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Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 review: A good screen (and not much else) for a great price

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The Good The Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 is an affordable tablet with a full HD screen. The pre-loaded Dolby app significantly improves audio quality. It has a microSD card slot to increase its base storage capacity.

The Bad Large games take a undesirably long time to load. The tablet feels uncomfortable after holding it for a long time.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 offers one of the sharpest HD screens for the price, making it an attractively affordable option for heavy video-watchers.

6.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6

Screen quality and price are two of the most important features of a tablet. There's no shortage of expensive high-end models with stunning HD displays, however, affordable options with similarly impressive screens are almost nonexistent. That's why the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 is a special case, as it has a 1,920x,1200 resolution screen.

Though it's half the price of a typical high-end tablet, the Lenovo Tab 2 A10 isn't half bad. Starting at $200 (Official UK pricing hasn't been announced, but pricing converts to roughly £130. Australia availability also hasn't been made public, though price roughly converts to AU$255), the 10-inch tablet is average at best in most aspects -- like most inexpensive tablets -- except for one important feature: screen quality. It's one of the most affordable options with a full HD display and, to complement the HD content on the screen, it also has powerful Dolby-enhanced speakers for crisp and loud audio.

On the flipside, everything else about the tablet is unremarkable. Its humdrum design is unfashionably thick and its heavy weight causes discomfort after using it for awhile. Performance is also just average, chugging along fine for basic tasks like checking email and surfing the Web, and slowing to a crawl when downloading apps or playing graphics-intense games.

For a cheap tablet, the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 is an attractive option. Not cheap in a pejorative sense; it indeed costs less than its best competition. With its sharp display and crisp speakers, you'll be hard pressed to find another 10-inch tablet that offers the same for less. If you don't want to spend a lot on a tablet for heavy video-watching, the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 should go to the top of your list.

Design

If you haven't held a skinny tablet like the iPad Air 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, you probably won't notice how girthy and heavy the Lenovo Tab 2 A10. It's by no means a brick; it just eschews the "thin is in" tablet trend. For an inexpensive tablet, this is commonplace.

The midnight blue plastic back panel features a smooth texture with a matte finish. In certain light, it radiates a subtle metallic shimmer. On the top of the back panel you'll find speakers that extend the entire width of the tablet, save for the rear camera in the center that separates them.

Dimensions compared

Tested spec Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 Amazon Fire HD 10
Weight 1.10 pounds (499g) 1lb (450g) 0.95 pound (432g)
Width (landscape) 9.7 inches (247mm) 9.5 inches (241.3mm) 10.3 inches (262mm)
Height 6.7 inches (171mm) 6.6 inches (167mm) 6.3 inches (159mm)
Depth 0.35 inch (8.9mm) 0.30 inch (7.5mm) 0.30 inch (7.7mm)
Side bezel width (landscape) 0.5 inch (12.7mm) 0.5 inch (12.7mm) 0.75 inch (19mm)

The edges of the tablet are flat, with a ridge created by the front panel meeting the back panel. It's not sharp or incredibly protruding, so resting any fingers on the sides is still comfortable. From top to bottom, the left edge is home to the power button, volume rocker, micro-USB port and microSD card slot. Sitting alone towards the center of the top edge is the headphone jack.

The Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 is decently comfortable. The rounded edges are a bit pointed, and when holding the tablet for awhile, they start to dig into your palms. Its 1.10-pound (499g) weight is most apparent in these moments. When holding it for long periods of time, I found myself constantly shifting and changing my grip. This isn't strange for a handheld device like this, however, in comparison to the designs of other tablets, like the more streamlined Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7, it doesn't have that melt-in-your-hand feel. If you're holding the tablet for hours, whether you're watching a movie or lurking social networks, this discomfort is a needlessly annoying aspect of an otherwise pleasant tablet.

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The buttons meekly protrude from the left edge. Josh Miller/CNET

Features

Inexpensive tablets not only ignore conventional beauty standards, they also skimp on the software features. The Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 runs on a mostly pure version of Android Lollipop 5.0.1 and, unlike previous models, it features an app tray to easily peruse all of your apps in one central location.

Lenovo preloads some of its own apps, like a browser, contacts, and calendar, and it also includes the SyncIt and ShareIt apps. SyncIt allows you to sync your contacts and back up or restore your SD card, and ShareIt allows you to share documents with another tablet, phone or PC. Neither are essential, but if you're a newbie, they're convenient to have loaded onto the tablet and easy to use.

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An app tray is a useful centralized location for all of your apps. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware

The Lenovo Tab 2 A8 houses a 1.7GHz quad-core Mediatek MT8165, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot that's expandable up to 64GB.

Other features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and accelerometer.

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Easy on the wallet, not hands. Josh Miller/CNET

Performance

The Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 does just fine for casual use. You can expect to write emails, check social networks, and stream videos just fine. It's smooth, though not very fast, and the tablet tends to slow down a lot when downloading apps, though that can be said of many tablets.

Device CPU GPU RAM OS tested
Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 1.7GHz quad-core Mediatek MT8165 Mali T760 1GB Android 5.0.1
Amazon Fire HD 10 1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex A15 PowerVR Rogue G6200 1GB Android-based Fire OS 5.0.1
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ 8016 Adreno 306 1.5GB Android 5.0.2

3DMARK ICE STORM (UNLIMITED)

Amazon Fire HD 10
10,255
Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70
9,227
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7
4,333

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

GRAPHICS SCORE

Amazon Fire HD 10
10,813
Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70
8,460
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7
3,771

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

PHYSICS SCORE

Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70
13,514
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7
9,049
Amazon Fire HD 10
8,685

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Mobile games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush run without a hitch. Larger games take awhile to download, install and load. If there aren't any apps open in the background, gameplay tends to run smoothly, albeit still a bit slow. Its performance is on par with its best competition. In comparison to the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7, it fared a lot better in gaming benchmarks, and it only scored slightly lower than the Fire HD 10 .

In games where I needed two thumbs on the screen, the tablet felt cumbersome and difficult to navigate with. This wasn't an issue in swipe-happy games like Angry Birds. In fact, the bigger screen worked to its advantage. Overall I wasn't disappointed by its gaming performance, however its big size and slow load times make the gaming experience less enjoyable than it should be.

Screen specs compared

Tested spec Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 Amazon Fire HD 10 Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7
Maximum brightness 360 cd/m2 433 cd/m2 401 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.25 cd/m2 0.40 cd/m2 0.38 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1440:1 1082:1 1055:1
Screen resolution 1,920x1,200 1,280x800 1,024x768
Pixels-per-inch (ppi) 224 151 132

The Lenovo Tab 2A10-70 has a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution screen. It's not the sharpest resolution on a tablet, but it's very sharp for a tablet it in its price range. HD video looks crisp and details in images are clear. Colors on the screen look accurate and saturated enough for a vibrant image, but not oversaturated -- like on the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7. In comparison to the Fire HD 10 , the Amazon tablet's screen is dull in both color and sharpness. The Lenovo's 10-inch screen also displays deeper black levels than its competition, however both have it beat when it comes to brightness.

Tablets traditionally house pewny speakers that tend to encourage the alternative use of headphones, however Lenovo tablets tend to buck this trend. The Tab 2 A10-70 houses, according to Lenovo, a "soundbar" on its back. The two speakers, separated by the rear camera, are Dolby-branded, and since they're located on the back of the tablet, they unfortunately direct the sound away from your ears, not toward them.

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A sharper, more color accurate screen than comparable tablets. Josh Miller/CNET

Audio sounds best when using the preloaded Dolby app. You can change the settings for optimizing audio for movies, music and games. When watching movies and playing games, soundscape noises become more audible and, thanks to Dolby Atmos technology -- which replicates the way sound dynamically moves through space in real life -- sound effects are clear, crisp and immersive. For music, it accentuates vocals nicely, yet it lacks any bass to give tunes an exciting oomph.

Unlike its smaller counterpart , the pair of cameras on the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 are pretty good for a tablet. The 8-megapixel rear camera takes crisp photos with accurate colors. It's able to sharply focus on both objects up close and faraway scenery. To the delight of selfie fans, the 5-megapixel front-facing camera also takes in-focus photos with accurate colors, though in brightly lit environments colors can appear a bit washed out.

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The midnight blue back is subtly stylish. Josh Miller/CNET

After testing the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 in the CNET Lab, by looping a local 720p video at medium brightness on Airplane Mode, the tablet lasted 13 hours. For any tablet, especially a tablet with such a big screen, that's an impressively long time.

Conclusion

A budget tablet that sacrifices good performance and posh design in favor of a low price is usually a tough sell. That said, the Lenovo Tab 2 A10 is one of the exceptions due to its full HD display.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 and Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7 are the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70's top competition. The Fire HD 10 is similar to the Lenovo, in that it's a great tablet for media consumption, but for different reasons. If you're an Amazon Prime member, the 10-inch Fire HD offers easy access to the Prime media library, which is chock-full of TV shows and movies to stream or download. Its speakers produce fuller audio and it outperforms the Lenovo in gaming benchmarks yet, though its screen is brighter screen, its resolution isn't as sharp.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab A 9.7's sleek design puts the Amazon and Lenovo tablets to shame.. Compared to the Fire HD 10 and Tab 2 A10-70, it's slim, lightweight and stylish. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is less movie-friendly than the widescreens on the Lenovo and Amazon tablets, but works better for Web browsing and reading. Considering it has a lower resolution than the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70, its more expensive price tag is a tough pill to swallow, even if it's pretty.

Without its HD screen, the Lenovo Tab 2 A10-70 would be just another cheap tablet with middle-of-the-road specs and a dull design. With it -- and its roaring speakers -- it's one of the most affordable models for indulging in all of the YouTube holes and Netflix marathons your heart desires.

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