Lenovo IdeaPad A1 Review

It’s clear that the tablet market has become a two horse race. We have the likes of the iPad, which starts at $499, competing for marketshare with tablets that check in under $250. One of those sub $250 tablets is the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 which the company launched back in October of 2011.

Of course, a lot of the IdeaPad A1′s thunder was stolen by two launches that came just a month later in Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire tablet and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet which arrived for $250.

But just because it lost some of its appeal doesn’t mean that the IdeaPad A1 is a tablet that can’t compete with the other two juggernauts.

On the contrary, the IdeaPad A1 is a solid offering who’s great size, price point, and performance make it perfect for those that want a quality tablet experience without shelling out the big bucks.

And while it does have its faults  – the screen isn’t anything to write home about, it’s not running Android 4.0 and the design could use some improvements – I think it’s worth a look alongside both the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire.

 

Pros

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  • Size Makes It Versatile
  • Fantastic Price Point
  • Android Runs Well and Reliably
Cons

  • Unimpressive cameras
  • Doesn’t Have Android 4.0
  • Mediocre Display

Lenovo IdeaPad A1

Design and Hardware

When I first got the tablet, as I mentioned in my first impressions, I wasn’t expecting much from a design standpoint. $199 doesn’t exactly signal elegance in the world of tablets. However, once I opened the box, I was delighted to find that Lenovo clearly spent some time crafting this thing.

I had expected a big chunk of plastic but instead I got some plastic mixed in with a nice magnesium band that wraps around the entire tablet and encompasses the buttons.

It’s a little clunky, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be an issue. It’s a half an inch thick and it weighs just about 14 ounces. Carrying it around isn’t a burden and you can easily hold it with one hand.

Lenovo IdeaPad A1

On the right side of the IdeaPad A1 you have a volume rocker and a orientation lock switch, both of which come in handy.

Moving to the top, we have a 3.5mm headphone jack – I’ve always liked it at the top instead of at the bottom – and your standard power switch.

And then, on the bottom we have a microSD card slot which is a huge plus, a microUSB slot for charging, and a speaker.

It also has three soft buttons on the bezel which include a shortcut to things like search and app management, a home button, and a back button. All three are useful and responsive and light up when touched.

Bottom line, this is not a design that is going to win any innovation awards, but it does the job and it definitely lives up to its $199 price tag.

Display

The IdeaPad A1 comes with a 7-inch LED (1024×500) capacitive multitouch display. It’s not going to blow you away but for things like reading email and browsing the web, it does the job. And while the IdeaPad A1 has the same screen resolution as the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet, it’s poor viewing angles put it at the bottom of the pack.

Often, I had to shift how I was holding the tablet in order to get a better view and it was even more difficult when I was trying to share the screen with a friend.

Granted, I didn’t expect much from a screen on a $199 tablet but like I said, Amazon and Barnes and Noble were able to include much better screens on their devices at the same price point.

Performance

Lenovo IdeaPad A1

While I was disappointed with the display, I was actually pretty impressed with the IdeaPad A1 from a performance standpoint. It employs 512MB of RAM and a single-core 1GHz processor but during my time with it, the experience was all very fluid.

It never crashed on me and I never encountered any bugs that made me bang my head against the wall.

Apps opened up in a timely manner and I was able to scroll around the menus with ease. I will say that when I put it under heavy duress, there were moments of sluggishness. But again, it’s not a deal-breaker and my hairs didn’t turn gray afterward.

The GPS leaves something to be desired. While it’s nice that Lenovo included it on the IdeaPad A1, it’s extremely slow and is occasional inaccurate. In other words, it’s not going to replace your phone as your primary way to navigate.

Battery Life

I was expecting to get around 7-8 hours of battery life out of the IdeaPad A1 and I got around 7 or so during average use. I’m talking a day full of checking email, browsing the web and watching the occasional video. So, it lived up to my expectations.

One quick check at the spec sheet for the device reveals little embellishment. Lenovo says 6 hours for watching video, 7 for gaming and apps, and 8 for streaming music.

All three were accurate.

Software and Apps

When the IdeaPad A1 launched back in October, it arrived with Android 2.3 Gingerbread on board. And guess what? It still has Android 2.3 Gingerbread on board. I don’t know if that’s going to change, my assumption is that it won’t, so those that are looking to get Android 4.0 on a tablet might want to look elsewhere.

That being said, the software here actually isn’t that bad. When I first encountered Lenovo’s skin over the top of Android, I thought I would be in for headaches and disappointment.

After awhile though, I found myself using the static shortcuts on the home screen that allow you to quickly access your video, your email, your music and your digital literature. You can customize the shortcuts to bring you to your favorite applications and I found it to be quite handy.

There is also another, less useful, dock launcher that serves little more than to bring you to Lenovo’s App Shop to pick up software.

Problem is, you can’t delete either of them and while that didn’t frustrate me, I can see it frustrating those who don’t find either of the launchers useful.

Cameras

Clearly, you’re not buying this tablet for its camera but it does have both a 3MP rear camera and a VGA camera on the front for video chatting. Neither of them are anything to write home about.

Lenovo IdeaPad A1

Lenovo IdeaPad A1 camera sample.

But, at least it has cameras.

Lenovo IdeaPad A1

Another Lenovo IdeaPad A1 camera sample.

The Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire do not.

Is the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 Worth It?

The Lenovo IdeaPad A1′s $199 price point makes it an exceptional value. It has specifications that while not mind-blowing, get the job done.

It’s not going to deliver a full-blown experience like Apple’s iPad, but it’s perfect for those that want to check their email, play a game, or surf the web on a screen that’s larger than your typical smartphone.

GPS, cameras, and access to the full-blown Google Play Store (Android Market) are also huge pluses as well.

Suffice to say, the IdeaPad A1 is a nice alternative to both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet and should be considered by those looking in their direction.

Gallery

Specs

OS Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
Display (size/res) 7-inches, 1024×500
CPU 1 GHz single-core OMAP 3622
RAM 512MB
Internal Storage 16GB
External Storage microSD up to 32GB
Cameras 3MP (rear); VGA (front)
Wireless Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth; 3G
Ports microSD, headphone
Battery 3550mAh; 6-8 hours
Size 7.68 x 4.92 x 0.47 inches
Weight 14 ounces

Comments

  1. Christopher says

    Great review.  I was looking for a inexpensive 7″ tablet to use on the train to read books or play some games. I have a Galaxy Tab 10.1 but its too big to carry on a crowded train. 7″ is the perfect size to throw it in a bag and carry it everywhere.

  2. mrmad says

    Thank you very much for the great review. Nice to see more and more unexpensive tablets and reviewers appreciating it…

  3. Patrick Gavin says

    I just hate the display on this thing. Don’t laugh but I bought this device thinking it was a K1 and regretted the decision as soon as I saw the “Shipped” email from Amazon.

  4. Howardyu says

    Do you know the pad also made by Foxconn with Apple quality? I had one and after I check from web news, anyway it’s worth to have it, and more than the value after comparig with Kindle fire and nook.

    • Scb1 says

       It is actually 1024×600 same as most netbooks.
      Like Christopher (posted above)  I bought this to use on the train and I have not been disappointed. Screen could be better but overall this just works. There are a few posts over at the XDA forums that will help you get a bit more out of it.

  5. Bunkcoon says

    do i always need an internet connection in order to access the GPS. or does it have a built in GPS…

    • Scb1 says

       It uses offline GPS so you do not need wifi. It works pretty well not the fastest GPS I have ever seen but overall it seems accurate.

  6. Badger says

    Bought one of these from Amazon on Special. Lenovos version of android was bad, particularly maps, which crashed the system (this is a KNOWN fault!!) Anyway, mine died after two weeks and went back! Now have an iPad and am waiting for the small version. Say what you will about apple, the stuff WORKS!

  7. Ken Carmack says

    Thanks for the review. I was looking for inexpensive but functional tablets to get for my kids for good grades this year. I initially considered the Kindle Fire, but wanted cameras, more storage, and access to the Google Play store. After reading your review, I think I’ve found the perfect device for them.

  8. Carl Lum says

    I bought an A1 tablet back in January and I agree with everything in your review–it’s a nice, solid tablet from a “name” brand, but it’s nothing to write home about (except for its $199 price). Two annoying things that surface after you’ve used it for a while: the A1 sometimes has a tendency to reboot spontaneously when you try to connect to wi-fi, and the camera app often freezes (usually just when you want to take a picture), requiring you to reboot the tablet.

    • Ken Carmack says

      I bought a pair of these tablets for my kids about a month ago. As I was setting them up, I noticed that they were a bit sluggish. Display was fine, but I thought the Lenovo launcher was a bit annoying. Plus, it’s running Android 2.3.5 with no upgrade in sight. My kids complain that they freeze up periodically and run pretty slow on games.

      I decided to return these and have ordered the new Nexus 7, which is supposed to be a pretty awesome 7″ tablet running either ICS or Jelly Bean. Looking forward to delivery of the new tabs and will report when they arrive.

  9. Ed says

    The IdeaPad A1_07 is my first tablet and I am completely disappointed with with it. I’ve owned it now for six months and I’ve given up. It’s constant, random, rebooting makes this product completely unreliable. Too bad; of all the tablets in this category, this had all the features at a reasonable price. Lenovo is now on my “not a chance” list.

  10. mak says

    can any plz tell ,e i got dis lenovo tablet gift …bt m nt able to put sim card it in??does it hav sim slot???

  11. boo says

    I bought lately a lenovo ideapad 9″ tablet, it is a lemon. they have not yet solve the freezing problem. now, it is unresponsive.

  12. burke says

    I like the idea pad just the screen isn’t the best. The speakers are a screechy sound and it tends to ring in a very high high pitch at all times

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