When Apple's first iPad hit the market in 2010, adoption of the "modern tablet" was ubiquitous: a thin, rigid sheet of touchable electronics covered by a shiny sheet of Gorilla glass. After the resounding success of the iPad, Apple (and others) didn't apologize for designing their tablets like they were giant smartphones – or at least a little less than a full-fledged computer.
Gone were the days of custom software installations, file system management, and editing configuration files. In their place appeared one-click app store installs, blocked software aimed at protecting users from directory structures, and an often disappointingly spartan range of customization and configuration options.
However, note the following: Windows 8 Pro on a tablet calls this setting into question.
Say what you will say about the latest (and arguably not the best) operating system from Microsoft, but Redmond's software gives users back much of the control and utility that came with the move to Apple and Google mobile operating systems have been lost. Fortunately, Windows 8 achieves this while providing a mostly pleasant tablet experience, even if they sometimes get in the way of each other.
While this isn't a review of Windows 8, the operating system is a completely inalienable part of the latest Lenovo tablet experience, and what the ThinkPad 2 offers is something that Android and iOS traditionally don't have: a fully-featured PC experience on your tablet . Let's see how it keeps that promise.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – $ 580
- 10.1 "IPS display (1366 × 768)
- Dual-core Intel Atom (Z2760 1.80 GHz) with 4 threads
- PowerVR SGX545 graphics
- 2 GB / 800 MHz LPDDR2 RAM
- Windows 8 Pro 32-bit
- 64 GB flash memory
- ThinkPad 11a / b / g / n + Bluetooth 4.0 combo chip, GPS
- Mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio input / microphone jack combo
- USB 2.0, micro SD, docking connection
- 262.36 mm x 164.59 mm x 9.90 mm
- 0.58 kg (1.30 lbs.)
- Lithium polymer battery, 30Whr
- Sensors: ambient light, 3D accelerometer and magnetometer, gyroscope
- ThinkPad 2 Tablet Dock
- ThinkPad 2 Bluetooth keyboard stand
- Matching sleeve and care case
Apple won't appreciate my perversion of the iPad Mini slogan, but the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 is a ThinkPad every inch. ThinkPads are as polarizing as they are in the consumer world and have long had a jet black design with well-defined corners and edges. Love or hate it, the ThinkPad 2 Tablet lives up to its namesake.
The Lenovo tablet is thin and light – barely more than a third of an inch thick at 1.3 pounds – and feels like a sturdy and solid sheet of high quality materials. Overall, it's a pretty premium feeling device. The tablet has a comfortable shape and weight. Similar to most modern ThinkPad laptops, the back and sides have a familiar rubberized coating. The rubber-like material has a satin-like quality that is both comfortable to use and less slippery to hold than bare aluminum-backed designs (I'm thinking of you, first-generation iPad).
Our ThinkPad 2 review unit has improved by leaps and bounds over its predecessor, the original ThinkPad tablet – a clunky Android-based device that hit the market in 2011, with poor battery life and a mature tablet market.
Subjectively, the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 tablet offers a smooth experience for most common activities. Surf the Internet, check your e-mail (also with Outlook), enter a report in Word, open programs and stream music. Although there was only a 720p screen, 1080p and high quality content from various online sources (e.g. YouTube, Hulu, Netflix) worked without any significant problems.
While the use of Clover Trail silicon keeps the ThinkPad 2 from being a true PC competitor, it performs well in the context of what it is: a fanless, portable tablet. Two cores and four threads certainly offer some multitasking benefits, although I found it interesting that Windows 8 would only display CPU usage as if it were a single core.
Really, its shortcomings don't show up until you visit media-intensive websites, multitask with resource-intensive desktop applications, or scroll through webpages with lots and lots of busy elements. During this time, wiping and tapping can become a little sluggish. Of course, graphics editing, video editing, and media conversion must be done at the user's own risk.
In Futuremark's browser-based benchmark Peacekeeper, our ThinkPad 2 achieved a value of 420. This means that it performed slightly better than the Iconia W500 from Acer and comparable to the iPhone 4S from Apple. It belongs to the same league as some solid tablets like the Nexus 7 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. For all of its complexity between desktop and metro, Windows 8 seems a little more difficult to run than iOS or Android.
The device achieved a poor 455 in 3DMark 2006 – a value that indicates its general uselessness for PC games. Should we expect something better as a fanless atom-based tablet? No. However, owners will find that Angry Birds and other tablet titles do quite well.
I found solid storage performance under CrystalDisk, which is typical for tablets in the middle to upper price range. Sequential 1024K read / write rates are around 81 MB / s and 34 MB / s, respectively. Meanwhile, smaller 4K read / write operations slowed to 8.6 MB / s and 2 MB / s. While most standalone SSDs don't perform nearly the same, opening applications and general file operations felt quick and responsive.
When booting, the ThinkPad 2 switches from Off to the Windows 8 logon screen in about 8 seconds.