Lenovo features an extensive Android tablet lineup, most of which are south of $250. For example, the starting price for the Lenovo TAB 2 A8 is $129, with an optional folio case for $19.99. As long as you can overlook the reference to “Android 5.0 KitKat” on the main product page, you’ll see an impressive list of specs for a very affordable price. Highlights include a 720p display, 16GB storage (11.85GB usable) and a quad-core MediaTek processor (not a great processor for the Android development community, but if you don’t need to flash a custom ROM on it you’ll be able to live with it). The full spec list follows:
- Processor: MediaTek 8161 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 (1.30GHz)
- Operating system: Android 5.0 Lollipop
- Display: 8.0″ IPS LED LCD Touch (800×1280)
- Memory: 1.0GB LPDDR2 800 MHz
- Storage: 16GB EMMC
- Network Card: 802.11.b/g/n Wifi Wireless
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Battery: 4200 mAh
The chassis design is a bit odd, with the MicroUSB port off-center on the left side (landscape orientation) and the power button near the center of the top to the right of the volume rocker. The latter took some getting used to in everyday use – I often found myself trying to wake the device using the volume rocker. The display (again in landscape orientation) is flanked by dual front-facing speakers, each speaker placed flush against the edge. The bezels are satisfyingly thin without being so thin as to encourage errant taps simply from holding it. The matte plastic back has a premium feel to it, but the display is a smudge magnet which you will have to frequently wipe clean.
The OEM skin on this Lollipop-powered tablet is pleasingly lightweight, with only a few (actually useful) added apps. The UI also closely resembles stock Lollipop, and most differences serve to enhance the user experience. Included among these is MiraVision display optimization, which allows you to adjust your display’s contrast, brightness and saturation either with presets or with complete manual control. Also included is Dolby Atmos® Cinematic Moving Audio, which further enhances the already impressive speaker audio. You can even schedule times for your tablet to turn off and back on.
As I said, sound quality was outstanding on the Lenovo Tab 2 A8, facilitated partially by the hardware (dual front-facing speakers) and the included Dolby Atmos® app. One thing I particularly liked about the Dolby app is the ability to optimize audio for dialogue. This has long been one of my pet peeves as many movies and TV shows I’ve streamed through Netflix, Hulu et. al have excessively high volume for special effects and action sequences while the dialog is hard for me to hear.
The display is adequate for viewing videos and graphics, but 720p seems a bit old hat in 2015. Still, it’s a $129 tablet so it’s still a good value. Making it still easier to live with 720p resolution is the MiraVision app, which (as I mentioned before) allows you to tweak gamma, brightness, contrast and saturation to your liking. For example, if you’re a fan of the vivid colors found in a Super AMOLED display, you can create a reasonable facsimile on the LCD display of the A8.
Speed, Power and Battery Life
I have yet to experience a force close on the A8, though I only tested it in regular everyday use as opposed to high-end gaming. It was more than up to the task for browsing, checking email, updating apps, using a custom launcher and applying a custom icon pack, playing videos and using Google’s latest and greatest apps. I took the battery from 100% down to 5% with a combination of playing video on Netflix, a full movie on Google Play Movies and TV (X-Men: Days of Future Past if you’re curious), overnight standby on my nightstand and the first 18 minutes of the original X-Men (2000) film. Overall, it lasted 27 hours without having to recharge.
If you’re into heavily customizing your Android tablet with custom ROMs, kernels and other mods, you should look elsewhere. If you want a reasonably fast, very affordable Lollipop-powered tablet with excellent performance of everyday tasks and premium audio quality, the Lenovo Tab A8 could very well be your go-to. For $129, it’s a great value for a quality tablet.