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10/15/2012
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Mid-Sized Tablets Emerge With Lenovo's IdeaPad A2109

Lenovo's mid-sized IdeaPad A2109 Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) tablet is loaded with features and very reasonably priced. Unfortunately, it's too heavy for its size and suffers from an anemic display.

With 10-inch Android tablets costing about twice as much as 7-inch tablets, there ought to be a market opportunity for mid-size tablets--those that fall between the 7- and 10-inch in price but offer most of the features of the 10-inch models. This appears to be the idea behind Lenovo's new IdeaPad A2109, a 9-inch tablet running Android 4.0. Does it hit the mark?

The IdeaPad A2109 first appeared at the IFA show in Berlin last month as the first member a new "affordable" Android tablet series. It will be joined later this year by the A2107, a 7-inch model sharing many of the same features.

Lenovo's IdeaPad A2109: Android 4.0 on a 9-inch screen (click image to enlarge)

From the specs (see the table below), it's clear that the IdeaPad A2109 implements virtually all the features and functions we've come to expect from current-generation Android tablets. However, several concerns are worth mentioning. One is that the A2109 is surprisingly heavy for its size--at 20 ounces it's just one ounce shy of the 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Holding it with one hand, in portrait mode, which is commonly done with 7-inch tablets and eReaders, quickly becomes fatiguing. It doesn't help that the metal alloy casing is slippery and tapers at the edges, which makes hanging on to it with one hand a risky business. This is based on my experience, of course--I have medium-size hands--and your mileage might vary.

A greater concern is the A2109's lack of screen brightness compared with other current-generation tablets such as the Galaxy Tab 2, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, and iPad. When placed side by side the different is remarkable: the A2109 looks about half as bright. Specs back this up: The screen of the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is rated at 450 nits, and the A2109's screen delivers just 260 to 290 nits. It's more than usable, provided you don't need to use it in direct sunlight.

Inside the A2109

The A2109 is powered by a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor, accompanied by 1 GB RAM and 16 GB of flash storage memory. Other key features include its 9-inch 1280 x 800-pixel screen, dual cameras, stereo speakers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a beefy 6000 mAh battery. Lenovo says the tablet has a metal alloy "roll cage" case inspired by the ThinkPad's, but we didn't see any overt resemblance.

IdeaPad A2109 specs vs. the 7- and 10-inch competition

The table below compares the A2109's and specs to those of its most prominent 7- and 10-inch Android tablet competitors.

Google Nexus 7 Lenovo IdeaTab A2109 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1
Processor 1.3GHz quad-core 1.2GHz quad-core 1GHz dual-core
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB
Internal flash 8GB or 16GB 16GB 16GB
microSD flash exp. no no yes
OS Android 4.1 Android 4.0 Android 4.0
Apps market Google Google Google
Display resolution 1280x800 1280x800 1280x800
Display area 22 in2 37 in2 46 in2
Display brightness ~ 400 nits ~ 275 nits ~ 450 nits
Front camera 1.2MP 1.3MP 0.3MP
Rear camera no 3MP 3MP
Video output no yes yes
Wi-Fi yes yes yes
Bluetooth yes yes yes
GPS yes yes yes
Battery 4325 mAh 6000 mAh 7000 mAh
Continuous Netflix (full brightness) ~ 5 hrs ~ 5 hrs ~ 5 hrs
Size (in.) 7.8 x 4.7 x 0.4 9.3 x 6.5 x 0.5 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.4
Weight 12 oz 20 oz 21 oz
Price $199 (8GB) $249 (16GB) $299 (16GB) $399 (16GB)

From the specs it's clear that as the tablet sizes get larger, so do their battery capacity, weight, and cost. The graphic below indicates the relative size of the three tablets.

Comparing three Android tablet form factors.

Note that although the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1's screen area is about one-fourth larger than the IdeaPad A2109's, it weighs a mere 1 ounce (5 percent) more than the IdeaPad does. I'll have more to say about that shortly, but first let's check out the Lenovo tablet's user interface, home screens, and apps.

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