The A8 is the middle sibling in Lenovo's A-Series tablets and a new entry in the growing segment of sub-$200 budget tablets. Lenovo has sweetened the deal with the latest version of Android as well as an 8-inch IPS display. But how does this $179 tablet compare to similarly priced 8-inch devices from the likes of Acer and Dell?
The Lenovo A8 comes only in Midnight Blue, setting it apart from the traditional sea of blacks and whites found on most other tablets. The 8-inch display is accompanied by a single speaker embedded into the black plastic bezel. Unlike its bigger brother the Lenovo A10, the bezel on the A8 goes right to the edge of the device, making it more visually appealing. The A8's soft-touch matte blue backing is resistant to all but the most oil-heavy smudges.
At 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.35 inches, the A8 is taller but otherwise comparable in size to the Acer Iconia A1-830 (8 x 5.5 x 0.32 inches) and the Dell Venue 8 (8.3 x 5.1 x 0.38 inches). Weighing 12.6 ounces, the A8 is lighter than the 13.15-ounce A1-830 and barely heavier than the 12.3-ounce Dell Venue 8.
On the top edge of the A8 is a microUSB port and a headphone jack. A micro SD card slot is on the left side, protected by a somewhat flimsy plastic flap.
The A8 comes with an 8-inch, 1280 x 800 IPS display. That's the same resolution as the Dell Venue 8, and higher than the 1024 x 768 panel on the Acer Iconia A1-830. The screen has good color reproduction for a budget tablet, and viewing angles were wide enough so that a few people clustered around the tablet could see the display. When we watched a 1080p trailer for "No Man's Sky," we enjoyed the vivid saturated colors of the alien world.
However, the A8's screen is dimmer than the competition. The slate averaged only 290 nits on our light meter, compared with the Acer Iconia A1-830's 298 nits, the Dell Venue's 326 nits and the category average of 333 nits. This was especially apparent when trying to view the screen outside.
Based on our measurements, the A8's screen can display 83.4 percent of the sRBG color spectrum. That's lower than the tablet average of 85 percent but far better than the Acer Iconia A1-830's 62 percent and the Dell Venue's 70 percent.
The A8's display also offers very good color accuracy. Its Delta-E rating of 1.7 (scores closer to 0 are better) beats the Acer Iconia's 13.1, the Dell Venue 8's 2.6 and the category average of 5.4.
Unlike the larger A10, which has two speakers, the A8 features a single front speaker located opposite the Lenovo logo. On the Laptop Mag audio test, the A8 produced 82 decibels measured from 13 inches away. That's slightly ahead of the 81 dB of the Dell Venue 8, the 79 dB category average and much louder than the Acer Iconia A1-830's 70 dB.
Listening to Daft Punk's "Alive 2007" album, we noticed the bass and low end had a hard time competing with the more noticeable mids. Highs were sometimes indistinct when listening to high hats or other percussion.
The Lenovo A8 comes with the Dolby Stereo Sound app, which allows you to select from several presets or customize your own equalizer. There are also options for surround virtualizer, dialogue enhancer and volume leveler, although the latter two options did not have a very pronounced effect. The music preset was the best all-around choice, although we ended up customizing our own to help address the weak bass.
The A8 stayed relatively cool throughout our testing. After 15 minutes of watching streaming video, the hottest spot on the tablet (just below the Lenovo logo on the front) was 85 degrees, cooler than the Acer Iconia A1-830's 87.5 and much cooler than the category average of 95.2 F.
The A8 comes equipped with two cameras, a 5-MP camera in the rear and a 2-MP front shooter.
Both cameras have settings for day and night modes, white balance, color effects and exposure levels. Both cameras also provide normal and face beauty modes, while the rear camera has additional features like live photo, panorama and multi-view shots.
The rear camera performed well when taking pictures near Madison Square Park. Even without HDR, both shadows and highlights were detailed and colors were bright. The most interesting feature is multi-view mode, which allowed us to rotate the camera around a flower pot to create a reverse panorama.
Photos using the front camera came out a little darker than we would like but otherwise acceptable for a 2-MP sensor. On the other hand, the face beauty mode goes a little too far, which caused our self-portrait to look overly photoshopped and unrealistic.
Videos of passing traffic taken at a resolution of 720p were bright and colorful; the yellow taxis and green trees in the background especially stood out.
The A8 features a 1.3-GHz quad core MTK 8121 CPU, 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory. Overall performance was good, but not great. When we played "Metal Slug Defense," the slate easily handled the game's 2D sprite-based graphics. However, the A8 had more difficulty on "N.O.V.A. 3." Gameplay was sluggish, and low frame rates made aiming slow.
When we watched a 1080p episode of "Justified," we noticed some stuttering and lag; users will want to choose 720p videos for smoother playback.
The A8 scored 1176 in Geekbench 3, which measure multicore performance. That's ahead of the Acer Iconia A1-830's 1054 but behind the Dell Venue 8's 1301 and the category average of 2141, which includes more premium tablets like the iPad Air and Samsung Galaxy Note Pro.
On our video editing test, the A8 transcoded a 204 MB 1080p video to 480p in 10 minutes and 38 seconds. This time is faster than the Acer Iconia A1-830's 11:48, the Dell Venue 8's 23:23 and the category average of 11:58.
The A8 delivered lackluster performance on the 3DMark Ice Storm graphics test. The slate scored a lowly 3,206, which is behind the category average of 9,636, the Dell Venue 8's 8,198 and the Acer Iconia A1-830's 6,123.
OS and Interface
The A8 comes with Android 4.2 but already had an upgrade to Android 4.4.2 waiting when we powered it on. Getting to the settings menu is as simple as a quick swipe down from the top right corner. From here you can toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Airplane Mode, while also accessing power settings, location services, brightness, audio profiles and screen options.
Navigating around Android 4.4 was easy on this slate. However, the choice to use onscreen buttons for back, home and menu does decrease usable screen area.
A finger swipe in from the right side of the screen opens Lenovo's Smart Side Bar, which offers quick access to photos, books, videos and display settings. The side bar also saves your five most recently used apps.
Storage and Expansion
Lenovo packed the A8 with 16 GB of flash memory. This capacity can be expanded to a max of 48 GB by adding a 32 GB micro SD Card.
With its 4200-mAh battery, the A8 lasted an impressive 8 hours and 47 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi on 150 nits of screen brightness). That's nearly three hours longer than the Acer Iconia A1 (6:08), and about 40 minutes longer than the Dell Venue 8 (8:06) and the category average (8:09).
The A8 comes pre-installed with a fair number of apps, including Skype, Texas Poker, UC Browser, Evernote, Route 66 Navi + Maps, Kingsoft Office, Accuweather, Norton Mobile Security, SHAREit and SYNCit.
We found the SHAREit app to be the most useful of the included software, as it allows users to create a wireless hotspot and share music, video and photos seamlessly with other devices with the software installed. We transferred a 930 MB video from a nearby HTC One in less than 3.5 minutes, making moving large files a breeze.
At $179, the Lenovo A8 stacks up well against other 8-inch Android tablets, as it offers longer battery life and a richer and more accurate (albeit dimmer) screen. With any budget tablet, you have to temper your expectations, as the A8 had trouble on more demanding activities, such as 3D games. But if you're looking for an inexpensive and portable Android tablet, the Lenovo A8 is a solid option.