There's never a dull moment in the tech world, especially where tablets are concerned. That little company over in Cupertino outed their new tab just two months ago; and many tablet makers in the Android camp are releasing fresh models, phasing out their older ones, and targeting specific consumer groups. More tablets are on the way for the remainder of 2012, and they certainly aren't limited to iOS and Android (Windows 8, anyone?).
Better late than never
Lenovo has tablet models out on the market and in the production stage; upcoming models include the IdeaPad K2 and the ThinkPad-branded tablet. Today, Techie deviates a bit from our usual reviews of fresh tech toys and online discoveries, and takes on a device that landed on our shores around mid-to late 2011: the IdeaPad K1 (a.k.a. the K2's older sibling, and the first Lenovo tablet to ship with an Android OS).
Probably the best thing about reviewing a tablet that has already made the rounds of tech magazines and blogs is that it gave us a unique perspective. Most devices work beautifully days and a few months after the manufacturing date, making for glowing reviews and --- if it really wowed the reviewer --- inclusion in countless gadget wishlists (especially during the Christmas season). But we got the K1 in the lab almost a year after its international release date, nine months after its printed manufacturing date, and after it has already acquired a lot of scratches and stored a lot of data from its testers. The K1 can be considered an "oldie" given these factors, and it is true in some ways. It's a tad thicker, heavier and slower, and sports slightly older specs compared to some of the tablets that followed it, but we still think that the K1 is a good option for consumers who don't really clamor for the latest and most expensive stuff, and who want a tablet that can do what it's supposed to do, "battle scars" notwithstanding.
The K1 that we got to play with has a red plastic cover on the back portion (that's where the battle scars, a.k.a. scratches, are), with this cover offset in an aluminum frame. Two small speakers are placed on opposite sides of that frame, and a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash is on the upper left side of the plastic cover. Flipping the tablet reveals a glossy 10.1-inch HD display, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and a physical Home button. The placement of the front-facing camera and physical button is a bit weird for us: the latter's position makes sense when the tablet is on portrait mode, but not when on landscape mode. Likewise, the front-facing camera would be at the top portion on landscape mode, but on the side when on portrait mode.
Ports and other buttons are situated only on two sides of the aluminum frame. When on landscape mode, users will have three buttons on the left side: Power button, volume rocker and screen rotation lock button. The mic and microSD ports are also on this side. On the bottom (the left side if you're on portrait mode), you'll see the ports for mini HDMI, headset/earphones, and dock connector or battery charger.
The IdeaPad K1 runs on Android 3.1 (Honeycomb; no idea if this red tabbie would get ICS, and when that'll happen), and a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 chip keeps everything moving along. 32GB of SSD storage provide users with plenty of room for their data, while Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and Wi-Fi take care of the connectivity aspect. Lenovo put in its own skin and preloaded the tablet with apps that include Lenovo CloudShare, SocialTouch and an e-book reader. Users will have five customizable home screens, including one with shortcuts for videos, music, e-mail and e-books, great for those who want instant app access. We're not such big fans of the App Wheel, though.
While the K1 provides functions that most tablet users need (and looks pretty while doing so), we came across some negative traits early on. There were instances wherein the tablet took its sweet time in responding to taps, swipes and pinches --- and sometimes, it doesn't respond at all. The latter happened to us several times, particularly after we tried to get it out of screen lock mode. Eventually, it would relent and let us use it again, but it can get frustrating. It also reacted to taps and swipes incorrectly, for example, when playing Temple Run (yes, while everyone else has moved on to other games, we still play it). Games like that one show another disadvantage of the K1: the colors and graphics aren't as vibrant as in other tablets. Our videos and games ran just fine, and we happily read a couple of e-books on it, but we were left wanting more, visuals-wise.
The tablet didn't face any big hurdles when it came to music files and everyday tasks; what we didn't like was what happened when we put the tablet down on a bed or table. Since the speakers are placed at the back, the sound would be muffled every time the tablet is put down on a table or bed while playing audio files. It would've been better if the speakers were placed on the sides. The rear 5MP camera produced good (read: decent for casual shooting) photos both indoors and outdoors.
As for the power department, the K1 clocked in at around seven to eight hours of constant use. It fell short of the proclaimed 10 hours (maybe because of its age), but it's still good enough for us.
Overall, we'd say that the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is still a good tablet to have. Despite our complaints, it can help you do what you need to when away from your computer and on the road. It had a price tag of close to P25,000 when it first came out; retailers like Villman Computers now sell it for close to P21,000.
Click here to see the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 on the Buyer's Guide
Check out the gallery below for more photos