You really have to hand it to a company like Lenovo for daring to take the stage at a time when a heavyweight hitter like the Amazon Kindle Fire is still a relatively fresh face on the block. Does this speak volumes about the tablet manufacturer’s confidence in its ability to deliver a superlative product, or is it something more akin to foolhardy bravado? We’ll find out by pitting the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 tablet head-to-head with the Amazon Kindle Fire to see which of the two emerges victorious.
The Kindle Fire is by far the more attractive of the two devices (yes, we know it features repurposed PlayBook parts), and its eye-catching physique has made it the darling of the budget tablet buying populous. On the other hand, you’ve got the Lenovo IdeaPad A1, which is about as nondescript and no-frills as you can possibly get.
Looking past surface appearance, the Kindle Fire and the Lenovo A1 are practically at a dead heat when you compare their respective weights and dimensions: the A1 weighs in almost a full ounce lighter, but the Fire’s slightly narrower, shorter, and skinnier body render that difference moot.
Another area where the Fire just looks better is in the display. The Lenovo A1’s glare-prone screen pales in comparison with the Kindle Fire’s for video playback. Comparing display quality, arguably the most important feature on any tablet (which are, after all, displays with processors), the Kindle Fire wins going away.
Edge: Amazon Kindle Fire
Pricewise, the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 brings little to the fight, costing $200 to the Kindle Fire’s $199. Perhaps a more practiced and intelligent move would have been to price the IdeaPad A1 at just under $175 to appeal to the thrifty element and combat Amazon’s mighty marketing muscle, but so far that’s not the case.
Not only does the IdeaPad A1 come with its own pre-loaded Lenovo App Shop, but that it can also access and download applications from the Android Market/Google Play Store and the Amazon Appstore for Android. Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire comes hamstringed with the capacity to only access the Amazon Appstore for Android. This isn’t exactly a knockout blow, as the Amazon Appstore is quite robust has most of the “must-have” apps. However, the Kindle Fire lacks a camera, so any camera apps like the soon-to-launch Instragram for Android are obviously off limits, as are any fun augmented reality apps. That alone puts the A1 on top.
Edge: Lenovo IdeaPad A1
Another area where the Kindle Fire could run into trouble against the Lenovo A1 is in the area of on-board storage space. The A1 comes with 16GB of internal storage, which bests the Fire’s 8GB, and Lenovo’s stuck a secret weapon into the glove of the A1 that Amazon either plum forgot about or just neglected to consider: a microSD card slot enabling a user to expand storage space up to 32GB.
Edge: Lenovo IdeaPad A1
And then there’s the whole issue of offline GPS, a feature the A1 boasts that isn’t available with any other tablets. It’s a fun and practical feature that should be a standard feature on more devices. And if you think that could be the knockout blow that cements the A1’s victory, just take a look at the following inclusions of the IdeaPad A1 that the Fire doesn’t offer:
- Front-facing camera (0.3 megapixel)
- Rear-facing camera (3.1 megapixel)
- Built-in mono microphone for recording sound
- Gyroscope (for better tilt gaming controls)
- MicroSD/microSDHC card reader
Considering that everything listed above is conspicuously missing from the Kindle Fire may be enough to make you think twice about going with the obvious “popular” fave, and rightly so. First, the Kindle Fire has no camera. None. And that means no video chat. In fact, the missing microphone means no chat, whether through Skype or other VoIP app period. With the A1, you get two cameras and a mic. Second, the IdeaPad A1 has a mini-USB port, plus a microSD/microSDHC card reader that’ll let you load the tablet to max capacity if you so desire. The Fire has only a single port, a micro-B USB that’s used for charging purposes and loading content, but with only 8GB capacity your options are limited.
Sure, buying the Kindle Fire gives you unlimited Amazon cloud storage at no charge. But the caveat to that unlimited cloud storage is that it’s only free for content purchased through Amazon. If you’ve got a couple of hundred extra gigs of personal video, audio, or eBook content that you’d like to upload to your Amazon cloud, you’re going to have to pay for it out of pocket. It also gives you a free month of Amazon Prime, a service that brings with it a variety of discounts on shipping and downloads, not to mention access to a bunch of streaming movies and TV shows (Amazon Prime is then $79 per year after that, and well worth the cost).
Where the Kindle Fire excels is in its simplicity. Everything flows through Amazon, which means users need only one account and there is minimal login. That’s probably why the device is popular with the less tech-savvy crowds. The IdeaPad A1 on the other hand, offers so much more in terms of features and functions, which may complicate things a bit, but is well worth it by most any estimation
Edge: Lenovo IdeaPad A1
That last fact points out where things really begin to get interesting in the Fire vs. A1 showdown. You can sit and compare smart technological inclusions and stupid glaring omissions all day, but what it ultimately boils down to is this: the real differences between the two tablets are conceptual. If you’re someone who enjoys the freedom that’s inherent in versatility, you’re going to find yourself rooting for the A1 and you’re going to discover that some of its drawbacks (like having to position your screen just right to get the best viewing angle) aren’t that big of a deal. But if you’re someone who craves a simplistic, cozy, automatic approach to your mobile technology, the Kindle Fire is your obvious hero.
The team at TabletPCReview firmly resides in the former camp, which is why in the battle between the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Lenovo IdeaPad A1 Android tablets, we confidently declare the A1 as the better option.