Lenovo's Android 3.1-powered IdeaPad K1 tablet hands-on (video)

Is the next major Honeycomb tablet play seriously coming from Lenovo? Sure looks it, as the company has just taken the (final) wraps of its IdeaPad K1. For all intents and purposes, the K1 is a LePad dressed up in Android -- this one's packing a 1.0 GHz Tegra 2 chipset, a 10.1-inch (1280 x 800) capacitive touchpanel, Android 3.1, a two-cell battery (good for "up to ten hours") and a few minor software tweaks that may or may not appeal to you. The Lenovo Launcher is the first of those, acting as a five-pane launchpad that's completely customizable by the user, and it's one that can even be disabled if you so choose. The other is the introduction of the Lenovo App Shop, yet another venue to suck down applications for Google's tablet OS. The reason for its inclusion? According to reps here at the show, it's there to provide a secure, safe haven for people to download from -- the software that makes the cut here has been tested in Lenovo's labs for stability and security, though the company did confess that certain app developers may fork over a bit of cash to have their program(s) considered for inclusion. More after the break...

From a design standpoint, there's not a lot new here, though we will confess to really digging the textured backplate. It'll ship in 16GB and 32GB flavors, with WiFi-only and 3G + WiFi variants available. For the latter, a Gobi chip will be implanted to enable connectivity with Verizon Wireless, AT&T or Sprint here in the US of A, though details on global 3G modules weren't readily available. The company's also tossing in Social Touch, a homegrown app that pulls together your email, calendars and social networks for a single-pane view of your entire digital life. In practice, it seemed to work quite well, but hardcore TweetDeck users will likely yearn for in-line image and video viewing. In a move that's sure to be polarizing, around 50 pre-loaded applications will be included -- in the laptop world, we refer to that as "bloatware," but Lenovo seems certain that what's being included will be looked upon fondly. Things like Documents To Go and a gigabyte or two of free cloud storage from ArcSoft are amongst those, but there's one app in particular that'll make the sting of deleting all the rest a bit less pointed: Netflix.

No, not Netflix. Netflix. It's the next Netflix, and it's launching exclusively (at least for an undetermined amount of time) on Lenovo tablets. According to the outfit, the K1 is outfitted with a hardware DRM module that will enable Watch Instantly material to not only be streamed over HDMI without any hackeration, but also to be stored locally on the device. That's a completely new option for Netflix, and it'll create a new button to press within the app. We're told that files can be socked away on the internal flash storage or on a microSD slot, and due to whole "hardware DRM" requirement, the Honeycomb tablet you purchased last week won't be able to handle such goodness with a simple firmware update.

That said, it's a highly compelling differentiator -- at least for now -- and it makes the $449 starting point (16GB WiFi model) that much more palatable. We've been waiting for what feels like eons for a legitimate tablet maker to undercut Apple on price; toss in bolstered Netflix functionality, Tegra 2 and a shockingly crisp display, and you've got quite the package. It'll ship to America (and most of the world, in fact) on July 28th, and we'll be sure to bring you more details on 3G model pricing just as soon as we get it.