Windows 8.1: Makes the ThinkPad Tablet 2 even better

Windows 8.1: Makes the ThinkPad Tablet 2 even better

Summary: Lenovo's tablet has impressed me since buying it a while back. Having updated it to Windows 8.1, I find it even better due to Microsoft's improvements.

ThinkPad Tablet 2 Windows 8.1
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The ThinkPad Tablet 2 has everything I need, and that's why I proclaimed it the best Windows tablet I have used. As good as it was, after updating it to Windows 8.1 I find it is even better. 

Faster in every way

Before the Windows 8.1 update the ThinkPad Tablet 2 wasn't slow, but it was a typical Atom-based PC. The more tasks launched to run at the same time the more the tablet would slow down. This slowdown is just the way it is with Atom processors, they work fine to a point and then performance is impacted.

Since updating the Tablet 2, Windows 8.1 has improved performance across the board and that is surprising. I usually have a number of apps, both Metro and legacy desktop apps, running all the time. They now all run as smooth as butter with the entire system operation noticeably faster. The little lags that would pop up under Windows 8.0 are all gone.

I typically run the Chrome browser on the desktop with 6 or 7 tabs open. I may run another app or two on the desktop alongside Chrome. Under Windows 8.1, the Chrome browser and all open tabs run nicely without bogging down. That performance improvement holds up as I constantly switch back and forth between the desktop and the Metro side of things. Operation is as fluid as can be, and that makes using the Tablet 2 even more enjoyable than it was before the update.

Better tablet operation

Since the Windows update, I find tablet operation to be more fluid than it was. Using the onscreen keyboard is particularly better, with it popping up and closing down almost instantly. The predictive text seems to be better as it suggests words constantly. It's so much better now that I find myself foregoing the Lenovo physical keyboard more than before.

I often switch between landscape and portrait orientations, but with Windows 8.0 I didn't do that with the ThinkPad Tablet 2 as much as with other tablets. Many apps or web sites didn't display well in portrait so I stayed in landscape. That's no longer the case with Windows 8.1 as it handles the orientation change very well. After using Windows 8.1 for a few hours I realized I was rotating the tablet with abandon to always view the screen in the orientation that felt best. This is a major improvement to the user experience.

Using the pen as a pointer and for writing on the screen is also much improved. There was often a lag when using the pen under the old Windows but that's a thing of the past with Windows 8.1. The input panel pops up quickly and converting handwriting to digital text is fast. It makes the pen a more viable alternative for input than it was before.


Windows 8.1 is such a great update on the ThinkPad Tablet 2 that I recommend owners don't wait to upgrade. It's worth the effort, which isn't that great frankly, to raise the level of your tablet. Windows 8.1 is an update done right.

The update process went well with only a small issue on the Tablet 2. After the Windows 8.1 update was applied you need to run Windows Update manually to get all the hardware drivers upgraded for 8.1 I did this on the Lenovo and the system rebooted (as it should) to apply the new drivers.

After the system restarted the tablet's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth keyboard would not work. I didn't panic, and neither should you if it happens. I rebooted the system manually and everything came up working fine. The Windows 8.1 upgrade and subsequent Windows Update got all hardware drivers working.

Since the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 shipped with Windows 8 Pro, the upgrade to 8.1 is free. Based on the smooth upgrade process and resultant improvements in operation, don't procrastinate on applying the update. You'll be glad you didn't wait.

See also: 

Topics: Mobility, Lenovo, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Looks too small?

    I just cannot imagine working with something so small. I am glad you think its enough, I just thinks its full of compromise. But James you seem content with small devices. I guess its what you have become accustom too.
    • It isn't too small

      PLUS, if you want a bigger screen, you can plug it into an hdmi monitor and use the larger screen.
  • Product placement

    What did the Minuti Coffee people have to pay you for that product placement?

    I hope you'll review the Lenovo Yoga 2 at some point . . . .
    • Nada

      I included the cup for scale.
  • Thanks for your update !

    I just completed the 8.1 update on a old HP laptop with a BAMBOO pad I've been using to get familiar with WIN8 before I pop for a new tablet. I have been looking strongly @ the Tablet 2 as that purchase. I even went to the not so local Microsoft Store to do a side-by-side comparison with the Surface PRO. I am a pen user and was primarily testing if the WACOM stylus from my old LifeBook convertible would work on the Tablet 2 & Surface PRO.
    They both did. Now that you say you see better performance with 8.1 my decision is almost made. I'm not going to wait for the flood of smaller rubber nippled pen phablets.
    • Wait for

      the bay trail update. Right now is a bad time to get a windows 8 tablet (except the few 8 inchers that are already for sale).
      Sam Wagner
  • Windows 8.1

    I've obviously only been using for just under 24 hours, but I think it's a solid, evolutionary upgrade.
    Both the desktop and Metro sides are improved, and the platform seems better suited to the 2 and hybrids now.
    Actually gave serious thought to getting a hybrid device last night. Any recommendations (aside from the Thinkpad 2 ;))
    • HP Envy x2

      It's not Haswell but the Envy x2 is a solid hybrid, although no pen support.
    • Skip the Envy x2

      Look at the Asus Transformer T100. It has the new baytrail chip, 11 hours of battery in the tablet, keyboard dock included, 10.1 inch. $349 for 32GB, $399 for 64GB. There are a few compelling 8 inch tablets. The Dell Venue looks promising, but still waiting for official specs on it.

      Not that the Envy X2 is bad, I had one for several months and it is a sold device in every aspect, but the new atom chip is to much of an improvement to pass up.
    • Get Pavilion X2 instead of envy x2.

      HP announced Pavilion X2 which comes with bay trail processors which performs lot better than clovertrail in envy x2.

      Pavilion X2 has the same 11.6 inch display,
      It comes with keyboard dock, 4GB RAM, 64 GB SSD for $599.
      • Thanks Guys

        I had looked at the Envy x2 previously, and does look nice, just dubious about going for the previous gen chip rather than Bay Trail.
        The other 2 both look interesting, though
        Anyone used the Ativ Smart PC Pro?
        • I had an Ativ for about a week

          Could not find a keyboard dock for it so it went back. Heard many bad stories about the keyboard dock disconnecting and reconnecting at release, but sounds like that issue was resolved.

          Battery life was exceptional and above the x2, performance was on par, but I didn't care much for the slippery glossy plastic. Looks nice, but it can slide like crazy when set down. That seems to be a Samsung thing. The digitized pen was pretty cool though.
          • It got a little better

            But after the 8.1 upgrade has gotten tremendously bad again, even with all the updated drivers and firmware. It's bad enough I've been using a Bluetooth keyboard instead of the dock.
            Sam Wagner
  • Lock screen

    My ATIV is also much smoother than it was before in all areas, except the lock screen. For some reason there is a half to one second pause when I press the power button.

    Is there a way to turn off the Windows Button on the desktop taskbar? Given the relatively low resolution of the screen and the physical Windows buttons on the tablet and the keyboard and the button in the Charms menu, it is totally superflous.

    The onscreen keyboard does seem to be better and it does seem to be offering more relevant words now. IE feels even faster, which considering it runs rings around Firefox on an Atom tablet is a feat in itself.

    I still prefer Firefox for every day browsing, but I find I tend to use IE because it is a much better experience on a tablet. Hopefully the long awaited Windows 8 version of Firefox will improve matters.
    • I miss

      the categorised results in the search menu, but other than thay I find 8.1 to generally be an improvement.
  • thinpad 2

    I upgraded my ThinkPad 2 yesterday as well and would echo everything you said. I had the same WiFi issue as well; it actually repeated the problem when I switched networks. Overall, however, I like the update, though I may be the only one that liked the tabs at the top of the metro IE interface. Even at work with my docked laptop, I find myself grabbing the ThinkPad to do tasks such as email, calendar and reading long stories.
  • Thanks

    Thank you for the update. I have a Lenovo pad with the I3 processor so I'll look forward to how it runs.
  • Different Experience

    Its interesting that two owners of the same tablet can have such different experiences. I also own a Lenovo TPT2 and was using Windows 8. Before upgrading to 8.1 I used Lenovo's driver update software to update my TPT2 drivers for 8.1. After updating, I also ran windows update to get the last of MS's deliveries.

    After the upgrading to 8.1, my TPT2 takes up to 8 seconds to wake up from sleep - before it was instantaneous. Also, there was no noticeable improvement in performance - no change for good or bad - my tablet still lags badly with more than 3 tabs open in chrome - modern IE is a better experience I've found. I've also experienced more bugs related to pen input - specifically, in OneNote (Modern), the screen will blink everytime I lift and reset the pen on the screen. OneNote desktop is still fine.

    Although I wish the author's experience was universal for TPT2 owners... sadly it isn't. Despite this, I've been enjoying the improvements to the OS... just bummed about the TPT2 hardware related issues.
    • TBT2 Long Wake-Up after 8.1 upgrade

      Any fox for the long wake-up problem? I have the same issue.
      • Same here

        The wake-up time may be some 5 second but sometimes it's instanteneous. Sometimes, sadly, it doesn't wake up at all and must be restarted. Hope Lenovo will address this. Everything else fine, love the new on-screen keyboard.