Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD review: A tablet that needs more focus

Fantastic hardware that is hampered by poor performance and an incomplete software experience.

There are a lot of inexpensive Android tablets out there and far fewer great Android tablets, but in my Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD review, it seemed like the tablet was trying to fit into both categories — and not really succeeding at either.

Lenovo built a tablet that feels very nice in hand and a clever stand that has some handy features when the Smart Tab M10 HD is docked into it — oh, and it charges the tablet too. Unfortunately, these features don't always work, and when they do, the implementation is lackluster. The docked Google Assistant's Ambient Mode's inconsistent performance isn't all on Lenovo, to be fair.

The other big feature the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD touts is that it's one of the few tablets on the market that is enabled for the new Google Kids Space. This feature works in conjunction with Google's Family Link and gives a dashboard with curated content that is kid-appropriate. While it does a fine job of this, the usability is far from perfect, and the tablet's underpowered internals don't help any.

Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD

Bottom line: This tablet has high aspirations of being a lot of things but falls short of doing any one thing really well, aside from being well built.

The Good

  • Google Kids Space enabled
  • Hardware feels better than the price leads to believe
  • Google Assistant's Ambient Mode ready
  • The charging dock accessory is great
  • Great battery life

The Bad

  • Underpowered hardware bogs down using the tablet
  • Ambient mode is inconsistent
  • Kids Space still needs fine-tuning
  • Dock and tablet use two different cords

$130 at Lenovo $129 at Walmart

Oh this is nice

Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD: What I like

Android tablets haven't been good since the Nexus 7 in 2013, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers from trying. The Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD is a tablet that is attempting to be both a tablet you enjoy holding, a home hub, and a tablet for kids all at the same time — and it's trying this at a low price point. In the end, the Smart Tab M10 HD has excellent hardware, even the dock is nice, but it falls short in usability, making the latter two attempts are less than great.

Specs Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD
Dimensions 9.5" x 5.88" x .32"
Weight 420g
Battery 5000mAh
Display 10.1" HD IPS LCD
Colors Iron Grey
Memory 2GB RAM
32GB
microSD card expandability
Processor MediaTek Helio P22T Tab, Octa-Core 2.3GHz
Camera 5MP front
8MP rear
Sensors Accelerometer
Proximity
Ambient Light
Hall
Operating System Android 10
Software Features Google Kids Space
Google Assistant's Ambient Mode
Connectivity 802.11AC, 2.4GHz & 5GHz dual band
Bluetooth 5.0
Wi-Fi Direct
FM Radio
Speakers Dual-speakers optimized with Dolby Atmos

I know that I have mentioned the build-quality a few times already, but that's only because I would have been understanding should the thing have been made out of plastic at this price point. Don't get me wrong, this isn't at the same hardware level as something like a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, but the full aluminum-alloy body and thin bezels on the display are a welcomed surprise.

The Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD has a good weight due to the materials used and the 5000mAh battery powering the tablet. Battery life was great with mixed usage between myself and my kids using it in Kids Mode. We easily got a full day of use with power left over when screen time was done.

Speaking of Kids Mode, it's powered by Google's Kids Space and the Smart Tab M10 HD is currently one of two tablets offering the experience — both by Lenovo. Kids Space is a new feature that works in conjunction with Google's Family Link to provide a kid-focused environment that not only has curated content but safeguards you set through Family Link.

Google Kids Space is a great option that allows for a safe digital space for parents to feel confident that the content their child sees is appropriate for their young eyes.

My kids both enjoyed using the tablet to explore new games, creative apps, and books. While you can set up a child account via Google Family Link that lets you restrict certain aspects of your kid's experience on and Android device, there's a big difference in usability between that and Kids Space. When a kid isn't using a Kids Space device, all they see is a normal-looking Android setup for all intents and purposes. Kids Space makes it more fun to explore and puts all of the approved content front and center.

Another part of the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD experience that is front and center is the included stand that also acts as another way to charge the tablet. When you set the tablet into the dock in landscape orientation, there are two alignment tabs on the dock to guide you in and two pogo pins for charging. Of course, you can also charge the tablet traditionally with the included charging brick and USB-C cable.

The special part of the tablet and dock combo is that the Smart Tab M10 HD is also part of the Google Assistant's Ambient Mode ecosystem. When the tablet and dock get paired up, it essentially turns it into a smart display. It brings many of the same features you'd get with a traditional Lenovo Smart Display, like activating your Google Assistant with your voice, seeing your upcoming calendar events, photos, and more.

Not quite there

Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD: What I don't like

Perhaps the biggest drawback of this tablet is its internal hardware. The MediaTek processor being used here is fine for what this device is designed for and the price. There's no reason to put a higher-powered chip in it. However, what does make a big difference is the paltry 2GB of RAM.

Navigating Android 10 with this choice of RAM configuration stutters everywhere. From opening the app drawer to swiping through screens and, for sure, starting apps and using Kids Space. Nearly every action taken is jittery or slow to react, and that's not fun for anyone. Most children don't know how a well-equipped tablet, computer, or phone, reacts to input — and that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that even without that knowledge, they become frustrated when the tablet responds poorly to requests.

While the hardware choices are solely on Lenovo, the inconsistency of the included Google features aren't. It may not be fair to put criticism on the Smart Tab M10 HD that Google Assistant's Ambient Mode doesn't always come on when docked or that after two-hours, it will leave the ambient mode and go dark, but as the saying goes — s#!t runs downhill.

Kids shouldn't be able to access the parental setting area of Kids Space without a passcode, they also shouldn't be able to access device settings while in Kids Space.

Another point of inconsistency is Google Kids Space. This once again is on a Google designed feature, but once the set up of Kids Space is done, it would seem to make sense to simply tap on that icon to launch into Kids Mode. However, doing this only puts you back into the setup screen. To actually access Kids Space, you have to change profiles. Though it isn't difficult, it isn't intuitive.

Kids Space is supposed to be an area that is full of parent and teacher-approved content, but every time my child picks an app, it needs to download. That then triggers approval requirements from me via the Family Link app on my phone. This again is more of a criticism of the Kids Space rather than the tablet itself. As it currently stands, if you want a tablet with a child in mind, then you're better off with one from Amazon.

Back to device-specific issues, why is it that Lenovo chose to go with the preferred USB-C port on the tablet but micro-USB on the dock? At least two USB-A power bricks are included along with both necessary cables, but that seems odd to not have gone with USB-C for both.

The competition

Finding a good Android tablet at the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD price isn't always easy, but a solid option that is a little higher priced is the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 Plus. Offering many of the same features as the Smart Tab M10 HD but with the much preferred 4GB RAM, the improved performance will be worth the cost. The M10 Plus brings the same Google Assitant Ambient Mode and a Kids Mode as well. However, the Kids Mode on it isn't the same as Google's Kids Space.

If you are looking for a lower-cost option and aren't tied to it being an Android-specific device, then strong consideration should be given to an Amazon Fire Tablet. There are multiple size options hitting different price points that allow you to find what best fits your needs. In terms of voice assistants, Fire tablets have Alexa integration to take care of your requests. If you want the device to be a family tablet, for that, there is Amazon Kids+ — although that requires a monthly fee.

Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD: Should you buy it?

Who it's for ...

  • If you want a low-cost quality built tablet
  • If you want a tablet that can also act as a home hub
  • If you want a tablet for the whole family
  • If you want a device that has great battery life

Who it's not for ...

  • If you want a responsive tablet
  • If you expect the ambient mode always to be active
  • If you want your child to be self-sufficient when in Kids Space mode

The Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD isn't intended to be a tablet that can handle all of your productivity or gaming needs. For the price, it is a fine device for casual web browsing or watching a movie with its dual-speaker setup if you can get over the stuttery performance. The Google Assistant Ambient Mode and Kids Space are great ideas but aren't fully fleshed out and shouldn't drive your decision to purchase this tablet.

3 out of 5

Lenovo made a tablet that feels far better than it should at the price it's sold at. Not to mention the inclusion of a stand that acts as a charging dock and its ability to turn the tablet into a home hub of sorts. From a value standpoint, the Smart Tab M10 HD does a good job of meeting that requirement. The inclusion of Google Kids Space adds another layer to the value bonus this tablet can offer.

However, many of these features fall flat when the inconsistency negates the benefits of them. As a standalone device, the Smart Tab M10 HD can do very basic tasks just ok because the internal hardware drags down the performance for even just swiping. Then the inconsistency continues with the software experience within the Google Assistant Ambient Mode and Kids Space. For an inexpensive Android tablet that has a lot of bells and whistles, it's good — until you really start using it.

Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD

Bottom line: A budget tablet with a helpful accessory and unique software features are great for the price. If it weren't for frustrating performance and discrepant software experience, the Lenovo Smart Tab M10 HD would be a home run.

$130 at Lenovo $129 at Walmart



Source: androidcentral

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