Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 review

Pros

  • Loud, front-facing stereo speakers
  • Cheap price

Cons

  • Clunky build
  • Below average display
  • Middling battery life

It's no longer enough to simply make a serviceable low cost Android tablet – they have to be able to compete with high quality budget products like the Google Nexus 7. The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 is, at this point, a below average tablet aimed at media consumption. It is cheap at £109, but this slate leans on its dual front-facing speakers as its sole distinction, and they're not enough to make the A1000 a compelling buy – especially since the Asus MeMO Pad HD7 offers better features for just a bit more money.

Design and features

Lenovo has never really wowed us with its tablet designs, and that trend continues with the A1000. The glossy plastic tablet measures 122 x 10 x 198mm (WxDxH) and weighs 350 grams, which is noticeably heavier than the MeMO Pad HD7's 308 grams. The A1000 does feel more solid, though, and doesn't have as much flex as the HD7.

The overall design is more pebble-like than rectangular, which makes the A1000 comfortable to hold. Around its edges, you'll find volume and power buttons, a microUSB port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a flap covering the microSD card slot. There's no rear-facing camera, but there is a 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera at the top left corner above the screen. Above and below the screen are two speaker grilles.

The display is a pretty big let-down here, and the A1000's 1,024 x 600-pixel screen looks noticeably grainier than the MeMO Pad HD7's, and downright ancient next to the Nexus 7's full HD display. On top of that, viewing angles are subpar, and colours begin to wash out from pretty much any angle other than straight on. The actual display seems too recessed under the glass surface, making the whole surface even more reflective.

This is a Wi-Fi-only tablet that connects to 802.11b/g/n networks, but only on the 2.4GHz band. Bluetooth 4.0 is also on board, but there's no GPS radio.

Performance

The A1000 we reviewed was the model with 16GB of storage. It’s powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8317 processor paired with 1GB RAM. In our synthetic benchmarks, the A1000 scored significantly lower than the MeMO Pad HD7, which uses a quad-core MediaTek processor, and got absolutely smoked by the Nexus 7.

The HD7 scored a 12,877 to the A1000's 7,422 on the Antutu overall system benchmark. On graphical benchmarks the A1000 fared even worse, scoring just 7 frames per second (fps) on the Taiji benchmark compared to the HD7's 14 fps.

In real world usage, the situation isn't quite as bleak as the benchmarks would indicate. Navigating around the system is generally quick, but I'd chalk that up to strides Google has taken in smoothing out the Android user experience. Some performance issues crop up when you try to switch orientations, which can take painfully long, and switching between multiple apps often causes hang-ups.

In our battery rundown test, which loops a video with screen brightness set to max and Wi-Fi on, the A1000 lasted 5 hours and 5 minutes. That's shorter than the HD7's 5 hours and 50 minutes on the same test.

There's nothing inherently wrong with Lenovo's Android 4.2.1 skin – it just doesn't really add anything useful. There's a persistent Menu button along the status bar and a few fairly useless Lenovo-branded apps and widgets, but otherwise nothing major. The big selling point here is the audio optimisations, provided by Dolby Digital branded equalisers. It's basically Beats, but with more flexibility and more presets. Like the Slate 7, you can hear the differences in the audio profiles, but Bass Boost makes tracks sound muddy, while the Rock and Pop profiles are virtually indistinguishable.

Lenovo would be better off following Toshiba's example and releasing stock Android tablets. The MeMO Pad HD7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 have useful multitasking features that actually add value, whereas Lenovo's just seem gimmicky.

The front-facing speakers get loud and don't sound all that bad, especially when compared with most tablet offerings. The Dolby audio profiles only work with headphones in, but you're not missing out on much when using the tablet's speakers. There's still no bass to speak of, but no tablet speakers have anything remotely substantial in the low-end department. To Lenovo's credit, things don't sound overly harsh here, and the mids and mid-highs are well represented.

In terms of music files, the A1000 supports AAC, MP3, WAV, and OGG, but not FLAC or WMA. It's easy to remedy these omissions via a third-party app, but the missing pieces of support don’t make sense on a tablet focused on music playback. For video you get MP4, H.264, DivX, Xvid, and WMV files at up to 1080p resolution.

Verdict

The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 is affordable and has an above average set of speakers, but it makes too many sacrifices with features and performance. The display is fairly dismal and the performance is as pedestrian as it gets.

The Asus MeMO Pad HD7 is better in nearly every way, with a sharper display, faster performance, and extras like a rear-facing camera and dual-band Wi-Fi. It’s only £20 more expensive than Lenovo’s offering, and is definitely worth the extra outlay in our opinion (we liked it enough to give it a Best Buy award, in fact).

There is one thing going for the A1000 above the HD7, though, and that’s audio. But if you’re after good sounds from your slate, I’d recommend checking out any number of affordable Bluetooth speaker options rather than plumping for the IdeaTab.

All that said, if you're looking for the best combination of features, performance, and price in a compact tablet, the Google Nexus 7 is hands down the best small screen slate you can find.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Lenovo IdeaTab A1000

Screen Resolution

1024 x 600 pixels

Operating System

Google Android 4.2.1

Dimensions

122 x 10 x 198mm (WxDxH)

Weight

350 grams

Screen Type

TFT LCD

Graphics Card

IMG PowerVR SGX531

GPS

No

RAM

1GB

Camera Resolution

0.3MP

Storage Capacity (as Tested)

16GB

Screen Pixels Per Inch

169 ppi

Additional Storage

MicroSD

Processor Speed

1.2GHz

Bluetooth Version

4.0

Screen Size

7in

CPU

MediaTek MT8317

Wi-Fi Compatibility

2.4GHz

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