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The good, the bad and the money
Lenovo ThinkPad 8: The good, the bad and the money
Lenovo already ships a Windows 8 tablet, the Miix 2. But Lenovo recently introduced a higher end model, the Lenovo ThinkPad 8, which features a bigger, higher resolution screen, a faster processor and a heftier price tag. Find out if the ThinkPad 8, targeted at the business user, is right for you.
Good: High-definition display
The 8.3-inch screen is sufficiently bright at its highest level setting and appears evenly lit when viewed from extreme angles. Looking at it under sunlight was tolerable, as the image didn’t become totally washed out. The screen is glossy, but reflections are minimal in areas of an image displayed that are not black or very dark. Surprisingly, fingerprints and smudges don’t show up too obviously on it. Windows 8.1 Pro looks sharp under this tablet’s 1920-by-1200 resolution display, and the sizing of the text, icons and other graphic elements are set under the OS at 150% by default, so they don’t look tiny on this small screen.
Bad: Battle of the buttons
There could be a problem when you try to adjust the volume. The power and volume buttons are situated close to each other along the upper-right edge of the tablet. You could accidentally press the power button instead of the volume-up one. All three buttons are small and similar in size, and they don’t have distinct raised surfaces to help your finger sense their differences by touch.
Good: Preinstalled software
Because the ThinkPad 8 uses an Intel 32-bit processor and runs Windows 8.1 (or Pro), you can install your own Windows desktop applications on it. Among the extra software that comes preinstalled are a PDF editor (Nitro Pro 8) and an alternative to Internet Explorer 11, Maxthon Cloud Browser, plus Evernote Touch and the cloud-based, collaboration-and-sharing tool Hightail.
Bad: Touchscreen tapping troubles
Interacting with the desktop environment of Windows 8.1 Pro, I found that the targeting of the ThinkPad 8 touchscreen was fairly accurate, but certainly not flawless. When I tapped on icons, buttons, and other GUI elements, sometimes it didn’t appear to register my taps to trigger the function. Tapping on text listings in menus usually was a game of let’s-see-if-I-can-hit-it-right affair. To be fair to the Lenovo engineers, this is likely a technical consequence of cramming a high-resolution Windows desktop -- a user interface originally designed to be interacted with through a mouse, of course -- into a small touchscreen display.
Good: Hardware design
The ThinkPad 8 is noticeably larger than a typical 7-inch Android or 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet, but its overall dimensions and weight still put it in the category of small form-factor tablets. You can slip it into a small backpack, book bag or handbag, and it even fit into the inside pocket of one of my jackets. Weighing in at nearly one pound, the ThinkPad 8 isn’t unpleasant to hold briefly with just one hand. The back of its dark-grey exterior is a smooth metal that feels pleasantly cool to the touch.
Bad: Pictures came out grainy
Images that I snapped using the Windows 8 camera app looked grainy when taken under low or bright light situations, through either the tablet’s front or rear camera. The color range of these images looked decent enough. The rear camera worked very well for taking close-ups of documents with text. Also using the Camera app, I tested the tablet’s video recording capability. Interestingly, video footage recorded on the rear camera appeared to be not as grainy as the still images I had taken with it. And as far as my ears could tell, the audio quality of video recordings was the same as that of an audio-only recording made with the Sound Recorder app.
Good: Audio and video
Since this tablet has an HDTV-level screen at 1920-by-1200 pixels, I played several video files on it that were native 1080p resolution. The ThinkPad 8 smoothly played them all with no (or noticeable) skipping or slowdown. The tablet has two stereo-capable speakers that emanate out its back. Audio and video files I played on it sounded full and clear. Even when I cranked the volume up all the way to 100%, the audio came out through these speakers without distortion.
Bad: Not enough indicator lights
When the tablet is on, the dot of the “i” in the “ThinkPad” logo on the back of the tablet lights up red. Yet it appears to be the only light on this tablet that indicates anything. When I charged the tablet by connecting the included USB 3.0 cable and power plug to a power outlet, I could find no lights on it indicating its charging status. (It took almost 3 hours to fully recharge the tablet from less than 5%.)
Good: Micro HDMI port
The ThinkPad 8 has a micro HDMI port to let you display its screen output on a monitor or TV through an HDMI connector. Combined with pairing a Bluetooth keyboard to the tablet, you can use the ThinkPad 8 as an ultra-portable mini PC for when you need to do “serious” work that requires a keyboard and larger screen.
Bad: Questionable battery life
Lenovo lists that the ThinkPad 8’s battery can run up to 8 hours on a full charge. In terms of real-world usage, this may be questionable. By my estimate from having used this tablet to surf the web, run programs, play and record some media (while fully shutting Windows 8.1 Pro down, then starting it up between my usage sessions), I got barely over 5 hours of use. Keep in mind I was purposely using this tablet “out of the box” with Windows 8.1 Pro set at its defaults. Some improvements could probably be achieved by adjusting certain things, or uninstalling certain programs.
Price: The tab for a tablet
The cheapest version sells for $399, and runs Windows 8.1. The ThinkPad 8 model that we reviewed ran Windows 8.1 Pro, which adds $100 to the price, bringing us to $499. But then you need to buy Office, so add another $180 for Office Home & Business 2013 and you’re looking at around $680. If you want Office Professional, your total is $850.
Starting retail price: $399 (with 64GB onboard storage)
Processor: Intel Atom Z3770
OS: Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro
Memory: 2 GB
Battery: Up to 8 hours
Front and rear cameras: 2 and 8 megapixels
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi
Input/output: Micro HDMI port, micro SD card slot, USB 3.0
Dimensions (length x height): 8.83 x 5.19 in (224.28 x 131.83 mm)
Thickness: 0.35 in (8.89 mm)
Weight: 0.95 lbs (0.43 kg)