I paraphrase Andy Warhol when I say: Eventually, everyone will build their own tablet computer.
Like the scourge of reality television, manufacturers far and wide are trying to muscle into the tablet world, each producing a machine about the same as the last.
Lenovo’s new Android Tablet, the IdeaPad K1, is at least a credible contender in an increasingly iPad world.
The curvy slate hardly breaks any new ground on the design front, but the rounded, rubberized, and textured back is nice, giving your fingers a more solid purchase than most tablets. Naturally, it auto-swivels as you rotate from landscape to portrait and back again, and a hardware switch lets you lock the screen rotation. While it’s on the heavy side at 1.63 pounds, it’s not so massive as to cause any real arm strain after sustained use.
Android 3.1 is standard, along with a host of preinstalled apps, part of a clear strategy to grab clueless consumers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to figure out how on Earth to get Angry Birds. Spec-wise, the K1 offers a (very bright) 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel screen, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage (plus a microSD slot), and dual cameras (2-megapixel front-facing and 5-megapixel on the back). The 1-GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor is plenty powerful, driving solid benchmarks on all fronts and powering jitter-free video during all our tests.
Connectivity includes a monster 30-pin-to-USB connector, headphone jack and micro HDMI. As is becoming the unfortunate standard, you can’t charge via USB — the 30-pin connector has to be used with the included AC adapter to power the device.
If you’ve used other Android tablets, you’ll find a generally familiar interface here, although Lenovo’s custom skin atop Android Honeycomb makes things a little more confusing than they need to be. The task-focused launcher on the home screen (which gives you just four customizable buttons) is overly simplified and will quickly be outgrown (and disabled), while novices — which Lenovo is clearly going after — will be overwhelmed by the surplus of additional navigation options.
It’s a double-edged sword that Lenovo preinstalls so many apps for you. With several dozen out-of-the-box applications on board, I wonder if some users may not realize you can actually add additional ones or delete the ones you don’t want. And it probably doesn’t help that Lenovo has its own app store running alongside the regular Android Market.
The interface you can adapt to, but the only real problem I encountered with the device was screen responsiveness. Try as I might, I had real problems getting taps to register. The physical home button — a rarity on an Android device — was even more problematic. The button does double-duty within specific apps — pausing YouTube videos, for example — but I was more frustrated by it than anything else and eventually just stuck with the onscreen controls.
There’s nothing much else to complain about with the K1, but not much to get too fired-up about, either. In a rapidly expanding world of Android tablets, each one seems just about as good as the next. The K1 is a tough and pretty handsome entrant, though, and if you’re trying to extricate yourself from the Appleverse, it’s compelling enough to recommend.
Photo courtesy Lenovo
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