BARCELONA -- Remember when the iPad launched and people thought it was a bargain at $499? Today, you can get a full-featured slate for less than the cost of a microwave oven. A strong case-in-point, Lenovo's newly-announced Tab A10-70, Tab A8-70 and IdeaPad Miix 300 tablets offer a bevy of premium features, including surround sound, a high-res display or full Windows for under $200. We had a chance to spend a few moments with the low-cost devices at Mobile World Congress and were impressed with their versatility.
Starting at $199 in April, the Lenovo Tab A10-70 provides a bright 10-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel IPS display and a back-facing soundbar that is capable of outputting Dolby Atmos surround sound. When we fired up a demo video of a jungle scene, different animal noises sounded like they were coming from various parts of the room. While we didn't get to attach headphones to the A10-70, they should provide even greater separation of sound.
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On the inside, the A10-70 is powered by a 1.5-GHz, quad-core MediaTek processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage memory. A microSD expansion slot will allow users to add an additional 32GB on their own. Rear-facing 8-MP and front-facing 5-MP cameras promise sharp images and video. Lenovo promises up to 10 hours of battery life
Though not made of metal, the 1.1-pound, 0.35-inch slate has a premium look and feel. We particularly appreciated the smooth feel of its dark blue, soft-touch back panel. We also liked the clean look of its lightly-skinned, Android operating system (the system will launch with Android 4.4 and get an OTA update to Android 5). Unlike many other Android tablets, the A10-70 has haptic feedback, which gives a nice tactile feel to its buttons and keyboard.
Due in June, the $129 Lenovo, 8-inch Tab A8-70 cuts a few corners to hit its very-low price point. Its has a lower-resolution, 1024 x 600 display, 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, 5 and 2-MP cameras, no Dolby Atmos, and a slightly-slower 1.3-GHz MediaTek CPU. However, it has a similarly attractive chassis, which comes in midnight blue, pink, black or white, and will run the same, clean version of Android 5.0. The A8-80 weighs a reasonable .8 pounds and is just .35 inches thick.
Consumers who want a full-fledged Windows experience will find a great bargain in the $149 Miix 300, which runs Windows 8.1 on its 8-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel IPS display. The tablet's .8-pound, 0.37-inch-thick chassis comes in a simple black color with a faux-metal back panel. On the inside, the Miix 300 is powered by an Intel Atom Baytrail CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32 or 64GB of eMMC memory. A microSD card slot allows users to add storage.
Due in July, the IdeaPad Miix 300 has 2-MP and 5-MP front and rear facing cameras for capturing images. However, there's no HDMI or DisplayPort out so no way to connect to an external monitor, apart from using Miracast to wirelessly project to one.
Though we didn't have a chance to benchmark Lenovo's new Windows slate, we expect solid performance and strong battery life (Lenovo promises up to 7 hours) from any device with a Baytrail processor. The IdeaPad Miix 300 also comes with a free year of Office 365, making it a really great bargain for students or anyone that needs to be productive on the go.