Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 Review [video]

November 5, 2012
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A while ago, we reviewed the Lenovo IdeaTab S2110, which was more or less Lenovo’s answer to the Asus Transformer series. Now, we’re taking a look at the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109, which seems to be their answer to the Nexus 7, but with a larger 9-inch screen.

Is the similarly spec’d Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 a solid alternative to Google’s Nexus 7, or is it too little too late? Read on to see what we think, or jump to either our conclusion or our video review.

Specs

  • 9-inch LED display with 1280 x 800 resolution
  • NVIDIA Tegra 3¬†T30SL¬†1.2 GHz quad-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 or 16 GB internal storage
  • 3-megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 1080p video recording
  • SRS Wow surround sound

First Impressions

The Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 is slightly bulkier than a lot of its peers, and it might not be quite as pretty, but it isn’t as ugly as a lot of tablets on the market either. There is a wide bezel around the 9-inch screen, which seems larger than it needs to be, but this could be to provide extra space for the components inside.

The IdeaTab A2109 isn’t the easiest tablet to handle. Something about the combination of the thin edges and the above-average weight make holding the A2109 for longer periods of time a chore.

Build Quality

While it loses points for attractiveness, the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 makes up for that in its general build quality. The tablet shows no signs of bending or flexing, even when you apply a lot of pressure. While this does add to the issue mentioned above of the tablet being uncomfortable to hold, the quality of both the build and the materials used are clear.

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to to the IdeaTab A2109’s build quality. In our review unit, the motor that provides haptic feedback was both very loud and,¬†simultaneously,¬† very weak. When typing, for example, a clear buzzing sound would come from the lower left corner of the device, and would get louder when the on-screen keyboard was tapped closer to the motor. The effect was not entirely unlike that of ¬†a large, angry bee trapped inside the tablet.

It is possible that this was a problem that only affected our review unit, as the Lenovo IdeaTab S2110 we reviewed recently didn’t have this problem at all.

Display

The display is where the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 begins to lose major points. While the tablet boasts a 9-inch screen, its resolution of 1280 x 800–the same as the Nexus 7–doesn’t provide enough pixel density for so large a screen. As a result, there is noticeable aliasing visible in both text and images.

Viewing angles aren’t great either. Stray too far in any direction, and the display becomes washed out. Generally, no matter what brightness settings you use, the display appears a little blown out, especially at the edges.

Performance

The Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 performs very well, thanks to its quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. Apps launched quickly, and at no time during our testing was any major lag apparent, even in demanding apps. Games perform very well on the A2109 as well. We threw a few recent games with 3D graphics at the tablet, and it handled them all without breaking a sweat.

Battery life for the IdeaTab A2109 is excellent. Lenovo claims that the battery lasts upwards of 10 hours, even under heavy use, and we were indeed able to verify that the battery does last that long. After using the tablet on and off for two days, the battery was at 50 percent after more than 24 hours unplugged.

Software

Looking at software, the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 runs a skinned version of Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. There has been no word on whether the tablet will see an upgrade to Jelly Bean, and so far, Lenovo has been quiet on the matter.

While many users prefer stock Android on tablets, the skin used by the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 is less of a resource hog than a lot of skins. It includes a handy “edit mode” for the home screen, allowing you to queue up icons and folders to be deleted, and then save your changes to put them in effect.

The usual suite of Google apps is included, such as Gmail, Chrome and Google Maps. A few other apps like Docs To Go, AccuWeather, ooVoo and Zinio are included as well. As is par for the course, these apps can be disabled, but not removed.

An update for the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 became available during our testing of the device. It was a 43 MB download, but as far as well could tell, all it seemed to do was remove the Lenovo App Shop, which Lenovo discontinued earlier this year.

Camera

The 3-megapixel rear-facing camera included on the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 is very similar to cameras on other tablets in that it is useful for taking a quick photo, but the quality isn’t great. There are some issues where the color temperature for a given photo seems to be chosen at random, leading to some oddly-colored pictures.

While the photo aspect of the camera is usable but not great, the 1080p video feature of the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 is far worse. The framerate of video we captured during testing was 8 frames per second, lending a lurching flicker effect to every video. Beyond this, it was plain to see that low-light performance is far worse when capturing video than when taking photos.

Video Review

Conclusion


With a retail price of $259 for the 16 GB version of the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109, this tablet might have stood a chance before the price for the 16 GB Nexus 7 dropped to $199, but now there is no contest, unless you really want a 9-inch screen. Even then, there are better options available.

If Lenovo drops the price, they might have a seller on their hands, but unless it’s cheaper than a comparable Nexus 7, we don’t imagine that many customers will be rushing to buy the IdeaTab A2109.

What do you think of the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109? Do you own one or plan on purchasing one? Do you have any suggestions for better tablets in the same price range?

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