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Lenovo IdeaPad A1: a 7-inch, Android Gingerbread tablet for $200 (hands-on)

Lenovo IdeaPad A1: a 7-inch, Android Gingerbread tablet for $200 (hands-on)

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What do you do when you've already got two 10-inch Android tablets in your arsenal? Introduce a 7-inch one, of course. Just as we saw a couple of months back on its leaked roadmap, Lenovo's adding the smaller IdeaPad A1 to its tablet family today. However, unlike the IdeaPad K1 and the ThinkPad Tablet, the A1 runs Android 2.3 (no, I didn't mix up the numbers there) and is powered by a 1GHz single-core ARM Cortex A8 processor. Additionally, it's got a 3.0 megapixel camera, a .3 megapixel front facing cam, and an interesting offline GPS feature due to a partnership with Navdroyd. No, it's not the fastest tablet around, but the 8GB version will start at just $199.99. So is it as cheap as that price point may lead you to believe? Hands-on impressions and video await you after the break.

Lenovo's touting that the A1 sports an uncommon internal magnesium alloy roll cage structure that allows it to survive accidental drops (even ones where it falls on an edge), but in my short time with a pre-production unit, I couldn't help but focus on the .4-inch / .88 pound slab's plasticy external build. On the plus side, it does come in a rainbow of colors (blue, black, white, pink) and in general, the easily grippable 7-inch form factor continues to be my pick for reading and fast thumb typing. As for the display, the A1 is promised to have a 1024 x 600-resolution IPS LCD panel. However, the few models I was able to check out certainly didn't have high quality screens, and poor horizontal viewing angles were one of the first things I noticed. Let's hope we can chalk that up to pre-production materials.

In terms of software, you're really looking at a fairly stock version of Gingerbread, though Lenovo's preloading that Launch Zone widget that was on the IdeaPad K1. Sadly, the product manager confirmed that the A1 won't be upgradable to Honeycomb, but it will have access to the Android Market and its own App Shop. As I mentioned, the unit I saw was pre-production so the software was quite flaky and some screen taps were unresponsive. It's obviously too early to tell if the 8GB A1 will be worth your $200 (there will be a 16GB version for $249 as well), but the good news is that Lenovo has a bit of time to work out the kinks and you have more time to decide, since it won't actually hit the market until mid or late September.

Lenovo IdeaPad A1 hands-on