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Android Tablet Review: The Lenovo Ideapad K1

There are a lot of Android 3.x Honeycomb tablets that are running almost identical specs with maybe a hint or two of the OEM’s special sauce mixed in. There are also a few standouts like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Toshiba Thrive.  In first checking out the on paper specs of the Lenovo Idea Pad K1 we thought this may be another ordinary Honeycomb tablet, however after about 4 weeks with the Ideapad K1 there’s something about it we really like.

I couldn’t put my finger on what that “something” was at first.  The basic specs include a 1ghz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, Honeycomb, 10.1″ form factor, microUSB compatible, microHDMI compatible and microSD slot. The Acer Iconia tablet and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer have very similar specs.

More including video after the break

Now the first thing you’ll notice about the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is that it’s heavy, 1.65 pounds heavy, putting it into the same weight class as the Toshiba Thrive or the iPad (OG). I personally prefer a heavier tablet, much to the dismay of several of our Android loving friends. Why though? Well first off Lenovo makes the Thinkpad line of laptops.  In 2005 they purchased the ThinkPad line from IBM and if you work in an office with a large mobile work force you probably have 10, 15, or 150 Thinkpads lying around. They’re heavy, bulky but work and work well. Maybe because it was Lenovo I was expecting the weight but it’s actually welcomed by me.

The next thing is that the IdeaPad K1 comes in 3 colors; black, white and red.  Sure that’s no big deal but it makes it visually appealing to many different types of users.  In addition it has rounded corners, and a unique contour, so in my opinion it’s a sexy tablet.  For an example of what I mean lets just say that all Android Honeycomb tablets with a 1ghz dual core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and a 10.1″ form factor are BMW Z4’s, now it’s down to looks, you’re going to take the sexier one right?

Many Android enthusiasts don’t appreciate the time and investment that goes into an OEM’s custom UI, however consumers don’t care nor do they realize it until they’ve used multiple Android devices. The average consumer is probably only going to buy one tablet at a time and the Lenovo UI is very consumer friendly and again visually appealing.

In the center of the screen is a launch area which has quick access to movies, music, email and web, most likely things that a K1 user is going to go for first.  There are still plenty of homescreens available for customization and if you don’t like Lenovo’s launcher you can always take it off.  For the demo period though I kept it on and used it as often as possible. I put my “honeycomb cheat” widgets on a different homescreen.

Lenovo also has a widget that aggregates your social media, incoming messages and incoming emails into one easy to scroll through and navigate widget. This was actually welcomed. I tend to stay away from customizing notifications so with this widget it’s easy to see just what that notification was for, clicking out of the widget into it’s corresponding app was quick and painless.

The next big plus is the Lenovo app store. Now of course many people are going to take advantage of the Android Market and it’s 250,000+ apps that are available however for those new to Android the Lenovo app shop is one easy place to go get apps. Once inside the App Shop you’ll notice that a lot went into the visual part of it.  The apps scroll like the last (not the current) iteration of the Android market with big bright popping pictures and easy to understand descriptions. Also searching for an app in the Lenovo App Shop is easy making discovery a cinch, something that the Android Market has yet to grasp even though Android is a Google product and search is their business.

Lenovo’s file manager is on par with that of the Toshiba Thrive. It’s very easy to navigate through files and cutting, coping and pasting files from place to place is easy as well. When a microSD card is in the K1 it’s easy to copy that content directly onto the hard drive.

The 5 megapixel camera on the rear is positioned in the upper left hand corner if you’re looking at the tablet. This is the best position for a rear facing camera on both tablets and phones. I’m not one to use the tablet for a bunch of photo shooting but your hand doesn’t get in the way when you’re taking a photo or video and both can be edited with effects added within the tablet.  The 2mp front facing camera was great for hangouts, Gtalk with Video and Qik.

We were able to get 8 solid hours out of the battery which included 4 hours on Netflix, a ton of web surfing, and hundreds of incoming email messages.

As far as sound goes it was par for the course with the other Android tablets with the same feature sets. The speakers were loud enough to enjoy a movie in an empty room and music was a little bit tinny but for the most part I’m not looking to rock out on a tablet.

As for the stuff I didn’t like.  The microSD card slot is a pain in the ass it has a little metal cover on top of it that you have to eject with a paper clip. Before realizing this I actually bent the piece of metal making it harder to get it out. I eventually did though and I haven’t tried to restore that metal. Note to Lenovo let that go.

Also there is a plastic film that the Ideapad K1 ships with on top. In peeling that plastic film off it left a major residue on the beautiful white backing that had to eventually be removed with nail polish remover.

I also noticed with 7 applications open (G-talk, email, web page, word press, Google +, hootsuite and friendcaster) the K1 became a bit laggy. With nothing open though it breezed through screens and it really wasn’t until I had 7 apps open that I noticed this.

Lenovo threw in a home button. When you click it it goes to the main home screen. You’re supposed to be able to use some limited gestures to do things like swipe through home screens but this functionality was a little buggy. I noticed when taking photographs and video of the Ideapad K1 that the home button looks almost like an ifrared sensor so I’m trying to find out what I’m missing. Other than that, Honeycomb is designed to be a buttonless interface, and should remain that way.

Final Thought
I really liked the Ideapad K1 as you can see from the reasons listed above. I did expect more from Lenovo but I think they put that “more” into the Thinkpad.  For a regular, normal consumer though the IdeaPad K1 is a definite must check out.  With the 1280×800 display and Netflix preinstalled you can definitely tell Lenovo had a media consuming consumer in mind and it’s worth checking out