Let’s be honest, we’re always looking for the latest news about the next smartphone to hit the market, but there’s not much fanfare around tablets. While Android tablets can do pretty much anything an Android smartphone can, they usually get left at home and lost behind the couch (a regular occurrence if you have kids around the house). The main reason for this is because tablets are a lot larger and heavier than smartphone and don’t offer nearly as much functionality as a laptop with a dedicated keyboard.
While larger tablets claim they are more functional due to their size, we have found that small tablets typically get used more. As it turns out, bigger isn’t always better. The new Lenovo TAB 2 A8 was a tablet designed with that very point in mind, delivering a lot of value at just the right size.
When buying a new tablet, there are a lot of factors to consider. Display (size and resolution), processor, camera, design, battery life and software experience are typically the main items we take into consideration, but the price of the Lenovo TAB 2 A8 is definitely its best attribute. The suggested retail price of the Tab 2 A8 is $159.99, but we suggest picking one up from Amazon for $119.99. For that price, you get a tablet equipped with a 1.30GHz quad-core MTK 8161 SoC, an 8.0-inch 800×1280 LCD display, 1GB of RAM, front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Digital audio, 16GB of internal storage and a 4,200 mAh battery. The tablet also features a 5-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video calling.
Software: Before using the Lenovo TAB 2 A8, if you would have asked me for a list Android device manufacturers with the best Android software experience, Lenovo wouldn’t have been in my top five. The software tweaks on the TAB 2 A8 are so minimal that you’d have a hard time differentiating it from stock Android if it weren’t for a handful of cosmetic tweaks and custom icons for the stock apps. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Lenovo’s launcher, but we’re sure you’d find the tablet slightly more appealing if you install the Google Now Launcher from the Play Store.
Sound: Since the introduction of BoomSound on the HTC One, every phone and tablet maker has been trying to emulate that experience. The Lenovo TAB 2 A8 does a pretty decent job by incorporating two stereo speakers with Dolby Digital surround sound into the front of the tablet. The audio quality is still a half step down from what the Nexus 9 offers, but it is noticeably louder.
Battery life: If you’re looking for great battery life on a tablet, the TAB 2 A8 should be right up your alley. The tablet can easily get 5 hours of screen-on time with a single charge, but the 4,200mAh battery and 1.30GHz quad-core MTK 8161 SoC really show what they are capable of when left in standby. In our tests, the Lenovo TAB 2 A8 only lost 5-6 percent battery life per day while in standby with WiFi and notifications turned on. We made down to 22 percent after 14 days before finally deciding to top of the battery.
Size: As mentioned above, bigger isn’t always better. The TAB 2 A8 is just the right size for web browsing and media consumption while at home or on the go. The tablet is small enough to fit into any bag, yet big enough that it’s worth lugging around if you’re planning to do some reading or movie watching.
Display: The size of the tablet’s display is just right, but we are a bit disappointed that it’s limited to 800×1280 pixels. A 1080p panel would have been a lot more enjoyable on the Lenovo TAB 2 A8′s 8-inch form factor, but we’re sure that it would have bumper the price tag up $15-25.
Performance: Let’s be honest, you can’t expect great performance from a $119 tablet. The Lenovo TAB 2 A8′s 1.30GHz quad-core MTK 8161 SoC and 1GB of RAM are good for casual gaming and media playback, but don’t expect to have a flawless experience if you load up Dungeon Hunter 5 or Need for Speed Most Wanted.
Design: I’ll be honest: The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 isn’t a looker. The soft touch blue polycarbonate offers a solid grip, but the case feel hollow and flimsy. We know that every device goes through a design process, but it feels like Lenovo’s design team didn’t put any effort into the looks of the Tab 2 A8 once they figured out what size the frame needed to be to fit all the internal components.
The Lenovo TAB 2 A8 does have a few issues, but its faults are outweighed by the overall experience that the tablet offers. You could easily find a better-looking tablet with far better performance, but do you really need to? The TAB 2 A8 is perfect for casual gaming, web surfing and media consumption. Add in the $119.99 sticker price and the Lenovo TAB 2 A8 easily places in the Top 5 Budget Tablets list of 2015.