I’ve played with a few Windows 8 based tablets and honestly, none of them has really intrigued me. Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten quite used to my iPad and use it not as a replacement to my Macs, but as a complementary device for browsing the web, catching up on emails, running through news on Flipboard and watching TV shows or reading books- all of these either at night before switching the lights off or on the move. For serious work, I still use my desktop when at home or my laptop when travelling. The concept behind Windows 8 Pro tablets is that they could not only serve for purposes I use my iPad for, but also possibly replace my laptop. But the form factor, heat and battery life of most of these tablets that I have tried sacrifices convenience- making me go back to my iPad. So, is there anything that the ThinkPad tablet that I have with me today offer that others haven’t? Lets find out.
The ASUS and HP Windows 8 tablets that I had previously looked at had an 11.6” screen which just did not feel right for a tablet- especially in portrait mode. Lenovo has chosen a 10.1” screen instead which is what many Android based tablets have used and feels more manageable in your hands. In fact, with measurements of 262.6 x 164.6 x 9.8mm and a weight of 600grams or less, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 feels very comfortable in your hands. Like all tablets, the front of the tablet is dominated with the screen and on the top you have the front camera while the bottom houses the Windows button.
The backside has a soft finish with a nice grip that makes the ThinkPad Tablet 2 stay securely in your hands. The 8MP camera along with the LED flash sits in the center towards the top. Lenovo adds ports and connectors to pretty every side of the Think Pad Tablet 2, which I’m not a big fan of. On the top you have the housing the Pen/Stylus along with slots for SIM and MicroSD cards as well as the power switch. On the right is a 3.5mm jack with volume buttons and a rotation lock button while the bottom features a mini HDMI port and a dock connector. Finally, on the left you have a full sized USB port as well as a micro USB charging port that allows you to use a standard micro USB cable to charge the Lenovo Tablet 2. The position of the power port is not necessarily ideal as you can’t naturally hold the tablet when charging.
The following table compares the ThinkPad Tablet 2 to the ASUS VivoTab- another Windows based tablet that we recently reviewed, although one with a much higher configuration.
One of the first things I noticed was that the ThinkPad Tablet 2 was not necessarily the greatest when it came to specs. While other tablets were using Intel’s Core processors, the ThinkPad was equipped with an Atom processor- one that I don’t necessarily have fond memories of from the netbook days. It also only has 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage which, out of the box, left me with under 30GB of available space to install apps as well as manage my data. Unlike mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, and even Windows RT, applications developed for Windows usually give the amount of storage utilized a second thought as we’re so used to massive hard drives on our computers for the longest time. This doesn’t translate well when it comes to tablets with limited storage. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 scored 852 on Geekbench which compared to the ASUS VivoTab’s score of 1419 is about half.
The one thing you need to consider before shelling out for ThinkPad Tablet 2 is that it runs on an Atom Processor and only has 2GB of RAM. So don’t expect applications to fly. In fact, at times I was left wondering whether I had actually tapped an icon to load up an application or not- only to get a response a few seconds later. Now this didn’t necessarily happen all the time but as soon as you start loading multiple apps, you will start to see the ThinkPad Tablet 2 getting slower.
Another complain I had was with the stylus. When you are hovering over the screen, the stylus the crosshair floats like a butterfly but when you tap with the stylus, more often than not, the tap is a bit off than the area you intended to target. I was also not super impressed with the WiFi antenna on the ThinkPad Tablet 2 which would have a hard time connecting to my home network- something I haven’t experienced in any tablet.
Other than that, I enjoyed using the Thinkpad Tablet 2. Unlike some of the other tablets, Lenovo has definitely gotten the size and weight right and using the Tablet 2 for extended periods of time felt easy. The screen is not full HD, but I’ve found Windows tablets harder to use in higher resolutions because the interface doesn’t scale as well in desktop mode and precise tapping isn’t one of the stre
Battery and Heat
While the Atom processor is not the speediest of the bunch, it has the advantage of not getting anywhere near as hot as the Core series of CPUs that can easily turn the fans on a tablet. The ThinkPAd Tablet 2 very much remained reasonably cool during my testing. Even watching hi-def videos made it no warmer than the iPad. About the only time you would feel the tablet warming up is when installing apps or running benhcmarks. But everyday operations.
Another advantage of the Atom is the relatively lesser hit it has on the battery. Now whether you like it or not, the eight hour battery life of the iPad has pretty much become the standard against which all tablets are measure. None of the Windows Pro based tablets that I have looked at have managed to come close to that but the Lenovo Tablet actually manages to do that. While not exactly eight hours, I did manage to get over seven hours out of it from a single charge which is pretty impressive. My general usage involves a constant connection to the Internet (over WiFi) along with playing some music, watching some videos, looking and replying to quite a few emails, twitter constantly updating and me reading and writing articles related to tech.
The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is an impressively built tablet and the fact that it comes with 3G makes it connected anytime and anyplace. The form factor is superb- better than almost any other Windows based tablet I’ve used and the battery life that should last you close to a working day. Charging the ThinkPad Tablet 2 using a standard USB connector is also a great touch by Lenovo. However the form factor and battery life are a result of a sacrifice in performance. The Atom CPU with the non-expandable 2GB RAM found in the tablet is good enough if you’re managing a couple of tasks but throw in a few more and you suddenly start noticing a slowdown. The stylus calibration is also something that could use a bit of a work. At $949, the ThinkPad Tablet is a decent Windows Pro machine- though whether you want to use Windows 8 in a tablet form factor is something you need to decide.