While the Apple iPad mini and Google Nexus 7 battle it out for $200+ small-tablet supremacy, Lenovo's IdeaTab A1000 aims for the shopper who doesn't want to pay much more than a Benjamin for a slate. The $129 A1000 boasts a solid set of stereo speakers, full access to the Google Play store and strong battery life. But how does its performance compare to other budget tablets?
Editor's Note: When we initially reviewed the A1000, our battery test did not correctly set the correct screen brightness. After retesting with the correct brightness, the A1000's battery life improved dramatically. As a result, we have updated this review, and increased the rating to 3 stars. We regret the error.
The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 looks and feels like most other 7-inch Android tablets, but we like that its matte-black back resists fingerprints. When held vertically, the right side of the slate hosts a volume rocker and a microSD slot, and a microUSB slot, headphone jack and power button sit on the top edge. In this orientation, the A1000 has two speakers above and below the display, as well as a 0.3-MP camera on the top-left corner of the bezel.
At 12.3 ounces and 7.83 x 4.76 x 0.42 inches, the IdeaTab A1000 felt light and comfortable in our hands. Its dimensions are nearly identical to those of the HP Slate 7 (7.8 x 4.6 x 0.42 inches) and the Asus MeMO Pad HD 7 (7.7 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches), though the Hisense Sero 7 Pro is slightly longer and wider, at 7.9 x 5.0 x 0.4 inches.
The IdeaTab A1000 is marginally heavier than the MeMO Pad HD 7 (11 ounces) but a little lighter than the Slate 7 (13.1 ounces) and Sero 7 Pro (12.7 ounces).
The A1000 is available with either a black or white back panel; we preferred the sleekness of the black model.
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Click to EnlargeThe IdeaTab A1000 has a 7-inch LED display with a 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, which is the same as the resolution on the Slate 7 but lower than the 1280 x 800p screens offered by the Sero 7 Pro and MeMO Pad HD 7.
At 259 lux, the A1000's display is dimmer than the category average of 368, as well as the brightness on the Slate 7 (313), MeMO Pad 7 (358) and Sero 7 Pro (369).
Click to EnlargeStill, websites such as IGN.com and ESPN.com were colorful and clear on the A1000's screen. When we watched the 1080p "Elysium" trailer, Matt Damon's weathered face and dark tattoos looked mostly clear. The action scenes were equally lucid, and we had no trouble making out the many explosions in the movie's sand-and-dirt battlefields. The A1000 was also able to preserve the rich, colorful environments of popular mobile games, such as "Temple Run 2" and "Robot Unicorn Attack 2."
Click to EnlargeLenovo claims that the A1000 is optimized for music, and we found that the tablet is more than capable of providing audio entertainment for laidback listening sessions and small get-togethers. The device's speakers are placed conveniently on the front of the device, so you won't have to worry about muffled music when you set the slate down on a table.
When we listened to a few songs on Spotify, the high-pitched vocals of Vampire Weekend's "White Sky" sounded crisp on the device, as did the acoustic plucking of Bombay Bicycle Club's "Rinse Me Down."
The built-in Dolby Digital Plus equalizer allows users to create specialized audio settings, with customizable profiles for both movies and music. We could choose among presets built for small, medium and large rooms, and we noticed a significant difference in sound when turning bass boost all the way up while listening to Green Day's "Waiting."
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When we measured the device's loudness at 13 inches away from the screen, the A1000 registered 85 decibels, which is slightly louder than the 82-decibel category average but weaker than the Slate 7's 86 decibels and the MeMO Pad HD 7's 91 decibels.
Click to EnlargeThe A1000 runs a fairly clean version of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. From the lock screen, users can slide left to launch the camera, up for Google Now and right to enter the device's home screen. Lenovo outfitted the A1000 with a custom home screen, which includes a weather widget, calendar, sticky notes and folders that conveniently organize media, social and utility apps. The A1000's app and folder layout can be organized any way you see fit.
Click to EnlargeThe A1000 has a standard Android keyboard, with a free update available for trace typing and next-word suggestions available on the Play Store. In our testing, the slate was responsive when we typed in both portrait and landscape modes, and was able to produce accurate sentences when we used trace typing. We also liked its gentle haptic feedback.
The A1000 is powered by a 1.2 GHz, dual-core Cortex-A9 MCU processor with 1GB of RAM. Although the slate lacks the Tegra 3 processor of the Sero 7 Pro, such games as "Temple Run 2" and Jet Ski racing game "Riptide GP2" ran on the device without any noticeable slowdown on default game settings. However, the frame rate in "Riptide GP2" slowed a bit when we turned on the on-screen splash feature.
Click to EnlargeThe device took a quick 2.2 seconds to get back to the home screen from "Temple Run 2," with "Riptide GP2," Chrome, Play Store, Gallery and FM Radio running at the same time. With the same apps running, it took 2.4 seconds for the camera to launch.
Lenovo's A1000 may be serviceable enough for casual gaming, but the tablet fell short on most of our benchmark tests. The device scored 7,200 on the AnTuTu benchmark, which tests CPU, GPU, RAM and I/O performance. That's well below the category average of 12,308, not to mention the HP Slate 7 (11,547), Sero 7 Pro (12,092) and MeMO Pad HD 7 (12,750). Even the HiSense Sero 7 LT, a $99 tablet, scored 8,765 on this test.
Click to EnlargeThe A1000 was similarly underwhelming on Geekbench. While its score of 904 wasn't far behind the Slate 7's 937, it was significantly lower than the Sero 7 Pro (1,283) and category average of 2,364. The Sero 7 LT scored 989.
The slate scored 6,879 on An3DBench, which is below the average of 7,405 as well as the Slate 7 (7,365), Sero 7 Pro (7,636) and MeMO Pad HD 7 (7,139).
The A1000 took 20 seconds to load "N.O.V.A 3," which is 3 seconds slower than the MeMO Pad HD 7.
During our VidTrim benchmark, the A1000 transcoded a 1080p video to 480p in 11 minutes and 31 seconds, which is far slower than the category average of 7:41. However, it took the Slate 7 the same amount of time, and at 11:23, the MeMO Pad wasn't that much faster.
Click to EnlargeThe IdeaTab A1000 comes preloaded with a basic selection of mostly Google apps, with very little bloatware filling the device. Included are Gmail, Google Maps and Chrome, as well as basic Android apps, such as Sound Recorder, FM Radio and Video Player.
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Click to EnlargeWithout a rear camera, the IdeaTab A1000's lone 0.3-MP front camera produced poorly detailed, pale portraits. Our purple shirt looked black, and our facial features were pixelated with blotchy colors. While entry-level 7-inch tablets aren't ideal devices for photography, the MeMO Pad HD 7 and Sero 7 Pro have 5-MP rear cameras, and 1.2 and 2-MP front cameras, respectively.
The IdeaTab A1000's 3,500 mAH battery proved above average. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the A1000 lasted 8 hours and 17 minutes.
That's more than an hour longer than the category average (7:04), and better than the HP Slate 7 (7:34) and the Sero 7 Pro (6:09). The Sero 7 LT lasted just 4:41, but the MeMO Pad HD 7 lasted 9:40.
On Lenovo's website, the A1000 starts at $129 (after a $30 rebate) with an 8GB hard drive, while the 16GB model starts at $149 after a $40 rebate.
Both configurations are available in black or white.
Click to EnlargeAt $129, the Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 is a capable Android tablet for everyday Web browsing, music listening and casual gaming. We also like that it gets more than 8 hours on a charge, but wish it offered just a little more performance. While it doesn't last as long, the Hisense Sero 7 Pro packs a Tegra 3 processor, higher-resolution 720p display for the same price -- and at $149, the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 offers an hour more of endurance. As it stands, the A1000 is a good, but not great entry-level slate.