updated 02:40 am EST, Mon January 9, 2012
We try Lenovo's two CES 2012 tablets
Lenovo had a surprise in store after it confirmed the IdeaTab S2 by giving a preview of its K2 cousin: the second model will run on a quad-core Tegra 3 processor and carry the same 1080p screen concept as the Iconia Tab A700. Both, however, are part of a Lenovo strategy to make up for the rough start from the K1. We tried both ahead of CES and got to see if it will be much of a threat to the iPad.
The IdeaTab S2 is certainly an improvement in ergonomics over the old K1; this is slimmer overall much easier to hold. Lenovo explained that the grip texture on the back was specific to CES and was likely to change. Display quality was harder to register indoors, but it looked to be strictly average.
The highlight, not surprisingly, is the keyboard dock. Having used it, there's no question that Lenovo is taking a page from the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and Transformer Prime. It's exceptionally thin and has a fairly comfortable keyboard as well as a workable, though not completely fluid, trackpad. However, it's apparent that Android 4.0 really isn't meant for trackpads, as you have to mimic the gestures of a touchscreen if you want to perform certain tasks, which can quickly become frustrating when you're just navigating apps.
At least on the version of the S2 we saw at CES, Android 4.0 was closer to stock than we've normally seen from Lenovo, which likes its five-point home screen app launching widget and other tweaks. It's here that the S2 may be a letdown for some. Android 4.0 isn't as much of a breakthrough on tablets as it is in smartphones, and if existing Android 3.x models weren't having any success against Apple's iPad, 4.0 won't do much in that area.
We'd add that the new Snapdragon chip doesn't help much with perceived speed. It still stutters around at times even in the main interface.
The K2, on the other hand, is more impressive just through sheer brute force. Its Tegra 3 makes it more responsive, and helps drive the 1920x1200 display. The LCD is IPS-based and has the richer colors and wider viewing angles you'd expect. Lenovo has added that the back camera will be upgraded to eight megapixels.
If we were to judge the tablets based on their early showings, we'd say the S2 was a competent tablet with a good ergonomic design, but nothing that would scare Apple. The K, were it released in most countries today, would be a technical powerhouse if it went unoppose for the next several months. Unfortunately for Lenovo, it won't. Apple is widely rumored as shipping a 2048x1536 iPad 3 in or near March, and by the time the K2 reaches US audiences, it might be too late.