Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 review: A swift tablet with a bummer screen

The device also includes an SRS sound setting. When turned on, it optimizes the tablet's speakers when users are listening to music or movies.

The 3-megapixel rear-facing camera settings include six photo sizes, digital zoom, geo-tagging and face detection, four scene modes, an exposure range from +2 to -2, five white balances, and panoramic shooting. Additional recording options include a video snapshot, three video qualities, time lapse intervals, digital fun backgrounds, and face warping effects. Though the front-facing camera has fewer photo sizes and no scene modes, all other options are retained.

Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 (rear)
The Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 sports a 3-megapixel rear-facing camera. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware features
The IdeaTab A2109 is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 1.2GHz quad-core processor and a 2-cell lithium-ion battery. It includes 1GB of LPDDR RAM, 16GB of internal storage, W-Fi capabilities, Bluetooth, and GPS support.

Though having a 1,280x800-pixel resolution for a 9-inch screen is impressive, I was disappointed by the display quality. It had a very narrow viewing angle, and I found that tilting it just a few degrees here and there would render almost the whole screen difficult to view. This may not matter much when doing something relatively stationary like checking e-mail or watching a movie, but it can be irritating during gameplay. Games that require a lot of maneuvering, like RipTide GP, became difficult to play since the screen looked blacked out at certain degrees.

Tested spec Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 Lenovo IdeaTab S2109 Sony Xperia Tablet S
Maximum brightness 304 cd/m2 411 cd/m2 335 cd/m2
Default brightness 119 cd/m2 185 cd/m2 136 cd/m2
Maximum black level .28 cd/m2 .32 cd/m2 .17 cd/m2
Default Black level .11 cd/m2 .14 cd/m2 .06 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 1081:1 1,284:1 2,266:1
Contrast ratio 1085:1 1,321:1 1,970:1

In addition, while text appeared crisp, there was noticeable aliasing on several app icons. Pictures, like default wallpaper images, appeared muted with noticeable digital noise, and colors weren’t very vivid or rich.

One good thing about the touch screen, however, was its sensitivity. There was no lag when it came to swiping through pages, clicking on apps, or unlocking the screen, and all my touches were registered smoothly and accurately without a hitch.

Due to its quad-core CPU, the device is very zippy. In fact, aside from some wonky video recording lag (more on that later), its internal speed is one of the best things the A2109 has going for it. Simple tasks like transitioning back to home screen, going through the app drawer, and pinch zooming were executed swiftly. Larger apps like the camera and graphic-heavy games like RipTide GP launched without any hiccups and ran effortlessly. Furthermore, the processor was able to handle gaming graphics well. The refresh rate was quick for RipTideGP, making game play a breeze, and the app never once crashed or stuttered.

Lenovo IdeaTab A2109
The IdeaTab A2109 has a frustratingly narrow viewing angle. Josh Miller/CNET

Despite all this zippiness though, the camera's recording capabilities were extremely glacial. There was noticeable lag between my moving of the device and the video feedback. Furthermore, its FPS was extremely low. Objects that were in motion, like people walking or cars driving by, moved almost like clay animation during video playback. Considering the device’s fast processor, it was disappointing and almost bizarre how slow its camera’s FPS was.

While browsing the Web, the tablet held a steady Wi-Fi link and never once did connection become spotty or inconsistent. Before finishing our battery life tests, its reserved held up well. After spending the day playing games, watching YouTube videos, and leaving it on standby, the battery drained only about two-thirds of its power. Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 9.3

While it’s true that the Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 is reasonably priced and its CPU makes it a breeze to handle, there are too many cons that hold the device back. The screen is unimpressive despite its high resolution, the camera lags too much, and it has a thick profile.

Instead, consider a tablet like the Google Nexus 7. Though its screen is 2 inches smaller, it’s only going for about $200 and delivers a richer, more high-end experience. Or if you’re a patient soul, you can wait and see what the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 or the Nook HD+ will have to offer. Both will be available during the upcoming holiday season, will fall into roughly the same range as the A2109’s current pricing, and sport higher specs that may be worth checking out before jumping the gun on the A2109.

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