The first thing that strikes you as you open the box is the look that the tablet has, most tablets are well, rectangular. Some might have slightly rounded edges but no other ones have this weird long swooping rounded edge look. The tablet I kid you not, is amost oval. Ok, maybe not, but it sure is rounded.
Then there’s how thick it is. I’ve had an iPad for a while now, it’s an iPad 1, and although it’s not actually thinner, it feels thinner. It’s not lighter either but it feels lighter. That’s not to say that the K1 is bulky, in terms of size it’s very similar to the iPad 1. It just feels bulky. Maybe it’s because of the thick rubberized back, which makes it easy to grab and hard to slip out of your hands. For the record, I like the rubberized back. You’re not constantly afraid that you’ll drop it onto a ceramic floor, or worse, your bare toes.
The screen is crisp and bright, it provides more than adequate contrast even with the automatic brightness turned on. Refresh is okay for a tablet, there is some slight ghosting visible when something moves quickly but it’s really not noticeable enough to be an issue. At 10.1″ and with a wide aspect ratio it’s large enough to view movies, browse the web and read books, in fact reading books is one of the features where the K1 really shines. The built in Kindle reader is excellent.
The K1 has two tiny speakers mounted beneath the bottom of one of the long sides, and they sound loud. In fact it’s louder than my Toshiba laptop was back when it was running Windows. The sound quality though, is similar to dropping a live cat into a trombone: Terrible. If you’re looking for real hi-fi performance you’ll have to add external speakers, wired or Bluetooth or, some good headphones.
The T20 processor in the unit should be more than capable of running everything Android properly, and there some. Yet there is some lag, mostly in the screen transitions as you scroll from one screen to the next or as you browse flash websites, you’re constantly forced to go back to the task manager and kill some of the unused programs running. It’s unclear if this is due to the Android Honeycomb or to the Lenovo flavour of it but I’d definitely look into rooting the device and installing some third party OS like Cyanogenmod or even the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich, hopefully as official release from Lenovo.
The unit comes with 32Gb of storage and a Micro SD slot which is amazing for this type of tablet at this price.
Or I should really say cameras. The unit has a rear facing 720p capable 5Mpx camera with flash, and a front facing 2Mpx camera for video calling or simply to galavant in front of. They provide a clear and decent quality picture in both cases, although the flash is somewhat weak even compared to other LED flashes like the one in the HTC Desire HD. The front facing camera provides the promise of face recognition unlocking with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4).
This has been a fairly major issue for me. The touch responsiveness is far from being at iPad standards, in fact sometimes you find youself pressing harder in an attempt to obtain a reaction from the tablet. It’s been constant on both K1s so I doubt it’s a problem with one of them. Not that it’s not precise, it is. It’s just weirdly laggy.
I’ve read many other reviews of the tablet, both in forums and on websites and the biggest complaint I’ve seen is from people who claimed that it would freeze, have force close application errors and system crashes. Although they seem common “in the wild”, I’ve had very little problem with stability and when I did have stability issues it was caused by some third party application downloaded from the Android market. For instance, it doesn’t seem to like Cleverbot, even when the app is not running the system kept issuing errors. I removed Cleverbot and it went back to working properly so that’s one thing to look at. I think that the tablet “as is” is pretty stable but when confronted with random apps it will likely act up.
Keep in mind that I kept on closing unused apps, most people don’t bother and the tablet gets choppy.
The sheer amount of bundled apps is crazy stupid. Beyond the usual apps like the standard Google suite and other suspects, more than 30 apps are included with the K1. Some more interesting than others like Netflix and Documents To Go 3.0. Some of it is bloatware, seemingly a hand-me-down from Lenovo’s PC and Laptop divisions. All in all though, even if you don’t want to sign up for the Lenovo Market, the normal Android market apps should keep everyone interested in the tablet. It obviously supports the traditional social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
This is where I found the tablet to be the weakest, there is one front facing button, akin to the normal iPad home button only this one is oval and has two tiny LEDs on either side. The button acts much like the iPad button except this on feels really flaky, like it’s about to pop out. Remember those cheap imitation Super Nintendo controllers that they used to sell back in the 1990s? The home button feels like that. Luckily, the rest of the buttons that are placed along the sides like the volume buttons, a lock slider and an on/off button are very similar to the one on the iPad and they feel more solid.
Finding a sleeve for the K1 is a terrible experience. I couldn’t believe how little choice there is for this unit, nothing, nada at least in traditional retail stores. After searching eBay I managed to find a suitable sleeve but it’s only available in two models and frankly, the choice is just horrible.
I’d like to conclude with the following thoughts, the Ideapad K1 has its faults yes, it feels bulky, it’s somewhat sluggish and frankly it has a steampunk look that is weird by today’s standards. I don’t hate the look, in fact I kinda like it but it’s definitely not for everyone. However, if you consider the price vs what you get, you will find that the bargain is worth it.
It’s also worth noting that one of the two units developed a defect after about a month, just outside of the return-to-store-for-exchange period, the screen went pink whenever the unit was touched. This leads to believe that the quality control might not be up to the usual standards. It was shipped to Lenovo’s repair depot after a short tech support phone call, and returned to me repaired within one week. The repair stub stated that the LCD screen wiring harness was replaced which makes sense. It might have been bad luck, hopefully Lenovo don’t actually have a 50% failure rate on all their units.
Screen is bright and crisp
Great specs for the price, 32Gb, Micro SD card slot, etc.
Insane amount of bundled apps
Two good quality cameras
Battery life is quite good, although not on par with iPad standards.
Great to read eBooks
Laggy touch response
Retro look is not for everyone
Terrible sound quality
Easily made to get choppy performance by opening a few tasks
Insane amount of bundled apps might be considered bloatware
Flimsy feeling home button
Score is about average at 7/10.