Android tablet manufacturers are by and large split into two broad categories: high-end iPad competitors, and inexpensive tables like the Kindle Fire and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 that make some sacrifices to hit an all-important price point. Lenovo's latest tablet, the IdeaTab S2109, splits the difference: it's currently on sale for $311 after launching a couple of weeks ago, and though its specs aren't overly impressive they're solid. Its design is the spitting image of the iPad 2 — the S2109 's 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 display (with a 4:3 aspect ratio) dominates the 1.3-pound device, and if you removed the Lenovo logo from the front you'd barely be able to tell it apart from Apple's last-generation slate. The S2109 doesn't have a rear-facing camera, opting for only a 1.3-megapixel front shooter — somehow that doesn't seem likely to trouble most buyers. One nice addition is the four-speaker setup on the back of the device, which outputs impressively loud, clean sound – though with so many grilles on the back it's hard not to cover one with your hand.
Inside, the IdeaPad S2109 runs Android 4.0, and in a few minutes spent with the device seems to run it really well. It's totally stock Android, too — Lenovo adds its App Shop with a few new apps and widgets, but otherwise there's nothing added to the experience. It's powered by a dual-core, 1GHz TI processor, which is a bit underpowered compared to the Tegra 3 inside so many other tablets; though the device worked well in our limited tests, we'll reserve judgment until we've put it fully through its paces.
Using the device was a reminder of how much we love 4:3 aspect ratio displays — the S2109 is usable in both orientations in a way most Android tablets simply aren't. Lenovo's previous tablet offerings haven't really taken off, but the S2109 could be a pretty compelling option: the hardware is quite good without being revolutionary (the S2109 also comes with a grippy rubber case), and if the internals are up to powering Android 4.0 the $311 price could be a steal. And did we mention we love 4:3 aspect ratios?