Lenovo A8 Tablet Review
From the moment you turn on the Lenovo A8 Tablet, there is little doubt that you are working with a budget Android tablet. That being said, that doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. In today’s nomenclature “Budget” often gets confused with “cheap,” which then becomes synonymous with “poor quality,” and that’s not the case here at all. There are more than one or two features that left me scratching my head on why they were left out, but I’ll get to that later.
If you are searching for a tablet built for portability, ease of use and with an affordable price, this will fit your needs. Or if you are looking for nothing more than a Facebook/social-media, e-mail machine, then the A8 should suit your needs just fine. I felt that it is missing a few key features that some users might be accustomed to in an Android device at this point, and on the software-side there is a heavy layer of Lenovo-bloat on board as well. Away from the software on to the hardware, the build quality is pretty decent, and it comes with expandable storage, so you ‘win some you lose some’ in the trade-off of bloat and space.
For a device that could be considered an entry level tablet, and at a price starting at $179.99, the Lenovo A8 was sturdy and well-built for the price. I’ve come across some less-expensive tablets in the past, where the casing was so poorly made that the device actually popped and clicked as I made my way through daily use, but the A8 remained solid during my testing. The unit I was provided with featured a midnight-blue matte backing with a fairly standard sized glossy black front bezel. Even though it’s slightly larger than my daily use Nexus 7, the A8 didn’t feel too much heavier or bulkier, and was very comfortable to hold even after long-periods of use.
Inside you will find a 1.3 GHz MediaTek 8121 Processor running Android 4.2.2 (though it is upgradable to 4.3 at this point). The display chosen was an 8” 1280×800 IPS display and underneath the bezel and backing you will find 1GB LPDDR3 RAM with 16 GB storage. As I mentioned before that storage is upgradable through the MicroSD slot on the device. One nice addition is the Dolby Certified Audio, powered with a 4200mAh battery. For the photo-hungry users you will have a 2MP front camera and a 5MP rear camera.
As you can see quite plainly, these are pretty basic specs, all that helped solidify the tablet’s low price-point. Nothing here will blow you away (and it wasn’t designed to,) the A8 isn’t slow but it certainly isn’t a speed-demon either. Frequent Android users will notice that the device is not running the latest version of Android (which is 4.4.4, or Android L if you want to include unreleased builds), and for a fairly new tablet, it certainly has a less RAM than I would like to see, even in an entry-level.
As I mentioned before in previous lower-end tablet reviews that I have done, the A8 is NOT for the power-user and it doesn’t try to be. This is for someone who is perfectly happy using the tablet for nothing more than checking Facebook or Instagram a few times a day, reading a book on the Kindle app, and maybe firing up a game of Angry Birds while commuting to and from work, browsing online or checking emails throughout the day. For the casual user this tablet hits the right marks. It’s affordable and relatively convenient to use.
There are a few issues I had with the A8 overall though, the most glaring problem is the fact that there is no app drawer. It made me question if I’ve simply taken an app drawer for granted with all my Android phones and tablets, and I realized using the A8 how much I would miss having my apps organized in a separate screen. The A8 simply adds everything to the home screens, which makes them easier to find if you only have a few, or our new to apps, but not if you are power-user that shuffles through apps quite constantly. Fill one screen up, and another is created, a basic system and one that was actually used when the first tablets hit the market.
Because of this the home screens can become extremely cluttered very quickly. In fact, not having a separate app drawer is one of the reasons why I don’t like the iPhone during my testing with iOS. Without it, the screen simply gets too cluttered and too “busy” for my tastes. This is from my own use though coming from different Android devices, it may have bothered me much more than it should, and although it was a thorn in my side, you may have different feelings about the design. As a quick fix in this situation, I did install the Google Experience Launcher as my default for the remainder of my time with the unit, it then somewhat resembled something I was used to. A tip I’m passing off to you.
The camera is another low point of the tablet. With a 2MP front and 5MP rear camera, the quality of your photos isn’t staggering. I personally don’t take very many photos with a tablet, so photo quality is not something that I care about too much, but I do Skype a lot with one. It wasn’t long before my use with the Skype app started looking fuzzy with the A8 even on a strong signal. Again, I understand the lower end cameras are probably what contributes to the overall low price point, but it’s still somewhat disappointing and could be a big turn-off to some users.
There are a few features specific to this tablet (and I assume other Lenovo Android tablets as well but I haven’t had time to test them all) that I found to be surprisingly intuitive. The first is the integrated Dolby Digital Plus features, which gives users quite a bit of control in terms of tweaking their sound. It’s actually very impressive how nice the audio can sound through the A8’s less than optimal dual-speaker system. I enjoyed having the option to tweak the levels in Dolby to my own preferences. It is an impressive feature, and one that is always on in the background (yes it can be turned off to save that precious little RAM you have), and with only 1GB of memory, I had to wonder just how much the Dolby app is eating up.
The Smart Side Bar is something that I wish would become standard on all Android devices. I have loved the concept of a slide-out menu for as long as the concept has existed. I also love using the Action Launcher on my phone to replicate the feature when it isn’t available. The fact that the A8 has this feature built in was a fantastic addition I thought at first, but the truth is there is only a finite amount of screen-space on the home screen with the A8 to work with and the UI already had the tendency to just cram the screen full of your apps. So by adding additional widgets to the mix, it made the viewing area even more crowded and hard to navigate and sort. Having your most frequently used apps, settings, a few widgets and settings in a slide out menu cleans things up a bit, but it just isn’t polished enough.
Overall the Lenovo A8 is well-priced and well-designed as a casual-use tablet. It’s not fast, but it’s fast enough with your basic apps. It’s not sleek and attractive like the iPad, but there’s nothing I would call-out in the overall design. The display is somewhat muted, more so if you have a higher-end device to compare it with, but the colors are sharp enough. If all you need is something simple, and are looking for a lower price-point option, then take a gander at the A8. It just might satisfy your needs and you can save a lot of money in the process over something that may be more than you are looking for.
more info: Lenovo