Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Tablet

Lenovo has finally entered the Android tablet market with the 10.1-inch IdeaPad K1, which mixes innovative UI enhancements and a useful selection of pre-loaded apps with a stylish, colorful design. With a $499 price for the 32GB version, this tablet is $100 less than theSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Apple iPad 2 with the same amount of storage. But is the IdeaPad K1 innovative enough to steer you away from better-known slates?


At 10.4 x 7.44 x .52 inches and 1.6 pounds, the IdeaPad K1 is quite a bit larger and heavier than rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (9.7 x 6.7 x 0.34 inches, 1.2 pounds) and the iPad 2 (9.5 x 7.3 x 0.3 inches, 1.3 pounds). However, the 10.75 x 6.7 x 0.6-inch Toshiba Thrive felt a lot bulkier in our hands despite weighing the same amount. The tapered edges on the K1 help.
With its matte, chrome-colored side and back trim and deep red back panel, the IdeaPad K1 is one of the most attractive tablets we've ever seen. The back panel also comes in white and dark gray, but we strongly recommend the snazzy red shade of our review unit. Unfortunately, there's nothing particularly unique about the glossy front panel and the large surrounding bezel. Both the screen and the back panel are fingerprint magnets, showing nearly every touch you've made when viewed in bright light.


The 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel glossy display provided sharp and bright images, but colors were not nearly as vibrant as on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. When we looked at the two tablets' displays side by side, the red bar at the top of CNN.com was a dull brick red on the IdeaPad K1 and a lighter, more orangey red on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. However, edges of objects seemed a bit sharper on the K1 than on the Tab.
Flash Video on IdeaPad K1
Viewing angles were solid on the K1; we were able to watch a movie without significant color degradation while the tablet was sitting on a table a few feet away from us and when we viewed it from 45 degree angles. However, the glossy panel kicks back a lot of ambient light.
The capacitive digitizer was highly responsive to our swipes and taps--most of the time. Multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom also worked smoothly.


The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 features just the stock Android 3.1 Honeycomb keyboard with no special features. Typing on the keys, particularly in landscape mode, was quick and easy. However, we wish the K1 offered haptic feedback and gave us the option of using Swype, which lets you type by tracing the letters together.
IdeaPad K1 Keyboard

Ports and Buttons

The IdeaPad K1 offers a useful selection of ports and buttons. On the left side (when the tablet is held in landscape mode) sit a power button, up/down volume rocker, a screen rotation lock switch, and a microSD card reader. Opening the card reader, which sits behind a tiny metal cover, is a huge hassle that requires sticking a paperclip into a hole next to the port.
IdeaPad K1's Annoying microSD card reader
On the bottom, long side sit a mini HDMI out port, a headset jack, and a proprietary docking port. Unfortunately, you must use the proprietary docking port to AC adapter cable to charge the tablet and the docking port to USB cable to sync with your PC. There is no microUSB port for charging or transferring data, so if you lose the cables the tablet comes with, you're in trouble.
We appreciated the large, physical home button that sits on the bezel, but wish the IdeaPad K1 also had a physical back button like the ThinkPad Tablet. A full-size USB port such as the one found on the Toshiba Thrive also would have been appreciated.

Software and UI

From its home screen on down to its Android buttons, the IdeaPad K1 features some major improvements on the standard Honeycomb interface we've seen on all of its Android 3.1 competitors. Instead of the electric-blue Tron-esque wallpaper and back/home/layers (a.k.a. task switching) buttons, the K1 comes with a rustic wheat field that reminded us of an Andrew Wyeth painting. The all-white back/home/menu buttons also have a much more down-home feel.
IdeaPad K1 Homescreen
In the center of the home screen sits the Lenovo Launcher Widget, which features four "zones" (a.k.a. buttons) surrounding a giant globe icon. The five "zones" are Watch (default launches mSpot Movies), Email (default launches Gmail client), Listen (default launches Slacker), Read (default launches Zinio magazine reader), and Web browser (the giant globe).
Tapping the settings wheel on the left of the widget allows you to customize which apps each of the zones launches and replace the globe button with a single image or slideshow. You can also change the color of the zone buttons and turn on/off Lenovo messages which appear as a tiny "I" icon between the Email and Read zones.
Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Tablet
We strongly recommend disabling the Lenovo messages, because they are nothing more than advertisements for movies, music, and other paid services. In fact, throughout our testing, the Lenovo message kept recommending that we buy an explicit rap album from the group LMFAO at Amazon.com. This kind of adult content recommendation would pose a serious problem for families with children.
Bad product recommendation on IdeaPad K1
The home screen is also adorned with shortcuts that toggle the speakers and microphone. A lock-shaped icon allows you to put the device to sleep without hitting the power button.
In the middle of the status bar sits the App Wheel button, which looks a lot like a comics-style speech bubble. When you tap it, the App Wheel appears on the right side of the screen, showing thumbnails of your six favorite apps. Swiping up and down on the wheel rotates through these thumbnails, while tapping on one launches its associated app. You can add/remove apps from the wheel by tapping the + / - icon that appears when it is active. This feature is welcome, but we guarantee that first-time Android Honeycomb tablet users will initially confuse the App Wheel with the Recent Apps button in the System bar.
Favorite Apps on the IdeaPad K1
As with other Honeycomb tablets, tapping on the Recent Apps button reveals a scrollable list of thumbnails for your open apps. However, Lenovo has innovated in a major way by adding "close" buttons to the corner of each thumbnail. Tapping one of these red Xs closes its associated app, saving precious system resources.