Sized, priced and powered similarly to a last-gen iPad 2, the S2109 is solid, but not surprising. (Rating: 3 out of 5)
With a 1GHz Cortex A9 processor, 9.7 x 7.3 x 0.35-inch chassis and 9.7-inch screen, the specs put Lenovo's S2109 right next to the iPad 2, which also sells for $399. But unlike the iPad, the S2109 offers expandability via micro SD slot, and HDMI out.
The S2109 offers a sleek design that's 2.5 ounces lighter than Apple's latest iPad. Up front, there's a 1.2MP camera for video conferencing, but it's the tablet's only shooter. Aside from a power button and volume rocker, the edges of the device are kept uncluttered. Along one edge is a slew of ports including Micro USB connection, Micro SD slot, and Micro HDMI port. Unfortunately, the Lenovo charges via a separate AC power port, rather than USB, so you'll have to add another power adapter to your bag.
The back is clad in smooth gunmetal aluminum. Clumsy types be aware, this tablet is slick. Thankfully, Lenovo includes a rubber case in the box that adds a bit of weight and bulk, but offers a reassuring grip.
Plain vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich
Out of the box, the S2109 runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. At press time, Lenovo reps could not confirm a timetable for an update to Google's newly-released 4.1 Jelly Bean OS. In testing, the OS felt smooth most of the time, although occasional lags between taps and the S2109's response slowed things down a bit.
Unlike many tablet makers who run customized, skinned versions of Android, Lenovo chose to leave Ice Cream Sandwich alone on the S2109. There are a few apps pre-loaded—including a sparsely-populated and crashy Lenovo App Shop—but they haven't mucked about with the pure Android experience. Frankly, it's refreshing to see an Android tablet come out of the box as a clean slate.
Lenovo markets the S2109 as an "pure entertainment" device, but the 1024 x 768 pixel display maintains a 4:3 aspect ratio like the iPad, so it works well for running business applications.
You'll have to dive into the Google Play store for productivity apps beyond the included DocumentsToGo, but with up to ten hours of battery life, the S2109 can make it through an entire workday if need be.
The S2109 lacks a cellular data connection, which can be good or bad, depending on your needs. WiFi was strong and reliable on a range of 802.11b/g/n networks, and connecting a variety of Bluetooth keyboards for serious work sessions went off without a hitch.
True to it's positioning as a media tablet, the S2109 features 4 rear-facing speakers, and embedded audio processing that makes the audio coming from the tiny speakers sound like…well, audio coming from slightly less-tiny speakers. The S2109 is plenty loud, but since the speakers point out the back, muffling the sound, the headphone jack on the unit still sees plenty of use.
While it can't compare to the iPad's Retina display, the 133 ppi IPS screen is plenty bright, and offers a 178 degree viewing angle, so it works well for displaying content for a group of people.
If you're looking for a pure Ice Cream Sandwich experience in a 9.7-inch tablet, the IdeaTab S2109 is a sturdy performer. Micro SD storage and onboard HDMI out give the Lenovo a leg up on Apple's iPad models, but there's not much that surprises when it comes to performance.