One of the most interesting 3rd-party Alexa devices to come out of CES 2019 is easily the new Lenovo Smart Tab line of Android tablets with an included speaker dock. They are the first 3rd-party tablets to use Amazon’s Show Mode feature with hands-free Alexa built-in, which essentially turns them into an Echo Show when docked. Unlike Amazon’s own Show Mode Dock for their Fire tablets, which is nothing more than a charging stand that triggers Show Mode, Lenovo has put Dolby Atmos speakers and 3 far-field microphones in the dock to make this a true alternative to the Echo Show.
At its core, the Leno Smart Tab is a 10.1-inch tablet running Android 8.1 Oreo. It’s noteworthy that these tablets run Google’s version of Android and come with the Google Play Store, which most people prefer to Amazon’s Fire OS and Amazon Appstore, due to Google’s much larger app selection. There are several Smart Tab versions with slightly different specs, ranging from $199.99 to $349.99, but they all include the speaker dock, have the same 1920 x 1200 resolution screen, 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450 CPU, and a micro SD card slot. The tablet feels much more premium and nicer in the hand than any of Amazon’s Fire tablets.
Compared to Amazon’s Fire HD 10, you can probably expect single-core benchmark scores of Amazon’s tablet to perform slightly higher than Lenovo’s tablet, but Lenovo’s 8 CPU cores will likely score nearly double that of Amazon’s 4 cores in multi-core benchmarks. In real-world use, Lenovo’s Smart Tab should feel slightly snappier than Amazon’s Fire HD 10, but neither one will feel sluggish or obviously superior than the other.
The Lenovo Smart Tab M10 base model comes with 16GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM, 4,850 mAK battery, a 5MP rear camera, and a 2MP front camera. It includes the speaker dock, which I’ll get to in more detail shortly, for $199.99. That’s just $10 more than Amazon’s Fire HD 10 with Show Mode Dock. Apart from getting twice the internal storage with the Fire HD 10 package, the Smart Tab is a much better value thanks to the significantly superior dock. To match the Fire HD 10’s internal storage, you can get the Smart Tab M10 with 32GB of internal storage for $249.99. The extra $50 also increases the RAM from 2GB to 3GB.
Spending another $50 moves you up to the Smart Tab P10 base model which also has 32GB of internal storage and 3GB of RAM. The $299.99 price doubles the battery to 7,000 mAH, increases the cameras to an 8MP rear camera + 5MP front camera, and adds a finger-print reader. The P10 also has a glass back, versus the M10’s plastic back, and it also has 4 front facing Dolby Atmos speakers, versus the M10’s 2 front facing Dolby Atmos speakers. Yet another $50 gets you the top-of-the-line flagship $349.99 model which has 64GB of internal storage and 4GB of RAM.
Regardless of which model you choose, they all come with the same speaker dock that wirelessly charges the tablet via pogo pins built into the side of the tablet. This is far superior to Amazon’s charging case that is required for their Show Mode Dock. Lenovo’s dock features a pair of 3-watt Dolby Atmos speakers that work in conjunction with the two top speakers on the tablet for significantly richer sound than you get out of the Fire HD 10’s speakers. The dock has volume buttons, a mute button to disable the 3 far-field mics in the dock for hands-free Alexa, and a Bluetooth pairing button.
When placed in the dock, the Smart Tab automatically launches Amazon’s Show Mode, which replicates the functionality of the Amazon Echo Show. The speakers and mics in the dock make for a much more equivalent experience to an Echo Show than Amazon’s Fire HD 10 and Show Mode Dock, which relay on the tablets built-in speakers and microphone, which were likely not designed to be used from across a room.
The only concern I see with the Lenovo Smart Tab is it not getting newer Alexa features as quickly as Amazon’s own hardware, which is common for most 3rd-party Alexa devices. Amazon’s own Fire HD 10 with Show Mode didn’t get Alexa announcements and drop-in support until 5 months after release, so it’s probably safe to expect that these Smart Tabs would see similar, if not worse, new Alexa feature delays. That said, if you’re considering the Smart Tab over the Fire HD 10 with Show Mode dock, Lenovo’s product seems to be the obvious choice. I would probably still choose the Smart Tab over an Echo Show, due to its 2-in-1 functionality of being a tablet and smart speaker/display, but that’s certainly a harder decision.
The Lenovo Smart Tab M10 is $199.99 with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM and the M10 is $249.99 with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. The Smart Tab P10 is $299.99 with the same specs but superior build, battery, cameras, speakers, and a finger print reader. The flagship P10 for $349.99 has 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.