very well here in the US. Especially if they brought the K900 over here. But today we are looking at their "budget" tablet, the IdeaTab A1000. The specs are somewhat low, which we'll take a look at in a minute, but the overall performance of the device actually surprised me. Here's the spec sheet:
- 7-inch 1024x600 resolution TFT Display
- 1GB of RAM
- 16GB internal storage; expandable via microSD card slot
- Android 4.1
- Mediatek 8317 dual-core processor running at 1.2GHz
- front-facing VGA camera
- 3500mAh battery
As you can see the specs are pretty lacking, especially the 4GB of storage for apps. In fact, during my testing I had to uninstall some apps so I could install the benchmarking apps we use in the benchmarks portion of the review. That really made me sad. But we'll talk more on that later on in the review
The hardware on the A1000 feels a bit plasticky, but for $149 that's exactly what I'd expect. On the front you've got a 7-inch 1024x600 resolution display, dual front-facing speakers and your VGA camera up top. It was really nice having those front-facing speakers, like the Nexus 10. At the top you've got your power button, headphone jack and microUSB port for charging. Going over to the right side you've got the volume rocker and microSD card slot, and there's essentially nothing on the left and bottom. On the back you have your assortment of logos, and FCC information.
The display is a 1024x600 resolution display, but honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. In the past few months I've reviewed about 2-3 tablets with 1024x600 resolution displays and I haven't seen one that looked this nice. Now I know that's now saying much. The touch screen was also much more responsive than on other 1024x600 displays I've used as well. Which made me comfortable using it. Then again the lack of storage kept me from using it as much as I could have.
We've talked about this a bit already, but the lack of storage is really the thing holding back this tablet. 4GB shouldn't even be an option in today's world. That's not even enough room for a game. Especially when you only get about 503MB of actual usable storage in the device. It's a 16GB model, but only 503MB for apps, based on how the storage is partitioned. Which really stinks.
Update: Lenovo has just contacted me to let us know that they are pushing out an OTA right now which will repartition the internal storage giving you more than 512MB of storage for apps. Of course the device still supports a microSD card slot so you'll still have plenty of room for movies and such.
The IdeaTab A1000 is running on a dual-core MediaTek chip which is clocked at about 1.2GHz. Now I first thought the chip might be lacking, but it actually took everything I threw at it and did not lag at all. So good job to MediaTek and Lenovo on that one. I would like to see 1.5 or 2GB of RAM inside though. But then again this is a $149 tablet. Which makes the performance on par with the price of the device.
This one's running Android 4.1.2, along with Lenovo's custom UI which I'm not sure has a name. Lenovo's custom UI is actually pretty minimal. The only real differences I noticed is how you move things around on your homescreen. Along with the toggles in the notification bar. Everything else is right on bar with stock Android, which is definitely refreshing to see. As far as bloat goes, there's only about 4-5 apps pre-installed that aren't Google apps. In which they are able to be disabled, which is also great to see.
Battery life on this tablet has been pretty amazing. But the fact that I haven't used it as much as I would my Nexus 7 (due to the space constraints) has probably helped that cause. I typically get a few days out of each battery cycle. As you can see from the current cycle I'm sitting at almost 21 hours with 86% left. Which is not bad at all. I kind of wish all tablets had battery life like this, and even phones.
- Battery Life: It's pretty good, at least for me it was. It would probably have taken more of a hit if I could actually install more apps onto the device.
- Lenovo's Custom UI: It's great to see a custom skin or UI from a manufacturer that doesn't make you forget about stock Android. As someone who loves stock Android, I really appreciated the minimalness of their skin.
- Speakers: Since I reviewed the Nexus 10, I've been in love with any device with front-facing speakers, even the HTC One. And seeing those on the IdeaTab A1000 really made me happy. The speakers are easily the best feature of this tablet.
- Display: In 2013, I can't even believe that a 1024x600 resolution display actually exists on tablets. Especially when tablets have 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 resolution displays.
- Storage: This is a definite bad thing for the IdeaTab A1000. Which could be fixed if Lenovo just allowed us to use all the 16GB for apps instead of partitioning it.
- Android 4.1: It's not 2 versions of Android behind. I know that Android 4.3 just came out this week, but it still should have had Android 4.2 by now, right?
Should you buy this tablet? Probably not. If you can't afford the $80 extra to get the new Nexus 7, then I'd say go for this one. Otherwise I'd say skip it for the new Nexus 7 as the specs are much better. Overall I was actually quite impress by this device. When I checked out the specs for the tablet, I thought it was going to be a pretty laggy device with a poor screen. I was quite surprised to see no lag at all and a relatively adequate screen. The IdeaTab A1000 is available from Lenovo now and should be hitting retailers soon, if they aren't there already.