The IdeaTab S2110 is Lenovo’s latest effort to compete in the Android tablet space. With the last-generation S2109, the company tried to make an Android tablet that looked and felt like an iPad. This time around, it made one that looks like a laptop. The S2110 is sold as a standalone tablet and also with a keyboard dock, a la the Asus Transformer. However, given that this form factor is quite the rage for both Android and upcoming Windows tablets, the new IdeaTab is more riding on a wave than going for imitation this time around.
Has Lenovo improved its tablet game? Read on to find out.
Look and Feel
For the S2110, Lenovo abandoned the iPad-like design and screen size of the S2109 and instead went with a design that fits in with other 10-inch Android tablets. Unlike previous Lenovo tablets, the IdeaTab looks pretty indistinguishable from the crowd unless you see the logo on the back, so it’s not as distinctively Lenovo.
Still, this new IdeaTab is clearly a descendant of the S2109, and has some of that tablet’s flaws, though does improve in key areas. The plastic case means that the IdeaTab is light, overall, which we appreciate on larger slates. However, the flexing back panel and little creaks you hear if you squeeze the edges don’t fill us with confidence that the design is rock solid. You can see the liquid crystals flare up if you put a little pressure on the bezel, too.
The display on the front appears to be of better quality in this model and we didn’t encounter any of the build issues noted in our last review. In fact, the 10.1-inch IPS display offered wide viewing angles and rich colors. This time, Lenovo went with a more familiar resolution (1280 x 800 pixels) and widescreen aspect ratio.
As happy as seeing a micro HDMI port on this tablet makes us, the lack of microSD for those who want extra file storage is disappointing. Buyers will have their choice of 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, which can fill up fast with media unless you take advantage of cloud services. Good thing there’s a card slot on the optional dock.
Since the S2110 is designed for use with a keyboard dock, the placement of buttons and cameras privilege landscape orientation. The power button is up top, and the volume rocker is on the right side. The front-facing camera is centered above the display, but the rear-facing one is tucked in a corner, which can cause issues when attempting to center the subject in the frame.
The speakers are located near the top on either side, which is well out of the way when using in landscape, but sound comes out unevenly in portrait mode since one speaker is facing up while the other is down (and possibly obstructed). Volume is good for a device this size, though audio quality leaves much to be desired, especially at loud volumes.
The keyboard dock
A $100 keyboard dock makes a nice optional accessory for the S2110, especially for people who intend to use the tablet as a productivity tool, or are looking for a more laptop-like experience.
The dock is only a little heavier than the tablet, and feels more solid, though it has the same plastic casing. When together, the tablet and dock feel very much like one device, thanks to a cradle that snugly and securely fits the display. The hinge is sturdy and keeps the screen from bouncing when tapped.
The keyboard doesn’t feel at all cramped for its size. Touch typists may quibble with the tiny Shift key on the right, but will otherwise find the keys comfortable to type on. There are nice touches such as controls for Android functions and media playback as well.
The touchpad works well, though since Android isn’t a desktop operating system, it may not work as you’d expect coming from Windows, OS X, or Linux. Think of the arrow as a substitute for your finger, rather than a cursor.
The dock adds two USB ports and a 3-in-1 card reader to the S2110’s exist ports, plus doubles overall battery life. When connected, the tablet will drain the dock before pulling from its own battery, meaning you’ll always have a full charge ready for you.
Using the IdeaTab
If reading the words “Ice Cream Sandwich” is going to make you groan: sorry. Yes, the S2110 comes with Android 4.0 and Lenovo hasn’t said when (or if) the tablet will see an upgrade to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). If you can get over that disappointment, or simply don’t care about the specific version of Android as long as it works well, then the IdeaTab does offer a nice experience.
This time around, Lenovo went with a UI skin, but a different one than we’ve seen on previous Android tablets from the company. Upon launch, the Home screen presents users with several widgets and pre-made folders. For people new to the operating system, this has the potential to be very useful. The widgets are well-designed and fit in aesthetically with the smart folders, and overall everything just feels like it fits together.
Tapping on the folders expands them and reveals apps that fit the theme (Social, Games, Media). These are customizable, and under the Widgets menu you can find even more groupings.
There are several more useful and aesthetically pleasing widgets available along with a bit of eye candy when swiping between Home screens and in the App Drawer. While Android purists who scoff at interface modifications probably won’t like any of this, buyers without this prejudice will appreciate the options.
Lenovo has always been big on pre-loading tons of apps on its consumer tablets and the S2110 is no exception. Aside from the apps you’d expect to find on any Android tablet, there are over 20 others pre-loaded. Depending on how you intend to use the IdeaTab, some will be more useful than others. There are only a few apps that we would brand “crapware.”
For users new to Android or tablets, a well-curated group of apps ready from the start is very helpful.
Unfortunately, the IdeaTab has the problem that all Android tablets have: Finding apps made for larger screens is still a challenge. The Lenovo App Shop, an adjunct to the Google Play store, isn’t too helpful, even though the apps there are sure to work on the IdeaTab. Plus, the selection is smaller.
One curious weakness of the overall experience is around the software keyboards and dictionaries. The default on-screen keyboard is the Go Keyboard, and it’s just as terrible as previous versions. It’s not well-designed, the keys feel cramped, and it’s difficult to work with and customize.
The stock Android keyboard isn’t much better since the English dictionary appears to not know many English words. We’re not just talking long, complex words, but basics such as Test, Drinks, Little, Is. Yes, Is. It pulled names from out contacts and added them as words in the dictionary, which isn’t as helpful as it could be considering what else isn’t there. This was a particularly annoying problem.
Specs and performance
For the IdeaTab, Lenovo went with a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor backed by 1GB of 600MHz RAM. The result is a system that’s more sluggish than it should be.
The S2110 is not tragically slow, but the performance issues are apparent in some key areas. When swiping between Home screens and pages in the App Drawer, the animations aren’t super smooth. When playing games that require fast responsiveness, such as Temple Run or Fruit Ninja, the system often could not keep up with our swipes or fast-paced action.
When playing The Dark Knight Rises game, we were impressed with how well the graphics rendered — you get a nice amount of detail and contrast, even in dark scenes. But just getting Batman to walk around took far too much effort, as if the screen was having trouble reading our input.
The S2110 scored about 4,900 in the Quadrant benchmark, which is pretty high, though below the Galaxy S3 (5,000). The Galaxy Note 10.1 got a 5,100.
Other specs include 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, a 101-inch 1280 x 800 pixel IPS LCD display, a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front, a 5-megapixel camera on the back, Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports on the tablet, two USB ports and a 3-in-1 card reader on the dock, plus Bluetooth 4.0 and b/g/n wireless. There is no GPS or NFC capability.
As with most tablets, the cameras on the front and back do not produce memorable pictures and appear to be there “just because.” The resulting images aren’t very sharp.
Lenovo rates the battery on the tablet alone to be around 9 or 10 hours, doubling that to 18 to 20 with the dock attached. Our hands-on experience bears this out. While we didn’t get all the way to 9 hours with it, the tablet did get through two movies and some Web browsing without dipping below 50 percent. Plus, the idle time is quite good. Even after sitting unattended for two days, the tablet had barely lost 10 percent of its juice (while not connected to the dock).
The IdeaTab S2110 is the kind of tablet that looks good on paper, but doesn’t quite deliver once you get it into your hands. The main issue is the build quality of the hardware. We’re not completely against plastic construction, but the fact that the tablet literally bends and makes a noise if you squeeze it a bit is a problem. The slightly sluggish performance is also an issue, albeit one that could be fixed by software updates. If this were a more basic tablet with a cheaper price tag, these things might not be as big a deal. However, $400 is a lot to pay for a device with these flaws. Especially when there are other tablets, like the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 or the iPad 2, that cost the same yet don’t have these problems.
- Excellent display
- Good battery life
- Dock adds to productivity for a low price
- Well-designed interface skin
- Dubious build quality
- Annoying on-screen keyboard
- Sluggish performance
- Weak Snapdragon processor