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Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Review
Lenovo failed to deliver on their promise of the Le Pad but at least we have a part of it in the form of the IdeaPad K1 tablet. If you look at the pictures more closely, you'll notice the K1 and the tablet portion of Le Pad are virtually identical. The company announced this along with two other tablets a couple of weeks back in a rather grand spectacle. This is Lenovo's first foray in the world of Android tablets and it faces stiff competition from the iPad 2, Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750. The K1 looks rock solid on paper, but what is it actually like in the real world, is what we are about to find out today.
Design and Build
The K1 tablet is built to last, something we've come to expect from Lenovo. The fit and finish of the aluminium body is really good and the brown leather back gives a premium feel while also helping with the grip. The rounded edges and wide bezel allows you to hold it firmly without your fingers interfering with the touchscreen. It's not what you'd call light at 750g and after a short while you feel the fatigue in your wrists. There’s a little 'Home' button on the front which also doubles as a optical trackpad for moving backwards and forwards through web pages and applications. The 10.1-inch multi-touch screen is rich and vibrant although a bit reflective at times.
Built well with a nice design
The microphone, power button, volume rocker, orientation lock and microSD card slots are placed on the left while the SIM tray is on the right for the 3G model. At the bottom we have a mini-HDMI jack, 3.5mm headphone jack and the docking/charging port. Lenovo uses a proprietary connector for data transfer instead of the microUSB. We would also have liked to see a modular data/power cable, instead we got two separate cables.
A look from all sides
This would have been ok if you could charge and connect the tablet to the PC at the same time, but you can't. We also wished the buttons would have been a little larger making them easier to use. Perhaps the most annoying design choice is the flaps for the SIM and memory card slot, which require you to use a pin to open them, like on the iPhone 4. This is just an unnecessary inconvenience.
Overall, Lenovo has done a splendid job with the look and feel of the tablet. The 1280x800 resolution screen is crisp with decent viewing angles and there’re plenty of connectivity options to keep any enthusiast satisfied. Having said that, we wished Lenovo had added standard USB host support, if not natively then at least via an adapter like Samsung did with the Tab 750.
The Lenovo K1 runs on Android Honeycomb 3.1 so we automatically get multiple sign-ins through GTalk, shortcut to more previously opened apps and overall snappier performance. Instead of stock Honeycomb, Lenovo has heavily customised the interface with plenty of useful widgets and bundled apps without compromising the performance of the tablet by a great deal.
The shortcut widget comes in really handy
The shortcut widget lets you directly jump to gallery, music, email, eBook reader, Internet or settings. Lenovo have added plenty of alternatives to the stock apps like mSpot for music, a custom video player as well as gallery. A shortcut at the bottom brings up a carousel on the right for frequently used apps which can be chosen by you.
Add your frequently used apps in the carousel
They've even added their own store called Lenovo Shop. Other tweaks include more toggle switches in the settings menu, the ability to close recently opened apps right from the list itself which we thought was a brilliant idea and redesigned menu icons. It's a commendable effort on Lenovo's part and while it's not as fancy as Sense or as colourful as TouchWiz, it's functional and that's what matters.
Close background tasks a lot easily
The 1GHz dual-core Tegra T20 ensures everything runs smooth and the 1GB of RAM complements it well. You also get 32GB of onboard memory plus you can further expand that via microSD card. The little button we mentioned earlier is also an optical trackpad. You swipe up to go forward and down to go one step back. While this is handy when browsing a web page it's really annoying when you're watching a video. You can't hold the tablet near the bottom edge as its uncomfortable so when you hold it in the middle, your thumb inevitably hits the trackpad and you're back on the homescreen. We wish there was a way to disable that. Lenovo shouldn't have added it in the first place since the bottom menu bar is always visible no matter what app you're in so there's always a way to jump to the homescreen, if need be.
If you're buying this tablet for media consumption, then you're well catered for. Apart from the stock music and video player (which are quite frankly, poor), there's mSpot Music which let's you store your music in the cloud (you need an account for this) or simply play music stored locally. It also has equalizer settings so the sound quality is pretty good with decent in-ear phones. All the standard audio file formats are supported like MP3, WAV, AAC, etc. ArcSoft has tied up with Lenovo to provide ArcSync media suite which includes a gallery, video and audio player and an eBook reader. After you set up your ArcSync account, you then have the option to sync media files and documents on the cloud or with a remote PC.
The mSpot Music player
The speakers are quite powerful as well. Placed in the back, towards the bottom, they are sufficiently loud for music or movies. We didn't like the placement of the headphone jack, which is at the bottom. It would have been better suited if it were on the sides. The default video format support is MP4 but ArcSoft's video player will do AVI files as well. To truly see what the K1 is capable of, we installed MoboPlayer and loaded up our test files. Shockingly, our 1080p test files struggled to play smoothly.
Edit your videos on the go
Now the K1 is powered by the Tegra 250 T20 version, which has a slightly faster GPU running at 333MHz (instead of 300MHz) so if anything, playback should have been smoother. Even HD MP4 files which otherwise playback smoothly on phones, struggled to play well with the default player and even with MoboPlayer and ArcSoft's player. 720p files fared better and naturally SD videos were a non issue. This could be a glitch with Lenovo's firmware and hopefully they fix that soon.
Along with 3G data support (no telephony), we also have Wi-Fi 'n' and Bluetooth 2.0. Connecting the tablet to your HDTV is simple thanks to the mini-HDMI connector. Transferring files to your PC is as simple as plugging in the tablet with the bundled cable. Since the K1 shows up as a 'Portable Media' device, the microSD card is not accessible directly from Windows Explorer. Instead, it appears as a folder in the device's onboard memory. Something worth noting is if you find Windows Explorer crashing everytime you try to copy a video file in the tablet, it's because of DivX player. Simply uninstall that, and you should be fine. The onscreen keyboard offers good feedback and is responsive.
The keyboard is comfortable to use and responsive
Lenovo has added some handy Internet related apps like Zinio which lets you access plenty of magazines from around the world, ooVoo video chat, ArcSync, PrinterShare, eBuddy, PokeTALK and Kindle eBook reader. Lenovo have added their own app called SocialTouch which lets you access Twitter, Facebook, etc. through a single app.
There are a ton of these as well. Drawing Pad lets you get your creative hair down while Movie Story lets you easily edit and create a home video.
Get creative with the Drawing Pad app
There are a bunch of games as well like Galaxy on Fire 2 THD, Kongregate Arcade, Angry Birds HD, Warships, Vendetta Online and NFS Shift. Other apps include Norton Security and Documents to Go.
The onboard 5MP rear camera supports autofocus and single LED flash. The sensor is not very good with ambient light indoors and fails to capture much detail or accurate colours. Also, there's plenty of noise that creeps in the photographs.
Standard camera options
Outdoor pictures are a little better but overall, the camera is pretty average. We've yet to see a really good camera from a tablet. The front facing camera is a 2MP which is also strictly decent.
Indoor shots aren't great even with the flash
The camera options are stock Honeycomb which can be seen from the picture. Video recording tops off at 720p at 30fps. The recorded video is smooth without much stutter.
Lenovo claims 10hours of battery life for the K1 but in our video loop test, we managed to get 8 hours. This is still a respectable number and considering we tested a 3G model, you should be able to reach the magic number with the Wi-Fi version. Our loop tests, which included a video loop, audio loop and streaming radio through Wi-Fi, managed to give us 6 hours of battery life.
With a price tag of Rs. 33,990, the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is officially the cheapest and most feature rich tablet in the market with the most amount of onboard storage. There's really no reason to buy the Motorola Xoom as the K1 offers everything the Xoom does and more. As far as 3G tablets are concerned, the Galaxy Tab 750 is the only other real competitor. Which one is better, entirely depends on what you are looking for. If light weight and a slim form factor are of utmost importance and you don’t mind the limited 16GB storage, then go for the Tab 750, else the K1 is the ideal pick at this price.
The IdeaPad K1
Now, the attractive pricing doesn't take away from the fact that the K1 is not without its share of issues, albeit minor ones. The flaps used to cover the SIM and memory card cannot be opened without using a pin, which can be annoying. There also seems to be a slight issue with this custom build of Honeycomb as 1080p videos simply refuse to play smoothly, no matter what. Finally, the optical trackpad button was a bit unneccesary as it doesn't serve any great purpose but simply gets in the way when you're using the tablet in landscape mode. In the end the K1 may not be the best tablet in the market, but it offers good bang for buck.