The world isn't exactly overrun with affordable big name brand 7" Android tablets, but the big gorillas in the room, the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet seem to have that segment covered. Or do they? Some folks want more than a locked down ereader, and aren't into rooting their tablet just to use it to its full potential. We're talking Android Market, YouTube player, Gmail and hardware features like a GPS and Bluetooth.
Enter the Lenovo IdeaPad 7" Android tablet. It lists for $249 with 16 gigs of storage and WiFi, and you might find it for less since Lenovo often runs sales (2 colors are currently $209 on Lenovo.com). For just a little more than the Kindle and the same price or less as the Nook Tablet, you get a 1024 x 600 LCD, a single core 1GHz TI CPU, 500 megs of RAM and 16 gigs of storage plus front and rear cameras. It has a standalone GPS that works even without a WiFi connection, though you'll have to download maps to the device before traveling (NavDroid is included with access to 1 US state's map free).
The bad part? It runs Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread on a single core CPU. Sounds a little last year, doesn't it? We're surprised that Lenovo is rolling this tablet out now: it's as if they designed it with today in mind 9 months ago rather than looking ahead at where tablet specs were heading. Gingerbread is the phone version of Android OS, and it's all but disappeared on big name tablets that all run Android 3.2 Honeycomb or even the latest, greatest 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. And Lenovo says the tablet will not receive upgrades to Honeycomb or ICS. Boo.
But it's not all warts and whoopsies; the tablet is reasonably attractive, has a magnesium alloy roll cage that's reminiscent of ThinkPad laptops, and it's full Android with all the features you'd expect from a tablet except HDMI. For those who are looking for a tablet to tinker with and don't want to spend lots of money, it's certainly more affordable than the more robustly outfitted Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and Toshiba Thrive 7.
The tablet weighs 0.88 lbs. and it's a half inch thick. It has WiFi 802.11b/g/n (no 3G or 4G and thus no contract), Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a GPS, a rear 3MP camera and front video chat camera. It has a 3350 mAh Lithium Ion battery that Lenovo claims is good for 7 hours of web surfing. It's available in white, black, blue and pink.
Here's our Lenovo IdeaPad A1 video review. Our full written review will follow in the coming days.