Lenovo Smart Tab M8 review

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Did you ever get one of those “as seen on TV” gifts as a kid that made the product seem like the best thing since sliced bread? The commercials always played up the toy’s capabilities, and raised your expectations, driving you to plead with your parents to buy the thing. And then, after receiving it, you’d tinker around with the toy in starry-eyed wonder for all of 30 minutes before being disillusioned and realizing you’re just playing with a plastic box outfitted with a single lightbulb (that wasn’t even included). Yes, I’m looking at you Easy Bake Oven of the 1990s.

That’s how it felt using the Lenovo Smart Tab M8. There was, of course, the giddiness of playing with a new device. It came in such a beautiful package! The sleek, aluminum and glass design, the included charging dock, the colorful display. And for only $89! Unfortunately, that’s where the wonder ended. The sluggish performance and poor audio quality were but a few nails in the coffin for this budget tablet.

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 pricing and configuration

For the base model of the Smart Tab M8, you get a 2-GHz MediaTek A22 processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage for $89. Considering the base software of the device already takes up 6.1 GB of storage, it might be worth looking into upgrading to 32GB of storage for just $10 more. While neither of these options truly offer much in terms of storage, there is a microSD card slot to expand it up to 1TB.

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 design

Taken right out of the box, the Smart Tab M8 whispers promises of greatness. The all-glass front and Slate Grey aluminum back make for an incredibly attractive device, one that certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap. The black bezels are nice and thin on the sides, while the top bezel is slightly thicker to make room for the front-facing selfie-cam. There is also a rear-facing auto-focus camera on the back and thankfully, it doesn’t stick out too much so there’s little worry of scratching the lens. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The right edge of the slate has a lock/power button, a volume button and 2 microphone holes. There are speaker grills on both the top and bottom edges. The left has pogo pins on its side to connect it to the charging dock. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Measuring 7.8 x 4.8 x 0.3 inches, this slate is incredibly travel friendly. It fits in most bags, and even some deep-set pockets, if you’re lucky enough to have access to those. And at 0.7 pounds, you barely notice the addition to whatever you carry around daily. Compared to the Amazon Fire HD 8, 7.6 x 4.5 x 0.4 inches and 0.6 pounds, the Smart Tab M8 is slimmer, but feels just a bit sturdier. 

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 ports

There are three ports located on this device. The microUSB for charging is located on the bottom, while there is an audio jack found on the top. The one, fun inclusion on this device is the microSD card slot, found on the left edge of the slate. All you need is a pin to pop out the tray, and you’re on your way to that extra hit of storage.

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 display

My early expectations for a nice HD display were not quite met after using the Smart Tab M8. While the 8-inch, 1280 x  800 screen was certainly HD, the color and brightness left a little to be desired. While watching the trailer to the new Netflix series, The Haunting of Bly Manor, the greens of the grounds during full daylight certainly seemed bright and vivid, but compared to the video played on my other devices, all of the reds and blues seemed a bit dull. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

And, true enough, our tests showed that the Smart Tab M8 only covers 81% of the sRGB color gamut. It’s on par with the Amazon Fire HD 8 at 80%, but scores lower than the 99% slate average. 

The Smart Tab M8 only averaged 344 nits of brightness, which considering how much glare the screen caught meant I was staring at my own reflection quite often. At 444 nits, the Fire HD 8 is brighter than both the Smart Tab M8 and the 413 nits. 

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 audio

One of the draws to this device, Lenovo claims, is that it’s great for entertainment. And with the dual Dolby Atmos-tuned speakers, one would hope that streaming music while cleaning house would be a pleasant experience. And well, again, it wasn’t terrible I suppose. But it’s really hard to appreciate music when there seems to be no audible bass and everything sounded like it was played on instruments that seemed tuned on the end of “sharp.” This made “Pompeii” by Bastille high, tinny and sad. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

There is a Dolby Atmos app that lets you change the audio balance settings. But even when you change the balance, music should sound round and full. However, when I listened to “No Good Deed” from the Wicked soundtrack, the song just felt hollow. The tablet’s speakers just can’t grasp those nice, rich, bass tones.

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 performance

Equipped with a 2-GHz MediaTek A22 processor and just 2GB of RAM, I wasn’t expecting stellar performance from the Lenovo Smart Tab M8. But I wasn’t expecting it to be the most disappointing thing about the device, either. During my time reviewing this device, I lost count of how often apps crashed. Most notably, I couldn’t even log in to Netflix without the app crashing. I tried everything from uninstalling the app to restarting the device, and it simply refused to cooperate. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Add to this the number of times Pandora crashed while listening to music, and how slow it was in re-opening any app, and I nearly gave up on this device. I can only conclude that the Smart Tab M8 is definitely not ideal for multi-tasking – even with the inclusion of the split-screen.

It didn’t do so hot in testing, either. According to Geekbench 5.0, which measures overall performance, the Smart Tab M8 scored 552, which compared to the Amazon Fire 8’s 2,437 and the 2,487 tablet average, is pathetic. This is not a tablet suited to productivity in the least, however, I was able to Among Us to run smoothly as i tried, and failed, to avoid the suspicion of being the imposter. 

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 Battery Life

If there is anything that I will sing praises about in regards to the Smart Tab M8, it’s that of the battery. The tablet lasted through 14 hours of continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. Which is slightly better than the Amazon Fire HD 8’s time of 13:49, and a full hour and 15 minutes over the tablet average (12:19). It’s a great option for traveling or late-night binge watching. 

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 Webcam

Both webcams on the Smart Tab M8 offer poor quality photos. Which is to be expected when the rear-facing camera is 5-megapixels, while the front-facing camera is a measly 2-megapixels. The photos I took with the rear-facing camera were standard. Not really something you would put in any photo album, not even the digital photo album that you have the option of turning this device into. 

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Rear facing camera (Image credit: Laptop Mag)Image 2 of 2

Front facing camera (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

As for the front camera… well, let’s just say it felt like a blast from the past. The first phones made with 2-megapixel cameras came out in 2004, and the quality was good back then. Now, the images are blurry, low res, and completely washed out. I took a few selfies with it, and even in brighter settings my skin looked gray, and my plants were lacking in color.

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 and Google Assistant

Similar to most modern Android devices, the Smart Tab M8 has Google Assistant integration. With just a “Hey Google” or “Okay Google,” you can dictate emails or control music, even when you’re halfway across the room. That is, if you can figure out how to enable the ambient mode. I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to make Google Assistant accessible while the screen wasn’t on, and eventually had to look it up to figure it out (thanks to our review of the Smart Tab M10!). And even then, I could never get the assistant to show up on the locked screen, and while that may be a user error, the fact remains that this setting is incredibly hard to find.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The coolest thing about Google Assistant is Google Lens, which lets you use the camera to take pictures of items and search the internet for similar images. It also recognizes text – typed or handwritten – and can read it outloud. It’s not always accurate, but it sure is cool.

Lenovo Smart Tab M8 Software and Warranty

The Smart Tab M8 runs on Android Pie – or Android 9.0 – which is a bit outdated. Considering Android 10.0 was released a month before this slate, it would have been nice to see the new software on the new device. However, there are plenty of cool and handy apps that come pre-installed. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When creating user profiles for this tablet, you have the option of choosing between a standard user, who gets private access to their own apps and content, or a child user, who’s actions and settings are in the control of the “owner” profile. It also defaults to this “Monster Class” UI which is full of fun, child-friendly, games and videos. 

On the other hand, any other regular user will have access to the following apps right out the gate. Calendar, camera, clock, and contacts, which are standard on any mobile device, but you also have access to quite a few Google apps right away. Such as Google Chrome, Google Assistant, Gmail, Maps, Drive, and Podcasts. Add YouTube and YT Music into the mix, and most basic needs can be met without downloading any additional apps from the Play Store. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Lenovo Smart Tab M8 comes with a 1-year depot warranty, which means that if any issues arise with the device, it must be shipped to a certified repair facility for repair. 

Verdict

While the Smart Tab M8 comes equipped with some pretty nifty features, there is a significant lack of quality performance, even for a $99 device. If you’re looking for a tablet to hand off to a younger child for games and fun, this device is perfect. The user interface is cute and engaging, and there’s plenty for kids to do. It certainly kept my 3-year-old cousin happy for quite some time. 

And while the general user interface and contents are engaging as well, it still feels lacking. The hours of frustration I spent trying to get features to work, only to give up and try something else didn’t seem worth it. Along with the disappointing sound quality and display performance, everything added up to one disgruntled reviewer. 

That being said, if you’re looking for a device to stream movies or music, or do anything productive at all, maybe consider looking somewhere else. I lost count of the times apps crashed on me while doing something, or just while opening them up. This caused plenty of sessions of using this slate to end in frustration. My patience grew very thin very quickly. With its higher performance and comparable price, I recommend checking out the $89 Amazon Fire HD 8.



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