Android tablets are a rare breed. Good Android tablets are even rarer.
samsung has the high-end Android tablet market cornered with its Galaxy Tab S7+ and S7, and at the other end of the market are the ultra-cheap, underpowered Amazon Fire tablets. In between is a gap, and that’s what Lenovo is hoping to fill.
The Lenovo P11 Tab Pro is the company’s latest slate, and it’s leaps and bounds beyond a Fire tablet, but it doesn’t have quite the power of samsung’s S7 range. What it does have is a magnificent screen and a much more budget-friendly price tag that makes it great for watching movies on the go. That’s the primary use case here, because Android on a tablet isn’t good for much else.
The Right Hardware
The screen is one of the highlights of the Tab P11 Pro. It’s an 11.5-inch 2K OLED (2,560 x 1,600 pixels) that’s every bit as nice and sharp as what’s in my ipad Pro. It’s got deep, rich blacks and plenty of brightness, making the P11 a great way to watch movies. The JBL speakers are similarly impressive, with good bass output—better than many laptops I’ve tested lately.
Unfortunately, there is no headphone jack, only a single USB-C port and a Micro SD card slot. Lenovo does throw in a USB-C-to-headphone adapter, but if you want to charge your tablet while listening to headphones, you’ll need to go the wireless route.
There are a few different models. The standard looks more like an ipad, but the folio model I tested includes a soft cloth back with a kickstand and a detachable keyboard like Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet. The kickstand design means it’s a bit awkward and wobbly in your lap, but it’s fine when you use it on a flat surface. Strip away the case and the P11 Pro is surprisingly light, weighing in at just over a pound.
The keyboard is cramped but usable. The trackpad, on the other hand, is the one hardware weak spot. The button range is very small and not especially responsive. It’s not a deal breaker, but it definitely detracts from the usefulness of the trackpad.
The folio model also includes a Lenovo Precision Pen 2, which is pretty much as good as the Apple Pencil for sketching. It comes with a carrying holster that can be magnetically attached to the back of the P11 Pro or stored separately. Regrettably, it doesn’t charge off the tablet itself, so you’ll have to charge it via a USB-C cable.
The P11 Pro is plenty speedy for most tasks. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor coupled with 6 gigabytes of RAM handled everything I threw at it, including photo editing, videostreaming, and a ton of open browser tabs. The base model offers only 4 gigabytes of RAM and might be a little less snappy. I suggest spending the extra $50 for 6 gigs.
Battery life is similarly impressive. It lasted 12 hours, 52 minutes in our battery drain test (looping a local 1080p video). In real-world use, I had no trouble getting through a day and a half of work.
The Wrong Software
In many ways, the P11 Pro is a slightly higher-end version of last year’s Duet Chromebook, but it runs Android instead of ChromeOS. And that’s the real problem with the P11 Pro—Android just isn’t great on a tablet. Few apps take advantage of the tablet form factor. Over half of the apps I use on a regular basis were just phone-size interfaces blown up to fit a larger screen. Many didn’t work at all in landscape mode.
Like samsung, Lenovo created a user interface to work around Android’s limitations on a tablet. Productivity Mode is Lenovo’s name for it, and it automatically activates whenever you attach the keyboard. (You can manually toggle it on and off in the pull-down menu.)
Productivity Mode was clearly inspired by Samsung’s DeX mode for galaxy Tabs. It’s laid out almost exactly the same way, with a Chrome OS–style taskbar along the bottom of the screen. On the left, there are the three Android buttons: Back, Home, and the app list. Then there’s a shortcut to open the app drawer and a Windows-style button list of your running applications.
When Productivity Mode does what you want, it’s great, and you’ll feel like you’re using a real operating system. Unfortunately, it feels half-baked. It can’t deliver the solid, “just works” computing experience ChromeOS can. Slack, for example, isn’t supported by Productivity Mode, so it opens by default in a phone-size window. You can snap this to the side of the screen and use it split-screen, but the app crashed about 25 percent of the time I did this. So I had to reopen it, resnap it to split-screen, crash, rinse and repeat. I ended up loading Slack in the browser.
That’s when I realized that if Lenovo made this into a high-end Chromebook tablet—called the Lenovo Duet Pro—I would easily recommend it to any and all. With Android, it’s fine as a media consumption device, but forget about doing real work.
If the latter is what you’re looking for in a tablet form factor, go with the polished workflow experience of the iPad Pro or iPad Air. If you really want to stick to Android, and you particularly plan on gaming a lot, then the 120-Hz screen refresh rate and faster processor of samsung’s Tab S7 series (which start at $510) are a better choice.
If gaming isn’t important, the Lenovo has a nicer screen than the standard Tab S7 and makes a great way to watch movies on the go. Unless you want to occasionally do some light work, go for the base model to save some cash.