The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 sports the same NVIDIA dual-core Tegra 2 processor as every other Honeycomb tablet we?ve tested to date. It also ships with Honeycomb 3.1, and the tablet is reasonably responsive with snappy performance and smooth transitions. Crashes were infrequent, but I’ve had the custom Lenovo widgets fail on me a handful of times, and some of the more demanding Android apps unexpectedly quit or refused to start up. Lenovo applied some relatively heavy tweaks to Honeycomb ? heavier than other manufacturers have done to date ? and I suspect there are still bugs that future updates will suss out.
The browser was extremely stable in my testing, and Flash support, superb. Videos loaded quickly and completely, and I was able to swiftly hop from one point to another in the clips without much delay.
The Lenovo Honeycomb tablet took 25 seconds to power up from a cold stop, which is a bit faster than some other tablets. Both the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Thrive took approximately 30 seconds. The IdeaPad also had an impressive battery life, lasting 5 hours and 54 minutes while constantly streaming video with the screen brightness maxed out and Wi-Fi on. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 lasted only 4 hours and 39 minutes with the same test. However, the Tab 10.1 has a much brighter screen than the IdeaPad. The Toshiba Thrive, which has a screen comparable to the IdeaPad, lasted 4 hours and 25 minutes.
Looking at our benchmarks, the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 tablet?s performance matches other tablets in its class. Having used every one of these devices, I can safely say the differences between the best and the worst tablets in this chart are very difficult to discern in real world use.
Quadrant measures CPU, 3D, and memory performance. Higher numbers are better.
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is the first Honeycomb tablet to support Netflix, and the app comes pre-loaded on the device. Netflix support is arguably the most important differentiator between this and other Honeycomb tablets, but it?s hard to get too worked up about it. After all, Netflix has been available for the Apple iPad for more than a year.
Still, a major drawback to all Honeycomb tablets to date has been the lack of movie streaming and entertainment options, and Netflix goes a long way to balancing the scales between Honeycomb on the IdeaPad and iOS. (Editor’s note: Netflix now supported for Android 3. x devices, read our full Netflix for Honeycomb review) Also pre-loaded is an mSpot movie rental app, and Google movie rentals are available through the browser, though I suspect a dedicated Google Movie app will arrive sooner rather than later. Also, the IdeaPad has an HDMI output (cable not included), meaning users can stream Netflix from the tablet to a large HDTV. That function is only available on the iPad through a $39 accessory cable.
The IdeaPad also launches with thirty or so additional apps. Some qualify as bloatware in my estimation, including PrinterShare and Norton Security, but there are some goodies like Angry Birds HD and Documents to Go. There is also Lenovo Social Touch app and widget, a one-stop hub for all email, Facebook, calendar, and Twitter content and contacts. The single widget provides a nice alternative to the potential clutter of multiple widgets, and there are settings to filter messages for work, home, and oddly enough, ?commute.? But it?s buggy at launch and needs a little work before it becomes my own personal social hub.
Of course, additional apps are available through both the Android Market and a Lenovo App shop. Lenovo claims its app shop has only apps designed for the large tablet screen, and none of the poorly-sized smartphone apps found in the Android Market.
Lenovo applied a few tweaks to Android Honeycomb, perhaps more than any other manufacturer to date. Overall, the additions smooth out the experience, and one in particular addresses a frequent complaint I?ve had with Google?s tablet operating system.
Manual app management in Android is a hassle. There is no easy way to close out background apps as that function is buried in a Settings sub menu. In all fairness, Android is very good at managing apps and memory on its own, but I like having as much control over my device as possible, which Android otherwise provides ? it’s why I prefer Android to iOS.
Lenovo solves this by allowing users to close out apps through the Recent Apps list in the System bar on the homescreen. It?s a simple and effective tweak and I can?t see why Google didn?t include it as a native feature.
Other Honeycomb additions include a favorite apps wheel accessible through the System bar that can be called up from anywhere, either in an app or out of one; and a quick-start quadrant on the homescreen called the Lenovo Launch Zone with shortcuts for the web, email, music, movies, pictures, eBooks, and device settings. The quadrant is customizable for apps, colors, and transparency. Both are decent additions, but the Launch Zone seems a bit redundant given that users can simply group the same shortcuts together on the homescreen manually.