Lenovo IdeaTab S2110A Review

Nov 2, 2012
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Tablets, tablets, tablets. Everybody’s making them these days, but it seems that only a select few are truly worthy of being taken home. Lenovo has a pair of new IdeaTabs on the market, and with them, the company is ready to vie for both your attention and your dollar. We reviewed the IdeaTab A2109 a little while back, but today it’s all about the IdeaTab S2110A. Is it worth the purchase price, or does is leave us feeling a little let down? Read on to find out.

Design and Build Quality

I have to say, the IdeaTab S2110A looks pretty great. It’s really thin – we’re talking 0.34” – and pretty lightweight to boot. With a weight that sits right around 1 pound, 4 ounces, this 10-incher feels pretty good in the hand, if not a little on the delicate side. It doesn’t feel like it can take a lot of abuse, so if you pick one up, be sure to treat it gently, otherwise it may not be long before you’re flushing your investment down the drain.

Lenovo has opted to go for something of a simplistic design with the S2110, as there aren’t any face buttons. It’s just the 10-inch screen, a black bezel that surrounds the whole thing, and a silver Lenovo logo underneath. On the top (assuming you’re holding the tablet in landscape orientation) is the power button and microphone. On the left side there’s a little more to see, as it’s here that you’ll find a mini HDMI port, the headphone jack, and a SIM card slot you can use for mobile data. On the bottom, the mini USB port for charging, data transfer, and docking has taken up residence, while the volume buttons are the only thing of note on the right side.

You’ve got a nice silver trim on the sides, which goes well with the black. On the back you’ll see another Lenovo logo, but aside from that, the textured surface, and the 5MP camera, there’s isn’t much to see back there. The Lenovo S2110A sure does look sleek, and it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a tablet that’s extremely portable.

We’ll get more into the included keyboard dock a little later, but for now let’s talk about it merely in relation to the overall design of the device. The dock matches the color scheme of the tablet, with a gray, black, and silver scheme that looks really nice. When the tablet is plugged into the dock, you’ve got a miniature laptop that still manages to be incredibly thin, so you may find yourself with the dock on hand at all times. In short, the tablet looks great while connected to the dock, but we’ll talk about the quality of the keyboard later on in the review.

Hold on though, because even though the IdeaTab S2110A is a good looking device, it suffers from some sub-par build quality. Hopefully you’re a fan of pressure spots on your LCD, because you’ll get them whether you like them or not. Just causally holding the device can set these pressure spots off, so it isn’t as if you need to be applying a ton of pressure from the back to get the spots to show up on the LCD screen. Some spots of the tablet seem weaker than others, so these pressure spots won’t be appearing everywhere, but still, the fact that they happen at all is no good.

The pressure spots are bad enough, but the S2110A just feels like a cheaply made product. It seems like it wouldn’t take much to damage this thing, so you’ll need to be careful with it if you pick one up. It’s also worth pointing out that my S2110A had a dead pixel out of the box, but that’s a bit more excusable. After all, dead pixels are going to happen from time to time – that’s just a risk you take when you’re buying products with LCD screens. While the dead pixel is a forgivable issue, the overall build quality is not. I would understand poor build quality in a less expensive tablet, but you’ll spend a considerable amount of dough on the S2110A, and for $400 (at the least), I expect much better build quality.

Hardware

As stated above, the IdeaTab S2110A comes with a 10-inch IPS display, which runs at 1280x800 resolution. I was very impressed with the screen on the S2110A, especially after hearing some less-than-stellar things about the screen on A2190. The viewing angles are really something excellent – it takes a lot to get the screen to appear washed out, which is always a good thing. The screen is bright and colorful too, and on-screen visuals are nice and sharp. I would have preferred a better resolution, but as I said, text and images on screen are still sharp (seriously, reading on this thing is a pleasure), so 1280x800 resolution really isn’t much of a problem.

The screen is glossy, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that matte screens on tablets (or anything else these days, for that matter) are a rare sight. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the S2110A’s screen seems to attract more fingerprints than other, similar displays. It could just be the fact that the lighting on the IdeaTab’s S2110A screen is really good, but with that black color scheme, finger prints are going to stick out. It’s a problem that can be solved easily with a quick wipe-down, but you’ll want to do that frequently – the screen looks too good to have it covered in ugly fingerprints all the time.

The S2110A is running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060A dual-core processor that’s clocked at 1.5GHz, so you’ve got a quick little CPU working under the hood, despite the fact that it’s only a dual-core. The processor is working in tandem with 1GB of RAM, though it might have been a better idea for Lenovo to include 2GB of RAM, just to make the S2110A a bit more fluid. Things can get pretty choppy when transitioning through homescreens and swiping between screens in the settings menu, so know that you’re not going to get an entirely smooth experience if you pick up the S2110A.

You’ve got two internal storage options when it comes to the IdeaTab S2110A: 16GB and 32GB. The model we received for review came with 16GB, and I don’t really have any complaints about that amount of storage. If Lenovo offered an 8GB version of the tablet, you might run into some issues, but 16GB should be more than enough to tide you over for a while. Of course, if you store music or movies on the tablet, you might run out of free space sooner rather than later, but if that happens, the tablet’s dock has a full-size SD slot to take advantage of. It’s important to note that the tablet itself doesn’t have an SD slot to speak of, so if you buy the tablet alone without paying the extra $100 for the dock, the internal memory you have on the S2110A is what you’re stuck with.

The hardware on the S2110A is decent, but there are some things that leave me scratching my head. I’m bummed that you’ll have to purchase the dock to get an SD slot, and even though the hardware is decent, the choppiness is something that will certainly annoy. Still, the hardware this thing comes packing should be able to handle the apps you download from the Google Play Store, and makes the S2110A a tablet that can at least hold its own in the hardware space.

Software

Like most tablets and phones, the IdeaTab S2110A comes with its share of bloatware, and it appears that you can’t uninstall most of it, meaning you’re stuck with the programs whether you like them or not. We’ve got a bunch of card games installed out of the box, including Solitare, Hearts, and Spades, along with rara.com, Papaya Free, and ooVoo. Naturally, all of Google’s apps are there, as are Norton Security and News Republic.

The majority of users probably won’t touch most of those (expect for Google’s stuff), but thankfully, the IdeaTab S2110A comes with some handy apps installed. These include Amazon Kindle, Evernote, Skype, and SugarSync. I was happy to see all of those installed on the IdeaTab S2110A, and I’m sure that a lot of people will appreciate the fact that Evernote and Skype are present from the start.

The IdeaTab S2110A runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but you’re not getting stock Android with this tablet. Lenovo has put its own home screen layout in place with the S2110A and has filled the screens with its own widgets, which I have feeling contributes to the choppiness you’ll undoubtedly experience at points.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, as manufacturers frequently like to add their own touches to the Android operating system, I just don’t think that decision was for the best this time. In any case, after the operating system and the pre-installed apps are accounted for, you have just about 12GB of free space left on the tablet (remember, we were sent the 16GB model to test), so at least Lenovo hasn't gone as crazy as some manufacturers do with bloatware.

Keyboard Dock

Lenovo is also offering a keyboard dock alongside the IdeaTab S2110A, and I have to say that the whole package looks really nice once the tablet and the dock are attached. The keyboard dock will help improve battery life, and it actually feels like a solid piece of equipment. The tablet feels a little heavier than the keyboard dock, so as a result, your mini notebook will feel a little top heavy at times – something to watch out for so you can make sure your tablet doesn’t take a spill.

The buttons on the keyboard feel really nice, as does the trackpad, though it’s going to take some time to get used to both. At first, the trackpad feels a little too sensitive, and since Lenovo has crammed a keyboard into such a small space, the keys are not only tiny, but they’re pretty close together too. That’s something I struggled with at first, but that may have more to do with my big hands than anything else. Expect to spend a few days getting used to the keyboard before you can really begin typing up a storm while keeping errors to a minimum.

The dock has a mini USB port for charging, accompanied by two full USB ports so you can use to connect a mouse or jump drive (or any other USB device for that matter). It’s here that you’ll also find the aforementioned SD card slot – it’s a full-size slot too, so microSD cards aren’t going to do you any good unless you have an SD adapter. There’s isn’t too much going on as far as ports on the dock are concerned, but considering that there’s already a number of ports and jacks on the tablet, less is more in this case.

Above the row of number keys is a set of hotkeys that allow you to do all sorts of things on your tablet. You can use these keys to turn on wireless, activate Bluetooth, and lock the tablet, which will help limit the number of times you’ll be reaching for the screen. However, the touchscreen still works while the tablet is connected to the dock, so you’ll have the option of using the S2110A’s touch capabilities if you need to.

I really like the way the whole package looks when the tablet is connected to the dock. The tablet actually locks in place once you connect it to the dock (meaning that you don’t have to worry about it falling out once you’ve connected it), which is definitely a nice touch. In all, I don’t have any major gripes with the dock – yes, it will take some getting used to, but Lenovo actually did a pretty good job considering the small space it had to work with.

Don’t let the fact that the dock with take some getting used to dissuade you though, because in my mind, it’s the dock that really makes this package worth checking out. On its own, the IdeaTab S2110A doesn’t have much to make it stand out from the sea of other tablets out there, but when you’ve got it attached to the dock, you’ve got a solid unit on your hands. It’s a shame that Lenovo isn’t including the dock with every IdeaTab S2110A, because the experience of using the tablet without the dock is vastly different than using it with the dock. If you ask me, it’s worth shelling out that extra $100 for the dock, even if the makes the total price a little difficult to swallow.

Battery

Lenovo has packed the S2110A with a 2 cell Lithium-polymer battery that it says will last for 9-10 hours of surfing with Wi-Fi enabled. Turning the screen down to 50% brightness and using the IdeaTab S2110A to surf, watch video, and play a few games of Solitaire, I was able to get about four hours of use out of a fully charged battery with right around 35% left over. This means that casual users should be able to get right around 6 hours of power out of a full charge, but naturally that all depends on a few variables.

Most importantly, these variables are screen brightness and Wi-Fi. Leaving the Wi-Fi on all the time (as I did) will obviously drain the battery faster, and keeping the tablet on auto brightness will help conserve battery. Aside from auto brightness, the IdeaTab S2110A comes with three brightness settings. The first is a little too dim for my liking, while the second setting, which places it at 50% brightness, is plenty bright. On the third and highest setting, colors will be their most vibrant, but you’ll also drain the battery very fast with the S2110A on that setting.

Lenovo says that you can double the life of the battery by using the dock, and again while those quoted times will vary, getting a full day of heavy use while the tablet is connected to the dock certainly isn’t out of the question. In other words, use the dock, because it makes almost everything about the IdeaTab S2110A much, much better.

Camera

I’ll just say this right away: the five-megapixel rear-facing camera on the IdeaTab S2110A isn’t great, so don’t pick up this tablet expecting to use it as your main-shooter. It also comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, but that’s really only good for video chat and nothing else. The sample shots taken with the rear-facing camera show us that the snapper on this tablet is nothing to get excited about; there pictures aren't anything special, merely average in quality. I'm not sure that a camera should be one of the key features in your hunt for a tablet, but if for whatever reason it is, keep on looking.



Benchmarks

In Quad and AnTuTu, the IdeaTab S2110A showed some very promising results. It isn’t at the top of it’s league, but it definitely isn’t near the bottom either. These benchmark results show us that dual-core isn’t dead yet, and indeed, the processor on the S2110A is quite speedy, despite the fact that lag on the home and settings screens suggest otherwise.

In Quad, the IdeaTab S2110A was given a score of 4953, which was enough to beat out the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus S all by a wide margin. That may not be all that surprising, considering that all three of those devices aren’t exactly considered young and sexy these days, but it’s worth pointing out that the S2110A more than doubled the score of the Galaxy Tab. That certainly isn’t bad.

In AnTuTu, it’s much the same. The S2110A came in under the Galaxy Note II, HTC One X+, Galaxy S III, and Transformer Prime by a significant amount, but managed to beat other devices like the original Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Nexus, and the Galaxy S II. In other words, don’t expect to be blown away by what’s the under the hood, but at the same time, don’t be tricked into thinking that the S2110A is a slouch.

Wrap-Up

I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about the S2110A. The screen is beautiful, and bright colors, sharp images, and wide viewing angles make the tablet a pleasure to use. The optional keyboard dock is also a winner in my book, and I like it so much that I can’t recommend picking up the S2110A without one. There we run into a problem though: the keyboard dock is an optional accessory, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s an integral part of the S2110A experience.

But then there are some issues with the tablet too. Even though the S2110A looks really nice, it’s obvious from the first time you hold it that someone at Lenovo slacked off when it came to build quality. It definitely doesn’t feel as sturdy as it should, and seeing those inevitable pressure spots on the screen is enough to send anyone into a rage.

For that reason, it’s hard for me to recommend the S2110A. If the stellar keyboard dock came standard, then I might be willing to suggest that users overlook the issues with build quality and go for it. As it is, though, the keyboard dock sends the price of the IdeaTab S2110A up well over $500, and that’s simply too much money for a tablet that, aside from the dock, doesn’t have many qualities to make it worth that price tag. Even without the dock, I think the IdeaTab S2110A is still on the expensive side.

You might be able to live with the build quality issues, and if that’s the case, knock yourself out. For most, however, I think it would be a better idea to look at other tablets before settling on the IdeaTab S2110A. There are instances when the S2110A threatens to be a really nice tablet, but unfortunately, the issues with the device hold it back from greatness each and every time.


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