Lenovo A8 review: Lenovo A8 sacrifices sleek for cheap

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The absence of an app tray makes organizing your app shortcuts into folders or separate pages a must. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The number of widgets and app shortcuts you can fit on one menu page is very limited, so you end up with many sparsely-filled pages. Medium and large size widgets takes up the majority of the available screen space, and they only allows for maybe another, smaller widget or a handful of app shortcuts on the same page. This means that depending on your love of widgets, you might have to add many menu pages.

The Lenovo A10 also suffers from the lack of an app-tray. However, with the bigger screen, it's easier to customize the menu screens. The lack of automatic app organization, combined with menu pages that can each hold just a single widget and a handful of app shortcuts make the 8-incher is a little more tedious to rearrange than the 10-inch model.

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The A8's audio prowess would be stronger with a second speaker, like on the 10-inch model. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Hardware

The A8 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.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Lenovo A8 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek 8121 Mali 400 MP 1GB Android 4.3
Acer Iconia A1-830 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 PowerVR SGX 544MP2 1GB Android 4.2
Dell Venue 8 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2580 PowerVR SGX 544 MP2 2GB Android 4.3
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 1.19GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A7 Qualcomm Adreno 305 1.5GB Android 4.4

Performance

Given its budget status, the A8 sports an average 1,280x800-pixel resolution. Though its 188ppi is meek in comparison to the higher-end pixel-packed slates, it's very comparable to other bargain tablets.

The 8-inch screen responds quickly to touch and looks sharp enough when reading text and browsing the Web. HD video also looks sharp, with wide-viewing angles and balanced colors. The brightness level is a bit dull, making it a weak choice for an outdoor companion, but it boasts greater contrast ratios than its competition.

Tested spec Lenovo A8 Dell Venue 8 Acer Iconia A1-830 Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0
Maximum brightness 300 cd/m2 356 cd/m2 306 cd/m2 337 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.21 cd/m2 0.43 cd/m2 0.42 cd/m2 0.34 cd/m2
Contrast ratio 1,428:1 828:1 728:1 991:1
Pixels-per-inch 189 ppi 189 ppi 162 ppi 189 ppi

The Lenovo A-series feature front-facing speakers with a built-in Dolby Digital audio speakers that actually pretty impressive. The A8 houses only a single speaker, in comparison to the duo the 10-incher holds, yet for a mono speaker it boasts rich sound at medium volumes -- but toying with the Dolby Digital app is necessary to perfectly fine tune your media.

Gaming performance for mobile games like Riptide GP was smooth as butter, but larger games, like N.O.V.A 3 and Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour take their sweet time to launch. Once loaded, the games and their respective levels perform smoothly, but the long wait times for each level don't contribute to a very exciting gaming experience.

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The 8-inch screen has wide-viewing angles but dull brightness. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The A8 ships with Android 4.2 .2 and an over-the-air update to 4.3 is rolling out. Performance is smooth and zippy for basic tasks like checking email, browsing the Web, and streaming video, but things slow down when trying to do too much at once. Performance lags when large files are being downloaded and when too many apps are open at once.

These are all common performance shortcomings for most budget tablets, but in comparison to previous Lenovo tablets and some of the competition, like the Acer Iconia A1-830, the A8's performance is more stable, with less bugginess and fewer random apps crashing.

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. It offers a "beauty mode" that makes you look like a futuristic anime character -- which is cool if you're into that type of thing.

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The 5-megapixel camera isn't impressive, but you can get a decent shot if you tweak the settings enough. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The rear 5-megapixel camera isn't terribly impressive, with a lack of manual focus and fuzzy full-res photos, however, the many customization options significantly help capturing a well color balanced photo with decent exposure and contrast. It takes some tweaking -- probably more effort than most people are willing to put into a tablet-photo -- however, the variety of useful options to make the most out of the homely 5-megapixel shooter.

Lenovo states that the A8 has an 8-hour battery life, and anecdotally, the tablet lasted fairly long on a full charge -- about a day and a half -- with consistent use. Check back after we're done testing it in the CNET Labs for our battery-testing results.

Conclusion

The Lenovo A8 is a simple and affordable portable tablet that will work fine for those with basic needs. Its consistently smooth performance for basic tasks and audio-enhancing Dolby Digital app make it a good deal, but the lack of app tray is an awful oversight that makes the menu pages a messy bother to constantly organize.

It lacks a sleek aesthetic, like fellow $179 8-incher and aspiring Apple iPad Mini-doppelganger, the Acer Iconia A1-830, but the A8 mostly gives the Dell Venue 8 a run for its money in the best midsize budget tablet category. Those who know their way an Android slate will enjoy the Venue 8's pure OS over the A8's app-tray-less mess.

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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
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