1. August 2015

After buying my first smartphone – the Huawei Ascend G610 – this spring, I noticed how much faster it was than my old tablet, whose battery was slowly dying after more than two years of heavy use. So I was in the market for a new tablet in the sub-€100 category and after some research I decided to abandon Odys in favour of Lenovo. The A7 series of 7″ tablets ideally suited my requirements and my budget – the A7-40 (A3500-FL) and A7-50 (A3500F) to be exact, with a difference of 8 and 16GB storage space and an additional back camera on the A7-50. I chose the latter because the price difference was only €10 – and this is the device I’m reviewing in this article, although the A7-40 is in every respect identical save for the storage space and the back camera. At the time of my purchase the tablets cost €79 and €89 on, but this varies a little bit. With a list price of originally €110 and €150, those devices are bargains in any case.

Almost three years ago, I wrote a long review about my first Android tablet, still in German back then, and later I skipped reviewing my second tablet because I simply didn’t have the time to prepare an article. Although the reviews of the Lenovo A7-50 have been uniformly positive, it doesn’t seem to be very well known as a budget tablet, so here is my detailed review of it. This tablet seems to be widely available in Europe, although for some reason not in the USA and Canada, possibly because of its Chinese origins. I’m not getting paid for this review and have no connections to the manufacturer or seller.

Specifications – What’s under the hood?

• System: Android 4.4.2
• Chipset: Mediatek MT8382
• CPU: Cortex A7 QuadCore 1.3 GHz 32-bit
• GPU: Mali400 MP2
• Size: 198 x 121 x 9,9 mm
• Weight: 320g
• Display: IPS Touchscreen, 7″, 179mm Diagonal, 95 x 152 mm Size
• Resolution: 1280×800, 16:10
• RAM: 1 Gigabyte
• FlashRAM: 16 Gigabyte, about 12 free
• MicroSD card slot for cards with up to 32GB (possibly more)
• SIM Card Slots: None
• WLAN: 802.11b/g/n
• Bluetooth
• GPS with A-GPS feature
• Sensors: Acceleration & Proximity
• Hardware Keys: Power, Volume Up/Down Whip
• Front Camera: 2 Megapixel Fixed-Focus
• Back Camera: 5 Megapixel Fixed-Focus
• FM-Radio
• USB: MicroUSB 2.0 for data connection and charging (host capable)
• 3.5mm Headphone Audio-Out with Microphone input
• Microphones: 1
• Speakers: 1
• Vibration alert
• Battery: non-removable 3450 mAh Li-Ion

First Impressions – Unboxing

The tablet comes in a sturdy, but simple cardboard box barely larger than the tablet itself. The box contains the tablet, the USB charger with a short 1-meter USB cable, and a little multi-language quickstart guide, which just has some basics about the tablet and as usual nothing much about using the tablet itself. My tablet came charged with about 60% and booted relatively quickly after displaying a snazzy Lenovo title and a quick animation into the standard Android setup questions.

The tablet uses the stock Android KitKat user interface without any modified colours, but starts up with Lenovo’s own LauncherHD, which puts all the installed apps on the homescreens iOS style without an app drawer. The launcher is quite good, but for users who want something like the good, old Android stock launcher, Nova Launcher is recommended as an alternative to Lenovo’s approach as usual.

The tablet has some Lenovo-specific programs preinstalled and also some of the Google apps, which need to be updated on first launch after setting up the WiFi access. More about the operating system and software later in the article.

Case, Buttons & Connectors

The Lenovo A7-50 has a dark blue backshell out of slightly rubbery, but easily grippable material that clams slightly around the sides and the front with comfortably rounded edges. There is a slight rim around the front which protudes in a wedge shape on the bottom. The front is almost all glass save for spaces at the top and bottom for the microphone and the speaker, but as usual for tablets in this price range the display has a thick border around it – which can also be positive because the tablet is easier to hold on the front, too. It feels very lightweight and comfortable in the hand. The tablet is not designed to be opened, the slot for the MicroSD card is located under a protective cover on the right upper side on the back.

The Lenovo A7-50 has three hardware keys, power button and a combined volume whip on the right side of the display, which are made out of hard plastic and give a nice tactile feedback when pushed. The standard Android keys are shown on the display itself and do unfortunately not have their own hardware silkscreen area. This tablet does not have a hardware menu button, which is fortunately not a problem nowadays with modern apps anymore.

There are only two connectors on the tablet: a 3.5mm headphone jack on top compatible with headphones with integrated microphones and the USB connector on the bottom. The USB port is used for charging, but can also be used to connect the phone to a PC to give access to it via the MTP and PTP protocols, but the internal and external SD cards can not be accessed – although there is another equally good method to read and write the SD cards which is discussed further down. The USB interface is also host compatible, making it possible to connect mice, keyboards, card readers and even external harddrives to the tablet, altough external media is limited to read access because of the KitKat system restrictions.

The Display

While the display of the Lenovo A7-50 is not quite high definition, it comes very close. The 16:10 format is a great compromise in both landscape and portrait orientation and with a resolution of 1280×800 pixels it has a very respectable pixel density of about 220 ppi, which is much better than a comparable 7″ tablet with 1024×600 resolution and 160 ppi. The sharpness is astonishingly good and single pixels are only distinguishable at very close range. This makes the tablet also an excellent ebook reader, because fonts are rendered very sharp and with almost no perceptible anti-aliasing.

Colours are also exceptionally strong and the white balance seems to tip more into the warmer region than cold-blue without appearing brownish. The maximum brightness is so strong that the tablet is still usable under direct sunlight, although reflections make it of course a little bit harder to see. The display has only little noticeable brightness falloff when viewed from the sides. The three Android system navigation buttons are sadly not implemented by the hardware and take up screen space at the bottom of the display, which might be of some concern because the tablet comes with a “phone user interface” that also has a top notification bar, if it wasn’t for the possibility of Android KitKat’s immersive mode that allows programs to hide the interface to go full screen. This is especially useful in case of ebook readers, which can use the complete screen.

The front seems reasonably scratch-immune and while it’s not the famed Gorilla Glass, using a display protecting foil is not really necessary and the tablet is not sold with a foil already applied. Overall, this is an excellent display especially for a device in this price range – it leaves the impression that Lenovo has really put some great display hardware into this tablet.

RAM, CPU, GPU & Performance

The Lenovo A7-50 comes with 1 Gigabyte RAM, which is comfortable enough for today’s Android systems and lets you run a lot of programs in the background without slowing down the system too much. The flash storage space is 16 Gigabytes big, of which about 12 GB are free. This is mounted as a whole partition and not split up into a system partition and an internal SD Card. There is a “virtual” SD Card mounted on the main file system for compatibility reasons, though, which always shows the same free space as the main filesystem. This is a lot of free space and should be enough for most purposes – it’s certainly difficult to fill this all up with Android apps.

It is also possible to expand the memory with a MicroSD card with sizes up to 32 GB, although up to 128 GB should be possible too. Unfortunately, the write restrictions of Android KitKat do not allow most apps to write directly to the external SD card, although read access is possible and the tablet also allows to move apps to the card. More on this particular problem later, which can fortunately mostly circumvented with a few tricks and tools and does not render the tablet unusuable in any way.

If the tablet refuses to mount a SD card and displays an error message about a defect, this is usually the result of a badly formatted file system. This happened to me with a Transcend 32GB SDHC Class 10 card and the fix was to simply backup all data from the card, format it in the tablet itself and then put the data back either with the tablet or a SD Card reader on the PC. Once a card has been formatted in the tablet, it will work fine again even when written on with other devices. There is no SD Card incompatibility problem here, it’s just a matter of formatting the card correctly.

The tablet uses the MediaTek MT8382 chipset, which contains a modest ARM-7 CPU with four cores running at 1.3 GHz each. While this is actually slower by numbers than my previous tablet with a 1.6 GHz Dual-Core CPU, the Lenovo A7-40 is infinitely faster because four cores at 1.3 GHz can do much more work than two at 1.6 GHz. It is not a high-end device by any means but certainly fast enough for everyday use and even with lots of apps installed and running in the background, the tablet remains fast and responsive at all times. The AnTuTu score is about 18880, which is still a respectable figure considering the price of the tablet. The back shell gets a little bit warm on the upper left when

The graphics chip is a Mali400-MP2 from ARM, which is one of the most-used GPUs employed in lots of phones and tablets. I have not tested many 3D-heavy games, but together with the quadcore processor this dual-core GPU should be adequate for most of today’s games – although I would not expect any wonders regarding game performance. Most games seem to work absolutely fine and emulators even for 16-bit systems are certainly no problem at all.


The main camera of the Lenovo A7-50 (which the A7-40 is missing) has a resolution of 2560×1920, almost 5 megapixels, with a fixed-focus lens and a light sensitivity from ISO 100 to 1600. Click on the image on the right to get the full unaltered camera original, taken with image quality and size set to maximum. This is a camera not really good for photography – the quality is acceptable, but not compareable to the camera of even a low-budget smartphone like the Huawei G610. The images look surprisingly digtial even with the compression set to minimum and the fixed-focus lens leaves everything under 30 centimeters distance blurry. The camera is still good for quick snapshots, record shots or document scanning, but it’s not recommended for serious photography. It’s still nice to have in the tablet and the small additional price for the A7-50 is certainly worth it.

The front camera, located on the top right of the screen, is a 2 megapixel fixed-focus webcam and basically ideally suited for video telephony. The quality is decent in good lighting conditions and may even be okay for the occasional selfie, but like the back camera it is not a good idea to use it for actual photography. It does work great as a webcam with Skype or Google Hangouts with none of the compatibility issues some other tablets have.

Speaker, Headphone Output  & Microphone

The Lenovo A7-50 has one speaker and one microphone. The speaker is located behind a grille at the bottom of the tablet and is front-facing, which is a welcome change from the usual rear-facing speakers. The quality is only suitable for voice playback, because it sounds very tinny and hollow, although even at the loudest volume it surprisingly does not distort. The headphone output is located on the top of the device next to the USB port and has a very good quality with no perceptible background noise and other distortions. It also works with headphones with built-in microphones, so an external microphone input is possible.

The microphone is located on the bottom rim of the tablet behind a tiny pinhole in the case – careful, this is NOT a reset button despite its appearance! The recording quality is very good under the circumstances and while not really suitable for music, speech is perfectly intelligible even when recorded from a distance, turning the tablet into a solid webcam.

Battery & Charger

The Lenovo A7-50 has a non-replaceable Lithium-Ion battery with 3450 mAh, which sounds worryingly small – but the battery performance of this tablet is astonishingly good. Up to seven hours screen-on time is possible when using not too many resource-intensive apps, but even when playing games six hours are the minimum with more than 12 hours standby time, perhaps even 16 to 24 hours. This is not a tablet that needs constant recharging and for a device in this price range the battery is a sensation – although I cannot say anything about it in terms of long-time performance, because I’ve only had the tablet for a short time.

The tablet is charged through the mini-USB port and the included charger is actually just one with a USB port and an ordinary USB cable. It puts out the usual 5 Volts at 1A and charges the empty battery in about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, which is fairly fast considering the capacity. Charging with a computer USB port works too, of course – but on ports delivering only 0.5A it takes about twice as long, so a dedicated charger is the best option. Because the phone has a standardized USB port, you can also use any portable USB power bank to charge on the move.


The WiFi module of the Lenovo A7-50  plays along perfectly with my older Netgear routers and picks up even more other access points from the neighbourhood than my already pretty receptive older tablet and smartphone. Although I only use a 54 mbps connection due to the older routers, the speed is excellent and the connection remains stable even when the signal is weak further away from the routers – even with one bar left on the indicator, there is still a stable, but slow data connection. I did not have any problems with logging in the WLAN or the encryption even with some heightened security measures like manual IP setup.  There is also the possibility of connecting two devices directly with an option called WLAN Direct, but I have not yet tried this.


The tablet is also equipped with a Bluetooth 4.0 module which I have only tested by pairing it to my smartphone and tablet for data transfer – but this works perfectly and should also be handy for connecting other hardware like keyboards and headphones.


Like with my Huawei G610 smartphone, the GPS has actually been a bit difficult to get to work, but this seems to be a general problem of all devices with MediaTek chipsets. Contrary to some reports on the web, the Lenovo A7-50 does have a working GPS and it is not disabled in the system. The main problem is that the GPS does not work well inside buildings, but outside it is actually relatively easy to get a GPS fix and the accuracy is well within a couple of meters if there are enough GPS satellites in view. To check the GPS status, I recommend an app like GPS Test to see what’s actually going on with the GPS reception. It may look like the GPS module is dead, but it is actually just the weak reception easily fixed by going outside or just standing in front of a window.

FM Radio

I’m genuinely surprised that FM radios are still built into smartphones and tablets today and this one works very well. Headphones need to be plugged in for the radio to work and the app is somewhat basic, but it supports scanning for channels and you can even record with it. The quality is as good as FM radio allows and perfect if you just want to listen to the news or your favourite music radio station.

Operating System and Apps

The Lenovo A7-50 and its similar models were originally released with Android 4.2.2 Jellybean on board, but have since been upgraded to 4.4.2 KitKat and all recently manufactured devices already come preinstalled with the newer system version.Lenovo has indicated that the A7-40 and A7-50 model range will not be updated to Lollipop, but the system installed on the tablet is new enough not to be a problem. Although Android KitKat means that the tablet suffers from the restrictive SD Card handling, this turned out to be less of a problem than I originally thought and if you do not use an external SD Card at all this issue is not going to affect you at all.

The following apps are preinstalled on the tablet in addition to the usual Google programs:

AccuWeather – Weather app and widget (this is unfortunately not the Pro version)
File Browser – Simple file manager with useful FTP remote control feature
FM Radio – The radio app
Lenovo Launcher HD – Lenovo’s own launcher, can be switched out with any other
Norton Mobile – This seems to be just a downloader for the software which I have not tried
Navigate – Navigation app from a company called Route 66
• Power Manager – Lenovo’s own Power Manager app
ShareIt – A somewhat strange content sharing app
SyncItHD – Lenovo’s cloud-based synchronization and backup software
ToDo – Very simple todo list app that doesn’t sync with your Google account
txtr ebooks – An ebook reader with access to an online store
UC Browser HD – Installed in addition to the stock browser and Chrome
Weather – A simple weather app which also provides a basic widget

An article with more Android app recommendations is going to follow this review soon, since it would make this one too large and I still need to write descriptions and make screenshots.

The Android 4.4.2 External SD Card Write Restriction Problem

Because the Lenovo A7-50 is nowadays already sold with Android KitKat, write access to the external SD Card is restricted, but this is not as big as a problem as I had initially thought. Here is a quick overview of the situation:

• General read/write access to the SD Card is not possible without rooting the device
• This does NOT concern the virtual, internal SD Card, which is fully writeable
• Moving apps to the external SD Card is supported by the system
• The pre-installed file manager has write access to both internal and external SD Cards
• The file manager has a FTP remote connecting feature, giving write access to both SD Cards
• Other file managers like Total Commander can have full read/write access over FTP

Save for rooting the device (which I will not attempt because the risk of bricking it is too great) or flashing an older 4.2.2 firmware, my strategy for working around the write restrictions is as following:

• Place only those files which need to be writeable on the internal SD Card
• Use the remote FTP access (which works also as a substitute for an USB connection) to manage all the files on the external SD Card either on the device itself or from a PC

With lots of space on the 16GB version of the tablet, the write restriction to the external SD Card should not pose much of a problem because you can still store all your ebooks, music, videos and other files that do not need constant write access on the external card and put app settings and everything that needs write access on the internal SD Card. Moving files from the internal to the external card is also not a huge problem with going through the FTP remote access feature or using the internal file manager, so Lenovo has actually put some features into this tablet to make the situation better tolerable.

Final Thoughts

Despite the KitKat SD Card access issue, this is an amazing tablet with surprisingly good hardware quality especially for the low price. It’s a perfect productivity device ideal for web surfing, ebook reading, audio and video watching and conferencing and even writing and website management if the right tools are used. It’s the perfect bridge between a smartphone and a laptop and together with a hardware keyboard a fully fledged computer. For budget tablets in the sub-€100-range, Lenovo could not have done better than the A7 series – this is a highly recommended tablet.

To cap the article off, here’s a comparison with other devices, from left to right:

Lenovo A7-50 (7″ 16:10)Odys Genio/XelioPro (7″ 16:9)Huawei Ascend G610 (5″ 16:9)

Kategorie: Android, Computer
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