BERLIN: Since Apple released its original iPad Mini, 8in tablets have become increasingly popular and manufacturers around the world have been releasing a steady stream of the mid-sized devices.
Key players were Samsung's Galaxy Tab S and Note ranges and Acer's latest 8in Iconia tablet, for example. Unperturbed by the strong competition, this IFA Lenovo chose to join the 8in tablet race, unveiling its first ever mid-sized Android tablet, the Tab S8.
Design and build
Unless you pick the yellow colour option, the Tab S8 is fairly unassuming, featuring a round back and sides, and barebones front that's free of noticeable design features. In fact, were it not for the Lenovo stamp emblazoned on the Tab S8, you could easily mistake this for one of Asus' or Acer's existing devices.
While some may complain about the Tab S8's unassuming design, we didn't really have too much of an issue with it. This is largely because, while not terribly ostentatious the Tab S8 ticks all the necessary design boxes. For starters, measuring in at 210x124x7.9mm and weighing 299g, the Tab S8 is suitably travel friendly and feels comfortable to use, or hold one handed.
Additionally, despite being made of plastic, the Tab S8 doesn't feel too cheap and, from what we've seen, it's reasonably well built. While we didn't get to drop test the Tab S8, its chassis did feel scratch and drop proof.
In a world where tablets regularly break the 300ppi milestone, we were a little disappointed when Lenovo announced the Tab S8 will feature an 8in 1920x1200, 283ppi in-plane switching (IPS) LCD.
However, during our hands on we found the Tab S8's display is pretty impressive, especially when you consider its $200 price tag. Using the Tab S8 on the showroom floor at IFA, while it was occasionally prone to picking up stray light, the display did perform fairly well. Colours, while not on a par with those seen on Samsung Super Amoled tablets' displays, were rich and the Tab S8 featured impressive brightness levels. Text and icons were suitably crisp and we never experienced any serious issues with the display during our hands on.
The Tab S8 runs using a customised version of Android 4.4 KitKat. We're not massive fans of Android skins as generally they don't add to the user experience, either making superfluous, or detrimental changes that make Android less user friendly and slow down future updates.
For example, in the app menu Lenovo has added a random shortcut icon. This brings up a tab on the bottom of screen with links to the tablet's main settings and theme options, all of which can also be accessed directly from the app menu.
That said, the skin is still significantly lighter than those made by some of Lenovo's competitors, such as Huawei Emotion or Samsung Touchwiz, and most Android users won't take too long to get used to it.
Unlike the majority of manufacturers, Lenovo has chosen not to use a Qualcomm snapdragon chip and has instead loaded the Tab S8 with a quad-core, 1.3GHz Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM.
We didn't get a chance to benchmark the Tab S8 during our hands on, but found the tablet was very fast for basic tasks. Webpages opened in seconds, even on the showroom's over-stacked WiFi the Tab S8 ran smoothly.
While we didn't get a chance to see how the Tab S8 ran when faced with more demanding tasks, such as 3D gaming, considering its use of Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics we have high hopes and are keen to see how it performs in our full review.
Tablets of all sizes are yet to really offer anything above average imaging performance when compared with their smartphone siblings and, from what we've seen, this will remain true with the Tab S8.
Testing the Tab S8's 8MP rear camera we found the device is fairly average and images, while more than good enough for sharing on social media, rapidly lost their clarity when zoomed in on. The same remained true when we took a few snaps on the Tab S8's 1.6MP front camera.
Battery and storage
We didn't get a chance to test the Tab S8's 4290mAh battery life, but even if Lenovo's projected seven-hours is true it will still be below average, with most similarly sized tablets lasting at least eight to nine hours before dying. In terms of storage the Tab S8 comes with 16GB of internal space that can fortunately be upgraded using the tablet's Micro SD slot.
The Lenovo Tab S8 will be available from the beginning of September, with prices starting at $199. While we did notice some issues during our hands on, considering its low cost and the inclusion of a powerful Intel processor, there is still plenty to like about the Tab S8 and we can see it being a popular choice for buyers on a budget.
Hopefully our positive opening impressions will ring true when we put the Lenovo Tab S8 more thoroughly through its paces in our full review later this year.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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