While portable electronic devices have been a mainstay in at least half of my life and a constant source of either deep frustration or restrained satisfaction, I’ve never bothered to review one. Something about this one - the Lenovo Tab M8 FHD Android tablet - has inspired me to actually sit down and put together some thoughts about it. Not because it’s necessarily mind-blowing, but because it’s relatively affordable and actually worth the cost.
Before considering a device like this, it’s important to know that it is not an iPad equivalent. It’s about the same size as an iPad Mini, but doesn’t run iPad OS and isn’t from Apple. It doesn’t support active pens or styluses, so it’s not a great drawing or note-taking tablet. Its screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is bad news on a laptop but isn’t problematic on this 8 inch tablet as long as you aren’t using it as a laptop substitute (you aren’t, are you?).
I’ll make an assumption that the main use of this tablet for a lot of people is reading books, streaming media and browsing the web. I’ve used it mostly for reading comics on Hoopla, books on Google Play Books, articles on the New York Times app, and even some magazines in text mode on the RB Digital app. For these tasks, it’s a really great little device. The screen is sharp and the text on it is crisp at 1920 x 1200 pixels per inch on its 8-inch screen.
Quick aside - if you’re a public library member with access to Hoopla, I would recommend taking advantage of it on any device you have. The selection of e-books, audiobooks and quality comics is enormous, and missing out on all that free content is a loss for both you and your local library.
I got the M8 FHD on sale from Lenovo’s website for just under $100, mostly so I could have an Android device for testing with the TalkBack screen reader. The first thing I noticed after taking it out of the box and turning it on is that the screen is fully laminated. This was a big deal for me - the base level iPad at $329 doesn’t have a laminated screen, so I wasn’t expecting that luxury from an Android tablet that’s less than half that price. It really does make a difference when there’s no air gap between the display and the glass touchscreen, especially if you’re looking for it.
That brings me to another perk of this tablet - the touchscreen is glass, which I also wasn’t expecting when compared to Samsung devices at a similar price. I haven’t been able to find out if it’s Gorilla glass (it likely isn’t), but I’ve had the device for about a month and it hasn’t scratched yet. My 2020 iPhone SE (which does have a Gorilla Glass screen) was scratched within a couple weeks of careful use. I’m not sure what that means, if anything at all, but it is interesting.
If you’ve used an Android device before, you already know what to expect from the software side of this one. It came shipped with Android 9 but was just updated to Android 10 (which is still a full version behind the current Android 11) as of late November 2020. The battery life on this thing is very good - according to the AccuBattery app, it can get around 20 hours of screen time. While I don’t quite believe that, I will say that I can definitely read for longer periods of time on this than on my standard 9.7 inch iPad from 2018. The sleep time, though, is definitely not as good as an iPad. If you want to be sure that it’ll last more than a week while asleep you’ll need to disable background data on any apps that use it heavily, like Gmail.
I’ve spent a while thinking about what’s reasonable to complain about with this tablet, considering the price. The only thing I think that’s worth mentioning is the lack of an ambient light sensor - you’ll need to adjust the screen brightness yourself at all times. This might be preferable for some people, but I’ve always been a fan of the device automatically adjusting its brightness depending on what kind of environment it’s in. Although, even if it did have this capability, the screen doesn’t get bright enough at a maximum of 350 nits to really be viewable outdoors, and it’s mercilessly reflective. Storage space also isn’t great at 32 gigabytes, but a microSD card can be used to expand it.
Overall, it’s a great device for around $100, which is the price it seems to always hover around on Lenovo’s website. If you happen to find yourself deciding between this model and the standard HD version, definitely go for the FHD version. The battery life is a few hours better on the standard HD version, but the general fuzziness of text on its display and one gigabyte less RAM makes me question why Lenovo decided to make that version in the first place, especially when the superior FHD version is often less expensive when it’s on sale.