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Lifewire / Bill Loguidice
Designed for widescreen video playback
3.5mm headphone jack
MicroSD card slot
Great battery life
Multi-user and child account features
Older version of Android
Awkward volume and power button placement
Limited onboard storage space
No fingerprint sensor or facial recognition features
The Lenovo Tab 4 is a compact and budget-friendly Android tablet. Though it’s hardly a multimedia powerhouse, it provides decent value for its low price. But with its limitations, there are better options out there.
The Lenovo Tab 4 is an eight-inch Android-based tablet that tries to deliver value-added features on an extremely tight budget. With two cameras, dual speakers, a microSD slot, excellent battery life, and thoughtful software options like multi-user and child accounts, the Tab 4 doesn’t skimp on capabilities.
We tested the Tab 4 to see if it delivers on its promise of a solid overall tablet experience for its modest asking price.
At first blush, the Lenovo Tab 4’s design is clunky, with a thickness of 0.3 inches, weight of 0.68 pounds, and large black bezels around its eight-inch screen. Fortunately, Lenovo has balanced this clunkiness with some thoughtful design touches.
The back of the tablet has a textured black surface that is pleasing to the touch and provides a refreshing change of pace from the smooth and slippery backing of other mobile devices. Likewise, the oft-used power button has a knurled surface, making it easier to find by touch and more substantial to press.
The front of the tablet features the front-facing camera in the upper left and an indicator light on the right.
On the left side of the tablet is a microSD expansion slot. Unlike other tablets, no tool is required to access this slot—simply move the Lenovo slot cover and insert or remove your microSD card.
On the right side of the tablet about three-quarters of the way up is the power button. Just above the power button is the volume button.
On top of the tablet, from left to right, is a 3.5mm headphone jack, speaker, and micro USB connector for syncing and charging. While it’s fairly common for headphone jacks to be placed on the top of a tablet, it’s far less common for a power connector, which is typically on the bottom.
On the bottom of the tablet, from left to right, is a microphone and speaker. The rear of the tablet features the rear camera.
As with the majority of Android tablets, the Tab 4’s display sports a 16:9 aspect ratio, making it excellent for watching widescreen video content. While this is great when the tablet is oriented in landscape mode, holding it in portrait mode can be a bit awkward because of the extra height. While the textured back does make it easier to grip, the odd weight distribution of the tablet can make it feel tiring and unbalanced to hold for significant periods of time.
When you open its colorful blue and red box, you won’t find much inside: there’s the tablet, micro USB charging cable, AC adapter, and a Safety, Warranty & Quick Start Guide.
After charging, set up the tablet’s Android Nougat 7.1-based operating system was easy. Upon accepting the license agreement, you're given the option to copy your data from an iPhone or Android device, or the cloud, or set it up as new. We chose the latter. We were then asked to enter our Wi-Fi credentials. Once connected, it took some time to check for updates and other info.
In terms of security measures, the Tab 4 only gives the standard options of a pattern, PIN, or password to protect your tablet. If you're looking for facial or fingerprint recognition, you'll have to look elsewhere. It also only requires a four-digit pin, versus the now more common six-digit pin.
You're then asked to log in or create an optional Lenovo ID. We used an existing account.
This multi-user feature is perfect for families and makes this a great general-usage tablet.
Finally, we were given the option to set up multiple users, which gives each person their own profile and a space for their own apps, settings, wallpaper, and more. Here you can also designate if the account should be a more restricted child account. Each person can then switch to their profile directly from the lock screen.
You can add a Multi-User profile from the notification center, user settings page, or through the Multi-User app on the homepage.
This multi-user feature is perfect for families and makes this a great general-usage tablet that anyone, even guests, can pick up at any time for a truly personalized experience. Of course, 16GB of onboard storage is pretty meager, even for just one or two people, so if you want more than a couple of accounts, it would be wise to invest in a microSD card for greater versatility.
Once setup is complete, you’re presented with a simple home screen. The standard Google search bar is at the top, which can also be activated by saying “OK Google,” although it’s a bit slow to process and respond to directives. Below that is the time and weather. At the bottom of the screen are various folders with Google, Microsoft, and Lenovo apps, as well as an icon to set up a Lenovo Kid’s Account or Lenovo Alexa features. Finally, there’s the Google Chrome browser and Google Play store icons, where you can search for and download additional apps.
It would unreasonable to expect a stellar display in a tablet at this price point, and you certainly don’t get one here. The resolution on its eight-inch screen is just 1280x800, which is only slightly better than the minimum resolution to be classified as HD. On the plus side, the panel technology itself is IPS and delivers good color reproduction and excellent viewing angles.
The larger bezels give the impression of the screen being smaller and more cramped than it actually is.
Automatic brightness levels are excellent and the display was still easy to see even in direct sunlight, although the screen did pick up considerable reflections. The screen also attracted its fair share of fingerprints and smudges.
Despite the low resolution, regular text and images looked just fine on the display, although the larger bezels do give the impression of the screen being smaller and more cramped than it actually is.
For a low-end tablet, the Tab 4 transitions fairly smoothly when switching between portrait and landscape orientations. With videos, there’s about a one-second pause before it reorients the screen, although the audio does keep playing.
While not specifically a multimedia tablet, it does play videos up to 720p and 60 fps. They look nice on the widescreen display, with good motion and color reproduction.
Load times for apps, particularly when running for the first time, were on the longer side. Similarly, when multi-tasking and trying to switch between running apps, there were several seconds of delay between changes.
A great test of tablet performance is with a high-end racing game like Asphalt 9. We definitely noticed a degradation in visuals compared to other tablets, with a fuzziness that was particularly noticeable with the in-game text. The graphics themselves, particularly on cars and buildings, had a jagged appearance as well, with a lot of graphical pop-in when distant objects came into view. While the game did a fine job of keeping the frame rate consistent, a graphically-demanding app like Asphalt 9 definitely shows the Tab 4's limitations.
A less taxing game like Angry Birds 2 fared better. The visuals and action were fairly smooth, even with a lot of on-screen action. There were only occasional stutters that had no impact on gameplay. So, while the Tab 4 may not be great for high-end games, it does work well enough for casual games, which is more in line with expectations at this price point.
To confirm what we experienced, we ran the AnTuTu Benchmark app. The Tab 4 achieved a total score of just 40,321, which bested only 1% of app users in total CPU, GPU, UX, and MEM performance indicators. If you want a high-performance tablet, this is not it.
Although some people like to use tablets for light productivity work, the Tab 4 is not a great candidate. Besides its small, lower-resolution screen, it also has performance bottlenecks when it comes to multi-tasking. If you’re just doing something simple, like writing a quick document, the Tab 4 will do in a pinch. But if you need anything more, its best to look elsewhere.
Of note was the Tab 4’s inability to connect to our Qwerkywriter Bluetooth keyboard. While it was able to detect other Bluetooth devices, it never even listed the Qwerkywriter as an option. This was in direct contrast to our other Android tablets that detected and connected to the keyboard right away.
It seems like every name brand Android tablet these days touts some type of audio certification or partnership that validates their speakers. In the Tab 4’s case, it’s Dolby Atmos. Whatever the marketing, the Tab 4’s speakers sound great.
Audio is clear at maximum volume, although it doesn't get as loud as some other tablets. There's also minimal bass so the sound is a bit flat, but this is to be expected from tablet speakers. Otherwise, there’s really nothing to complain about from the sound system, which easily keeps pace with and often exceeds what you can expect from the display.
At the top of the device is a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is a rarity these days. After plugging in a good pair of Razer headphones, we again noted that the sound was nice and clear, but the maximum volume was a bit low. If you’re looking for really high listening levels, you just won’t find it here.
With no cellular data (LTE) support on the Tab 4, we focused on testing its Wi-Fi capabilities. Using the Speedtest by Ookla app, we ran a series of three trials from the same location pitting the Tab 4 against the Huawei MediaPad M5 tablet and the Apple iPhone Xs Max.
If you want a high-performance tablet, this is not it.
Running solely off the battery, the best download speed of the Tab 4 was just 41.7 Mbps, versus 181 Mbps on the MediaPad M5 and 438 Mbps on the iPhone Xs Max. The best upload speed was far more competitive, with the Tab 4 at 21.1 Mbps, the MediaPad M5 at 22.1 Mbps, and the iPhone Xs Max at 22.0 Mbps.
Of course, benchmarks are all well and good, but the Tab 4 can still keep up with most needs in practice, particularly since you won’t be streaming anything more demanding than 720p video anyway. You may have to wait a bit longer to download some content, but we’re talking about a difference of seconds rather than minutes. In short, the Tab 4 maintains a stable connection regardless of distance from the router or satellite and does what it needs to in terms of network performance.
If you’re trying to buy a budget-range tablet to take pictures, you probably shouldn’t bother. Your phone likely takes far better pictures. With that said, it’s always nice to have another option to cover a quick photo op or selfie.
The rear camera tops out at 5MP in a 4:3 or 16:10 aspect ratio. For videos, you have a choice of capturing 720p or 1080p. The front facing camera tops out at only 2MP in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
During our testing, the cameras performed well both outside and inside as long as there was enough natural light. Although the images were missing some fine details because of their lower resolution, the picture quality was pretty good overall. When taking videos, the microphone didn’t do a great job of picking up sound and we had to stay really still to get a good moving image since there are no stabilization features.
The Tab 4 has such modest specifications that its 4850mAh battery gets stellar longevity. Lenovo claims 20 hours and we certainly seemed to be hitting close to that mark with our mixed-usage testing, including web browsing, streaming videos, gaming, photo and video capture, and general app testing.
Unfortunately, there is one downside. As with most Android tablets, the Tab 4 doesn’t do a great job of handling power management in standby mode. After leaving it alone for four days, we came back to a dead battery.
Placing this tablet on the charger every few days is recommende—the indicator light turns green when fully charged, with the screen flashing the battery percentage after removing the charging cable.
There’s no way around it: the Tab 4 runs an old version of Android. At the time of this writing, it runs Android Nougat 7.1, which was released all the way back on August 22, 2016.
While the Tab 4 runs the updated 7.1.1 version, which was released back on December 5, 2016, it still hasn’t been updated to 7.1.2, which was released on December 5, 2017. As a point of reference, Android Pie 9.0 was released on August 6, 2018.
The question is, does having a newer version of Android really matter on a budget tablet like this? From a security standpoint, it very well could in another year or two.
The Tab 4’s last Android security patch level was on July 5, 2018. Of course, as of this writing, just over 19% of Android devices still run some version of Nougat, so that could certainly provide an incentive for additional security updates. However, if you place a premium on security and want an Android device, it’s best to get a tablet with the newest version of the operating system you can afford.
Outside of its multi-user features and sound system, there’s not a lot else that stands out about this tablet. Retailing for $129.99, the Tab 4 is reasonably priced but perhaps not the best value when compared to the competition, particularly if some of their standout features are more compelling for your particular use cases.
Amazon Fire HD 8: Unless you’re averse to Amazon’s ecosystem, the Fire HD 8 provides far better value at just $79.99. The Tab 4 features a better rear camera and double the battery life, but offers little else to justify its higher price tag.
Huawei MediaPad M5: At $320, the MediaPad M5 is not cheap, but it packs premium features and a bigger screen into less space than the Tab 4.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A: The Galaxy Tab A is also more expensive, but it doubles the amount of built-in storage. If you don’t mind the Samsung-heavy ecosystem, this tablet could make a nice alternative to the Tab 4.
Want to keep exploring your options? Check out our picks for the best 8-inch tablets and the best tablets under $200.
A budget-friendly tablet with some notable limitations.
Although its price is appealing, the Lenovo Tab 4 makes some serious concessions in getting there. Despite a nice eight-inch IPS display and good speakers, its screen is quite low-resolution and its processing power limits both multi-tasking and gaming performance. There are better overall values in eight-inch tablets.
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