Lenovo’s new Smart Tab P10 is a tablet that turns into an Echo Show

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Lenovo isn’t a Google Assistant-only company: it’s happy to work with Amazon Alexa as well. And its new Smart Tab P10 and M10 go a step beyond just working with Alexa; they’re tablets that basically turn into an Echo Show when docked in your home.

Lenovo’s official line is that these are tablets first and foremost … though as tablets, the P10 and M10 aren’t particularly interesting. They’re about as generic as you can get: a 10.1-inch 1920×1200 display, Snapdragon 450 processor, 2 to 4GB of RAM and 16 to 64GB of storage, and little in the way of design flourishes. The cheaper M10 is truly bare bones with a 4850mAh battery, soft touch plastic back, dual speakers and lower-end 2MP/5MP cameras; the more expensive P10 has a considerably larger 7000mAh battery, glass back, fingerprint sensor, quad speakers and better 5MP/8MP cameras.

But here’s where things get really interesting: either tablet can slot into a specialized dock that turns it into an Amazon Echo Show clone, triggering a dedicated Show interface and enabling always-on listening for Alexa. The Smart Tab acts identically to an Echo Show: you can scroll through a dashboard of content, receive suggestions, ask questions, follow recipes, check your schedule, set timers and alarms, watch Amazon Prime video, listen to music and control Alexa-enabled smart home devices. Surprisingly, Lenovo says it will even be adding in Echo “drop in” and video calling … though I’ll believe it when we see it, because that’s currently an Echo-specific feature.

This is basically what everyone has been asking for: a true dual-mode device for the home.

The dock charges the tablet with pogo pins, and has its own pair of 3W speakers and three far-field microphones to provide a far better audio experience than the tablet could alone. And at 1.76 pounds, the dock is sturdy enough to make the whole unit feel like a cohesive device that you wouldn’t worry about leaving in a shared area of the home. When the Smart Tab isn’t sitting in the dock, the dock itself can be used as a standard Bluetooth speaker as well.

This is basically what people have been asking for every time a company releases either a dedicated smart home display or a tablet: just make these devices one in the same, with a docking mechanism, and software that is purpose-built to work differently when docked and free. Because the dock charges the tablet, it’s always going to have a full battery when you pick it up, and you never have to think about where to store it. And when you’re not using it personally, it’s available for anyone to use as an Alexa smart speaker and display.

For about the price of an Echo Show, you get a similar experience and a removable tablet.

Lenovo is leaning heavily on the docked Amazon Alexa experience as a differentiating feature of these tablets, but whenever they’re removed from the dock they’re still full-featured Android tablets with the Play Store and everything else you expect from such a device. The M10 and P10 are running Android 8.1 Oreo, and have unobtrusive software customizations. The software is noticeably slow, which makes sense when you see the specs, but as content consumption devices that will be primarily used while docked, it’s acceptable. You can tell Lenovo put lots of money into the displays and docks, and less into the spec sheet.

The M10 is just $199, and the P10 is only $299, and that includes the dock. The second-gen Echo Show is $229, and while it may offer a slightly more integrated experience, it’s a somewhat tough sell compared to this device that offers far more functionality with the removable tablet. It’s a great value proposition, even if you buy the more expensive Smart Tab P10 for a better tablet experience.

Lenovo will have the Smart Tab M10 and P10 on sale right away, starting on January 8, available directly from Amazon.

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January 8, 2019 at 09:05AM