The Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 seeks to strike a balance for consumers looking for a powerful media consumption tablet. At 9 inches, the A2109 provides more display real estate for those who find 7-inch tablets too cramped while offering a slightly more compact form factor than a 10-inch tablet.
Packing a powerful quad-core, Tegra 3 processor and running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the A2109 has some premium specs at a relatively modest price of $300. That being said, like most things, this tablet isn't perfect. So is the A2109 a steal, or are you better off just sucking up the smaller screen size and going with a true budget tablet?
Build & Design
The IdeaTab A2109 is a tank, to put it bluntly. At 9 inches, it's somewhat diminutive in stature, given that we're generally more accustomed to the 10-inch standard for tablets, but it once I picked it up, I was shocked by how heavy it is. Weighing in at 1.3 pounds, it's a dense device, perhaps due in part to its metallic backing and internal roll cage to protect its insides. Such design choices were intentional, as the Lenovo touts the A2109's ability to withstand drops, but it's still surprising for a smaller tablet.
And while its diagonal may be on the smaller side, the A2109 is not particularly thin, as it measures a chunky 0.46 inches. It's not unmanageable, but it is a beefy device, and certainly beefier than you would expect for a 9-inch tablet.
What I don't particularly care for is the design of the A2109, which features edges that slope outwards slightly before sloping back in towards the rounded back. It puts all of the buttons and ports on an awkward angle and, aesthetically speaking, looks very unappealing.
The touchscreen of the A2109 is the device's heel, and it's shockingly ugly despite its 1280 x 800 resolution. That's the sort of HD resolution that usually looks fine on 10-inch tablets, so one would think that cramming those pixels into a slightly smaller space and creating a denser PPI would create an even better looking display. Alas, this isn't the case here.
It has a decent viewing angle, but the compliments end there. Even on the maximum setting, the screen is not very bright -- and certainly not bright enough to fully combat glare -- and when put on auto it's almost always way too dim. But worst of all is the graininess of the screen; it's painful how easily you can see the individual pixels on the display, even without holidng the tablet that close to your face.
Other Buttons and Ports
The speakers, which are SRS enhanced like the ones found on the IdeaTab S2109, sound great, with the usual qualifier being that they're still just tablet speakers. I enjoyed the power of having four speakers on the S2109, so I was a little disappointed when I only found two here on the A2109, but they're still solid and can really blast out the sound at maximum volume (loud enough that it doesn't really matter that they're rear-firing).
For what it's worth, everything else is fairly conventional, with micro-USB and HDMI ports on the right side. and the power switch on the top edge towards the left. I'm not crazy about how hard it is to get a finger on the power button, which is practically flush with the bizarre sloped edge, but I swear the complaints stop there. A volume rocker, orientation lock switch, and headphone jack are on the left, and finally, the bottom edge of the device is devoid of any features.
The front-facing camera is centered right above the display, while the rear-facing camera is located in the upper center of the (very) smooth metallic back of the device. I personally like to have a little bit of grip or texture on my devices, but some may prefer the sleek, industrial look of the metallic backing and the two subtle slits on either side of the camera that house the A2109's twin SRS speakers.
There is a microSD card slot next to one of the speakers, but it's only accessible after removing a panel that covers part of the back of the tablet. It's worth mentioning that it is extremely difficult to remove said panel, to the point where it's a serious inconvenience. You won't be able to pry this thing off with your fingers; you'll have to use a screwdriver like I did, which still wasn't that great of a solution since it still required quite a bit of force and chewed up the edges of the panel a little bit (sorry, Lenovo).
Page 2 of this review discusses the performance and software of the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109.
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