Lenovo Tab 2 A8 review: A bare-bones budget buy

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THE GOOD

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 is an affordable tablet for surfing the Web, checking email and streaming video. The preloaded Dolby app significantly improves audio quality. It has a microSD card slot.

THE BAD

The design is thick and hefty. The 1,280×800-resolution display is low by today’s standards. Large apps and games take a while to load, and performance within them is sometimes sluggish.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8’s performance is typical for its size and price, but if you’re strapped for cash, it’s fine for casual use.

If you can spend more than a few bones on a tablet, I highly recommend doing so. If you can’t, the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 is a decent tablet that’ll satisfy simple needs.

The inexpensive 8-incher is decidedly outdated, with a chunky design and specs that would impress if this was 2013. However, not everyone needs the latest and greatest device, rendering the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 an acceptable choice for those who are apathetic about aesthetics and tolerant of dated tech.

At its rock-bottom price, the Lenovo Tab 2 A8’s offerings are simple — yet common for a tablet in its price range — and all of its shortcomings are the result of sacrifices made to meet its low cost. The tablet is available for $129 in the US, £90 in the UK and AU$229 in Australia.

Design

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 looks like a budget tablet. For an 8-inch slate, it’s girthy and heavy. In a time when flagship tablets are fighting to be the thinnest and lightest ever, the Lenovo’s design is unimpressive. Aesthetics aside, it’s still comfortable to use.

SPECS COMPARED

Tested spec Lenovo Tab 2 A8 Amazon Fire HD 7 Dell Venue 7 LG G Pad 7.0
Weight 0.79 pound (360g) 0.74 pound (337g) 0.64 pound (290mm) 0.65 pound (295g)
Width (landscape) 8.3 inches (210mm) 7.4 inches (186mm) 7.6 inches (193mm) 7.4 inches (186mm)
Height 4.9 inches (125mm) 5 inches (128mm) 4.6 inches (116mm) 4.5 inches (114mm)
Depth 0.35 inch (8.9mm) 0.4 inch (10mm) 0.35 inch (8.9mm) 0.4 inch (10mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.7 inch (18mm) 0.6 inch (15mm) 0.8 inch (21mm) 0.7 inch (18mm)

The blue plastic back panel features a smooth, matte finish that feels soft against your fingertips. The edges are flat, with a ridge created by the front panel connecting with the back panel. The ridge isn’t sharp and doesn’t protrude too much, so resting your fingers on the sides is still pleasant.

The top edge is home to the Micro-USB port and headphone jack, with the microSD card slot on the top-left corner, and the volume rocker and power button on the right. In a strange design choice, the Lenovo tablet has the volume rocker placed above the power button. Traditionally, most models have these buttons the other way around, so I often pushed the volume rocker when I meant to press the power button and vice versa.

The front of the tablet is bordered by unfashionably thick bezels with a front-facing camera at the top and a speaker at the very end of each edge. The speakers are in the center so, depending on how you’re holding the tablet, it’s easy to block them. However, the tablet and its bezels are so thick, they both give you enough space to keep your fingers out of the way.

Features

Inexpensive tablets not only ignore conventional beauty standards, they also skimp on the software bells and whistles. The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 runs on a pure version of Android Lollipop 5.0 and, unlike previous models, it features an app tray to easily peruse all of your apps in one central location.

Lenovo preloads some of its own apps (some would disparagingly call this “bloatware”) like a browser, contacts and a calendar app, and it also includes the SyncIt and ShareIt apps. SyncIt allows you to sync your contacts and back up or restore your microSD card, while ShareIt allows you to share documents with another tablet, phone, or PC. Neither are essential, but if you’re a newbie, they’re convenient to have preloaded onto the tablet and are easy to use.

Hardware

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 houses a 1.3GHz quad-core Mediatek MT8161 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot that’s expandable up to 32GB.

Other features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and an accelerometer.

Packing only 16GB of internal storage, the microSD card slot is essential.

Performance

As previously mentioned, the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 does just fine for casual use. You can expect to write email, check social networks and stream videos without a hitch. It’s a smooth performer, though not very fast, and the tablet tends to slow down a lot when performing more labor-intensive tasks, such as editing photos or working with a word processor.

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 has a 1,280×800-pixel resolution IPS LCD screen that’s passe, but cheap tablets need to cut corners somewhere. The separation between the display and screen not only looks outdated, but contributes to the screen’s lackluster color saturation and dull brightness. Viewing angles are wide, and HD video looks sharp enough, yet due to its low resolution, it’s not as sharp as theSamsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 or the Dell Venue 8 7000.

3DMARK UNLIMITED

Nvidia Shield Tablet : 28,104

Dell Venue 7 : 6,686

Lenovo Tab 2 A8 : 6,058

LG G Pad 7.0 : 4,685

NOTE : Score: Larger numbers are better.

If you’re trying to play anything more intense than Angry Birds, gaming performance is sluggish. Large games take a while to download, install and load. Gameplay suffers from choppy graphics and lag often occurs, even if there aren’t any apps open in the background. While playing NOVA 3, the game sometimes stopped for a brief second then continued to chug along, the way a record skips. In 3DMark benchmarks, it does better than the LG G Pad 7.0, another budget tablet, but that’s not really saying much. The good news is, thanks to the Dolby-powered speakers, the sound effects are clear, crisp and immersive.

About those speakers: tablets aren’t known for their sound quality, however Dolby has made strides to change that. The Tab 2 A8 features Dolby’s latest Atmos technology, which replicates the way sound dynamically moves through space in real life. The tablet comes preloaded with the Dolby app, and when tweaked to the correct settings, it significantly improves sound, not just through the speakers, but via headphones as well. The front-facing speakers are loud enough for enjoying movies, but they lack bass, making them less apt for playing music.

Another thing tablets aren’t known for but still ceaselessly provide are cameras. The Lenovo tablet features a 2-megapixel front-facer and a 5-megapixel shooter in the back. Both take washed-out photos with fuzzy focus and dull colors. The photo quality is also overwhelmingly grainy, especially in low-light situations. If taking a photo with a tablet doesn’t embarrass you, the quality of these photos will.

Lenovo claims that the Tab 2 A8 has a battery life of about 8 hours. After one test run of looping a local video, the tablet lasted 7.5 hours. Check back soon after we’re testing through it in the CNET Labs for the final result.

Conclusion

There’s nothing spectacular about the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 besides its low price tag. The Dolby Atmos technology is great if you like watching movies, but the low quality of the display makes it hard to seriously recommend it to movie buffs. If you’re on a shoestring budget, other tablets in the same price range will offer similarly mediocre performance and design.

In the budget tablet category, you should also take a look at the Amazon Fire HD 7 or Dell Venue 7. They’re a bit smaller, sitting at 7 inches, but they offer comparable pricing and specs. The Fire HD 7 has an edge with its custom operating system, which makes sharing the tablet among family members simple and easy, while the Venue 7 is refreshing for its bloatware-free Android OS.

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 performs adequately enough for basic tasks. It won’t max your credit card or impress your tech-savvy friends, but if you’re seriously considering this tablet, those concerns are likely not on your radar. If your main deciding factor is price, not quality, the Tab 2 A8 is an acceptable choice.

(cnet.com)

 

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