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Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 review: A budget tablet that cuts too many corners

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The Good The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000's Dolby Digital audio enhancement features make almost any pair of headphones sound great, and the microSD expansion slot is a welcome addition.

The Bad The tablet's screen is unfashionably low-res, with washed out color and narrow viewing angles. Graphics-heavy games chug something awful, apps sometimes stutter when launched, and Netflix video doesn't play.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 is a meek 7-inch tablet that cuts far too many corners to reach its budget price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5

Review Sections

Even when compared to other sub-$200 tablets in its weight class, the Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 comes up short in features, performance, and screen quality. While the microSD storage expansion is welcome here, it's not reason enough to buy the tablet. There are plenty of other microSD-toting budget tablets with higher quality screens and more useful features.

Speaking of features, the tablet’s inclusion of Dolby Digital audio enhancement is its one possible saving grace. It's geared toward audiophiles, but due to its headphones-only functionality and a lack of user-friendly integration, it's not as easily accessible as it should be.

If you're looking for an inexpensive tablet, the $149 Asus MeMO Pad HD 7 is a better choice for an audio-enhancing budget tablet. Also, the Kindle Fire HD is currently available for a mere $159 and the Nook HD packs gobs of value into its $129 price. And if its $229 starting price isn't too much of a splurge, the Google Nexus 7 is the best way to go for a small low-priced tablet.

The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 is an unremarkable tablet with a simple design. It has a slim border that wraps around the bezel and is available in black or white. Our review unit was black but, in certain lights, the dark border looks like a deep purple with a glittery shimmer.

Tested spec Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 Asus MeMO Pad HD 7 Google Nexus 7 (2013) Amazon Kindle Fire HD
Weight in pounds 0.77 0.66 0.66 0.86
Width in inches (landscape) 7.8 7.8 7.8 7.7
Height in inches 4.7 4.7 4.5 5.4
Depth in inches 0.4 0.4 0.34 0.4
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.8 0.9 1 0.9

If holding the tablet in landscape orientation, the left and right edges of the border slightly curve inward, allowing your thumbs to easily rest on the sides without smudging the screen or obstructing the front-facing speakers. The device cozily fits in one hand or both and is pretty comfortable to hold thanks to its curved edges.

Although it lacks some style, its dimensions are similar to comparable 7-inch tablets. James Martin/CNET

The tablet also houses a front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera at its top left corner and has no ambient light sensor. The Micro-USB port, headphone jack, and power button sit on the top edge of the device, with the microSD expansion slot -- expandable up to 32GB -- and volume rocker around the corner on the right edge. The back side keeps it simple with an all black matte finish and no camera.

The smooth texture and flush design of the shiny power and volume buttons help them easily blend into the curvature of the tablet's edges, but it ultimately makes them difficult to locate without looking.

The microSD card slot is located next to the volume rocker. Josh Miller/CNET

Features The IdeaTab A1000 ships with Android 4.1.2 and most of its special features lean more toward practical than spectacle; you can schedule when the tablet turns on and off, easily tune into FM radio, and change or customize audio profiles.

Audio profiles can be quickly changed via the easy access tray -- by swiping down from the top -- and include general, silent, meeting, and outdoor, with the option to create and customize your own. The audio profiles don't control the overall audio of the tablet, but their value lies in the ability to set different volume levels or ringtones for alarms and notifications.

The audio profiles are somewhat useful, but the limited storage space is definitely not. Xiomara Blanco

Dolby Digital Plus
The Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 features Dolby Digital Plus audio enhancement, which includes a baked-in equalizer that can only be accessed through the settings menu. The equalizer functions for both movies and music and can only be utilized to its full potential when listening to audio via headphones.

The tablet's best feature is its audio enhancing equalizer, but it's only accessible when using headphones. Xiomara Blanco

The equalizer menu is disabled until you connect a pair of three-pin headphones; four-pin headsets don't enable the menu but can still be used to listen to audio. The good news is that the feature overcompensates for low-quality earbuds and made even my cheap back-up pair sound great.

When it comes to music, the equalizer provides fuller, more balanced sound to all genres and successfully prevents some songs from sounding too screechy or tinny. However, sometimes it's too much, resulting in extraneous bass or muffling.

The wide variety of genre presets go beyond traditional pop, jazz, or classical options and selecting the right one can turn a cringe-inducing tune to a pleasurable ditty. With the right combination of song and setting, subtleties in the music are illuminated with melodic oomph and instruments or vocals that are too pronounced are equalized to meld better with the entire song.

After listening to a few albums with the equalizer and trying out each preset like a musical Goldilocks, I noticed that specific genre presets don't work well for every song of the genre and sometimes the default option sounds the best.

A difference in quality is also evident while using many of the movie audio settings.

In order to make the equalizer feature truly useful, it should have been better integrated into the tablet's interface. Instead, you're switching back and forth between the settings window and the app you're attempting to optimize to try out different sound profiles, all the while the tablet's sometimes slow performance isn't doing your frustration level any favors. Lenovo says the A1000 is optimized for music, so it would have been nice to have seen a more thoughtful integration of its sound features.

The equalizer features more options for music than movies. Xiomara Blanco

The wide selection of music and movie genres is impressive but overwhelming and inconvenient to operate; I often found myself spending too much time trying to classify what I was listening to, or slowly switching between the equalizer and a video to ensure I was using the best setting.

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