Lenovo’s IdeaTab A2109 is yet another tablet aiming itself at the £200-ish price point. The idea, of course, is that those who can’t afford top notch tablets, but want to steer clear of the kind of drek that tends to clog up the very lowest end of the market, will gravitate around this price point creating plenty of market for different manufacturers.
There’s a logic to the view, but people are also looking for quality products, and as we’ve said before, the Nexus 7 is the target everyone has to shoot at in this price range.
Lenovo isn’t perhaps the first name you would associate with a mid-range Android tablet, but the company has in fact been around doing Android for a while, and it brings some interesting features to its £200 IdeaTab A2109.
Lenovo is quite clear about this being a tablet aimed at entertainment. To that end stereo speakers sit on the back of the device, and SRS TruMedia support is built in. Music quality is certainly better than many devices we’ve tested, and the volume racks up rather nicely too. There is some distortion at the top volume end, but it’s not a disaster.
There’s also very welcome microSD card support, with the slot sitting under a small, thin, narrow backplate which surrounds the speakers and camera lens. The backplate is a little tricky to get off, and some will not like the need to remove it in order to hotswap memory, but aesthetically the look is better than having an open microSD slot on the edge of the chassis. And having memory expansion means you can boost the relatively generous 16GB of internal storage.
You don’t always find a camera on these middle of the road tablets. Here, though, there are two. A front facing 1.3 megapixel camera is bolstered by a back facing 3 megapixel one. This is hardly cutting edge stuff, but it is good enough for 720p video recording and will support video chat too. Performance, as you might expect, is middling, although it’s unlikely to be a major consideration in your buying decision.
We also like the micro HDMI connector that sits next to the micro USB slot, and the toggle button which locks screen rotation that sits next to the volume rocker and headset slot. You’d be surprised how often locking out auto screen rotation comes in handy, and it’s far better to have a hardware solution for this than the software toggle that is standard with Android.
And we also appreciate the metal backplate which is tough and solid and a step up from some of the plastic build materials we’ve seen before. However, the IdeaTab is not light coming in at 507g. We weren’t too happy about holding it one-handed for extended periods. In terms of look the metal is attractive, as are the rounded edges with their silver trim. On the short edges there’s a neat outward rake towards the back that is barely noticeable yet adds a certain style.
The Nvidia Tegra 3 1.2GHz quad core processor with 1GB of RAM is punchy enough to see this tablet cope with demanding tasks, and Android 4.1 is present which means the IdeaTab A2109 just about passes the ‘up to date’ test. Lenovo adds a fairly large number of apps to the Android standards, including the Kindle app, Documents To Go, a file explorer, Evernote, Norton’s Security app, a Lenovo print app, Skype, Sugar Sync, and Zinio. All this is mostly very positive stuff, though we tend to prefer fewer pre-installed apps, especially where they are free and freely available through the Play Store anyway.
But the IdeaTab A2109 has an Achilles heel, and is let down by a pretty poor display. The 9-inch screen offers 1280 x 800 pixels – a lowish pixel density of 167ppi – and it lacks vibrancy and punch. Web site text can be pinched and not especially easy on the eye, and in general the screen lacks the sparkle of bright colours and vivid reproduction that is a key characteristic of a truly great tablet. While not an absolute deal breaker at the price point it does serve to reduce the tablet’s effectiveness for functions that rely heavily on text. You won’t want to use this for lengthy bouts of eBook reading, for instance.
Overall the IdeaTab A2109 has some good features, and the processor is a real plus point. As always a low price point does mean compromises, and here it is with the screen. Swift performance, HDMI support and expandable memory might be enough to make up for that.
Written by Sandra Vogel