Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android 4.0 review: Hands on

Chinese company enters TV market with Android 4.0

What is a hands on review?
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Lenovo Smart TV K91 with Android 4.0
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The gamepad which ships with the device
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The remote control is touch
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motion and voice sensitive
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The K91 boasts impressive viewing angles
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The "Sandwich" UI allows users to flip between apps and other content
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The touch-sensitive panel on the remote allows users to swipe between menus
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The Lenovo Store by-passes the lack of the Android Market in China
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Asphalt 6 has been optimised to work on the TV
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Lenovo has on-demand agreements with China's biggest content provider
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Asphalt 6 goes big screen
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The Lenovo remote also features a microphone for voice commands
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The host of passive 3D options on the Smart TV K91
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A five-megapixel webcam features facial recognition tech

The Lenovo SmartTV K91 Android TV is the Chinese manufacturer's very first TV and will be launched in its native land. However, this isn't just any old connected, 3D TV set, it's the first to have Android Ice Cream Sandwich added to the mix, bringing a range of apps from the Lenovo store, voice control and motion gaming.

With the LG Google TV making waves this week, could Lenovo's bespoke Android offering actually showcase a better alternative? We went hands-on with the SmartTV K91 with Android 4.0 to find out.

Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Build

The Lenovo SmartTV K91 is a 55-inch offering with Passive 3D TV tech built-in. And while the TV itself is attractive enough by modern standards, it's obvious that Lenovo hasn't lost too much sleep worrying about creating an ergonomic miracle to rival the Samsung sets or indeed the super-thin LG 55-inch OLED 3D TV we also clapped eyes on.

The device will arrive with two controllers, a game pad for playing games from the Lenovo Store and a touch, motion and voice enabled remote control similar to LG's Magic Remote.

Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Features

Before we get into the user interface on this Android-flavoured telly, lets chat about some of the basic specs. The Lenovo SmartTV K91 has a 1080p IPS, LED display with a refresh rate of 240Hz. Basic enough specs for a TV, right? Well here's where things get interesting.

The SmartTV K91 has a 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor, which you would see on a tablet, that powers the Android operating system. There's also 1GB of RAM to ensure everything ticks along at a rapid pace, along with a 5-megapixel camera built-in at the base of the bezel, which integrates with the on-board facial recognition tech. Our demonstration showed this working in a parental control capacity, before downloading movies or apps with mature content.

Of course, the big news is having Android Ice Cream Sandwich built-in. Lenovo says it has taken the source code and completely rebuilt it in its own image. It has developed a 'Sandwich' interface, which as well as standing for Android 4.0, also explains the three menu approach which allows users to swipe between screens using the touch-sensitive remote control. It works really well.

As there's no Android Market in China, Lenovo has included an Android app store of its own called Lenovo Store. The TV comes with over 100 apps built into the device, including high-profile "console quality" games like Asphalt 6, which have been optimised for the 55-inch screen. More on those later.

Lenovo, which only plans to launch the device in China, has also agreed deals with some of the country's biggest content providers in order to bring 3D movies and videos.

The company has also announced some AirPlay-like tech which allows media content to be shared over any of the company's tablets or ThinkPad devices. It's pretty neat and works extremely well.

Overall, the Sandwich UI offers a unique take on the Smart TV genre that's decidedly different to Google TV.

Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Performance

It appears that the television wasn't quite optimised for visual performance, and may have been a prototype design, but we were still able to experience some of the neat Passive 3D options on display. There's easy 2D to 3D conversion, which allowed us to play the non-3D Asphalt 6 in three dimensions. There's also Left Eye and Right Eye settings and 3D to 2D.

Playing games was an enjoyable experience thanks to the game pad which comes with the device and also through the Wiimote-esque motion sensing remote. Playing a tennis game was no different to playing Wii Sports.

Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Verdict

While Google TV has been making some headlines with LG's Smart TV range at CES, Lenovo has shown that the Android itself can be a viable alternative to the official platform, with an innovative take on the Android operating system, backed up by the same tech that brings high-end Android tablets to the market. We'd like to see the visual aspect of the set properly optimised to showcase the IPS display in all its glory, but the Lenovo SmartT K91shows real promise.

Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich availability: April (China). No plans for UK and US yet

Lenovo SmartTV K91 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich price: TBC

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.