Nov 03 2011

Review: Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1

This Android-powered device is preloaded with applications to help users work and play on the go.

Tablet computers are arguably the hottest devices on the market right now, and every manufacturer seems to be blazing its own path in developing and distributing them. Some devices are obtained primarily through major cell phone carriers, but others have much broader availability. The IdeaPad Tablet K1, one of three tablets that Lenovo introduced in July, falls into the latter category.

The entertainment-optimized IdeaPad Tablet K1 offers a range of features, including a powerful 1-gigahertz Nvidia Tegra dual-core processor; a 10.1-inch, high-definition screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 10-point multitouch functionality; 1 gigabyte of RAM; and up to 64GB of solid-state storage. This tablet is beyond hot — it's smokin'.

End-User Advantages

Tablets have revolutionized the way people use computing devices. For some users, the applications that tablets run (and how they run them) are a bigger draw than the devices themselves. Users who care about both will enjoy the IdeaPad Tablet K1.

Based on Google's Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system, the K1 ships with more than 30 applications preinstalled. Productivity-minded users will appreciate Lenovo's inclusion of a fully functioning version of DataViz's Documents To Go mobile office suite. Lenovo also has included PrinterShare, from Printer Anywhere, which allows users to access printers on their wireless local area network or cloud-based printer; and ArcSync, from ArcSoft, which allows users to back up their data to the cloud quickly and easily.

Users with an Android-based smartphone will have no trouble navigating the intuitive K1. In fact, when I logged on the first time, the device automatically downloaded apps from the Android Market that I had purchased previously.

It's clear that Lenovo has taken its time to really polish the design of its tablets. At only half an inch thick and weighing less than 1.7 pounds, the K1 feels good in the hands and is easy to transport and hold for extended periods. I especially liked the leatherlike feel of the aluminum rear casing's skin, as it makes the device very easy to grip.

This design prowess extends to other features that Lenovo chose to include. The K1's mini HDMI connector, for example, allows users to attach the device to larger displays for presentations or for entertainment purposes. The micro SD card reader lets users store and transfer files when needed.

One of the biggest selling points for Android-based tablets, of course, is that they can play Adobe Flash content; the K1 is no different in that regard. Front- and rear-facing cameras, as well as integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, add to the product's high-performance functionality.

Why It Works for IT

District IT departments won't need to worry about updating K1 devices once they're set up. Because the Android OS includes over-the-air (OTA) updates, users simply need to restart their devices to complete necessary updates. What's more, applications that were purchased in the Android Market can be configured to update automatically, saving busy IT staff even more time. Best of all, users who are already comfortable with the Android OS won't require much, if any, training and can probably hit the ground running with the K1.

Another selling point for schools that have begun migrating to Google Apps and other Google services: Nearly all of Google's web-based apps are available in the Android Market.


Some of the apps (Google or otherwise) available to Android users are obviously designed for the smaller screen of a smartphone, rather than the larger screen of a tablet. But this certainly isn't the fault of Lenovo — or any tablet manufacturer, for that matter. Hopefully, more app developers will begin making tablet-specific versions or expand their functionality for proper viewing on larger screens.

One aspect of the K1 that Lenovo could improve is the onscreen keyboard. The Android OS has different keyboards for apps to use depending on what the user is doing. As I was testing the K1, it performed an OTA update that modified the keyboard for the worse, eliminating the comma and question mark from the keyboard that pops up when using Google Apps and certain other applications.

Also during testing, I twice had to force a reset when the K1 became unresponsive. But I think this problem originated with the apps I was using rather than the OS or device itself. I also noticed that every time I set the four-way Lenovo Launcher to customize the functions I use most, the device reset itself.

Lenovo says that the K1 has a battery life of up to 10 hours, and I found that to be accurate. But I would like to see the company include a standard charging cable with the device as well. A USB port also would be a great addition.

Still, Lenovo has built a great little tablet and has bundled with it some very useful apps that users are sure to enjoy.

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