on December 11, 2011
I picked up this tab a few days ago after some extensive research. Was in the market for a budget tablet $250 or lower. My choices initially were the Kindle Fire, B&N Nook and the Ideapad A1. When the specs/price was put together the Ideapad A1 came out way ahead of the rest. It's true that the Nook and Kindle Fire are dual core tabs but that really doesn't mean anything since usability there is severely limited to be anything more than a media consumption tool for their respective vendors - Amazon and B&N. The Kindle Fire as a permanent storage handicap of 6GB so that was out. The Nook requires an additional $30 SD card since there is only 1GB user space on the device...so that brings the tab price to $279. For just $199 this Ideapad tab gives you everything that you could want in a budget tablet.
- 16GB of storage space (2GB+14GB internal SD)
- MicroSD expansion slot
- GPS which works offline as well (I have not tested this)
- Bluetooth 2.1 in addition to WiFI b/g/n
- Front and rear facing cameras although the front cam is pretty low resolution (.3MP) it's better than no camera at all!
The tab ships with Gingerbread using a very ugly Launcher, this is quickly remedied by installing Launcher Pro which makes it nice and pretty. The capacitive touch screen has no lags at all that I noticed and works very smoothly.
- Screen quality is excellent, at this price point it's terrific, does have an ambient light sensor in the front
- Audio quality via headphones is great, the speaker is pretty loud but speakers on mobile devices are all pretty bad so...
- Does NOT play 1080p video (I don't think any tabs play this resolution), but this tab has NO PROBLEM playing 720p video - I tested it out and it plays beautifully without any lag.
- Netflix, Hulu, Youtube HD all work great
- Skype works but without any video - the front cam is operational but not with Skype, not sure what the issue is but i'm thinking there will be a fix soon.
- Word on the net is that it's easily rootable although I have not been able to root this
My thought is that Honeycomb should work once someone posts an accurate procedure of how to root this tab although I find nothing particularly wrong with Gingerbread per se. Just get rid of the awful Lenovo launcher and you're good to go.
Overall, I am extremely satisfied with the purchase and it fits the bill as an open budget Android tablet that is up to the task of doing everything a basic tab user would want to do.
A few updates after several days of use:
- The GPS works well offline, lock is fairly quick and the unit ships with NavDroid offline maps which can be used for 1 state at a time.
- The home, back and settings menu buttons light up only when touched, this can be annoying at first because you can't find out where they are if it's dark, but you get used to it, but it's definitely a design anomaly
Additional updates (after 2 weeks):
- Still loving it! Skype video finally works, you need the latest update from Market but make sure you "Clear app data" first before updating Skype. The video is upside down for some reason and you have to turn the tab upside down to send upright video over to the other end.
- Dolphin Browser HD works beautifully with the gestures (COOL!), you can just draw shapes on the screen to execute functions (like an up arrow to go to the top of the page :)
- ROOT was successful :D Used SuperOneclick 2.2, installed USB drivers, turn USB debugging on, do not mount the SD card and it takes about a minute to root.
Update - after a month of use:
- no issues at all regarding reliability, still working very good
- Battery life is pretty good
- I was able to transfer a DVD and watch it on the tab using the "MX Video" app which is free.
- Downloaded OsmAnd open offline maps which works better than NavDroid in my opinion
- A mistake in my review said that HULU worked, actually Hulu free is not supported on any mobile device, Hulu mobile apps require a paid Hulu Plus subscription. There is a hack to make playback of free Hulu content work which involves downloading a hacked version of flash (which sends the server a fake id identifying itself to Hulu as a desktop system) and downloading the Hulu apk and installing it. I may give this a go sometime but there are many instructions out there on the web.
6 month update: still working well, updated to Android 4.0.4 (ICS) and it's much more stable than the Gingerbread that came with the unit. The battery is really weak though and I have to charge it daily.
on November 13, 2011
After what seemed like forever waiting for a 7" tablet that was designed to be a tablet, with a capacitive screen, GPS, bluetooth, a camera (this has two) and all of the standards (not requiring cell service) for an affordable price (and not being a China wanna be), I thought I finally hit gold with the A1. I actually pre-ordered this directly from Lenovo prior to common availability. Well, to sum it up briefly, it's tons better than any China Wanna Be of any size, but only ties with a converted B&N Nook. (*"converted meaning: rooted and using either a Gingerbread or Honeycomb formatted SD.)
The processor lags compared to Nook. If surfing the Market or the web, you're really never quite sure if you hit the back button because of the lag. Kinda annoying when you discover you've lost you're search or closed out of a program because of this.
Although the resolution is the same as the Nook, the quality and light sensing of the Nook is by far superior.
The touch sensing is equal to the Nook. At times it is very sensitive - unless it's edge sensing. Like the Nook, it sometimes gets a bit persnickety.
The cameras aren't to compare to today's phone or digital camera standards, but this isn't a phone or digital camera and wasn't designed as such. They do the job exactly as I would expect them to. (**Skype is claimed to not work, however other video chat clients have been reported to.)
The GPS rocks. Plain and simple. No data/Wi-Fi required as long as you use a locally installed Nav program. Lenovo includes a limited (one state) nav program just for this. If you hotspot your phone for a data connection, you can use Google's Navigation which is also included. (**GPS does not work within buildings but does fine in a car in a wooded area.)
Bloatware? I wish all devices came like this. MOST of them can actually be removed without root! It only came with the standard Google apps (including Market), Lenovo's Market (awful), the Nav app, Kindle, a help program, eBuddy (one stop social networking), Documents To Go, iheartradio, esFile Explorer, and mSpot Movies. That's it! Koodos to Lenovo for this.
Battery life? Nook takes this, too. Constant use is about 5 hours. Depsite its common micro usb charging port, ONLY the Lenovo cables will work to charge.
Speakers? A1 takes the trophy. By far. Really good and loud sound - which is great for audiobooks! But keep in mind, this is a tablet. Not an iPod. Not a stereo.
Design. The Lenovo wins. It feels a lot more sturdy than the Nook. And the back doesn't pop off like the Nook's does. The microSD slot is a lot easier to access. The volume buttons react better because of a slight bump in the buttons that make them easier to push. (**The pictures of the A1 make it appear to have both a micro and a standard SD Slot. Looks are deceiving. The standrd SD is NOT a standard SD Slot - its a speaker.)
As a side note, the A1's hard buttons (menu, home, back) only light up if you touch them. Considering the black frame, and incredible unlikelihood that the user is psychic, I feel that was a pretty poor choice of design. At least it has them, though. (**To remedy this, I put a screen protector on it, then used white out to put dots below the buttons so I could see them.)
So in summary, if you're looking for tablet to read, check the news, watch videos in a hotel room, listen to stuff, or to look cool in office meetings as you record them, then the A1 is perfect for the price. If you don't need the stable bluetooth, GPS, decent speakers, and a microphone, save the $50 and go with the rooted/hacked Nook Color.
FAQs: No there is no standard size USB port - just the micro. No there is no HDMI port. No it will not be upgraded to Honeycomb. This is a single processor device that can not support it correctly. Being a former user of Honeycomb, I haven't missed it. You will NEED to replace the standard Launcher with another like Launcher Pro, ADW Launcher, or Go Launcher EX. The included Launcher is EXTREMELY slow. The review was written on my Lenovo A1 tablet.
on November 26, 2011
Ideapad A1 Pros:
*Dual cameras (3.1 megapixels for the rear camera)
*Built in GPS and Google maps
*The only one with Bluetooth
*Built in 16GB storage, easily expandable up to an additional 16GB for $20, or 32GB for around $40 via Micro SD Cards. According to Amazon 8GB is enough to hold 80 apps, plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books.
*The lightest of all
*Runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), with many more options than the Amazon App Store. No need to hack it or root it.
*Mini USB port for fast digital video, audio and data transfer. It is also the same port as my phone, one less cable to worry about.
Ideapad A1 Cons:
*Lack of 3G support.
*512 MB of RAM vs. 1 GB on the Kindle Fire.
*Single processor while the others have a dual core.
Conclusion: For $200 I get pretty much the same, or better, specs than the Kindle Fire and Nook Color, but I have access to the full Android Marketplace AND the Kindle Reader app. If I combine this with Amazon Prime ($79/year or $39/year if you are a student) I believe I can get the best of all worlds.
on February 27, 2012
I've had the Ideapad A1 for almost a month, have used it extensively every day, and it has run flawlessly during that time. This tablet has a very bright, clear, high resolution screen - and viewing pictures, movies, web sites, etc. is a pleasure. Netflix, YouTube, etc. all work great with no lags. The capacitive touch screen is very smooth.
For just $199, the specs on this tablet were better than anything else I could find in its price range:
- Front and rear facing cameras
- GPS works offline (NavDroyd is installed)
- 16GB of internal storage space
- MicroSD expansion slot (I added a 32GB MicroSD card)
- Comes with Android Market with access to 400,000 apps (no rooting necessary).
Audio is good. Speaker is fairly loud, but of course the quality via headphones is much better.
Battery life runs about 8 hours in airplane mode, display at about 10% (plenty bright for indoor use) and WiFi on with fairly heavy surfing. The tablet also has an ambient light sensor, which I don't use.
The single core processor handles movies without any lag. Surfing the web is almost as fast as my dual-core laptop. I have not found any issues with the speed of this tablet.
Overall, this is a great tablet. It compares very favorably against everything else in this price range - and I'm very happy with my purchase!
UPDATE AFTER ALMOST 2 MONTHS: I'm still using the A1 extensively every day and have loaded up this tablet with apps, books, and nearly 20GB of music. Still have not had any issues. The display continues to impress me and others who comment on the clarity of everything from photos, to videos, to web pages. "Docs to go" (provided by Lenovo) works perfectly to view Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from work (have not tried to create files). Go Launcher is also a great app. By the way, the reviewer who stated the Lenovo A1 is made in China is correct - but so is the iPad, iPhone and iPod. The point is that this is not a cheap Chinese tablet - and they do exist. It is a solid, well-made, quality tablet.
UPDATE AFTER 7 MONTHS: Still no issues. I use it every day. Bright, clear display, responsive, still has very good to excellent battery life.
UPDATE AFTER A YEAR: I consider this one of the best purchases I have ever made for under $200. Still use it every day for e-mail, surfing the web, music, movies. Has loaded every app I've tried. I have a lot stored on its internal 16 GB -- plus 32GB MicroSD card -- but no issues. Battery is still strong, and display is still clear, bright, and responsive. Wi-fi seems to be stronger than when new.
on November 25, 2011
I've had this unit for several days. As the title says "Wow".
Out of the box, I've found his unit to be solidly built. Its performance and speed, for me, has been great. Running applications, internet, everything to date has a "snappy feel". I've experienced very little lag time on my streaming video (I've tested Crackle, YouTube, and netflix). The Cameras are a nice plus. The internal GPS works well (I would like to get a little better map routing software than the "free" version supplied.). Finally, it runs almost everything I've tried to install.
My previous experience with a tablet has been with a Velocity Cruz T301 that I received for father's day. I enjoyed using my Cruz, however, early on, I recognized its limitations. I decided after 6 months of using it to upgrade. After researching everything is the small tablet form factor, I choose, based on specifications alone as there were no good user reviews at the time, the A1 tablet. I have not been disappointed with my choice.
I debated the new Nook and Kindle Fire. I was impressed with most of their specifications but was turned off by their proprietary interfaces and lack of features.
The Kindle Fire is less memory (8gb) and no external on board storage expansion, no cameras, etc.
The Nook was expandable, but seemed to be heavily entrenched in their proprietary interface. I wanted the more open android experience. (I did not want to wait for any new 3rd party android builds.
I could have purchased an iPad2. However, I really wanted a smaller form factor. Also, with the rapidly changing tech world, I know that I would be disappointed when the iPad3 comes out and I've sunk $500 into this year's unit.
I bought my unit for $199. This is a terrific price point for a tablet with this many features.
A helpful hint:
If you have serious software crash, you may have to hold the power button down for a longer period of time than just a normal turn on. (On a side note if you press the volume up and power button you can get to a utility screen to do a full restart,screen calibration and more!).
I recommend you consider doing a factory reset on the unit before loading it with all of your stuff, and update the OS with the latest version (both of these selections are available through the unit's "Settings" menus. Finally, you may want to let the unit do a screen calibration (see the above hint).
Light weight - my old Velocity Cruz T301 is a bit heavy for reading. The IdeaPad A1 is lighter and and can be held easily with one hand.
Build - Seems solid. Great fit and finish.
Compatible - virtually everything I tried to test has installed. Note: Crackle likes to crash sometimes. and because of the screen resolution 1024 x 600, some apps don't display well.
True android market (I like and use the Amazon market as well.)
Flash is installed.
It is a "finger print" magnet with its shiny slick surfaces!
Out of the box it locked up. The manual did not tell me how to restart it.
Poor manual (Is the "hole" on the top a microphone or reset or what?). Lenovo, you can do better than this (and the included electronic version in the table is not much better).
Overall, I think this is the best "bang" for your buck if you want to fully roam around in the Android world with a lightweight tablet loaded with nifty bells and whistles.
by David G
on November 9, 2011
Although on Amazon is pre-ordering, mine was bought earlier from lenovo official website (It's a 2G version, so I'll need to buy a 16G or 32G sd card soon). Lenovo a1 seems tough-build. The size is exact the same with my kindle 3 but double the thickness because I can put my kindle 3 case on it, tightly. I don't think you need screen protection film. The screen looks and feels like a thick glass. very bright, I even had to dim the light to the lowest. A1 is very easy to use. So far no lag time. Everything so fast (maybe it's new and I do not have many apps yet?) One offline GPS apps called Navdroyd. It was not a full version since it's free which only allows you to download a chosen state map. I guess you can buy the full version from android market for $7. Another apps named Navigation doesn't seem to work without wifi. Anyways, the Navdroyd has turn by turn and speak street names correctly (tried highway and local small rd both). There's lot of input languages to choose from. picture and video quality is fine. I have to say comparing to iphone 4s picture quality it's not as good but it's not bad at all. One thing I love it is the convenience. Using USB. Basically just drag files between your PC. Then you can back up and read doc excel pdf epub mobi mp3 mov, you name it (of course you have to have the good apps from android market which are usually free too). Much easier than that sync thing for iphone and itures. Music played smoothly. I recommend qqplayer to watch video since it plays all kinds of formats. I did try use adobe flash apps then played web flash, it worked. I don't know what will happen since I just heard adobe flash ceased mobile business. I have only used this tablet for 2 days, so I can't guarantee it will be good forever. But I really love it for this price and this quality.
on November 16, 2011
I recently bought a desktop, and have noticed i am using my laptop less and less. This tablet is likely to take over most of what i do with my laptop. I pre-ordered a Kindle Fire, but after realizing the limited app selection(and they had not announced Netflix would be supported yet) i decided to cancel and opt for the A1. My family has long used IBM and lenovo think-pads, so i knew it would be a quality product, and i was not disappointed.
As I was looking for a Kindle Fire replacement, i mainly wanted a way to stream music, read some news, weather, and some books, though my Kindle 3 is still my favorite reading device. After some use, I find the apps load quick, the web is fast enough, though I mainly only use the apps. The touch screen is responsive, and the layout compared to android phones is quite nice and easy to navigate. Android 2.3 works just fine for the size and processor. I like the 7 inch screen for what I use it for. The apps i use most are Netflix, Amazon cloud player, google music beta, pandora, and the economist app. All of them work great and I have no complaints. Access to the Android market is good to have.
I purchased a 16gb model on the Lenovo site for 199, and i think that is a steal. I love it so far, and am glad i chose this. I was doubtful at first, but after reading some kindle fire reviews i think i made the right choice for me.
on November 22, 2011
I've had this for a few days now, I bought it for my non tech savvy mom who's visiting, and she loves it. She uses it primarily as a Kindle reader, for Skype, and for playing games like Hearts, Scrabble, Sudoku etc. Given the use its getting, it appears to be well worth the $200 I paid for the 16GB version. I watched some Roma Vs Napoli on watchespn.com the other day and the video quality was great (of course this is a function of available bandwidth). Now I just need to download that Cricinfo app one of the other reviewers was referring to. This tablet runs Android (2.3 - Gingerbread) so its pretty much the android experience, with the addition of Lenovo app store access (which I haven't tried, Android Market is all I need) and a couple of other things.
- Android market is accessible from this device out of the box. This is actually a pretty big deal. A lot of tablets in this price range cannot access Android Market without some form of rooting.
- Video calling with Google Talk works (with a caveat, listed under cons).
- The touch screen response is good (the screen is capacitive).
- There is some lag when responding to user inputs, possibly due to the single-core ARM processor. But, the lag isn't too significant, and easy to get used to. I'm listing this under pros and cons.
- The device seems solidly built (though this has a flip side listed under cons).
- The 7 inch screen size seems to work well for email, web-browsing, you-tube etc, at least in comparison to the 3.6 inch screen on my iPhone. I'd imagine a 10.1 inch screen tablet is even better, though I haven't played with one yet.
- While you can initiate Skype video calls, sending video through Skype doesn't work. So you can see the other party but they can't see you. This is a HUGE con for me as the front facing camera was one of the reasons I chose this over the kindle. Oh well, I guess this is the fragmented Android experience people complain about, since Skype video works correctly on a subset of Android devices. I haven't returned the device in the hope that this will be addressed in some future Skype update. Common Lenovo, you have to push Microsoft to resolve this, since I'm certain its significant to a lot of users.
- I tested video calling using Google talk, while sending video in landscape mode, the sent video is upside down. The video is correct in portrait mode, so this is a workaround, but may not satisfy everyone.
- I listed this under pros, but for people who want super spiffy responsiveness from their tablet, this isn't it, there is definitely perceivable lag. I will personally hold out for the Quad core Asus Transformer Prime I think, but I do like my toys.
- It is a bit heavy, I suspect in part, because of the magnesium roll cage it has inside to protect internal components from damage from falls and such.
- The rear facing camera is ok, though I wouldn't recommend you fling your DSLR into the nearest river on account of this tablet, or even your point and shoot for that matter.
- I haven't measured how long this thing goes between charges. This is of course dependent on the usage and the kind of apps running on it. For the most part I wasn't amazed by how long it went between charges or annoyed by how quickly the charge drained.
- I haven't tried streaming video from my Amazon Prime account at the time of writing (I cancelled Netflix so I won't be able to try that).
I'm giving it 5 stars primarily due to the $199 price point, and the fact that it gets the job done, and some.
on December 1, 2011
I bought a Kindle Fire and returned it after 2 days. I didn't need Amazon using me as a kiosk at the expense of efficient use. I bought a Nook, better but not good enough, it went back. Saw the Levono A1 and took a chance on Black Friday ($199 on Amazon). So far this is an almost perfect choice. Nice solid build, micro sd slot, Real accessible volume control, customizable interface, tons of Apps without interference, installed both Kindle and Nook. Bonus: gyro, GPS, and Bluetooth. Double bonus: basic media player plays DIVX/avi files.) My only gripe so far is that documentation is sparse and the support people are somewhat clueless so far. I had some settings issues to get everything working exactly as I wanted and I had to get the answers from the forums. No brainer: $229 at the Lenovo store.
Update: 3/21/12 -- Just as happy, bought a second A1 for my wife at her request. No issues, so I don't know if support people are up to speed now.
Update: 8/9/12 -- Still happy. Wouldn't mind HDMI, accelerator, or compass, but they are not available in this price range. Looked at the Google pad, felt no envy.
Update: 1/22/13 -- Lenovo post sale support literally disappears when a newer model is released. No fixes, no updates!
on November 16, 2011
I order mine on 10th nov and received on 15th, IDEAPAD A1-16GB for ($199) from lenovo.This is my first tablet and it's satisfy all my need . it has full android market plus lenovo's app store and lots of things. It include microsd card slot and with inbuilt navigation. you dont need data plan for that. Also you can use as wifi hotspot. Blutooth 2.1 with that for wireless connectivity. Multi touch screen also very responsive and high quality.This is great tablet if you are looking for small media center + internet access+ ebook reader + comunication device.The speed of browser also fast, the pages loads up faster. On youtube it can play HD(720 p) video without hitch. Speaker also decent for the songs and communication. In sort this is best economical affordable device compare to IPAD. And compare to Kindle Fire And Nook Tablet i will give 100 points to LENOVO IDEAPAD A1 with bluetooth connectivity, Micro SD card slot, Front and rear camera and microphone, GPS(no data needed). Kindle Fire don't have expansion slot or GPS or navigation & camera options. Same B&N Nook tablet don't have Camera and GPS and Bluetooth facility.