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Thinner Lighter Better

Lenovo Tab S8-50 review – an affordable 8-inch Android tablet

By Derek Sullivan , updated on May 14, 2015
Tested: Lenovo Tab S80-50
Rating: 3.5/5     Price Range: $149-$199
Summary: If you’re budget conscious and looking for a 7-8” tablet that can browse the web, watch movies and play games, this Lenovo Tab S80-50 might be the solution for you.

The good

looks and feels alright in hand, nice screen, fast enough for everyday use, decent battery life, front facing speakers, fair price (if you can find it discounted)

The bad

no oleophobic coating, the screen has a yellow tint, slow USB transfer speeds

One tablet that has really come down in price lately is the Lenovo Tab S8-50 (Lenovo Tab S8).

It’s listed for $199.99 these days, but you can even find it for as low as $160 in select webstores and will probably get even cheaper in the next few months.

I got the opportunity to try one out over the holiday. For the price, I was very impressed with what it had to offer. I do feel it fell a little short in comparison to the other budget mid-range tablets, but the overall experience was good and the value was apparent.

Here’s what I think about this Lenovo Tab after using it for a week.

THis is the Lenovo S80-50 8 inch Android tablet

THis is the Lenovo S80-50 8 inch Android tablet

The specs sheet for the Lenovo Tab S8-50

Lenovo Tab S8-50
Screen 8 inch, 1920×1200 px resolution, IPS touchscreen, 350 nits
Processor Intel Atom processor Z3745, quad core, 1.33Ghz with 1.86Ghz boost
Camera 8MP rear with LED flash, 1.6MP front facing
Video Integrated Intel HD Ivy Bridge Gen 7, 311-667 Mhz
Memory 2 GB LPDDR3
Storage 16GB Flash
Connectivity Wireless b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports microSD slot(up to 64GB), microUSB, headphone
Baterry 4290 mAh
Operating system Android 4.4 Kitkat
Size 210.5mm or 8.25” (w) x 124.5mm or 4.9” (d) x 7.6mm or .3” (h)
Weight 300.5g or 10.6 oz
Extras Front facing stereo speakers, GPS, G-sensor

Design

I was very happy with the construction of the tablet, for the most part. Everything is plastic, but it feels solid in the hand. At 7.6mm, the thickness is just right and the tablet felt light and comfortable to hold. I don’t have much experience with 8” tablets, but this one felt noticeably lighter than my old Dell Venue 8 Pro, which is a good thing.

On the front, you have the 8” screen with stereo front facing speakers. The speakers are on both the top and bottom (or left and right if holding it in landscape mode). Also on the top is the Lenovo logo and the 1.6MP front facing camera.

The back is a smooth hard plastic with the Lenovo and Intel logos discreetly embossed on the top and bottom. On the upper left is the 8MP rear camera, which I’ll discuss more later. Note that this tablet has an LED flash, which is typically not present on tablets.

As far as connections and buttons on the edges, Lenovo decided to go with the power button on the top right edge, with the volume rocker right underneath. The MicroUSB is located on the right bottom edge, while the headphone jack is located on the top right edge.

There is also a MicroSD card slot on the upper left edge, with a door that can be closed. The door is awkwardly large, which I can only assume is because there’s a mobile SIM model for sale out there somewhere. Unfortunately, there’s no hdmi out, but for tablets in this price range, that’s hardly expected.

The Lenovo S8-50 has most of the typical sensors you would expect on a tablet: 10-point multi touch, orientation, GPS, microphone. However I found it odd that they decided to omit the light and proximity sensor. For most people, all that means is you have to manually set the brightness of the screen(i.e. no auto-brightness feature).

There’s a sleep/wake sensor I located at the upper right portion of the screen, so you’ll be able to use a case that turns the tablet on when opened, if it has the magnet in the appropriate place. Finally, this tablet has a vibration motor, so you can switch to vibrate mode and the keyboard has the option for haptic feedback.

Screen

The screen on the Lenovo S8-50 is pretty impressive for the price of the tablet. It’s an 8” 1920×1200 IPS screen, which allows for up to 350 nits of brightness. The maximum brightness was perfect for any bright area I used the tablet, with the exception of direct sunlight. It was still usable in sunlight but I did notice the glare and it is not near as easy to read as on eye melting screens such as the Asus Transformer Infinity. Still, I found it quite comfortable to look at in the office and at home, with little trouble with glare.

The screen itself has very good viewing angles. I did notice it gets a little cloudy at the extremes, but the text was still legible. Honestly, I can never understand how you can practically use tablets at extreme viewing angles, so it won’t be an issue for most people. The colors and contrast of the screen looked really good and were typical for IPS screens of this size. My unit had no backlight bleed at all and was measured to be evenly lit from the center to the corners. To verify, I actually measured 380 nits on the screen even though Lenovo advertises 350.

Not much to complain about the screen's quality

Not much to complain about the screen’s quality

As far as blacks and whites go, the blacks looked about the same as your average IPS screen. Certainly not as black as AMOLED but they were really good nonetheless. The whites however looked slightly yellow. I actually wouldn’t have noticed if not for a side by side comparison with the Nexus 7 and another Asus tablet I’m reviewing. I don’t know if many would notice it but after seeing it the first time, I always was conscious of it.

My biggest gripe about the screen(and the whole tablet for that matter) is the non-oleophobic glass they chose to use. It’s borderline disgusting just how many fingerprints I would pick up in one day of use. I took a video of just how bad it is and compared it to an oleophobic screen after use. I don’t have one anymore, but the glass reminded me of the 1st gen Nexus 7, where I had to wipe it every day. It doesn’t really affect your experience all that much, but swiping your fingers is a little more effort and using keyboards such as Swype and Swiftkey Flow is a lot less convenient.   In short, if you get this tablet, you’ll want to carry a lint free rag or apply an oleophobic coating yourself (which btw is kind of pricey, but worth it).

Hardware and performance

This Lenovo tablet comes with 2GB of RAM and an Intel Atom Z3745 quad core processor. The CPU is a little out of date now that the 64-bit Z3560 is released, but it gets the job done well. Apps open pretty quickly and the tablet felt smooth for the most part. There were a couple times where I sensed a little lag but it was mainly during certain benchmarks and a couple higher end applications.

Lenovo didn't not get the latest hardware inside this thing, but the tablet is a good performer nonetheless

Lenovo didn’t not get the latest hardware inside this thing, but the tablet is a good performer nonetheless

Overall the screen and button responsiveness was very good. It took about 33 seconds to boot the device from being completely powered down. By the way, when you boot and shutdown your tablet, Lenovo decided you must listen to some intro and exit music (so watch your volume while at work!). When in standby, it took less than a second to power the screen on and I was instantly able to unlock the screen. Swipe and touch gestures responded as they should have.

One thing that could use some improvement is the responsiveness when shifting to and from landscape mode. Not only is it slightly delayed, the animation that is used looks pretty crummy. It’s almost as if they removed 2 out of 3 frames in the standard animation that everyone else uses.

The operating system is a slightly modified version of vanilla KitKat 4.4.2. I really appreciated them leaving things alone since I’m very used to Nexus devices. It was really easy for me to adapt and find all the settings I needed. I also liked the color scheme they chose to flavor the settings menus. The notification and quick settings panels are able to be pulled down independently and both were very practical to use. The navigation bar at the bottom is identical to Nexus devices, with the back button on the left, home button in the middle and recent apps on the right.

I ran a number of benchmarks on the tablet. Here were my results:

  • 3DMark: Ice Storm Score: 14706 (Graphics: 13990 , Physics: 17917)
  • Antutu: Total:33316 (Single Core: 5584, Multi-Core: 22340, HTML5: 9374)
  • Geekbench 3: Single Core: 766, Multi-Core: 2332
  • Quadrant: 15940

Please see the pictures for more detailed results. In addition, I did a time test to see how long it takes to copy a 2 GB movie to the tablet via the included USB cable. For this tablet, it took 3 minutes and 18 seconds, which I found to be pretty slow.

EDIT: I also performed a Wi-Fi speed test at three different points in my house and one outside.  At the router I got 37Mbps DL and 13 Mbps UL, which can be used as a reference point and comes close to 42Mbps bandwidth limit.   At 25 feet away and behind a door, I got the same results.  Across the house, 50 feet away and through two walls, I got 31Mbps DL and 13Mbps UL.  Outside was the big surprise – 2 walls and over 75 feet away, I got 33Mbps DL and 13Mbps UL.  These are great results for such an inexpensive tablet.

Speakers

One nice feature of the S8-50 is the front facing speakers – something I think every tablet should have, yet most do not.

The speakers are pretty loud, so you’ll have no problem hearing when watching movies. With the test song I use, I measured 56dB from 12 inches away and 80dB right at the speaker. The bass was audible as low as 50Hz, however I found the speakers to sound slightly tinny when listening to music at full volume.

I was hoping to improve the sound experience with the built in Dolby EQ but it didn’t help at all. In fact, I don’t think adjusting the Dolby settings did anything but make it sound more distorted. Overall, I’d give the speakers an average grade in sound quality for tablets and an above average grade for volume.

There are front facing speakers on this Lenovo Tab

There are front facing speakers on this Lenovo Tab

Camera

Unlike the 5MP shooter you see on most 7” tablets these days, this one packs am 8MP camera. The front facing camera is 1.6MP and is perfectly adequate for online chatting but is pretty crummy if you’re into selfies. I apologize, but I unfortunately forgot to copy over and save my sample shots before returning the tablet, so you’ll have to just take my word for it.

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures with the rear camera but the daylight pictures I did take actually looked pretty good. The low light pictures, however, looked very grainy and weren’t all that impressive.

The noise level in the low light pictures was pretty obvious. The LED flash is a pretty nice thing to have for the low light shots, but if you’re like me you leave the flash off since it makes most of your subjects look unnatural.  It’s a great thing to have for a flashlight too, if you need it.

Battery life

The S8-50 comes with a 4290 mAh battery. I ran a couple of battery tests on the tablet.

The first was using Geekbench 3 which basically just leaves the tablet on. At max brightness, I got a score of 2995 with a time of 5 hours. The second test was a continuous video loop with the screen set to 150 nits(using a light sensor). The S8-50 lasted 8 hours and 4 minutes from a full charge.

Overall, it’s a pretty good battery, but nothing that stands out from the competition. It’s certainly what I expected, given the thickness of the tablet.

Box and Accessories

There’s nothing fancy about the box and packaging. The tablet comes with a USB cord and a wall charger. Pretty standard sizes for both, but I personally feel the usb cord could stand to be a little longer.  I originally stated there was nothing fancy about the box, but I missed something.  Lenovo discretely labeled the plastic container that packaged the usb brick and cable as a tablet stand.  It’s nothing jaw dropping, but it’s certainly nice and clever of them to offer it.  If it weren’t for the label, you would never tell what it was.

Unfortunately this tablet isn’t widely advertised, so you might have a difficult time finding cases and screen protectors for it. Lenovo also has an S8 phone so my searches frequently resulted in phone cases. Newegg and Amazon have a couple choices which you can see if you follow this link and this one.

Price and availability

Best Buy has the tablet on sale for $179, down from the MSRP of $200. At that price, I think the tablet is a pretty good deal. At $200, I would consider other options though, such as the Asus ME572 (which I’m also reviewing), but it’s still a decent deal.

Lenovo is also selling the tablet through Amazon. Follow this link for details.

Final thoughts

Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with the tablet. The 8” form factor has always seemed a bit too big to me, but Lenovo did a good job making it feel OK to hold and use. The screen is appealing to look at, with the minor exception of the slight yellow tint. If only the glass were oleophobic, I think I would have given this tablet a better grade.

If you're after a simple and affordable Android tablet, the Lenovo TAB S80-50 should be on your list

If you’re after a simple and affordable Android tablet, the Lenovo TAB S80-50 should be on your list

Sure, this tablet can’t match up to an iPad Mini or a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8, but the value for the dollar spent is definitely better. If you’re budget conscious and looking for a 7-8” tablet that can browse the web, watch movies and play games, this might be the solution for you. If you’re looking for bells and whistles though(i.e. premium look and casing, IR blaster, premium camera, etc) you might want to shop for the more expensive alternatives.

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