Editor's Note 11/7/11:
This review has been updated to reflect the launch of Netflix for Android 3.x devices.
How does one market a Honeycomb tablet effectively when there are half a dozen others just like it already on the market? According to Lenovo reps, that was the challenge Lenovo engineers recognized when developing the IdeaPad K1. So, in an attempt to distinguish the K1 from the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Motorola Xoom, and other Honeycomb tablets, Lenovo added a custom skin, a boatload of apps, and perhaps most notably, Netflix support.
But is that enough? Other Honeycomb tablets have user interface tweaks, and Netflix has been available on the iPad for more than a year. In addition, Honeycomb tablet sales have been lackluster, especially in the face of the market dominating iPad 2. It seems Lenovo has to endeavor to not only differentiate its tablet, but also convince buyers the K1 is an excellent buy. Let?s find out if the company succeeded.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is a 10.1-inch tablet that, when viewed from head-on, looks exactly like its 10.1-inch cousins. The only distinguishing feature on the display is an oblong button on the right side that functions as a home button when tapped and takes screenshots when pressed for a few seconds.
The IdeaPad has a sturdy aluminum border that extends to the back, and houses two stereo speakers in a thicker portion on the bottom. The rest of the back is sheer plastic and it contains a five-megapixel rear-facing camera along with a photo flash. The plastic has a bit of bounce to it, but it is securely in place and not removable like the Toshiba Thrive?s back panel. The K1 is available in three colors: white, black, and red.
Only two of the K1?s four sides house ports and buttons. There is a proprietary charging connector on the bottom, next to a 3.5mm audio jack and microHDMI port. The on-board mic, power button, volume rocker, orientation lock switch and a microSD card slot are on the left side.
There is no USB port, so you can?t take advantage of Honeycomb 3.1?s USB hosting feature without an adapter. Also, the microSD slot cover is secure, and can only be opened by pressing the pinhole next to it, and that requires a thumbtack or other fine point. It?s annoying and unnecessary.
Overall, the K1 has a good build quality, buttressed by the aluminum border and back panel portion, which also makes it a bit more grip-friendly than the sheer plastic tablets and all-aluminum iPad 2.
Lenovo IdeaPad K1 specs:
Display and Speakers
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 display suffers from the same quality issues as the Toshiba Thrive, Motorola Xoom, and virtually all other Honeycomb tablets before it, sans the Galaxy Tab 10.1. (Samsung?s Honeycomb slate has the best overall display, for my money anyway.) Compared with the iPad 2, which has fewer pixels per inch (132 to 150), the IdeaPad?s display is not nearly as bright or nearly as crisp. As with other Honeycomb tablets, the picture has a blue/green tint that is not nearly as pleasant as the iPad?s magenta hue. Viewing angles are acceptable and match the Thrive?s output, but given that the IdeaPad supports Netflix, I was hoping for a display that at least matches the iPad 2 for watching movies.
Unfortunately, it?s much the same with the speakers. In addition to being poorly placed on the back of the device, where they direct sound away from the user (which, to be fair, is not a problem unique to this particular tablet), the output is subpar. Bass is non-existent and the volume maxes out at a very low level. Headphones go a long way to curing the issues, but even with ear buds, the sound is a bit tinny and does not sound nearly as full as it should.
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