Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2: First impressions (review)

Summary:Lenovo has been making tablets as long as any company and brought all that experience together for the ThinkPad Tablet 2. The first impressions show Lenovo got it mostly right.

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ThinkPad Tablet 2 with Wireless Keyboard with Stand

The ThinkPad Tablet 2 from Lenovo is a full Windows 8 tablet with an Intel Atom inside. The 10-inch tablet has a typical black ThinkPad case that covers a very thin, very light slate. Unlike the Surface RT tablet the Tablet 2 uses full Windows 8 so it can run everything you throw at it.

Lenovo offers accessories for the Tablet 2 that let it work on the desktop as easily as in place of a laptop. The optional desktop dock can handle standard peripherals such as keyboards, monitors, and mice, which are connected by simply popping the Tablet 2 in the dock.

See also: ThinkPad Tablet 2 and accessories photo gallery

The Wireless Keyboard and Stand accessory provides laptop functionality in a very portable package. This keyboard can be used free-standing without the Tablet 2 in the stand if desired.

Hardware as reviewed

  • Processor: Intel Atom Z2760 (2 cores, 1.8 GHz, 1MG cache)
  • OS: Windows 8 Pro (32-bit)
  • Display: 10.1-inch IPS (1366 x 768)
  • Pen: Optional (reviewed)
  • Graphics: PowerVR SGX545 in Atom SoC
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC
  • Memory: 2GB
  • Cameras: 2MP front; 8MP rear (720p video capture)
  • Sound: stereo speakers (0.5 Watt x 2)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; GPS
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 10.34 x 6.48 x 0.39 inches
  • Battery: 30 Whr
  • Slots/ports: 1-USB 2.0; miniHDMI; microSD; dock connector; 3.5mm audio
  • Price as configured: $729.00

The Tablet 2 has sturdy construction that should stand up to the daily rigors of mobile work. It is comfortable to use as a tablet in the hand due to the light weight that is well distributed in the small 10-inch case. The IPS display offers great viewing angles which is important in a mobile device.

Lenovo claims 10+ hours of battery life which seems accurate in my usage so far. This is no doubt a benefit of using the low-voltage Atom processor instead of more powerful (and power-hungry) Core processor.

Given the reaction to information that the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet only has 23GB of free storage on the 64GB model, it's worth noting that there is ~32GB free on the 64GB Tablet 2 as reviewed. As is the case with the Surface, the Tablet 2 storage can be augmented with microSD memory.

The performance of the Atom processor in the Tablet 2 won't win any speed contests but it is adequate. There is an occassional lag when starting a big app but once it's running things move along nicely. I have no complaints with the overall performance, and find the sacrifice of using an Atom processor is worth the long battery life. CPU-intensive activities are better left to more powerful processors.

Battery life is important on a mobile device like a tablet, and the Tablet 2 delivers. Lenovo quotes a 10+ hour battery life and while I haven't used the tablet long enough to confirm the accuracy of the claim it feels right. The tablet runs all day long easily which is the main objective for such a mobile device.

The review unit I have includes the pen option and it works nicely with Windows 8. There is a silo for pen storage on the side of the Tablet 2. In addition to handling inking duties, I was surprised to find the pen is a nice pointing device while using the tablet. The precise pointer is especially useful as a hovering mouse on the desktop which is not optimized for touch.

Accessories

Wireless Keyboard and Stand

The utility of the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is good on its own but really comes into a whole new level with the accessories available. The most useful is the Wireless Keyboard and Stand which turns the tablet into a laptop. It connects via Bluetooth which allows for use anywhere within range.

The keyboard has a small stand for supporting the Tablet 2 which pops up with one hand. The tablet is placed in a small slot and supported by the little stand. The viewing angle is not adjustable but the angle should work for most users.

The keyboard is about 93 percent of the size of a full keyboard but fast touch typing is fast and accurate. The keys are ThinkPad chiclet keys with decent feel and spacing. The keyboard is standard with a top row of control keys added for operating tablet functions such as brightness and volume.

There is no trackpad on this keyboard as Lenovo wanted to keep the size as small as possible. In place of a trackpad a small pointer nub is situated in the middle of the keyboard. This nub is touch operated and with a little practice works better than I thought it might. It's easy to move the cursor all over the screen precisely once you get used to it. There are 3 mouse buttons in front of the keyboard for use with the pointer. The only failing of the pointer is the lack of multi-touch gestures as possible with a full trackpad, which can be handy with Windows 8.

The keyboard is $119.99 from Lenovo which is par for this type of peripheral. I find keyboards to be essential to get the full benefit of Windows 8 so I recommend anyone buying a Tablet 2 should get the keyboard.

Sleeve

Lenovo offers a sleeve for carrying both the Tablet 2 and the keyboard. It is a simple case made of leather-like material that offers protection for the tablet and can be carried in the hand. The sleeve/case is not cheap at $39.99 and there are third party alternatives that may be a better deal.

It is important to turn the keyboard off prior to putting it in the sleeve as inadvertent keypresses will turn on the tablet in the case and use up battery unnecessarily.

Docking station

Lenovo has positioned the Tablet 2 as a modular system with both the keyboard and the dock. The dock is a simple stand with a variety of ports for connecting peripherals such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and even external storage. 

The dock is set on the desk with all peripherals connected and the Tablet 2 is popped into the dock. This powers/charges the tablet and instantly connects it to all the peripherals. The dock can also charge the wireless keyboard via USB cable.

The dock has plenty of connectors (left to right):

  • microUSB
  • HDMI
  • Audio in and audio out (2 ports)
  • 2-USB 
  • RJ-45
  • Power

Lenovo sells the dock for $99.99.

Conclusion

The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a decent tablet that can take full advantage of Windows 8. The performance is not outstanding due to the Atom processor but it is good enough for standard duty. Most people should find it a good balance of performance and battery life.

The Lenovo web site is quoting shipping time of "more than 4 weeks" and the tablet is priced at $729.00 configured as reviewed. The price of the tablet and keyboard together is pushing a grand so it's not cheap. Lenovo often runs online deals so that might be the best way to pursue one of these if it is appealing.

Topics: Windows 8, Lenovo, Reviews, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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