Monday, 28 November 2011

Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Review

HDMI connectivityVivid displayL
enovo failed to deliver on their promise of the Le Pad but at least we have a part of it in the form of the IdeaPad K1 tablet. If you look at the pictures more closely, you'll notice the K1 and the tablet portion of Le Pad are virtually identical. The company announced this along with two other tablets a couple of weeks back in a rather grand spectacle. This is Lenovo's first foray in the world of Android tablets and it faces stiff competition from the iPad 2, Motorola Xoomand the Samsung Galaxy Tab 750. The K1 looks rock solid on paper, but what is it actually like in the real world, is what we are about to find out today.

Design and Build
The K1 tablet is built to last, something we've come to expect from Lenovo. The fit and finish of the aluminium body is really good and the brown leather back gives a premium feel while also helping with the grip. The rounded edges and wide bezel allows you to hold it firmly without your fingers interfering with the touchscreen. It's not what you'd call light at 750g and after a short while you feel the fatigue in your wrists. There’s a little 'Home' button on the front which also doubles as a optical trackpad for moving backwards and forwards through web pages and applications. The 10.1-inch multi-touch screen is rich and vibrant although a bit reflective at times. 
Built well with a nice design
Built well with a nice design


The microphone, power button, volume rocker, orientation lock and microSD card slots are placed on the left while the SIM tray is on the right for the 3G model. At the bottom we have a mini-HDMI jack, 3.5mm headphone jack and the docking/charging port. Lenovo uses a proprietary connector for data transfer instead of the microUSB. We would also have liked to see a modular data/power cable, instead we got two separate cables.
A look from all sides
A look from all sides


This would have been ok if you could charge and connect the tablet to the PC at the same time, but you can't. We also wished the buttons would have been a little larger making them easier to use. Perhaps the most annoying design choice is the flaps for the SIM and memory card slot, which require you to use a pin to open them, like on the iPhone 4. This is just an unnecessary inconvenience.
Leather-back tablet
Leather-back tablet


Overall, Lenovo has done a splendid job with the look and feel of the tablet. The 1280x800 resolution screen is crisp with decent viewing angles and there’re plenty of connectivity options to keep any enthusiast satisfied. Having said that, we wished Lenovo had added standard USB host support, if not natively then at least via an adapter like Samsung did with the Tab 750.

Features
Interface
The Lenovo K1 runs on Android Honeycomb 3.1 so we automatically get multiple sign-ins through GTalk, shortcut to more previously opened apps and overall snappier performance. Instead of stock Honeycomb, Lenovo has heavily customised the interface with plenty of useful widgets and bundled apps without compromising the performance of the tablet by a great deal.
The shortcut widget comes in really handy
The shortcut widget comes in really handy


The shortcut widget lets you directly jump to gallery, music, email, eBook reader, Internet or settings. Lenovo have added plenty of alternatives to the stock apps like mSpot for music, a custom video player as well as gallery. A shortcut at the bottom brings up a carousel on the right for frequently used apps which can be chosen by you.
Add your frequently used apps in the carousel
Add your frequently used apps in the carousel


They've even added their own store called Lenovo Shop. Other tweaks include more toggle switches in the settings menu, the ability to close recently opened apps right from the list itself which we thought was a brilliant idea and redesigned menu icons. It's a commendable effort on Lenovo's part and while it's not as fancy as Sense or as colourful as TouchWiz, it's functional and that's what matters.
Close background tasks a lot easily
Close background tasks a lot easily


The 1GHz dual-core Tegra T20 ensures everything runs smooth and the 1GB of RAM complements it well. You also get 32GB of onboard memory plus you can further expand that via microSD card. The little button we mentioned earlier is also an optical trackpad. You swipe up to go forward and down to go one step back. While this is handy when browsing a web page it's really annoying when you're watching a video. You can't hold the tablet near the bottom edge as its uncomfortable so when you hold it in the middle, your thumb inevitably hits the trackpad and you're back on the homescreen. We wish there was a way to disable that. Lenovo shouldn't have added it in the first place since the bottom menu bar is always visible no matter what app you're in so there's always a way to jump to the homescreen, if need be.

Media
If you're buying this tablet for media consumption, then you're well catered for. Apart from the stock music and video player (which are quite frankly, poor), there's mSpot Music which let's you store your music in the cloud (you need an account for this) or simply play music stored locally. It also has equalizer settings so the sound quality is pretty good with decent in-ear phones. All the standard audio file formats are supported like MP3, WAV, AAC, etc. ArcSoft has tied up with Lenovo to provide ArcSync media suite which includes a gallery, video and audio player and an eBook reader. After you set up your ArcSync account, you then have the option to sync media files and documents on the cloud or with a remote PC.
The mSpot Music player
The mSpot Music player


The speakers are quite powerful as well. Placed in the back, towards the bottom, they are sufficiently loud for music or movies. We didn't like the placement of the headphone jack, which is at the bottom. It would have been better suited if it were on the sides. The default video format support is MP4 but ArcSoft's video player will do AVI files as well. To truly see what the K1 is capable of, we installed MoboPlayer and loaded up our test files. Shockingly, our 1080p test files struggled to play smoothly.
Edit your videos on the go
Edit your videos on the go


Now the K1 is powered by the Tegra 250 T20 version, which has a slightly faster GPU running at 333MHz (instead of 300MHz) so if anything, playback should have been smoother. Even HD MP4 files which otherwise playback smoothly on phones, struggled to play well with the default player and even with MoboPlayer and ArcSoft's player. 720p files fared better and naturally SD videos were a non issue. This could be a glitch with Lenovo's firmware and hopefully they fix that soon. 
Connectivity
Along with 3G data support (no telephony), we also have Wi-Fi 'n' and Bluetooth 2.0. Connecting the tablet to your HDTV is simple thanks to the mini-HDMI connector. Transferring files to your PC is as simple as plugging in the tablet with the bundled cable. Since the K1 shows up as a 'Portable Media' device, the microSD card is not accessible directly from Windows Explorer. Instead, it appears as a folder in the device's onboard memory. Something worth noting is if you find Windows Explorer crashing everytime you try to copy a video file in the tablet, it's because of DivX player. Simply uninstall that, and you should be fine. The onscreen keyboard offers good feedback and is responsive.
The keyboard is comfortable to use and responsive
The keyboard is comfortable to use and responsive


Lenovo has added some handy Internet related apps like Zinio which lets you access plenty of magazines from around the world, ooVoo video chat, ArcSync, PrinterShare, eBuddy, PokeTALK and Kindle eBook reader. Lenovo have added their own app called SocialTouch which lets you access Twitter, Facebook, etc. through a single app.  

Misc. Applications
There are a ton of these as well. Drawing Pad lets you get your creative hair down while Movie Story lets you easily edit and create a home video.
Get creative with the Drawing Pad app
Get creative with the Drawing Pad app


There are a bunch of games as well like Galaxy on Fire 2 THD, Kongregate Arcade, Angry Birds HD, Warships, Vendetta Online and NFS Shift. Other apps include Norton Security and Documents to Go.

Camera
The onboard 5MP rear camera supports autofocus and single LED flash. The sensor is not very good with ambient light indoors and fails to capture much detail or accurate colours. Also, there's plenty of noise that creeps in the photographs.
Standard camera options
Standard camera options


Outdoor pictures are a little better but overall, the camera is pretty average. We've yet to see a really good camera from a tablet. The front facing camera is a 2MP which is also strictly decent.
Indoor shots aren't great even with the flash
Indoor shots aren't great even with the flash


The camera options are stock Honeycomb which can be seen from the picture. Video recording tops off at 720p at 30fps. The recorded video is smooth without much stutter.

Battery Life
Lenovo claims 10hours of battery life for the K1 but in our video loop test, we managed to get 8 hours. This is still a respectable number and considering we tested a 3G model, you should be able to reach the magic number with the Wi-Fi version. Our loop tests, which included a video loop, audio loop and streaming radio through Wi-Fi, managed to give us 6 hours of battery life.  

Verdict
With a price tag of Rs. 33,990, the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is officially the cheapest and most feature rich tablet in the market with the most amount of onboard storage. There's really no reason to buy the Motorola Xoom as the K1 offers everything the Xoom does and more. As far as 3G tablets are concerned, the Galaxy Tab 750 is the only other real competitor. Which one is better, entirely depends on what you are looking for. If light weight and a slim form factor are of utmost importance and you don’t mind the limited 16GB storage, then go for the Tab 750, else the K1 is the ideal pick at this price.
The IdeaPad K1
The IdeaPad K1


Now, the attractive pricing doesn't take away from the fact that the K1 is not without its share of issues, albeit minor ones. The flaps used to cover the SIM and memory card cannot be opened without using a pin, which can be annoying. There also seems to be a slight issue with this custom build of Honeycomb as 1080p videos simply refuse to play smoothly, no matter what. Finally, the optical trackpad button was a bit unneccesary as it doesn't serve any great purpose but simply gets in the way when you're using the tablet in landscape mode. In the end the K1 may not be the best tablet in the market, but it offers good bang for buck. 

Lenovo IdeaPad Z570: Style Comes Cheap

Lenovo's new Sandy Bridge offering - IdeaPad Z570L
enovo’s new IdeaPad Z570 is a notebook that falls in the lower price bracket. It’s a segment that is crowded with laptops from pretty much every manufacturer out there. System configurations are also pretty identical and choosing one can be confusing.
Pretty and feature-rich
Lenovo's new Sandy Bridge offering - IdeaPad Z570


Going by the specifications, the new IdeaPad Z570 doesn't look a lot different from offerings from other brands. So what makes the Z570 any different?

Features
In terms of system configuration, the 15.6-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Z570 isn’t too impressive. It only runs an Intel Core i3 2310M processor that operates at an average 2.1 GHz. It’s based on the new Sandy Bridge architecture, so clearly laptops using the new platform have started returning to the market. There’s 3 GB of DDR3 memory and Lenovo has bundled the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Basic on the laptop. There is no discrete graphics solution provided, though. This makes it clear the Z570 is no way prepared for any serious gaming. But, it does have many other nifty features. There is a large 640 GB hard drive in it, which means space for a ton of media. There is 802.11n WiFi supported through the Atheros AR9285 adapter. HDMI connectivity is also present. Suddenly, the IdeaPad Z570 comes alive with all sorts of features you don't expect in a laptop this cheap.

Design and Build Quality
The IdeaPad Z570 although in the lower end bracket of laptops, is an attractive thing to look at. The colour on the model we received isn’t too great but the finish on the lid and the Lenovo badge does makes it stand out. It’s not the slimmest of laptops and it’s by no means light-weight. The weight is probably has to do with its build quality, which is pretty good for a laptop that costs less than Rs. 35,000. The top for example, is made of metal and has a very sturdy feel to it.
Chiclet-style keyboard on the IdeaPad
Chiclet-style keyboard on the IdeaPad


Finer aspects of the design and build quality can be seen when you open the lid. The line of touch-sensitive buttons give it a very elegant look. The buttons are meant for controlling the volume of the speakers, setting screen profiles and cooling modes. The software works well with the touchscreen buttons. Operation is extremely simple. The power button too looks great and looks like it came out from a really high-end laptop. We really like the look and feel of those buttons. The tiny, but bright, backlight used for these touch sensitive buttons and also the activity indicators looks very nice indeed. Another set of indicators are positioned next to the large trackpad. These are primarily to display the power on status, charging status, wireless connectivity and trackpad status.
Speakers and the well designed power button
Speakers and the well designed power button


The keys are scalloped and have a depression in them. At first, using it feels a little awkward but the keys do have a nice feel to them. There is a little bit of feedback and the keys wobble a little bit if you press them on one corner. The speakers are positioned on the same panel as the touch-sensitive buttons.Performance
The hard drive performance isn’t particularly fast. The laptop recorded close to 40MB/s write speeds while recording a 4GB file to the drive. Assorted data was even slower with write speeds dropping to 31MB/s. While the Z570 has a ton of storage capacity, the drive used simply lacks the performance. PCMark Vantage churned out an overall score of 4609, which is a good bit lower than a slightly slower clocked quad core Core i7 processor. Graphics performance doesn’t impress either. OpenGL tests on Cinebench show scores frame rates of just 8.41 fps. Good graphics solutions will do close to four times that on a notebook.

Thankfully, HD playback is effortless. A 1080p video runs while using just 2-3 per cent CPU utilisation which is quite literally close to nothing. HDMI connectivity means that you can play movies from the laptop on a large screen TV.
Touch-sensitive buttons next to the right-hand side speaker
Touch-sensitive buttons next to the right-hand side speaker


The display is bright and vibrant. Colour rendition is natural too. Although it uses a glossy screen, it’s hard to hide the average performance in the darker regions of scenes. Viewing angles are pretty poor as well. Overall though, the visual experience is great as long as you’re sitting right in front of the laptop. If you exclude the average contrast ratio, it’s actually a decent screen. Audio quality is decent but  the speakers aren’t very loud . 

Even with benchmarks running, we noticed no heating whatsoever on the top surface of the laptop. There is some heating on the lower surface, towards the centre of the laptop which is noticeable when you place the laptop on your lap. The laptop is extremely quiet and the cooling very effective. The test of battery life using our stringent battery drain test went pretty well. The 6-cell battery powered the laptop on for 1 hour and 19 minutes, which although not excellent, but is still good for a laptop in this price range. 

Verdict
 Lenovo's new Sandy Bridge offering - IdeaPad Z570

Pretty and feature-rich


The IdeaPad Z570 sells for Rs. 33,190, which makes it easily one of the more affordable laptops around. The Z570 has a lot going for it. It might not be a workhorse and you most definitely will not be playing Crysis on it. One thing’s for sure though, it has a ton of features that matter and a good design and for the majority of the tasks that you'll need it to do, it will do just fine.

Samsung to pull out of netbook market, will focus on ultrabooks


Come 2012, Samsung Electronics will be shutting down their netbook production in favour of tablets and ultrabooks. The Korean company supposedly sent an e-mail to one of their partners informing them that in the first quarter of next year, they will discontinue their 10.1-inch netbook line-up and will focus on more powerful 11.6-inch and 12-inch ultra-portable notebooks.
So much for cheap and affordable computing
So much for cheap and affordable computing

This doesn’t really come as a big surprise, since it is something, which was long overdue. Looking at the current and past market trends, the netbook scene was and still is dominated by Asus, a company that popularized the netbook segment a couple of years back. Since then, everyone else has tried to grab a slice of Asus’s success and other than HP, I can’t think of anyone who has managed to achieve that success. Samsung has been dabbling with netbooks as well, but none of them really seemed to strike a chord with the audience. Once the tablet frenzy took over, most people migrated from 10.1-inch netbooks for 10.1-inch tablets, since the latter was more powerful, more ergonomic and offered a much better experience for media consumption, as compared to netbooks.

A website called Blogeee, had sent out, “Following the introduction of our new strategy in 2012, we stop the production of the 10.1-inch range (netbooks) in Q1 2012 in favour of ultra-portable products (11.6-inch and 12-inch) and ultrabooks to be launched in 2012”. Samsung’s decision to discontinue this product line-up makes sense, since rather than just stringing it along, it’s better if they concentrated their resources on other segments that are actually trending.

Digital Cameras under Rs. 15,000

If you are on the lookout for a sub-15K camera then this list should help you get started. These babies not only allow you to zoom in onto your subject from a distance but are compact enough to be easily pocketed. So irrespective of whether you are a professional or you are just starting out these selected few should keep you hooked for a while.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 – Rs. 14,300
The Panasonic Lumix ZR3 comes in as one of the most compact cameras that boast of a massive 8x optical zoom. That apart the camera features a 14.1 MP sensor clubbed with a 25mm wide angle lens. Perhaps the most well thought of feature is the Extra Optical Zoom that the camera has. It basically allows you to zoom at three different levels but at lower resolutions – this would include 11.3x at 7MP, 13.5x at 5MP and 16.9x at 3MP. Other features include a wide range of preset scene modes, face recognition and the ability to record in HD (720p). However it doesn’t only end there as there are a whole lot of other options to explore.


Other features include –
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 96 97.8 x 54.8 x 26.0 mm
  • Weight: 160 g
  • Display: 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixels
  • Resolution: 14.1 megapixels
  • Aperture range: f/3.3 – f/5.9
  • Optical Zoom: 8x
  • Digital Zoom: 4x
  • Shutter Speed: 8 sec. to 1/2000 sec (Still mode), 15, 30, 60 sec. to 1/2000 sec. (Starry sky mode)
  • ISO sensitivity: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Flash: Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync., Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Movie recording: 1280 x 720 pixels, 848 x 480 pixels, 640 x 480 pixels, 320 x 240 pixels at 30 fps.
  • Storage: SD / SDHC / SDXC
  • Recording Format: JPEG (still image), AVCHD Lite (video)
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Battery: Li-Ion Battery
Samsung ST70 - Rs. 11,990
Samsung seems to be hitting all the right notes in the digital camera section. The ST70 comes in as an extremely slim camera with a handful of shooting modes to choose from. The camera comes with a decent set of filters such as Miniature filter – gives your subject a miniaturised look, Vignetting filter – enhances the overall contrast of the image and the Fish-eye filter which allows you to distort the overall image to a certain extent. Videos can also be recorded in HD (720p) which delivers an overall crisp and clear image. Dual Image Stabilization, stainless steel body and 27mm wide angle lens makes the ST70 a formidable competitor at this price range.


Other features include –
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 96.3 x 55.8 x 16.6 mm
  • Weight: 130 g
  • Display: 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixels
  • Resolution: 14.2 megapixels
  • Aperture range: f/3.5 – f/5.9
  • Optical Zoom: 5x
  • Digital Zoom: 3x
  • Shutter Speed: 2 sec. to 1/2000 sec
  • ISO sensitivity: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
  • Flash: Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash Off, Red-eye fix
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Movie recording: 1280 x 720 High Quality, 1280 x 720 Standard Quality, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixels at 30 fps
  • Storage: SD / SDHC
  • Recording Format: JPEG (still image), H.264 (video)
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Battery: Li-Ion
Olympus SP-600UZ - Rs. 13,949
The Olympus SP-600UZ might not fall in as a compact camera but it will surely fit in if you are in need of a mega-zoom camera. The SP-600UZ comes with a massive 15x of optical zoom along with an impressive 28mm wide angle lens. Moreover the SP-600UZ features Dual Image Stabilization that takes care of camera shake when shooting at full 15x. Moreover, the Olympus SP-600UZ is the only camera that comes with a decent 1 GB of internal memory. Other features include face detection, AF tracking, panorama and an in-camera manual.


Other features include –
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 109.9 x 72.2 x 75.1 mm
  • Weight: 433 g
  • Display: 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixels
  • Resolution: 12.2 megapixels
  • Aperture range: f/3.5 – f/5.4
  • Optical Zoom: 15x
  • Digital Zoom: 5x
  • Shutter Speed: 1/2 sec. to 1/2000 sec (Auto), 4 sec. to 1/2000 sec (Night)
  • ISO sensitivity: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, AUTO, HIGH
  • Flash: Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in
  • Self Timer: Yes
  • Movie recording: 1280 x 720 pixels (720p), 640 x 480 pixels, 320 x 240 pixels at 30/15 fps
  • Storage: 1 GB (Internal), SD / SDHC
  • Recording Format: H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Battery: AA x 4