Lenovo A10 review: An affordable slate for audiophiles

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Organizing your home screen is a must-do. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Hardware

The Lenovo A10 houses a 1.3GHz MediaTek 8121 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It also offers a microSD expansion slot, Bluetooth 4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.

Performance

The A10's 1,080x800-pixel resolution is one of its weak spots. App shortcuts on the menu appear pixelated, and when you hold the A10 next to the likes of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, the difference in quality is stark. However, HD video still looks sharp, with wide viewing angles, deep contrast, and balanced colors. It's not impressive, but the IPS screen gets the job done.

Tested specLenovo A10Asus Memo Pad FHD 10Google Nexus 10
Maximum brightness292 cd/m2287 cd/m2368 cd/m2
Maximum black level0.25 cd/m20.22 cd/m20.44 cd/m2
Contrast ratio1,168:11,304:1836:1
Pixels-per-inch133ppi224ppi299ppi

The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is decent for Skype-calling purposes, but don't expect any flattering selfies. Photos are usually washed-out and pixelated. There's a "beauty mode" that's supposed to help, but it makes you look like a futuristic anime character -- which is cool if you're into that type of thing.

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In addition to exposure and white-balance settings, the A10 also offers fun filters. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The 5-megapixel rear camera isn't terribly impressive, with its lack of manual focus and fuzzy full-res photos, but the many customization options are its saving grace. With some tweaking, you can capture a photo with good color balance and decent exposure and contrast.

The dual front-facing speakers are the performance stars of the A10. Audiophiles who love to perfect how their media sounds will appreciate the thorough and detailed Dolby app that allows level tweaking to your heart's content. Once I got the hang of the app, switching up audio settings was quick, easy, and optimal for switching from "Star Trek" to Coltrane.

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Low-end screen, meet high-end speakers. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Tablets aren't known for their speaker quality, so the Lenovo A10 is a great surprise and a very welcome addition to the scene. I was continually surprised by how full, rich, and detailed movies and music sounded -- I looked like a confused puppy tilting its head every time I was impressed (but less cute).

Performance was surprisingly smooth, with few hiccups here and there. The tablet performance slowed while downloading large apps, but they downloaded quickly with a high-speed connection.

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Photos look best on the A10's screen, with animated options for the panoramic and multiangle modes. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Large apps and graphic-heavy games load within a few seconds, a rare feat for a budget tablet. They also performed smoothly, as long as there weren't many apps open in the background.

Simple mobile games like Riptide ran smoothly, even with other apps open. Large games would sometimes lag and take a long time to load in between levels, but closing all open applications usually took care of the problem.

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The 5-megapixel rear camera is decent at best. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Lenovo says the A10 has an 8-hour battery life, and I found that the tablet lasted a long time on a full charge with consistent use -- about a day and a half. Our official test results from the CNET Labs came out consistent to that, at 8.4 hours.

Conclusion

The Lenovo A10's design, screen, and performance may not be high-end, but when you close your eyes and listen to its speakers, it definitely sounds high-end. The 10-inch tablet is one of the few with speakers that won't make you cringe in horror when they're at full blast.

If the A10's interface, screen, and design were better, it would be comparable to the Asus Memo Pad FHD 10, which offers a few audio customization options of its own. It rocks a sharper, 1,920x1,200-pixel-resolution screen, has a comparably comfy design, and can be found in the same price range as the A10. However, if you're an audiophile on a budget, the A10's shortcomings can be quickly forgiven, considering its $250 starting price and unparalleled powerful speakers.

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