The Lenovo M Series tablets may be the best Amazon Fire alternative of 2020.
In Early 2020/Late 2019 Lenovo launched a series of two Android tablets. The M8, M8 FHD, and M10 FHD Plus with 8 and 10 inch displays respectively.
The M8 and M10 FHD Plus have specs comparable to their Amazon Fire competition.
- 1200×800 resolution 8-inch display
- 2 GB RAM
- Quad-core processor
- 16 GB internal storage
Lenovo M8 FHD
- 1920×1200 resolution 8-inch display
- 3 GB of RAM
- Octo-core processor
- 32 GB internal storage
Lenovo M10 FHD Plus
- 1920×1200 resolution 10-inch display
- 2 or 4 GB RAM
- Octo-core processor
- 32, 64, or 128 GB of internal storage
These tablets also include a microSD card slot that can accept a microSD card up to 128 GB in size, which is directly expandable to the internal storage.
All of these Lenovo tablets have a USB-C port, instead of the Fire HD 10’s dated microUSB port. While this tablet doesn’t support fast charging or HDMI out over the USB-C, its always nice to see this new charging connector on more affordable tablets.
Unlike Amazon Fire tablet that use Amazon’s proprietary version of Android known as Fire OS, Lenovo tablets use a standard version of full Android. These tablets run Android 9 whereas the latest version of Fire OS is based on Android 7. Lenovo tablets also use the Google Play Store as opposed to Amazon’s own app store. The Play Store has a full selection of apps, games, and productivity tools. The Amazon store by comparison has a much more limited selection of downloads, including the removal of Google apps and most productivity or workplace apps. With these tablets, you can have full access to your Google accounts, and you can use the Android version of Microsoft Office. Having access to apps for work and education makes these tablets a much better value than the Amazon Fire.
The benefit that the M8 and M10 tablets do not have the same app store restrictions as Amazon fire tablets is reason enough to choose Lenovo.
As an recent addendum regarding the Lenovo software, the M10 has been receiving regular updates as well as a major upgrade from Android 9 to Android 10.
The version of the M10 FHD Plus with 2 GB of RAM, can multitask with a few general apps, as well as maintain a few chrome tabs at the same time without needing to reload pages.
Even with an octo-core processor, it can only handle games like COD Mobile or PUBG at up to medium graphics. Framerates may vary. While it is playable, it lacks the speed and smoothness delivered in games by higher-end tablets and phones.
When attempting to load intensive games like Albion Online, the tablet either produces unplayable framerates (less than 10 FPS) or the app closes due to lack of memory (2 GB RAM model).
Finally when testing less intensive games like Old School Runescape, the tablet maintains at least 30 FPS in almost all areas, while managing to peak at a maximum of about 44 frames per second.
So while its not completely incapable of running games like certain cheaper tablets, its not outstanding either, although more basic games like Old School Runescape, Among Us, or other 2D games will run fine on this tablet. Gaming works okay for its price point.
The tablet will run Microsoft Remote Desktop connected to a Windows PC just fine. It can also run game streaming apps like Parsec or Steam Remote Play at 60 FPS.
The tablet can connect bluetooth mice, keyboards, and game controllers simultaneously just like any other modern Android device. This makes it a reasonable option for game streaming and typing documents without needing a full size laptop.
While the 4 GB RAM model isn’t absolutely necessary just to run apps, multitasking definitely benefits from the extra memory. Typically the 4 GB model sells on Amazon for about $30 more than the 2 GB model, making it well worth the extra price.
Finally, its worth mentioning that the M10 Plus has a true IR camera for secure face unlock, Dolby Atmos stereo sound, dual microphones, a headphone jack, and pogo pin connector for the dock accessory.
Now on to this tablet’s drawbacks.
The most important dealbraker for most consumers will be its lack of full widevine L1 support. Widevine is a DRM technology maintained by Google for the secure playback of video from subscription content apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, etc. Without L1 certification the tablet cannot play Netflix in HD. Video apps will still work but are limited to standard definition. Lenovo’s support staff claim this is due to the chipset used in the tablet. Apps that do not use Widevine DRM can play full HD quality including Youtube, Google Chrome, and VLC Player for example.
Lenovo tablets do not have any support for fast charging and the battery capacity for the M10 Plus is only 5000 mAh. The maximum speed at which the battery can charge is 2 amps at 5 volts with the included charger. It can take up to over 2 hours for the tablet to completely charge. The M8 and M10 tablets do not support USB-PD so it is not possible to use a faster charger with this tablet. Secondly, the battery’s capacity is only 5000 mAh which is acceptable for this price point but it lacks in comparison to more premium tablets. Lenovo claims the tablet to have up to 8 hours of battery life.
However, if you don’t care about Netflix in HD or fast charging this tablet is a very good deal at its price point. Lenovo’s warranty and software updates also make it a reliable option for those looking for an entry level 10-inch tablet.
This is my primary tablet which I use on a regular basis, I highly recommend it with the exceptions of the drawbacks above, and I look forward to Lenovo potentially releasing new Android tablets in 2021.