What should your second laptop be, the one you use for portable computing? So far, the options seemed limited to Windows netbooks and the new line of Google’s Chromebooks. But Lenovo has a new contender in mind: the Android-toting Ideapad A10.
Specs: 10.1″ IPS touchscreen (1366×768 px resolution) | 1.6GHz quad-core Rockchip RK3188 Cortex-A9 processor | 1GB RAM | 16GB internal memory, microSD up to 64GB | VGA webcam | mini-HDMI, 2xUSB 3.0, microUSB ports | Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 | 4400mAh battery | Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with Lenovo Customization
Price: Rs 19,990
Design: The Ideapad A10 is a budget laptop and feels like one. The hinge is a little too tough, the plastic body recesses inside when you press it hard, and it’s overall chunky. That said, it’s definitely light and easy to carry around. One aspect that I really liked is that it uses a standard microUSB port to charge instead of a laptop adapter, which means you can use almost any mobile charger to juice up. Plus, there’s a mini-HDMI out and two standard USB ports for further connectivity.
Keyboard & Trackpad: This is a laptop, not an Android tablet, so the keyboard and trackpad are quite important. Lenovo has customised the keyboard so that it’s more useful for Android, putting in hardware buttons for Home, Back, Multi-tasking, Options, etc. A nice touch is that Lenovo has added a dedicated Search button which can be used to search inside any app in a jiffy.
As great as the keyboard is, the trackpad has major issues. It’s a small size so you can’t use it easily, plus it registers taps inconsistently, so you might need to actually press down on the trackpad to click—an arduous task because it’s a hard trackpad.
Screen: Considering it is a touchscreen IPS display, we expected the kind of viewing angles that you get on most tablets. But the A10 is more like a laptop—tilt it too much and the screen washes out. At the right angle, however, the 10-inch display is good enough. This is where the laptop’s ability to flip back flat comes in handy. The touchscreen is also responsive so you can play games like Angry Birds without a concern.
Performance: Android isn’t a great laptop OS, but in regular usage, you won’t find it lacking in performance. Whether you are browsing the Web or writing a quick proposal in a document, the A10 performs admirably. The only time it starts stuttering is when you ask it to multi-task extensively. Switch on a music player, fire up a browser, and try talking on a chat program at the same time—with frequent back-and-forth between the apps, the A10 will start lagging.
Connectivity: The Ideapad A10 worked with Wi-Fi perfectly well, but we didn’t have the same luck with a Reliance and a Tata Photon dongle in one of the USB ports. Internet usage, it seems, is all about Wi-Fi here.
Memory: By default, the Ideapad A10 comes with 16GB of storage, but you can expand this with a microSD card. Plus, as noted earlier, there are the USB ports to add a hard drive or a pen drive, both of which worked well in our tests.
Software: Lenovo has customised the Android interface to make it more friendly for laptops, including a dock at the bottom which houses all your open apps, looking much like the Windows Taskbar. The familiar Android notifications bar has stayed on top, but in this large-screen interface, that ends up taking valuable real estate without adding much to the experience—a smaller notification tray in the aforementioned dock would have made more sense. Apart from these and other small customisations, it’s pretty much the same old Android you know.
But software is the Ideapad A10’s big failing because it’s the same old Android. Android just doesn’t work well enough as a desktop or laptop interface, so you are left with a half-baked solution that doesn’t really give you all the power that Windows would. What’s more, it also doesn’t give you all the awesome bits about using Android since the screen is not detachable.
Battery: The Ideapad A10 has pretty good battery life, lasting for about 10-12 hours of regular usage, and going strong for 6 hours in our continuous video playback test.
Verdict: The question really is whether Android can be a good laptop OS, not whether the Lenovo Ideapad A10 can be a good laptop. And with Android failing on that front, it’s difficult to recommend the A10. Right now, you’d be better off buying a good Windows netbook or maybe even a Chromebook.