Holiday Review Guide: Lenovo K1, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablets
After having the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 and Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet for the last couple of months and being able to compare them side by side, I now can give this Android duo its proper review. If you’re a VAR looking for another Android tablet to add to your lineup, or if you just want to treat yourself or your family this holiday season, read on to find out why Lenovo should be an option worth considering …
This fall’s ThinkPad Tablet event coincided with my receiving a review unit for both the ThinkPad Tablet and the IdeaPad K1. For all intents and purposes, the devices are identical on the inside, but their use cases vary. The IdeaPad K1 is designed for the consumer, while the ThinkPad Tablet is designed for the businessperson. Both tablets run Honeycomb, carry front and rear cameras and the same 10.1-inch screen with a gorgeous 1280×800 resolution well-suited for web browsing. Plus, the tablets are populated with the Lenovo App Store, Lenovo-specific widgets and a ton of other apps ranging from Angry Birds to PDF readers.
But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Here’s what else you should know about Lenovo’s tablets:
Lenovo clearly put all its R&D love into the ThinkPad Tablet. It feels good in your hands. It looks good on the coffee table. It has all the bells and whistles I covered during the ThinkPad event and they’re sweeter the longer you use them. This is the tablet I turned to when I needed to do something important — reading PDFs, looking up something on Wikipedia, editing blogs or checking out Android applications. The stylus helps (although it’s usefulness besides being a plastic finger is very much dependent on the application) and the physical function buttons on the bottom are pleasantly stiff and “clicky,” which reminded me of my Kindle. During my time with the ThinkPad Tablet, it automatically received an Android update, which was nice. It’s good to know Lenovo is watching out for its business users.
The IdeaPad K1 feels cheap in comparison. Although it’s got the same guts (minus the special stylus screen and the USB port for the folio keyboard or USB storage devices) the K1 just doesn’t measure up to the ThinkPad Tablet. It’s not supposed to, though, since it’s for the consumer and starts at $349, considerably less than the $499 price tag of the ThinkPad Tablet. But it’s sad Lenovo cut some corners to get to that price. The unmistakable “flexible” plastic back cheapens the device and you can actually feel the space between the plastic and the internal components if you squeeze the tablet too hard. There’s also a lack of navigational buttons, except for one “home” button.
If you’re buying the tablet for a younger geeky kid, the IdeaPad K1 is ideal. And although it may feel “cheap” it’s certainly not underpowered. It handled any video, music or graphics-intensive game I threw at it. Plus, the SD expansion slot along — with tons of pre-installed games — make the K1 a potential dream present under the tree. Lenovo’s focus around this tablet was clearly multimedia, and it shows, especially since it includes HDMI out and very loud stereo speakers.
My biggest issue with both these tablets, however, is Android Honeycomb itself. On both tablets, I couldn’t shake the high level of unresponsiveness. Almost every time I went to unlock the screen, it didn’t register my initial tap, or didn’t register that I pulled the ‘unlock’ sphere all the way to the outer edge. Both tablets lagged when rotating through the app screens and both tablets had issues using the Android Marketplace, forcing a reboot or a cache cleaning to get apps to install correctly. That being said, things ran more smoothly once the tablet had been in use for a while, which I assume is because the data had been cached. Worth noting: The ThinkPad Tablet had considerable on-screen keyboard delay out of the box, which I chalk up to the pre-configured “advanced” Flext9 keyboard mode. Do yourself a favor and switch it back to the default Android keyboard.
The bottom line? Both tablets perform admirably when you really get down to it, and both have good enough innards to support a much-needed Ice Cream Sandwich update, whenever it arrives. In addition to HTC, Motorola and Samsung, Lenovo should not be overlooked. Anyone would be well-served with a ThinkPad Tablet. It’s a step above most Android tablets and is the nicest Android tablet I’ve had my hands on (next to the Galaxy Tab 10-inch). It’s not the thinnest, but the build quality is the best I’ve seen. Nice job, Lenovo.
But be warned: Android Honeycomb tablets don’t have a large selection of tablet-ready applications like the iPad does. However, Android phone apps run flawlessly, if not better, on Honeycomb. But users or recipients of either tablet should be at least a little bit tech-savvy — that will offset Android’s quirks, which might put off less knowledgeable users.