10 reasons the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a top Windows tablet

There's a whole bunch of Windows tablets getting ready to hit the market, but not until later this year. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a top tablet out now, and here's what makes it so good.
By James Kendrick, Contributor
1 of 11 James Kendrick/ZDNET

10 reasons the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a top Windows tablet

The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is so good it changed my opinion on Windows 8 for tablets. Lenovo put a lot of thought into the design of the Tablet 2 and concentrated on making it a good tablet first and a laptop stand-in second. This approach is critical for any device to be a good tablet, a detail lost on many tablet makers.

I believe the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is the best Windows tablet currently on the market, and the 10 reasons listed in this piece are big reasons why that is. Sure other tablets have some of these features but the Tablet 2 brings them all together in a fine device.

This isn't a review of the Tablet 2, that can be found at the link below.

See also: 

ThinkPad Tablet 2 and accessories photo gallery

10 advantages Windows 8 has over the iPad and Android

ThinkPad Tablet 2: Best Windows tablet

Epiphany: Windows 8 is a very good tablet OS

Windows 8 tablets: A confusing world for buyers

Windows RT: DOA to almost everybody

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2: First impressions (review)

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Good tablet form

I have used quite a few Windows tablets, and the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is perfect for me. The 10.1-inch screen makes the tablet a size that is highly portable and more importantly very comfortable to use in the hands. Tablets that are larger, even 11.6-inch models, are too big for me to hold for very long.

The Tablet 2 only weights 1.3lbs and is 0.39in thin, and the result is a tablet that feels just right. It feels natural to hold the Tablet 2 any which way, and that's a big deal to me.


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Solid pen support

Even though Windows 8 has integrated pen support, not all tablets come with a pen. Having a pen available opens up a new manner of interacting with the screen. It is particularly useful on the legacy desktop where older apps have tiny controls that are hard to manipulate with a fingertip.

Windows 8 also has decent handwriting support, including recognition that allows bypassing the onscreen keyboard in favor of "inking" text input. The handwriting is converted to digital text which is quite handy.


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Full Windows onboard

Many tablets come with one of two versions of Windows, RT or Windows 8 Pro. Windows RT is for ARM-based tablets and has a big limitation in that legacy Windows apps cannot be installed on devices running that version of Windows.

Windows 8 Pro supports all capabilities of Windows, and that includes the ability to install and run any Windows app. Lenovo chose to install the full version of Windows on the ThinkPad Tablet 2, and that was a great decision. It is possible to install the Chrome browser for instance, and that is very important to my work.

Having the full version of Windows makes the ThinkPad Tablet 2 a solid choice for those wanting a tablet to bring to work. It can also handle proprietary software that corporations use for business as long as the IT department will support the Tablet 2. It's a ThinkPad, so that's more likely than with tablets from other vendors.



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Good display and resolution

The display on the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is bright and vivid with good viewing angles. That's important for a tablet that can be used at a variety of angles in the hands.

While the 1366x768 resolution on the Tablet 2 is not high by today's standards, it is perfectly matched to the 10.1-inch screen. Everything looks nice on the Metro side of Windows 8, and more importantly legacy apps are easy to read on the legacy desktop.

That's important, as higher resolution screens can make things far too small to read or manipulate easily. Lenovo has matched the resolution to the display nicely.


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Battery life

Windows RT tablets are not my favorite, but the one thing they have is good battery life. Tablets with an Intel Atom processor inside also get good battery life but they pay for that with lower performance compared to Core processors.

The Tablet 2 performance with the Atom processor is not outstanding but when you keep the running apps to just a few simultaneously it is not bad. The lower performance is a reasonable compromise as the 10+ hours of battery life is at least double that of current Intel Core processors.

Later this year we will start seeing Windows tablets with the next generation Core processor, aka Haswell, but for now the Atom is what we have to deliver such long battery life.

It is wonderful never having to worry about finding a power outlet with the ThinkPad Tablet 2.


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Solid use in portrait orientation

Tablets can be used in any orientation as Windows 8 will autorotate the screen to always display properly. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is no exception and I use it in both landscape and portrait orientations equally depending on the app being used.

Some tablets I have used don't handle portrait orientation well due to the size of the screen. Also, some apps have trouble handling portrait, although Windows 8.1 should address most of that.

This 10.1-inch display of the Tablet 2 handles portrait well and it's a joy to use this way. Holding the tablet with the long dimension vertically feels natural and many apps display well.

It's nice to be able to flip to either orientation depending on what works better for the particular task at hand. 

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Reading books

One of the apps particularly suited for use in portrait orientation as covered in the previous slide is the Kindle app. The long, narrow display of the ThinkPad Tablet 2 combined with the thin, light form, make it a natural for reading ebooks.

Being able to read pages with lots of text make it a joy to use the Kindle app on the Tablet 2. It has become my favorite ebook reader.

Amazon has done a good job with the Metro Kindle app, which Tablet 2 size aside, contributes to the solid reading experience.


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Start button: No touch

This is strictly personal, but Lenovo's decision to use a physical Windows Start button on the ThinkPad Tablet 2 bezel is a big deal. Many tablets I've used have a capacitive touch Windows button, and while that seems cool it is extremely aggravating to me.

When holding tablets with touch Windows buttons, especially in portrait, I find I constantly touch the button unintentially. This interrupts whatever I'm doing and instantly sends me to the Start screen. I can't count the number of times that has happened.

The physical button on the Tablet 2 that must be specifically pressed by a fingertip since it's recessed eliminates the accidental button triggers. That may not be important to others but it's a major relief to me.


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Portable keyboard (optional)

While technically not part of the ThinkPad Tablet 2, the Lenovo wireless keyboard that is available for separate purchase is something I consider mandatory. A good keyboard is essential to take full advantage of Windows 8, and this one has been tailored for the Tablet 2.

The Bluetooth keyboard is the exact size of the Tablet 2 and is typical ThinkPad quality. Typing on this keyboard is as good or better than on any mobile keyboard.

I do wish the keyboard would clip onto the Tablet 2 for transport, an oversight of Lenovo to omit this function.

The strange nub in the middle of the keyboard is actually a small optical trackpad, and with a little practice is works very well. The three large mouse buttons on the front of the keyboard work with the trackpad for precise cursor control.

The keyboard charges via microUSB and I've gone over a month between charges.


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Desktop dock (optional)

Lenovo offers an optional desktop dock for the ThinkPad Tablet 2 that makes it easy to connect the tablet to a slew of peripherals. It facilitates rapid charging of the Tablet 2, twice as fast as using the tablet power adapter. Just drop the tablet into the dock and it begins rapid charging and connects to the peripherals.

The Tablet 2 can function as a full desktop system in the dock due to the plethora of connectors:

  • USB (3)
  • HDMI
  • RJ-45
  • Audio in
  • Audio out

These connectors could instantly connect the Tablet 2 to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, HDD, and wired ethernet, for example, turning it into a full desktop configuration.



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