Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus

The story of tablets, from their inception to the present, has been one of change. Starting as ‘laptop killers’, they have come in a variety of shapes and sizes, at almost every price point imaginable.

Across the market, there are now two stratified positions, the super premium and the super cheap. Apple has claimed the former, and Amazon the latter. 

Enterprising firms wanting a slice of the pie now face an uphill challenge, that of carving their own niche: this is exactly what Lenovo is attempting to achieve with the Tab 4 8 Plus.

Nonsensical moniker aside, this is a tablet with a lot going for it. In addition to a Snapdragon 625 chipset, 4GB of RAM, a 4,850mAh battery and an 8-inch 1,200 x 1,920 screen, it comes with dual front-facing speakers and a fancy glass sandwich design – starting from £200 (around $270 / AU$340).

But against the likes of Samsung, Apple and Acer making similar moves at an equivalent price point, does the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus have what it takes to succeed?

Key features

  • Dual front-facing speakers
  • Powerful chip and RAM combo

No matter what the competition is like, above a certain price any device requires a certain ‘special sauce’ to set it apart and justify its price tag.

What this ‘special sauce’ may be depends heavily on the manufacturer, and indeed on the price point. While the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 come with a stonking HDR-enabled Super AMOLED screen, those at the lower end – like the Amazon Fire line – are designed to simply be ‘life-proof’.

The Lenovo is intended to serve up a refined balance, a middle ground, and that it achieves nicely.

Perhaps the most noteworthy feature is the speakers, for there are two and they both fire forwards. That is towards the face, not behind the device, or in another mad direction. They are loud and proud of their location, even managing a little stereo separation.

Inside, there is another pleasant surprise ticking away, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset backed up with 4GB of RAM. The Tab 4 8 Plus powers through most tasks, with almost more speed than is needed for sofa net surfing sessions.

Another benefit of this chipset is access to 5GHz Wi-Fi, meaning that when paired with a compatible router blazing internet speeds can be reached. 

This allows for huge downloads, big games and continent sized maps, which all fit nicely thanks to the included 64GB of internal storage.

Design and display

  • 8-inch 1,200 x 1,920 IPS display
  • Metal and glass design

Designing a tablet is a somewhat difficult task. Go too far with decoration and adornments and you end up with an awful, overdone monstrosity. Leave too much out, and what is left blends into the woodwork, with no identity of its own.

What Lenovo has attempted with the Tab 4 8 Plus is a mix of the two, throwing in the odd twist of personality with a classic, understated tone.

The rear of the device is a single glass sheet, with the 8MP rear-facing camera placed in the top left along with a tiny flash, and a small silver ‘Lenovo’ logo occupying the center.

On the top of the device you'll find the headphone jack, the left side houses a microSD card slot, while a power button (complete with a fast fingerprint scanner) and volume rocker can be found on the right side, and the bottom houses the USB-C charging port.

The inclusion of USB-C is a nice touch, future proofing the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus considerably.

The rim of the slate is all metal, quite a soft aluminum that we found to be susceptible to scratches, though this may have just been a quirk of the review unit.

On the front of the device you'll find a 5MP selfie camera and the 8-inch, 1,200 x 1,920 IPS screen, protected by a sheet of Gorilla Glass. With excellent viewing angles, it makes for a great first impression – it can get reasonably bright too, and has a decent pixel density of 283 pixels per inch.

One issue we found however, which is very common with LCD screens, is that whites were a little too cool for our liking.

In all, while it is possible to get used to, the display is rather unsaturated, which ultimately may not be an issue for some. Those used to colors that pop will find this jarring, at least to begin with. It is certainly not quite on the same level as the iPad Pro 10.5 with its ‘True Tone’ display technology.

It must be said that the choice of an 8-inch screen is an odd one, though certainly not bad. Avoiding the cramped feeling of smaller displays while being more portable than 10-inch tablets, it strikes a nice balance. 

Being 7mm thin and 300g in weight, the Tab 4 8 Plus is pleasant to use for hours on end.

Interface and reliability

  • Stock Android with a few alterations
  • Runs 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box

As recently as a few years ago, Lenovo was one of those manufacturers that insisted on layering its own ‘skin’ over stock Android. Luckily those days have now passed, and the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus benefits considerably.

Running a close to stock version of Android, it is well-optimized under the hood and just flies in day-to-day use. Whether swiping through the interface, firing up a game or simply browsing the web, it blitzes through with aplomb.

That isn’t to say that it has escaped with no alterations, for there are a few pre-installed apps. On the home screen, various folders are laid near the bottom with all of them conveniently placed for a quick uninstall.

Of course, the full Google suite can be found, in addition to various Microsoft Office apps, Skype, OneDrive and Outlook – it is somewhat foreseeable that at least a few people will find them to be of use.

What is less excusable is the inclusion of ‘SHAREit’, ‘SYNCit HD’ and ‘Lenovo TAB 4 8 Plus’. The former two are near useless services that can be uninstalled immediately with no issue, while the last is a ‘how-to’ guide that doesn’t really explain anything.

A file manager has also been included, and somewhat annoyingly Lenovo has chosen to omit a dedicated gallery app. 

While Google Photos is indeed powerful, it isn’t quite ready to replace a gallery app wholesale, having particular issues sharing with services that Google doesn’t like.

Regardless, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus runs full Android Nougat 7.1.1, and received two updates within the review period. There is no word on whether it will receive an upgrade to the latest version of Android, 'Oreo', however Lenovo doesn’t have the best track record in this area.

One thing to note is that the monthly security patch level is still June 2017, which might be a cause for concern for some.

Throughout the review period, we found no bugs or quirks. Android has come on leaps and bounds since its ugly early days, so most using it now can be assured of a smooth, dependable experience.

There is the wider issue of Android on tablets being a general mess, though this is mainly an issue in apps rather than throughout the user interface. Many make poor use of the extra space, and those that can function in landscape mode are vanishingly rare.

Movies, music and gaming

  • Satisfying 8-inch 1,200 x 1,920 screen
  • Good enough performance for games

The measure of a good set of speakers is difficult to take. Different people have varying tastes, some preferring bass, some preferring volume. 

We found that, easily being able to drown out the sound of a shower, the Tab 4 8 Plus does enough to impress, especially at its price point.

Though a tablet may not be the first choice of many for listening to music, it does a good job of providing a pleasant experience. One thing we were especially impressed by was its performance over Bluetooth audio, providing enough volume and impressive clarity.

No music app is included for listening to locally stored audio, instead users must rely on Google Play Music, which has its ups and downs. Dolby Atmos audio is also included, providing a little ‘oomph’ where desired.

Watching video content is a pleasant experience too, as might be expected. Though a kickstand might have been appreciated, such as the one found on the Microsoft Surface series, holding the svelte Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus was still no issue.

YouTube is included with other services out of the box, while those looking to rent or purchase video content can do so through Google Play Movies & TV. Again, there is no dedicated app for playing locally stored video, but this can be resolved, as with so many other things, by a quick trip to Google Play.

As for gaming, this little device is a belter. At many times across the past year, in becoming the mid-range chip of choice for many manufacturers, the Snapdragon 625 has proven to be a strong performer.

Games such as Asphalt 8 (though not running on the highest graphical settings) run without issue, and the device never became hot to the touch. Those who enjoy their mobile gaming will be well served.

Performance and benchmarks

  • Runs cool
  • Can handle a heavy load

As has been stressed several times throughout this review, good performance in a tablet at this price point is never a given.

Luckily, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus, while not reaching the laptop-like heights of the iPad Pro series, is certainly capable of running alongside smartphones at a similar price point.

This is borne out by Geekbench results – where the Tab 4 8 Plus achieves an 851 single-core score and a 4,202 multi-core one. Though benchmarks are never a true indicator of real world usage, they are certainly useful for comparisons.

Here we can see the beauty of Qualcomm’s design. Eight low-power A53 cores are combined, running together when the performance requirements are high and individually when the pressure dies down. In addition to keeping the price down and performance at an adequate level, this also ensures that the chip is very power efficient.

In all, those looking for a little more performance from a tablet will not be disappointed.

Battery life

  • 4,850mAh battery
  • Strong performance

Aided by the relatively large 4,850mAh battery and the power efficient chipset, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus is a battery champion.

Unplugging at 7am, downloading a few newspapers for the commute and using Bluetooth audio throughout, while spending several hours reading and watching video in the evening, we found it would easily last until midnight with an average of around five hours of screen on time.

With lighter usage (less video) this could stretch to three days of battery life, which is really rather good.

This is no doubt due to the optimizations that Lenovo has made on the software side.

Running the TechRadar video test (a 90-minute video played with the screen at full brightness), we found that the Tab 4 8 Plus lost 19% of its battery life, just short of the best performers (such as the New iPad, which lost 15%), but ahead of the likes of the Acer Iconia One 10, which lost 25% of its battery in the same test.

Though not quite at the top of the range, the Tab 4 8 Plus is certainly dependable in everyday usage.

Camera

  • 8MP rear camera
  • 5MP front-facing camera

It's always worth saying: don’t take photos with a tablet.

Ultimately, if it is an absolute must, the Tab 4 8 Plus is better than most, if nothing compared to almost any smartphone at a similar price point.

The Lenovo camera interface itself is relatively clean and simple. The various modes and functions are clearly labelled and easy to see, while, in a nice touch, there is also an HDR function. The app performs fluidly too, for the most part.

Not that this is of much use. Shots produced have a reasonable color representation and impression of detail – for a tablet – but fall to bits as soon as the lighting becomes challenging in the slightest.

Typically, scenes are over-exposed and washed out, in short do not rely on this as your primary photographic device.

In a business setting it will suffice for taking scans of notes and documents however, with just enough detail present.

Camera samples

Verdict

In a sea of slates and smartphones, crafting a device that has enough personality to stand out and enough quality to be worth caring about is a difficult proposition.

With the Tab 4 8 Plus, Lenovo has succeeded in producing something with a flavor of its own, and something that makes the mid-range Android tablet market worth attention once again.

There is one enormous question mark hanging over it however: the new iPad.

Who’s this for?

If you already have an Android device, commute regularly and want something a little nicer than a bog-standard Amazon tablet, this is the obvious next step.

For the older generation in particular, especially those without a home PC or laptop, the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus is a strong proposition as a ‘do-all-device’.

Should you buy it?

If the Tab 4 8 Plus had been released before the new iPad, recommending it as a purchase would have been very simple. Yet, for not that much more it is possible to get a device with a better screen, smoother performance and a far more mature tablet operating system.

As such, unless you're on a strict budget it is really a question of preference for iOS or Android, and all of the baggage that entails.

On its own merits however, the Tab 4 8 Plus is an astoundingly solid all-rounder, with great performance, a good screen, solid battery life and a comfortable design. If you have £200 (around $270 / AU$340) to burn, and absolutely must have a tablet, there are no better choices available.

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus is a seriously impressive slate, but there are similarly impressive alternatives, such as the following.

New iPad

For not a vast amount more money, the new iPad offers a more comfortable design, far more apps designed for a tablet and better battery life.

On the other hand, the Tab 4 8 Plus does have front-facing speakers in its favor, and the flexibility of Android, and it is cheaper, so this is mostly down to personal taste and budget.

Read the full new iPad review

Acer Iconia One 10 (2017)

The Acer Iconia One 10 (2017), for a similar price offers a bigger, bolder screen and four front-facing speakers. At 10.1 inches it is better for watching movies and TV.

This impacts its portability however, while the Lenovo features a nicer design, stronger battery life and a different league of performance in everyday tasks.

Read the full Acer Iconia One 10 (2017) review

iPad Mini 4

Though a little long in the tooth and due an upgrade, Apple’s smallest tablet is also worth your consideration.

It has a higher resolution screen than the Lenovo Tab 4 8 Plus and a better app library, while the Lenovo features better storage options.

Read the full iPad Mini 4 review

First reviewed: September 2017

Sean Cameron
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