Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lenovo IdeaTab S2110 Review

One of the major factors that limits tablet productivity is the lack of a physical keyboard. Typing on glass is OK for pecking out short e-mails, but when the time comes to do serious typing, on-screen keyboards are neither very accurate nor very comfortable. On the other hand, a permanent physical keyboard limits a tablet's portability. A keyboard certainly isn't necessary for watching movies, playing Angry Birds, or surfing the Internet. We will take a look at a tablet with a removable keyboard dock, the Lenovo IdeaTab S2110. It promises to merge both portability and productivity into a single device.

The front of the S2110 looks generic. It has a wide, black bezel and a front facing camera. The top of the tablet has a power button, the left side has a volume rocker, and the left side has a headphone jack and a microHDMI port. The bottom has a port connector/charging port. The textured back of the S2110 is black with subtle red flecks in it.

In hand, the grippy plastic and slightly square edges makes the S2110 easy to hold. Overall, it has a solid feel, although you can flex the corners slightly. The S2110, at 1.28 lbs, actually weighs less than the iPad. Of course, the dock adds some heft.

Keyboard Dock
Connecting the tablet and keyboard dock is simple: just keep the tablet lined up with the dock’s slot and slide it into place. Once it is in place, the tablet is very secure. (One little nitpick: when the tablet is connected, it feels like the dock isn't quite heavy enough to keep it from falling backwards.) To take it out again, you must press down on the button nearest to the hinge, and pull straight up.

On the very top row of the keyboard is a row of Android-specific keys. These keys include: a return key, a search key, a Bluetooth on/off key, a recent apps key, and a few other handy keys. (Infuriatingly, the delete key on this top row doesn't work with the Google Drive app. It's operational in other apps, though.) Also, a home key and a recent apps key sit where the left and right start menu key would sit on a Windows keyboard, respectively. There is also an apps key to the right of the up arrow key. Using these keys is handier than moving your hand away from the keyboard to use the touchscreen.

Having these extra keys is nice, but how comfortable is the keyboard to use? The keys themselves are a thick and springy. However, the keys are placed closer together than I would prefer. There is only limited space for the keyboard, and the keyboard goes right out to the edges of the keyboard dock.

The keyboard dock also includes a touchpad. It isn't multi-touch. I'm used to multi-touch touchpads that support two-finger scrolling, so I found myself scrolling with two fingers out of habit. The touchpad doesn't seem to have any palm-rejection features. If this touchpad does have palm-rejection, it does a poor job. Several times during the course of writing this review, the cursor jumped and suddenly I was typing in a different spot.

One of my favorite things about the keyboard dock is the addition of several ports. There are two USB ports and a 3-in-1 SD card slot. It is a handy way to show pictures from a camera's SD card away from home.

If only laptop screens were like this one! The S2110's HD IPS 1280X 800 screen is bright and detailed. Text looks crisp and sharp. As advertised, it has excellent viewing angles. It doesn't distort color or detail as you move to the sides. You can sit almost perpendicular to the screen and it still doesn't distort.

Battery Life
The undocked S2110’s battery life lasts about 7 1/2 to 8 hours. For an Android tablet, this is about average. This figure doubles to about fourteen hours with the dock. You’ll have plenty of battery time and then some.

Neither the front or back cameras will blow you away, but they will get the job done if you need them. The back camera produces reasonable details in low light, especially with the flash. Its 5.0 MP resolution and high noise in low light will probably have you reaching for your cell phone or camera, though. The front 1.3 MP webcam on front is underwhelming, but, hey- it works.

Software and Performance
Like most tablets on the market, the S2110 runs a recent version of Android called Ice Cream Sandwich. Lenovo has added several customizations.  First, it has added several pre-loaded apps. Kindle, Skype, Norton Mobile Security, and SugarSync are some of them. Other apps are games that most users will not use unless they are extremely bored. Personally, I think the majority of these apps do not add value. I believe these apps cannot be un-installed, but they can be hidden. Second, Lenovo has added app “cubes” to the home screen. They have headings like Social, Media, and Business. The cubes simply organize your app icons into categories for easy access.

The S2110’s respectable internals, a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor and 1 GB of memory, had my tablet gliding along smoothly. It handles graphics such as movies and games quite well. Apps open and close quickly, and pinch-to-zoom was reasonably fast. The Internet browser stopped responding a handful of times, but this was the only hitch I found.

Will this tablet/keyboard dock combo replace a laptop? Not necessarily. The hardware isn't the limiting factor- rather it’s Android. To be productive, you need: a full- fledged operating system that can run windows side-by-side, the ability to run full versions of heavy-duty software like PhotoShop and Microsoft Office, etc.

In contrast, I believe this tablet/keyboard dock setup would make a nice companion to a desktop. (Or a desktop and a laptop.) It provides a nice balance between tablet uses (reading ebooks, using apps, playing games) and computer uses (using the keyboard for longer typing sessions).

If a tablet/keyboard combo sounds perfect for your lifestyle, then the question is: “Which tablet/keyboard combo should I get?” Lenovo is not the first company to create a 10 inch Android tablet with a keyboard dock. Asus has the Transformer Pad TF300, a tablet with similar specifications and an update to Jelly Bean, the very latest Android version. However, the TF300 + dock costs 500 dollars, while the S2110 + dock costs 580 dollars. If you want to save $80 dollars, you can get the TF300. If you prefer the Lenovo over the Asus, you can spend the $80 extra dollars and go on your merry way. :)

Product Info

MSRP:$580 from Lenovo
    Solid hardware, comfortable and useful dock, excellent battery life, beautiful display, good performance
  • Cameras are not amazing, uninstallable included apps, a bit more expensive than the competition

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