Lenovo has hit all the right notes with the Tab 4 8 for the entry-level market
Lenovo's Tab 4 series of tablets was introduced to us back during Mobile World Congress earlier this year, and during the event we didn’t get to spend too much time with the models in the lineup, though we did get to handle them for a bit. Now, we’ve actually been spending about the last week or so with the Lenovo Tab 4 8, the smaller tablet in the series, and have been able to check out what it has to offer, how it runs and performs various tasks, and just get the general feel of what it’s like to hold this device for an extended period of time to see how comfortable it is. While we liked what we saw initially in the beginning of the year, having a little more time with the device has given us a chance to take a closer look at it, and get a better perspective of whether or not it’s worth your hard-earned money. Let’s take a closer look at the Lenovo Tab 4 8 together and see how it stacks up as a mobile computing device.
While Lenovo does make some pretty powerful devices both in the tablet market and in the handset market, the Tab 4 8 is not one of those devices, at least not in the sense that it compares to devices which someone would think of first when asked to think of a powerful tablet. That said, the Tab 4 8 is likely powerful enough for certain consumers. Much like the name implies, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 comes with an 8-inch size display with a 1280 x 800 resolution, and it uses an LCD panel so it’s easy to see in direct sunlight though it won't be as bright as an AMOLED or OLED panel. Above the display it’s working with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera that can be used for video chat and selfies, and on the back it’s working with a 5-megapixel camera for main photos, though it’s important to keep in mind that this is a tablet, and is both not the ideal size for a mobile device when taking pictures, and it doesn’t have the highest quality sensor so pictures aren’t really a driving feature for this device, but it does have a camera in the event that you want to take a picture and this is what you have available.
On the inside the Tab 4 8 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage space, which is not necessarily a lot these days when it comes to storage, but it does also support expandable storage via microSD card slots if you happen to need more space than what’s available onboard. One really nice thing about the tablet is that it has dual speakers, and not only that but they’re powered by Dolby Atmos technology and they’re front-facing, which made for a pretty good experience in the sound department, but we’ll get into that later. For connectivity, the tablet supports Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, and lastly it comes running on Android 7.1 Nougat and for charging and data transfer it uses micro USB, and is powered by a 4,850mAh battery to keep it going throughout the day.
In The Box
There’s not much in the box here with the Tab 4 8 as you just get the tablet itself, the charging cable, and the wall adapter as well as a quick start guide. It’s a pretty basic offering but you get everything you need really, and the packaging is decent which doesn’t really have any impact on the tablet itself or how it functions, but it is part of the experience and nice packaging definitely makes the experience that much better.
Hardware And Design
When it comes to the build quality of the hardware used, Lenovo definitely built a solid tablet. It feels good when holding it, it doesn’t feel cheap in the slightest and it’s overall comfortable to hold for extended periods of time. It looks nice too and although it doesn’t really look premium, the design isn’t bad. You can tell it’s a tablet that’s marketed at the lower end, but not in a bad way. It’s very indicative of the look and feel of Amazon’s most recent Fire tablets in this size. Not the most stylish but it still looks nice and feels well-made. For me, the best part of the design was the soft-touch back that has a slight grip to it which made it easier to hold for longer, and this was especially important if I was playing a game or something for an hour or two as the device like any other smartphone or tablet can get a bit warm under heavy use, and that tends to make your palms a little bit sweaty.
This wasn’t an issue much thanks to the back coating. As far as the rest of the design and placement of the hardware, both the power button and the volume up and down buttons sit on the right side, while a small tab on the left side towards to the top end has the Lenovo logo, but this isn’t just a place for the logo as this is also where the microSD card slot is. The two front-facing speakers sit at the top and bottom ends, with the charging port on the top side of the device in addition to a 3.5mm audio port for headphones.
Having a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor on the inside and just 2GB of RAM makes it pretty clear that this is not meant to be a powerhouse tablet, and if we were using it as such then that might become an issue but we didn’t really run into much of a problem with lag or stuttering. There was one or two times where it seemed to hang up just a bit when running a game and then backing out to open up multiple other apps that could be classified as a heavy drain on the resources, but for the most part there weren’t any issues. One thing to keep in mind is that Lenovo didn’t build this to be a powerhouse tablet meant for the do-all on-the-go heavy user who needs to multitask non-stop, while also playing the most demanding high-end games.
That doesn’t meant that it can’t play any high-end games at all or that it can’t multitask at all, but it will have its limits, and this will be more evident when looking at some of its benchmark scores. For the most part though, anyone looking at the Tab 4 8 for a standard tablet with light use, say for some web browsing, some social media, some reading, videos here and there and the occasional game, this will hold up nicely as it can do all of those things just fine, you just may not want to do them all at once for hours at a time before taking a break or the performance might suffer a bit.
This is not the best display in the world, and especially so on a display size this big compared to a smartphone with a 5-inch or 5.5-inch screen in the budget tier, but truth be told the display really isn’t all that bad and while not the sharpest, it served its purpose for every task I used it for. Those who are sticklers for having the sharpest graphics with the most vivid colors and the best clarity for games, or really anything, might want to look elsewhere, but that aside the screen is certainly passable for games, videos and anything else. It gets plenty bright and has decent viewing angles, and color reproduction is pretty good too, though it could be a little bit better. For the price though, Lenovo has made use of a decent screen and this is possible in large part because decent panels aren’t as expensive as they used to be.
It’s been a while since I used a tablet, but it felt like the battery should have lasted longer than it did here. Then I took another look at the size of the display and the size of the battery capacity and to be quite honest I think Lenovo has done a good job in the battery department. It could always be better, but for an 8-inch tablet with only a 4,850mAh battery inside, I was able to get about 10 hours of battery life out of this device for screen-on time, and I was able to take a good few days before needing to plug it back in. Overall, you shouldn’t be disappointed by battery life here as it was pretty good especially for the size. What's more is that many consumers aren't going to be using the tablet every single day for more than a few hours at a time, so for plenty of users the battery will last quite a while if you're just picking it up to use here and there.
This is an area where the Tab 4 8 didn’t do so hot, but you have to remember that Lenovo didn’t make this to shatter benchmarks. It comes in at a price point of just under $130 and it has an entry-level processor with only 2GB of RAM. Benchmarks also don’t mean everything as even though the Tab 4 8 didn’t get the best scores, it did function pretty well and the performance was decent. If you’re interested you can see the results of the benchmarks in the gallery of images just below, which will have screenshots from running the tablet through AnTuTu, Geekbench 4, and 3DMark for the graphics.
If there’s any area where the Tab 4 8 shines, it’s with the audio. Having dual front-facing speakers is definitely nice to have, but it’s better when they come with Dolby Atmos technology to power the audio experience. This made videos and games on the device a lot better than on my Pixel that only has one speaker, which is a high-end device that costs a lot more than this tablet. While I never once cranked the volume all the way up to its maximum level, I do usually turn it up most of the way for videos and games and even this proved to be too loud for me with both speakers so I was always have to turn it down to about half. While it was up higher though I didn’t notice any weirdness from the audio, meaning it didn’t sound tinny or blown out. Bottom-line, the Tab 4 8 offers really good sound for a device in this price range and in general.
When it comes to the user interface and software experience on the Lenovo Tab 4 8, the software is pure Android through and through. There are a few pre-installed apps that you wouldn’t find on a device like those from the Nexus lineup, as these are apps which Lenovo pre-installed, but everything else is pretty much the same as what you would expect from a pure Android device running on Nougat. You get multi-window, which is great on a display this size by the way, and just about anything else on the device that’s part of the UI looks really a lot like what you’d find on Motorola’s most recent phones. Save for some of Motorola’s gesture software as you won’t find any of that here. The fact that it uses pure Android also means that it will be extremely familiar to those that are used to having a stock software experience, so it should be easy to learn if you’re picking up a tablet for the first time.
Since this isn’t likely to be anyone’s primary camera, or anyone’s primary mobile camera, consumers shouldn’t be looking to this tablet for great photos. As mentioned earlier, tablets aren’t necessarily comfortable to hold for taking pictures. They’re bigger and bulkier than smartphones, and they generally don’t have that good of a sensor for either camera to begin with. As one might expect from a device that isn’t focused on providing a good camera experience, the software for the camera app is extremely limited, though it does have a couple of options beyond just taking a standard photo. It does have an HDR setting, for example, and you can adjust the scene mode to help a little bit with the image results depending on what kind of scene you’re shooting in. I found that taking photos with this tablet was simply odd though. The size of the tablet makes the subject in the photos look off center, so you have to adjust the positioning of where you're pointing the camera more than you might with a smartphone and this just made taking pictures feel weird and clunky. Overall, the camera experience is lacking, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing here as the camera shouldn’t be a feature you’re looking for in a device of this size, not to mention a tablet generally isn’t going to be anyone’s one and only mobile device, and those who don’t have a smartphone with a good camera, probably have an actual camera to use for photos. This will certainly do in a pinch if you NEED a picture and this is all you have, but it's not recommended to use this for photos unless you have to. Video chat of course, is another story entirely. The front-facing camera is only 2-megapixels, but the screen size makes it ideal for use with video chat and that is likely to get more use than the main camera.
Pretty good battery life
Sound quality was great thanks to dual front speakers and Dolby Atmos technology
Really nice build quality
Comfortable to hold
Didn’t get overly warm during extended use
Only 16GB of internal storage
Only 2GB of RAM
Performance was ok but could have been better
No USB Type-C
Camera is really not that good
Lenovo makes pretty good devices, and while the Tab 4 8 isn’t going to blow anyone away with its specs and power, it’s a great little tablet that will work perfectly for anyone who is looking for their first tablet, or who just wants something that works great, looks nice, and isn’t going to cost them a fortune. Lenovo has hit all the right notes with the Tab 4 8 for the entry-level market and although it does cost more than something like the Amazon Fire HD 8, it’s well worth spending the extra money.
Should you buy the Lenovo Tab 4 8?
Yes. Unless you’re looking for a professional tablet that you can use for all your work-related tasks so that you can leave the laptop at home some or most days, then this tablet will do just about anything one might need it to do. It’s great for media consumption, reading, web browsing, emails, and the occasional game, and best of all it doesn’t cost that much as you can pick it up on Amazon for around $130. Not to mention the audio is actually quite good and that’s harder to find in a device at this price range than you might think.