Lenovo A8 review: Lenovo A8 sacrifices sleek for cheap

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.7
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good The Lenovo A8 starts at $179 and features a comfy and lightweight build. The built-in Dolby Digital audio integration enhances the mono speaker's sound quality, and its IPS screen boasts wide-viewing angles, with deep contrast levels.

The Bad There is no app tray, and organization of menu screens can get tedious. Both rear- and front-facing cameras produce dull photos.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo A8 is a solid, simple slate, but its lack of an app tray makes other budget options more appealing.

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With a starting price of $179, the Lenovo A8 will satisfy bargain shoppers that have basic needs. However its lack of app tray produces an unnecessarily unorganized experience.

Its simple specs are on par with similar budget 8-inchers, like the pure-Android-packing Dell Venue 8. It consistently performs smoothly during most basic tasks, but its audio-enhancing Dolby Digital app gives it a slight performance edge.

Lenovo keeps it simple with the A8, giving it a nondescript, yet comfy and portable design, and slow-but-steady set of internal specs. But unless you're an audio-nerd that will make use of the Dolby Digital app, the Dell Venue 7 offers a better UI for the same starting price.

Design

Lenovo offers the A8 in yellow, white, red, and dark blue. Our review unit was a sophisticated shade of dark blue that mildly sparkles when the light hits it, but Lenovo's brighter options are a welcome pop of color in an otherwise monochromatic category.

Lenovo A8 Dell Venue 8 Acer Iconia A1-830 Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0
Weight in pounds 0.8 0.64 0.83 0.69
Width in inches (landscape) 8.5 8.3 8 8.3
Height in inches 5.3 5.1 5.4 4.5
Depth in inches 0.35 0.38 0.32 0.31
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.8 0.7 0.8 0.5

The smooth back panel wraps around to the front of the rounded corners, making the tablet comfortable to hold in either landscape or portrait mode. The smooth matte finish attracts a couple of fingerprints, but it's so tactilely comfortable, it makes the inevitable smudge forgivable.

The front-facing mono speaker blends into the bottom bezel, but a subtle design tweak helps avoid thumb-blocking it; in landscape mode the sides of the left and right edges are straight, giving your thumbs a comfortable bezel-resting alternative.

lenovoa8tablet4.jpg
The top edge houses the Micro-USB port and headphone jack. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The tablet is light, at 360g, and though it's not iPad Mini-sleek, it's still ultraportable and cool -- in its own function-over-fashion chic way.

The top edge houses a Micro-USB port next to the headphone jack, with the slightly protruding, rounded power button and volume rocker on the top-right edge. The microSD card slot is hidden under a small flap on the top-left edge, and there's a microphone on the left side of the bottom edge.

lenovoa8tablet2.jpg
Never underestimate the value of a microSD card expansion slot. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Features

The Lenovo A8 is a basic tablet with simple offerings, but it's a slightly more attractive option when taking into consideration the included software. Bloatware-averse individuals might want to fast-forward to the Dell Venue 8 if this sounds like a turn-off.

Lenovo offers its simple but useful DOit suite of apps, which allow you to share photos, videos, and other files between devices without the need of an Internet connection, as well as easily syncing your contacts. The DOit apps worked as advertised, but, as a DropBox user, I found little use for them.

lenovoa8screenshot.jpg
The Dolby Digital app is on the left, and the Smart Side Bar can be seen on the right. Screenshot by Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Lenovo's Smart Side Bar allows quick access to recent apps and display optimization shortcuts. The side bar can be summoned manually by swiping from the right bezel to the center of the screen, or set on automatic -- so it pops up after you switch from portrait to landscape orientations (or vice versa).

I found the Smart Side Bar useful when switching from watching video to a different activity, because adjusting the screen's brightness is made even easier -- when on auto -- and the recent apps allow quick transitioning to whatever mobile game you probably play too much of.

Instead of an app tray, apps are distributed amongst the homescreen and menu pages. They're easy to customize by holding a finger to any blank space in the home screen for a few seconds. The customization options allow you to add menu pages, reorganize app shortcuts, and add widgets. If you don't stay on top of organizing new app shortcuts, the menu screens get messy quickly.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0
    Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Weight 0.8 lbs
  • Type Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • Storage 16 GB Embedded MultiMediaCard
  • Processor MediaTek Cortex-A7 MTK8121
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