LENOVO CREATES SOME SURFACE TENSION.
Most 8-inch windows tablets are aiming for the $200-300 price range, so Lenovo might seem a little out of touch when it crowds in with a $500 unit. The ThinkPad 8 is the nicest looking of the lot, at Least. It’s the only one with a metal back, which helps with durability and also heat dissipation. The trim is rubberized to assist your grip, and the buttons look and feel sturdy. In your hand, it feels like a unit built for the long haul. Also, the rear camera has a flash LED, a rare and welcome addition on a tablet.
The 1920×1200 screen also has more than twice as many pixels as the 1280×800 screens on the three other tablets in this roundup. So, all of Windows 8.1s text and icons render more sharply on the ThinkPad 8, and you can watch videos in full HD. Granted, these are all IPS displays, so color accuracy, viewing angle, and contrast are very good regardless. But the ThinkPad 8 s graphical clarity is unmatched.
It’s a double-edged sword, though. At 1200p, icons and other touch-enabled items are that much smaller, so the ThinkPad 8 is more reliant on a keyboard and mouse than the other three. This is not exactly the tablet’s fault, though; Windows 8.1 itself is only partly navigable with touch, and publishers have not flooded the Windows Store with Modern versions of their software. If you want mobility with fluid touch-enabled functionality, you have better odds with Android and iOS.
The other major difference is the ThinkPad 8 s quad-core Intel Atom Z3770, which runs at up to 2.4GHz, while the others in the roundup top off at about 1.8GHz. It took about ninety minutes to finish our ProShow benchmark, while the others took two hours or more. A desktop Core ¡5 with Haswell guts will knock that out in about 30 minutes, so the Z3770 isn’t a barnstormer. But for a tablet and Atom, it’s not bad. The tablet’s 2GB of system RAM is also a limitation—don’t expect to have a lot of browser tabs open while encoding HD video. On the other hand, the ThinkPad’s CPU is using a fraction of the power of a desktop chip, so it’s a great accomplishment on a performance-per-watt basis. Keep in mind, though, that it certainly won’t replace your gaming machine anytime soon. It can handle pixel-art side-scrollers like Terraria and Fez, but even a relatively modest older shooter like Prey needs greatly reduced resolution and visual settings.
Like the other Windows tablets we’re reviewing today, the ThinkPad 8 also cannot use a USB cable to exchange data with a laptop or desktop PC. If you want to transfer files to your tablet, you have to connect over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which is slow and subject to interference, or copy the data to a USB flash drive and connect that drive to the tablet with an OTG cable, which is tedious and also slow, since you’re limited to USB 2.0 speeds.
Unfortunately, that $500 price tag is a tough sell, since you’re entering the territory of Microsoft’s original Surface Pro tablet-with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 10.6-inch screen, and the ¿4-bit version of Windows 8.1 (though battery life is not great). This flavor of the ThinkPad 8 also gets the trial version of Office, since Lenovo does not bundle that with tablets that come with Window 8.1 Pro. (Microsoft’s Licensing can be quirky sometimes.) The ThinkPad 8 with regular Windows 8.1 costs $100 less and comeswith Office Home & Student, like the othersinthis roundup. It s a much better deal for those who don’t need say, BitLocker or the ability to join a domain.