Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 review

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 review

Summary: Although it's expensive for a moderate-performing Atom-based Windows 8 tablet, the ThinkPad Tablet 2's design and build quality are excellent, while pen support is a real bonus.

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  • Editors' rating:
    7.9
  • User rating:
    6.1
  • RRP:
    £583.32

Pros

  • Excellent design and build quality
  • Digitizer pen
  • IPS touchscreen with good viewing angles
  • Full-size USB 2.0 port

Cons

  • Keyboard is an optional extra
  • Wired Ethernet on optional dock only
  • Moderate performer
  • Expensive

Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet 2 comes in Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi plus mobile broadband versions, costing £569.99 (inc. VAT, £474.99 ex. VAT; US$699) and £699.99 (inc. VAT, £583.32 ex. VAT; US$949) respectively. If you want to use it with a keyboard dock, that'll cost you another £103 (inc. VAT, £85.83 ex. VAT; US$120). That's expensive for an Atom-based Windows 8 tablet, although the ThinkPad Tablet 2's specifications are impressive — including a digitizer pen, an IPS screen, good connectivity and excellent build quality. Could this be the Windows 8 tablet that business users have been looking for?

Design
The 10.1in. ThinkPad Tablet 2 has all the branding you'd expect, including the familiar black styling with the ThinkPad logo (complete with red dot above the 'i') on both the front and back, plus a red tip to the digitizer pen that sits in a slot on the top left edge of the chassis.

tp-tab2-i1
The 10.1in. Atom-based ThinkPad Tablet 2 is thin (0.98cm/0.39in.) and light (600g/1.3lb with mobile broadband), and comes with keyboard and docking options. (Image: Lenovo)

As ever, the design of the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is thoughtful and the build quality excellent. This is a thin and light tablet, measuring just 26.26cm (10.3in.) wide by 16.4cm (6.5in.) deep by 0.98cm (0.39in.) thick and weighing 585g (1.29lb) if you opt for the Wi-Fi-only model (600g/1.3lb with mobile broadband).

The Tablet 1 feels extremely comfy in the hand — not only because of its trim dimensions but also because of the backplate's smooth, grip-friendly rubbery finish.

tp-tab2-lh-stylus
The Tablet 2 houses an active digitizer in the top left edge. Note the rubberized grip to the left of the shiny screen bezel. (Image: Lenovo)

Another more subtle feature contributes to the Tablet 2's satisfying feel: the left short edge is no further away from the screen than the right one, but its outer section is finished in rubber. If you hold the tablet in landscape format in your left hand, this small section, no more than a centimetre deep, affords a more comfortable rest for your thumb than the plastic finish that forms the screen bezel.

The overall feel is of a tablet we'd be more than happy to carry in our bag or hold in the hand for a couple of hours if necessary.

Although you'll have to learn to live with its reflective coating, the Tablet 2's screen is impressive. A 10.1-inch IPS panel supporting five-finger multitouch with a (standard) resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels, it's sharp and bright, and offers good viewing angles. That said, it's no match for the latest iPad's 2,048 by 1,536 pixels in a 9.7in. screen — that's a pixel density of 264ppi compared to the Tablet 2's 155ppi. Windows 8 in 'modern' mode looks superb on the Tablet 2, but desktop mode is difficult to navigate by touch with the default 100 percent scaling factor. The screen's 16:9 aspect ratio does mean that the on-screen keyboard is reasonably comfortable to use though.

Our one issue with the Tablet 2's build quality it is that it's difficult to extract the digitizer pen from its slot on the top left edge of the chassis. You have to get a fingernail along a short ridge on the pen itself and prise it out upwards. We'd prefer a spring-loaded mechanism.

Features
The x86-based ThinkPad Tablet 2 runs (32-bit) Windows 8, with the mobile broadband model getting Windows 8 Pro.

The processor is the same dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 Dual-Core found in other Atom-based Windows 8 tablets like the Asus VivoTab and Dell Latitude 10. You get 2GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, with storage expansion available via a microSD card slot.

Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth (4.0) are both present, while the top-end model, as already noted, supports mobile broadband (HSPA+). The ThinkPad Tablet 2 also supports Near Field Communications (NFC) and includes a GPS receiver.

tp-tab2-rh-side
The right side of the Tablet 2 carries an audio jack, volume up/down buttons and a screen autorotate on/off toggle. (Image: Lenovo)

There's a thin, narrow on/off button to the right-hand side of the top edge, while the right side has a microphone/headphone combo jack, a pair of volume controls and a button that locks the screen's autorotate function.

There are two cameras — an 8-megapixel unit with a small LED flash at the back, and a front-facing 2-megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p video. A Windows button in the middle of the bottom screen bezel toggles you between 'modern' and 'classic' (desktop) Windows 8 views.

On the left edge of the Tablet 2 there's a Micro-USB socket that's used for charging. Although it's good to see Lenovo eschew a proprietary charging cable system, you'll need Lenovo's 10W AC adapter as many standard smartphone chargers can't provide enough power.

Next to the microUSB, under a hinged cover, is a standard USB 2.0 port. We plugged in an ordinary USB mouse, a standard keyboard and a USB stick, all of which worked fine.

On the top there's another hinged cover, beneath which you'll find a microSD card slot and — if your model supports mobile broadband — a SIM card slot. On the bottom there's a Mini-HDMI connector and a proprietary connector for an optional docking unit.

tp-tab2-dock
If you want wired Ethernet, you'll need the £80/$100 Tablet 2 Dock. (Image: Lenovo)

Lenovo sells a dock for £80 (inc. VAT, £66.67 ex. VAT; US$100) offering three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet (RJ-45) port, a full-size HDMI connector, audio in and out jacks and a power connector.

Performance & battery life
The ThinkPad Tablet 2's Windows Experience Index (WEI) is just 3.2 out of 9.9. Although distinctly mediocre, this score is in line with similarly specified Atom-based Windows 8 tablets like the Dell Latitude 10 and Asus Vivo Tab.

The WEI-defining 3.2 score went to Gaming graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance). The remaining subsystem scores were 5.6 for Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate), 4.7 for Memory (RAM) (Memory operations per second), 3.6 for Graphics (desktop graphics performance) and 3.4 for Processor (Calculations per second):

tp-tab2-wei

The digitizer pen is pressure sensitive, which may please the more artistically minded business users. The tablet's ability to convert handwritten notes into editable text is pretty good: it gave up when we started scrawling, but did a good job with normal-speed, reasonably careful script. It's certainly an alternative to the keyboard unless you're a particularly untidy writer.

We found the pen less efficient for tapping at options in Windows, and certainly less ergonomic than simply using a fingertip (precision issues in the Windows desktop interface notwithstanding). Still, this is the first Windows 8 tablet we've seen with pen support, and Lenovo adds an app, QuickSnip, that lets you configure the pen's button to take a screenshot.

tp-tab2-kb-dock

Battery life is quoted at up to ten hours. We found it to be above average and would expect it to see you through a day's work with relative ease. On one occasion, for example, a half-day's gentle usage reduced the battery no further than 80 percent. We'll add some formal battery tests in due course.

Sound quality is mixed. There's plenty of volume — enough, we'd expect, for delivering a multimedia presentation to a small group, for example. There is some distortion at the highest volume levels, and the quality is treble-heavy, but as tablets go it's perfectly acceptable.

Conclusion
As with any slate tablet, you're really going to need the optional (£103/$120) keyboard dock (left) to get laptop-like functionality out of the ThinkPad Tablet 2. Although that makes it an expensive option, the ThinkPad Tablet 2's physical design is excellent, while pen support is a real bonus.

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 26.26 x 0.98 x 16.4 cm
Case form factor slate tablet
Weight 0.6 kg
OS & software
Operating system Windows 8 Pro (32-bit)
Chipset & memory
RAM installed 2048 MB
RAM capacity 2 GB
Video
GPU Intel GMA
GPU type integrated
Video connections Mini-HDMI
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 10.1 in
Native resolution 1366x768 pixels
Connections
USB 1 x USB 2.0
Docking station port 1
Flash card microSD
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Bluetooth 4.0
Mobile broadband HSPA+ (Ericsson H5321gw)
Input
Pointing devices touchscreen, on-screen keyboard
Keyboard optional
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 8 megapixels
Audio
Audio connectors microphone/headphone combo
Speakers stereo
Microphone yes
Battery
Battery technology Li-polymer
Estimated battery life (mfr) 10 h
Number of batteries supplied 1
Removable battery No
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.8 GHz
Processor manufacturer Intel
Processor model Atom z2760
Solid-state drive
Capacity 64 GB
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 583
Price USD 699

Topics: Tablets, Lenovo, Reviews, Windows 8

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Talkback

21 comments
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  • WEI Score is not good

    7.0

    Any graphics chipset made available now should have a higher 3D gaming graphics score than what is needed for Aero. Aero still needs a DX9 GPU at the very minimum, and that's all that the Atom SoC systems carry, but any modern GPU should be able to have more power on reserve for gaming-level 3D, and should detect lower usage, like that of Aero, and under-clock the GPU performance. This is an easy way to see if the GPU is either underpowered, or if the drivers just suck. In Intel's case, both are true.
    Joe_Raby
  • Also....

    7.0

    A 5.6 is pretty low for hard drive score, considering this uses some kind of solid-state storage (I believe it is still eMMC for Atom SoC's - please correct me if I'm wrong). The WEI score for storage performance is lower than any modern WD Blue laptop hard drive.
    Joe_Raby
  • The (current) Atom SOC's are not the chips you're looking for ...

    6.0

    The current Atom chipsets offer more perf/watt than their ARM counterparts.

    Alas, the current "Clovertrail" 27x0 ARM chipsets are somewhat hampered by their internal limitations including a CPU core based on the original 5-year-old "Bonnell" core, a max of 2GB RAM, eMMC (not SATA) SSD interface and PowerVR graphics cores, no USB3, etc.

    More details here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6340/intel-details-atom-z2760-clovertrail-for-windows-8-tablets

    The next-gen "Haswell" and "Silvermont" (2013) and "Airmont" (2014) chipsets will see Intel's chips finally become competitive in terms of performance per watt and will finally allow full x86/x64 compatibility at power consumption levels that will allow all-day-on-a-single-charge devices.

    More here: http://anandtech.com/show/4345/intels-2011-investor-meeting-intels-architecture-group-14nm-airmont-atom-in-2014
    bitcrazed
    • I wonder

      7.0

      Why did Intel go with older PowerVR graphics in this instead of using their DX10 part that was part of the Z-series Atom's?
      Joe_Raby
    • The reason it's eMMC

      7.0

      ....is because that's all they put into the SoC. The Atom SoC is almost identical to a competitive ARM SoC except for the CPU cores themselves. The feature set is almost identical otherwise.
      Joe_Raby
  • You lost me at 1366x768...

    5.0

    Windows needs a better way to cope with high resolutions on these small screens, and the hardware OEMs need to push MS to make it happen rather than just falling back on archaic screen resolutions.
    Playdrv4me
    • DPI isn't everything.

      8.0

      What's most important is screen quality (color, contrast, brightness), which this product succeeds at.

      As an Atom tablet, it lacks the power of an i5 laptop.

      However, what you lose in horsepower, you gain in portability.

      With its digitizer, it's ideal for applications like Photoshop and OneNote, both of which are built for pen-input.

      As a ThinkPad, it holds the durability and battery life of a business machine.

      While it won't run mainstream games like TF2 well, any Windows store app should run flawlessly.

      I'd be willing to call it the best Atom slate, had it not been for a few shortcomings.

      - The keyboard dock is battery-powered, and must be charged separately
      - The dock isn't actually connected to the tablet
      - Despite its high battery life, there is no method of increasing its life
      - Unlike with older resistive screens, the pen has distinct lag. This is a flaw with capacitive screens

      All in all, Lenovo released an excellent product. It's the perfect example of what an Atom-based device should be; fast, useful, and productive.

      However, until Valleyview is released, the Atom architecture will remain useless for anything other than 2D work.
      ForeverCookie
      • I don't buy that age old argument, anymore...

        Because you can have ALL of those qualities AND a high DPI display with various operating systems that use it EFFECTIVELY to produce a sharper and extremely comfortable to read overall picture.

        As for TVs? Yeah trust me those are WOEFULLY behind, too. It is only because the content delivery system hasn't caught up that we're still dealing with ancient 1080P technology when 4K should have been here by now.

        I find that there are generally two camps when it comes to high resolution "haters"... Luddites and MS fanboys. Because right now it's the one O/S with the worst handling of Hi-DPI display capability. MacOS, iOS and Android all handle it beautifully. But yeah, let's go back to the dark ages just because we shouldn't expect technology to progress...
        Playdrv4me
        • Different people have different requirements

          7.0

          Having a higher resolution would be nice, but for some it isn't the deal breaker that it is for you.

          For me I care far more about the abilities of a device than the resolution. For example, having the ability to access 100% of the content offered on the internet far outweighs higher DPI, especially on a small screen like a tablet. To be blunt, mobile browsing sucks. What is the point of having a high res display if it can't be put to full use?

          The same goes for lack of user accounts, ability to access a file system, choice of web browser, device ports-peripheral support, access to full business class programs and the list goes on. I have an atom based windows tablet and aside from heavy 3d desktop games it does everything my old Android tablet and laptop can do.

          I would not mind a higher resolution, but given the choice I prefer a device that can effectively do all the things of current 'entertainment' tablets as well as perform as a full fledged laptop. I just don't see the value in using tablets running mobile operating systems anymore. There just isn't any significant benefit.
          Emacho
          • Re: Different people have different requirements

            But Windows won't offer you the choice, is the point.
            ldo17
          • Which choice is that?

            I assume you mean the higher DPI? If so there are other Windows devices with higher DPI if that is someone most important feature. SurfacePro for example offers 1080p. There are plenty of different hardware configurations to choose from, so there is a good amount of devices for users to choose from. Some will find what fits their needs, some will not.

            The next generation of intel/amd chips is going to open up far more hardware/performance possibilities for Windows8 devices, but right now the atom hybrids are very competitive and offer more functionality/versatility. In my opinion at least.

            Android has a good selection of hardware choices for users and some higher resolutions, but it is stuck with the limitations of a mobile operating system.

            Apple, well as nice as the hardware can be it has the fewest choices and most restrictions.

            To each their own though. There is no 'wrong' choice as long as the user is happy with their choice.
            Emacho
    • Yes...

      5.0

      Because a 10.1" screen needs a higher resolution than many modern HDTV's that are 3x the size. I find it interesting how no one ever complains about low resolution TVs, but phones, tablets, and laptops better be overkill.
      ikissfutebol
      • Re: no one ever complains about low resolution TVs

        Perhaps because we're watching less and less TV, and spending more and more time with the high-res screens on our mobile devices.
        ldo17
    • Not enough power for anything higher in an Atom

      7.0

      The Atom IGP (you can't even call it a 'GPU') doesn't have enough power to handle a high DPI. Plus, there probably isn't enough memory for a decent frame buffer.
      Joe_Raby
      • Good point.

        Now THAT is a legitimate reason. Of course, I will be watching to see if future revisions of this type of device with newer Atom architectures are able to handle higher res displays.
        Playdrv4me
        • Re: newer Atom architectures are able to handle higher res displays.

          Interesting that the ARM chip in the LG Nexus 10 is able to cope with a decently high-res display just fine.
          ldo17
  • Bad implementation

    6.0

    I think it is ridiculous that the "full sized USB port" is only USB 2.0. There is no reason it couldn't have been a USB 3.0 slot and it certainly should have been. The screen resolution should have been 1920, and the graphics should have been better.
    Tumbleweed_Biff
    • That is a limitation of the Atom CPU

      It was only designed to support USB 2.0, 768 resolution, 2GB ram , etc.

      These devices really need the Haswell/Baytrail line of CPUs, but Microsoft/Intel were caught flat footed by the shift to mobile.
      Emacho
  • Kindle

    7.0

    I prefer the Kindle Fire HD. The interface is great and it's very easy to use. Check out its Amazon page(http://amzn.to/11SRHbE) if you want to compare what they bring to the table.
    JJ679
  • Experience counts: These are bad

    1.0

    Warning, experience counts, nothing else matters sometimes.

    We have purchased 40 of the Lenovo Tablet 2 for a research project whose sole purpose is to run a simple MS Access database.

    Of the 40 we purchased, 4 of them were not functional out of the box, 3 had OS problems and 1 just wouldn't turn on. An additional 1 broke 2 weeks later. We contacted Lenovo and are waiting for recovery DVDs to try to fix the 3 with the OS problems.

    The ones that are 'working' have had a host of problems, the batteries are inconsistent and do not last more the 6 hrs running a simple database. The digitizer pen is completely goofed. We have needed to recalibrate the thing continuously and the driver mysteriously causes and error and stop functioning. We have to reinstall the driver constantly just to keep it working. The unit sometimes just doesn't want to turn on and you have to 'reboot' the thing by holding the power button and volume button at the same time. All these problems, within 3 weeks of start of use.

    Windows 8 is a complete joke. For anyone old enough to remember Windows 3.1, it is the same idea. A shell of an OS sitting on top of an established OS, in that case Windows 3.1 on top of DOS and in this case Windows 8 on top of Windows 7. I have both IPADs and Androids, there is no comparison. Windows 8 is not ready for prime time (or any time) and Lenovo products are of abysmally poor quality.
    ZDNetBobCat