Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 - New Kid on the Block

Launch SRP: S$699

Features

Android Upsize

Since the K1 tablet runs on the Google Android 3.1 OS, you can expect the user interface to be no different from what we have seen on the Acer Iconia Tab A500, Motorola Xoom and ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. 

The Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 is no different from the newer Android tablets. Google Android 3.1 is fast becoming the standard platform.

With Google Android OS, you can customize the home screens with a variety of app shortcuts and widgets.

To give its users the head start in the tablet experience, Lenovo has thoughtfully preloaded more than 30 popular apps (free and paid) onto the IdeaPad Tablet K1. While users of other tablets can download these apps on their own, we felt that this is a plus point for consumers as they don't need to go through the inconvenience of finding apps to download. Moreover, users get to appreciate the cost savings of the paid apps that are preloaded onto the K1. For example, the key to unlock the Documents To Go full version will set you back by US$18.99 - and that comes preloaded on the K1. So the K1 is gunning for a great out-of-the-box experience for its audience. For the full list of the preloaded apps on the K1, click here.

Some of the preloaded apps include AccuWeather for Honeycomb, Kindle for Android, Angry Birds HD and Documents to Go.

Here is a summary of the paid apps that are available on the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1. The paid apps cost a total of S$67.51, which is quite a considerable amount. 

Games Tools
Galaxy on Fire 2 THD - S$13.99 Documents to Go - S$18.99
Need for Speed: Shift - S$3.99 PrinterShare - S$15.95 
Hardwood Solitaire IV - S$3.67 DrawingPad - S$2.44 
Hardwood Spades - S$3.61  
Hardwood Backgammon HD - S$3.65  
Talking Tom Cat - S$1.22  

Applications aside, Lenovo also made some refinements to the Android user interface to make it more user-friendly and they're significant enough to give the K1 an edge over its other Android tablet counterparts. The four main features are the Favorites App Wheel, Lenovo Launch Zone, Lenovo SocialTouch and the multi-tasking tab. First up, here's the Favorites App Wheel:-

In our usage, we found it really handy to scroll through six favorite apps via the App Wheel without the need to go through an entire list via the App Launcher.

 You can add or remove apps from the Favorites App Wheel as you wish. While six app shortcuts is sufficient for most users, we felt that it would have been better if there was a choice to increase or remove the number of app shortcuts available. Sounds like a reasonably simple customization option that would have added yet another plus point to its usability while catering to every user's personal preference. Lenovo, are you listening?

A key feature of the Android platform is the freedom to create app launchers by individual brands. While the Android Market provides a vast number of third-party app launchers, Lenovo decides to invest in its own app launcher, which is known as the Launch Zone.

Lenovo's Launch Zone app gives you one-touch access to videos, web browsing, email, music and reading strategically located on the home screen.

With the exception of the web browser shortcut (center), the rest of the shortcuts can be customized to your liking. The web browser can either be replaced by an image or a display slideshow.

Positioned as a consumer-friendly tablet, the IdeaPad Tablet K1 comes equipped with Lenovo's exclusive SocialTouch app. In a nutshell, the SocialTouch app is similar to what we see from Friend Stream in HTC Sense and Social Hub in Samsung TouchWiz - integrating your social networks and communications into one place. In terms of usability and functionality, the Lenovo's SocialTouch does not offer any advantage over the competition and cannot match up to the highly polished user interfaces of HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz. However, we appreciate the fact that Lenovo took time and effort in providing a better user experience for K1 users and who knows, future iterations of SocialTouch could possibly be better.

Lenovo's SocialTouch app has a widget, which you can place on the home screen to give you a preview of your social feeds, emails and calender entries.

The user interface for SocialTouch is simple and straightforward. On the left, you have access to your favorite Gmail contacts. In the center, you view all the communication and social feeds. On the right, you have five tabs (Gmail, Email, Calender, Facebook and Twitter) to view the feeds individually.

 Above are two screen shots of how the Facebook and Gmail tabs will look like when you view them separately.

Probably the best refinement Lenovo did to the Android user interface is the inclusion of the app kill switch in the multitasking tab. For the longest time, the nagging problem with the Honeycomb multitasking feature is the inability to quit or close an app from the multitasking menu. Fortunately, K1 users can enjoy an enhanced feature of the multitasking tab on its tablet. It's easier and more convenient to end an app right there instead of going through several layers of menu settings in other Android tablets.

We liked the enhanced multitasking tab on the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 (left) as we can easily close apps from there, unlike most Honeycomb-powered tablets (right). So yes, the K1 has a few unique points to pride itself in.

Another thorny issue with Android devices that Lenovo has tackled in the IdeaPad Tablet K1 is the ability to take screen shots. This is done via pressing and holding the Home button, which we mentioned on the earlier page. Besides the ASUS Eee Pad TransformerEee Pad Slider and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, most Android tablets are unable to perform screen captures out-of-the-box unless users root the devices or download paid apps.  Here is a summary of what the Home button does:

  • Pressing the button will take you back to the home screen.
  • Swipe left across the button (when the K1 is in portrait mode) will navigate backwards 
  • Swipe right opens the menu 
  • Press and hold the button to take a screen shot

With the exception of taking screen shots, we did not find the Home button adding extra convenience or functionality to our usage with the IdeaPad Tablet K1. For example, you can easily get to the home screen via the touch screen without needing to use the home button. Having established that the button offers little advantage, its presence also has a downside as it hints at a design borrowed from an Apple iPad. Perhaps a potential lawsuit? We hope not.

Last but not least, Lenovo has its very own App Store, called the Lenovo App Shop. According to Lenovo, its App Shop is a unique offering that has popular apps that are tested specifically for Lenovo tablets. This means that it is safe and reliable to run apps from the App Shop and it's highly unlikely it would crash on you ( a problem faced by Android users) or have other undesirable consequences. While we liked that Lenovo has taken time to test run the popular apps, we are not sure of having two or more app stores in a device. There are a number of other Android app stores in the market such as AppBrain and having more than one app store will mean more confusion for the consumers.  But for those who don't venture out too much, relying on the Lenovo App Shop is the sure and safe way that adds to consumer confidence.

The Lenovo App Shop is actually quite extensive with a broad range of categories available for users to select. You will be able to find a mixture of free and paid apps too.

6.5
Overall rating 6.5/10
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The Good
Enhanced multitasking tab
Valuable preloaded apps
The Bad
Plastic build
Bulky
Frequent system freezes and crashes