Undoubtedly, the star of Lenovo’s CES showing was its Yoga convertible ultrabook/tablet, but the Chinese technology company had another new tablet on display that may have subsequently flown under some peoples’ radar: the IdeaTab S2, a 10-inch Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet with an additional docking station that’s available for purchase.
In terms of what’s under the hood, the S2 is powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait processor which, while powerful, may seem a little dated by the time the device is released, as tablets will soon be making the transition to quad-core processors. It has an estimated 10 hours of battery life, as well as 1 GB of RAM, a micro HDMI out, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and a SIM card slot for, oddly enough, 3G connectivity.
Again, this surprised me that Lenovo seemed to be including somewhat dated technology in the S2, so I double-checked with the rep who was walking me through the device, and he confirmed that there would be a 3G model. He made no mention of whether or not a 4G model would be available at the time of launch, or anytime further down the road. That said, the 3G model could be slated for release overseas, with only a Wi-Fi model coming to the US.
I was impressed by the S2’s display, which has a 1280 x 800 resolution. While it wasn’t as mind-blowing as the Super AMOLED or Super AMOLED Plus displays I’ve gotten to see at this show, it was surprisingly crisp (albeit not nearly as bright) when the rep showed me a video of an extremely-high quality trailer that was clearly meant to make the S2’s display look as good as it possibly could.
I find the 10-inch form factor to be a little too big for my taste when it comes to tablets — I’m very partial to the 7-inch tablets — because I think they’re too awkward to wield one-handed, but the S2 had a textured back and was surprisingly light, so that made things a little more comfortable. At only 8.6 mm thick and weighing in at 580 grams, it’s definitely on the lighter side for tablets in its class.
What concerned me about the build of the S2, however, was that the back of the tablet had some give to it. The plastic was flimsy and actually pushed inwards a little bit as I held the device in my hand, and I felt like I was breaking it. I asked the rep about this and he assured me that this was simply a matter of the unit not being a final product. Customers supposedly have nothing to worry about, as he said that this was a “prototype model” and that the final product would have a sturdier back plate.
ICS and More
As far as the interface is concerned, the S2 runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, but Lenovo skins it with its Mondrian UI, which has much more of a presence than other skins, like Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Basically, it features live tiles on the main home screen, similar to those found in the Metro UI from Microsoft. Just like with Metro, Lenovo’s Mondrian automatically pushes info to the tiles, which can be filled in with various widgets like weather, news, and stocks. One of the other home screens played host to a handful of different file folders for videos, movies, documents, etc.
Though I felt that Mondrian was a little on the intrusive side (in terms of the home screen, at least), I did appreciate that the tiles, when clicked on, would only magnify slightly to provide more information rather than opening up an entirely new window on the screen. This at least allowed the widgets to be a little more streamlined, as I could easily bounce from one to the other since I didn’t have to close a full window that I had just opened.
And regardless of my feelings on the Mondrian UI, I did think that it was a smart move on Lenovo’s part to make sure that the interface remained unchanged whenever placing the S2 into its dock. The interface looks and controls exactly the same regardless of whether or not the S2 is docked, so touchscreen controls are still usable, while the commands that you issue with the on-screen cursor via the dock’s trackpad is are just like using the touch controls; click on something that you would normally tap, or click and do a quick drag over the trackpad to emulate a swipe. It all feels very natural, with the only disappointment being that you can’t do a manual zoom. I could double-click to zoom in one level to a pre-specified magnification, but if I double-clicked again, it zoomed back out. You’ll have to use the touchscreen controls for the precision of the pinch-to-zoom command to which we’ve all become accustomed.
A Dock for a Tablet
As for the dock itself, there’s plenty to love about it, as it provides an extra 10 hours of battery life to the S2, as well as a full-sized SD card slot, a mini USB port, and two full-sized USB ports. It had a very lightweight build, bordering on cheap, like the back of the particular S2 I was handling. I suspect that this was also a preliminary build, because the keyboard had a lot of give; it felt flimsy and it was like I was pushing through or bending the keyboard whenever I was typing.
I did enjoy how easy it was to dock the S2, however, as the dock was built in such a way that there isn’t just a lone plug sticking out that you have to line up with the open port on the bottom of the tablet. Instead, the edges are raised around the entire docking area so you can easily just plop the tablet into the frame by making sure its corners are within the boundaries of the raised area, which will ensure that the docking plug is lined up perfectly with the port on the bottom of the tablet.
The rep I spoke to said that the S2 is due out in the second quarter of 2012, and although the price point has yet to be officially determined, he said that the base model (Wi-Fi only, 16 GB of storage) will probably start somewhere around $400, with the dock somewhere in the range of $150.