Lenovo may have arrived late to the party, but is it too late? The company better known for its business notebooks and PCs has finally released an Android tablet, the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1. We were lucky enough to get some early hands-on time with the tablet today.
Read our guide to the best upcoming tablets in 2011.
Lenovo IdeaPad K1: Design
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 looks similar to most other Android tablets, though it has a rather large bezel and a distinctive shape. When held in landscape orientation, the IdeaPad K1 is thicker at the top of its frame than the bottom. This doesn't really add much to the overall experience, but the fact the screen is tilted slightly towards you when the tablet is placed on a desk or table is a positive.
One not so positive aspect of the display is its glossy surface. While this is an issue not just limited to the IdeaPad K1, we long for an Android tablet with a matte screen to prevent reflections, along with annoying fingerprints and smudges. When pressed on this issue, Lenovo’s Consumer and SMB manager Otto Ruettinger simply stated "if it's not shiny, it doesn't work on a retail shelf". He said the end user wants something that looks sexy, and a matte screen simply doesn't fit the bill.
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 weighs 730g, making it identical in weight to the Motorola Xoom, but lighter than the Toshiba Tablet (AT100). The weight doesn’t pose too much of an issue, though the device is difficult to pick up and use with one hand.
The build quality of the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is hit and miss. We liked the textured, rubber feel of the black back, but not the fact the bezel appeared to creak when pressed at the top of the display. We also liked the physical home key, but not the volume buttons which felt a little small for our liking. Surprisingly, the IdeaPad’s microSD card slot needs an included tool or paperclip to remove, much like the SIM card slot on the iPhone 4 and the iPad.
It is important to note that the model we looked at was a pre-production version of the IdeaPad K1 tablet, so hopefully these issues (aside from the microSD card slot) won’t rear their head once the final version is released in mid-September.
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 has a textured, rubber feel on the back.
Surprisingly, Lenovo has opted not to equip the IdeaPad K1 tablet with a full sized USB port. Ruettinger said this was due to Lenovo’s insistence on maintaining the current form factor of the device, and the fact that there is currently limited support for USB devices on Android tablets.
Curiously, Lenovo will sell the IdeaPad K1 tablet in gloss red, gloss white, and brown leatherette colours in addition to the standard black model. However, only the standard black model will be sold in retail stores — the red and white colours will be available to order online. The brown leatherette model is yet to be confirmed for an Australian release. A keyboard dock accessory for the IdeaPad K1 will also be sold for $80.
Lenovo IdeaPad K1: Software
The Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 will ship out of the box with the latest version of Google's Android software, 'Honeycomb' 3.1, but it is Lenovo’s pre-loaded software that the company is billing as a major strength over competitors.
Out of the box, the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 will come preloaded with more than 40 apps including Need for Speed Shift, Angry Birds, Amazon Kindle and Documents to Go — Lenovo says these are worth about $50 if purchased from the Android Market. The tablet also comes with Lenovo's SocialTouch UI overlay, which enables quick access to Facebook and Twitter services using a single app. When pressed on the fact that software like this is easily downloadable through the Android Market, Lenovo said a pre-loaded version is simply “easier for users”.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 will come preloaded with more than 40 apps including Need for Speed Shift, Angry Birds, Amazon Kindle and Documents to Go.
Lenovo is also pushing its own ecosystem, the Lenovo App Shop. The Lenovo App Shop is simply a range of tablet apps that have been tested by Lenovo itself, and will therefore work effectively on the IdeaPad K1. Lenovo says that this will ensure consumers the app work on the tablet, and cited the store as a way of combating the issue of cross-compatibility of Android apps on smartphones and tablets. As an example, many apps in the Android Market aren’t designed for tablets, and run in a small box in the middle of the screen.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 also comes with 2GB of free cloud storage for the life of the device. Unlike Apple’s model with the iPad, Lenovo says this cloud storage solution will work across multiple devices and platforms, including other tablets, notebooks, and PCs.
Lenovo IdeaPad K1: Australian availability
The Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 will be available to order online in August, but will be officially released in Australia in mid-September. It comes in both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi + 3G options in 16GB and 32GB sizes, starting at $569 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi-only model. The IdeaPad Tablet K1 will cost $709 for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model, $679 for the 32GB Wi-Fi-only model and $809 for the top of the range 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G model.
Lenovo will sell a keyboard dock accessory for the IdeaPad K1 for $80.
Lenovo sells a 64GB model of the tablet in overseas markets, but will not offer this larger capacity model in Australia.