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Hybrid Notebook/Tablet, Android-Style From Lenovo

Nov 07, 2012 (07:11 AM EST)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240062575


Move over, Samsung. Although Samsung's thin and light Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets have dominated the 10-inch Android tablet market for the past 18 months, there's a new kid on the block: Lenovo's IdeaTab S2110. How does it stack up? Is it good enough for work?

The IdeaTab S2110 optionally morphs into a laptop-like device.
(Click images to enlarge.)

The S2110 runs Android 4.0 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060A, which integrates dual 1.5-GHz ARM Krait cores, backed by 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB or 32 GB of flash memory. Other key features include a bright 10.1-inch 1280-by-800-pixel IPS (in-plane switching) screen, dual cameras, stereo speakers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 6320 mAh battery.

Physically, the IdeaTab S2110 is one of the thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablets available today. It's also one of the most pleasant to hold, thanks to its textured non-slippery back. Also welcome are the use of industry-standard micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectors for its USB/power and video interfaces.

The IdeaTab S2110 is one of the thinnest 10-inch tablets.

(Click image to enlarge.)

The company plans to offer 3G versions of the S2110, but is not ready to announce which wireless carriers will offer it. The higher-priced 3G models will also add AGPS to the tablet's feature set.

IdeaTab S2110 specs vs. competition

To find out how the IdeaTab S2110 stacks up against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets, and Google's upcoming Nexus 10 device, we tabulated all the key specs.

  Lenovo IdeaTab S2110 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Google Nexus 10
Processor 1.5-GHz dual core 1.0-GHz dual core 1.4-GHz quad core1.7-GHz dual core
RAM 1 GB 1 GB 2 GB 2 GB
Internal flash 16 GB16 GB16/32/64 GB 16 GB
MicroSD expansion No Yes Yes No
OS Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.0 Android 4.2
Apps market Google Google Google Google
Screen (pixels) 1280 x 800 1280 x 800 1280 x 800 2560 x 1600
Front camera 1.3 MP 0.3 MP 1.9 MP 1.9 MP
Rear camera 5 MP 3 MP 5 MP 5 MP
Video output Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wi-Fi Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth Yes Yes Yes Yes
GPS No Yes Yes Yes
Battery 6320 mAh 7000 mAh 7000 mAh 9000 mAh
Size (inches) 10.2 x 7.0 x 0.34 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.4 10.3 x 7.1 x 0.4 10.4 x 7.0 x 0.4
Weight (ounces) 20 21 20 21
Price* $340 (16 GB)
$419 (32 GB)
$350 (16 GB) $500 (16 GB)
$550 (32 GB)
$400 (16 GB)
$500 (32 GB)
*Lenovo and Samsung prices from Amazon.com, Nov. 2, 2012

The IdeaTab S2110 and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 run neck and neck in features. Here's a quick assessment of their relative strengths.

    IdeaTab S2110 advantages:
    • 50% faster processor.
    • Higher-resolution front and rear cameras.
    • Industry-standard USB/power and video connections.
    Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 advantages:
    • Hardware GPS.
    • MicroSD flash expansion slot.
    • 10% beefier battery.

Clearly, both of these modestly priced 10-inch tablets have a lot to offer. Let's take a deeper look at what the S2110 can do.




Exploring the IdeaTab S2110

Because the IdeaTab 2110 runs a standard Android 4.0 OS and supports the full set of Google services and Android apps, not much about it is unique from a user interface or software perspective.

The screenshots below show the S2110's out-of-box user interface, including its default home screens, apps, widgets, and an unusual widget-based folder function.

IdeaTab 2110 out-of-box home screens


(Click images to enlarge.)

The S2110's default configuration includes a half-baked widget-based home screen folder feature, which you can see in the screenshot repeated at the right (click to enlarge).

This folder function is based on a set of six folder widgets -- Business, Games, Life, Media, Tools, and Social -- that you can place on any of the tablet's home screens. Each folder widget can hold up to 12 app launchers of your choice, but there's no way to rename the folders or create additional ones, and you can't put bookmarks or other 1x1 widgets in the folders -- just app-launchers. All these constraints render it a relatively useless piece of eye candy.

Fortunately, the S2110 also includes the substantially more useful Android 4.x folder function, seen in the screenshots below. This one lets you create as many folders as you like, name them any way you want, and load them with up to 48 items, which can be any combination of app launchers and bookmarks.

IdeaTab S2110 Android 4.x folder function


(Click images to enlarge.)

Despite the greater flexibility of the more useful standard Android 4.x folder function shown above, I much prefer a third-party folder app. More on that later.

First let's take a look at the apps and widgets that come preinstalled on the S2110:

Preinstalled Android apps


(Click images to enlarge.)

In addition to the usual preinstalled Google Android apps -- including Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Maps and YouTube -- there are a few nice-to-haves, such as Skype and ES File Explorer, but nothing you can't easily download yourself from the Google Play Android apps market. One exception is the unlocked version of Documents to Go, a $15 value, with which you can create and edit MS Word-, Excel- and PowerPoint-compatible files. More about that app later.

Next stop on our S2110 tour is a quick look at the tablet's default widget set:

IdeaTab S2110 out-of-box widgets


(Click images to enlarge.)

In addition to the large folder widgets, which we've already discussed, there are three quick-setting widgets for brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as a fairly typical array of widgets for weather, time, calendar, email, contacts, bookmarks, playing music and videos, and more.

Personally, I'm very sparing in my use of widgets, preferring to configure a single home screen from which I can launch any app or Web bookmark with one or two taps of the screen. That brings us to customization.




Customizing the tablet

As with all Android tablets, you're free to modify the look, feel and functionality of the S2110 in many ways without having to resort to "rooting" it, a process akin to jailbreaking iOS devices.

After powering up the tablet and going through the initial setup process, the first things I did were to change the tablet's home screen wallpaper and add several system tweaking and management apps. In the screenshots below, I:

  • Installed about 200 apps, mostly side-loaded from my growing stash of Android app APKs.
  • Installed the Android Folder Organizer app and used it to create 15 folders on the primary home screen. That makes it easy for me to launch any app or browser-bookmark with one or two screen taps.
  • Installed my favorite alternative keyboard, the Hacker's Keyboard. Note: another alternative keyboard, the GO Keyboard, comes preinstalled on the S2110 and is also shown below, as is Android's excellent Google Voice Typing function.

These screenshots below show the tablet's customized lock screen. Note the modified wallpaper and the use of Android's pattern-unlock option.

Customized lock screen with pattern-unlock.


(Click image to enlarge.)

The following screenshots show the tablet's customized home screen (top), plus Android 4.0's popup status panes (bottom):

Customized home screen and pop-up status pane



 
(Click images to enlarge.)

Now let's look at one of my favorite third-party apps, Folder Organizer, which provides more extensive features and flexibility than the standard Android 4.x folder function. Using it, you can create customized folders, app launchers, and bookmarks, and assign a custom icon image to each.

My customized S2110 has a single home screen (shown above), which contains a combination 15 folders, 47 app launchers and three widgets. The following set of screenshots reveals what's inside my 15 home-screen folders:

Contents of the home screen's 15 folders


(Click images to enlarge.)




Keyboard alternatives

Although Google Voice Typing works well on the S2110 and can go a long way toward speeding the process of entering large amounts of text, the best way to increase the efficiency of using any tablet for work purposes is to team it with a good Bluetooth keyboard.

One intriguing option is the IdeaTab S2110's own optional keyboard/dock accessory, which provides the following added features:

  • Notebook keyboard size and feel.
  • A full row of tablet-specific function keys.
  • Glidepad cursor navigation, with enable/disable.
  • Three-in-one card reader.
  • Two full-size USB 2.0 ports.
  • Micro-USB charging port.
  • Secondary 6320mAh battery.
  • Mates with the S2110 to form a foldable assembly.

Snapped into its optional keyboard/dock, the IdeaTab S2110 becomes a laptop-like device.



(Click images to enlarge.)

Currently, the S2110's keyboard/dock is only available as part of a tablet bundle that costs about $90 more than the tablet alone. Although this makes it an expensive alternative to a normal Bluetooth keyboard, it's well worth considering if you value the extra features listed above. I've used it, and was very impressed with its quality and utility.

I also tested two popular Bluetooth keyboards with the IdeaTab S2110: the Logitech Android keyboard, and the Zagg ZaggKeys Flex (pictured below). Both worked well.

Using the IdeaTab S2110 with Logitech's Android keyboard (left) and Zagg's ZaggKeys Flex (right)
(Click images to enlarge.)

Unlike the third-party Bluetooth keyboards, which can be used with multiple models of Android and iOS tablets, the S2110's keyboard/dock is only likely to be usable with the S2110 (and possibly its successors).

Virtual keyboard alternatives

Being a 10-inch tablet, it's possible to type fairly accurately using the S2110's standard Android soft keyboard. Still, for many users -- myself included -- typing with a virtual keyboard doesn't approach the efficiency of typing with a physical keyboard.

Numerous user-installable virtual keyboards can be downloaded from the Android apps market, letting you substitute your favorite keyboard. Let's take a quick look at two alternatives, as well as the tablet's option of "voice typing."

The screenshots below demonstrate four text input alternatives:

  • The standard Android keyboard.
  • The GO Keyboard, which offers a nifty thumb-typing mode, among other interesting features.
  • "Google Voice Typing," which works amazingly well, but requires an active broadband data connection.

Three virtual keyboards, plus Google Voice Typing





(Click images to enlarge.)

Adding productivity apps

To see how well the IdeaTab S2110 performed work-related tasks, I tried using several office suites and other productivity apps, including Documents to GO, Office Suite Pro, QuickOffice Pro HD, Kingsoft Office, LogMeIn, SketchBook Mobile and AutoCAD WS.

All of the MS Office-style apps I tested worked, to one extent or another, although the features implemented varied widely with some, such as Documents to Go, which offered only minimal capabilities. The screenshots below give a few glimpses of these apps running on the S2110.

Running productivity apps on the IdeaTab S2110


(Click images to enlarge.)

What else can it do?

A better question would be, "What can't it do?"

Without getting swept away with the vastness of all the ways you can enjoy an Android tablet these days, here's a brief screenshot montage showing some leisure-oriented apps running on the S2110:

Games, and ebooks, and videos, oh my!


(Click images to enlarge.)

For more details, and more than 500 screenshots showing these and numerous other apps running on the Lenovo IdeaTab S2110, have a look at my blog's extensive IdeaTab S2110 screenshot tour.

The bottom line

Lenovo has done a great job designing the IdeaTab S2110. The thin, light, moderately priced 10-inch Android tablet is suitable for both work and leisure. It competes favorably with Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, providing a 50% faster CPU.

Additionally, the optional battery-boosting keyboard/dock accessory morphs it into a laptop-like hybrid device, which you can conveniently snap together and apart to fulfill the need of the moment.

Overall, I found it to be a pleasure to use.


Lenovo IdeaTab S2110 Android tablet


Name: IdeaTab S2110

Lenovo's 10-inch IdeaTab S2110 Android tablet is loaded with features and modestly priced. It competes favorably with Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, providing a 50% faster CPU. The optional battery-boosting keyboard/dock allows it to be used like a laptop.

Price: $340 with 16 GB flash. Optional keyboard/doc around $90 extra -- exact pricing depends on overall configuration.

Pro:

  • 1.5-GHz dual-core processor.
  • Bright screen.
  • Includes an unlocked copy of Documents to Go, a $15 value.
  • Micro-HDMI port for video output.
  • 5-MP rear camera with LED flash; 1.3-MB front camera.
  • Thin and light with non-slip textured back.
  • Optional snap-on keyboard/dock with secondary battery.

Con:

  • No hardware GPS (except on 3G model).
  • No microSD expansion (except via keyboard/dock).