Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 review
Lenovo offers an alternative to Microsoft's Surface Pro
Intel has been desperate to get into the tablet market, and its best hopes lie with a new generation of the Atom processor: the dual-core, hyperthreading Z2760. Precisely the technology that Lenovo has employed in this new Thinkpad Tablet 2.
Handling this device for the first time it was hard to grasp that this remarkably thin and light tablet was a fully functional PC, running Windows 8 Pro 32-bit edition. At only 600g, this is extremely mobile computing, and in theory capable of handling any Windows task that can be contained within 2GB of RAM and, in the review model, 64GB of e-MMC storage.
Connectivity to the outside world is via wi-fi, Bluetooth, or (at least on the very top specification model, which is the subject of this review) HSPA+ mobile broadband. The latter, of course, requires a data contract or PAYG SIM but is ideal for the travelling worker - as is the quoted 10-hour battery life. However, in return for such a transportable PC there are a number of compromises you're forced to accept.
The first is the screen, which in this case a (admittedly gorgeous) 10.1" IPS panel, with a natural resolution of 1366x768. Even by Netbook standards that's tiny, though, and makes working in the desktop of Windows 8 challenging for touch users and anyone without perfect eyesight.
What you also ideally need when workinh is a keyboard and stand, which Lenovo will happily provide you in return for another £103. That, by our reckoning, takes the top-of-the-range review model to a price of over £800. For what is, in computing terms is, well, a Netbook. A nice Netbook, mind you... but essentially that's all it is.
I'm possibly being unfair, because there are some features in this computer that you'd never find on a £200 computer, and one of these is the very sophisticated touch system. As with all Windows 8 touch systems this one is designed to be controlled with fingers, and in this case it can track five of those at any one time. However, Lenovo also offer a stylus as part of the design, and it isn't just isn't a means of avoiding greasy paw prints.
The stylus Lenovo included is a pressure sensitive digitizer, like those on Wacom tablets, and can make graphical work much less mechanical process. It can also be used to create hand written notes that the system then skilfully converts into real text, for those who love to scribble.
That's an attractive extra, as is the facility to slot in a MicroSD card for another 32GB of storage space. That could be critical, because when I booted the system fresh it had just 34.3GB free, which would suggest that on the cheaper 32GB model there wouldn't be much user accessible space left.
Other useful ports include a single, full-size USB 2.0, Mini-HDMI and a proprietary docking connector. Why Lenovo didn't merge all of those requirements into a single USB 3.0 port isn't really clear, but it could be the power overhead.
Charging uses a standard Micro B USB adapter, though they do insist that you use the one they provide to charge it, and not a lower specification phone model.
Having used the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 for a few days now, I've come to two entirely different conclusions about it, depending how you intend to use it. From one perspective this is a workable tablet. It doesn't, perhaps, reach Apple iPad v4 or Google Nexus 10 standards of loveliness, but it offers a good experience all the same.
Unfortunately, that contrasts very badly with the PC-type experience, which offers you a very small screen and Netbook level computing power. This is generally fast enough, but I'd hate to need to craft a long document on this screen, or do much serious, or even creative, work without the additional keyboard/stand accessory.
Even more concerning, is that for adding the 3G electronics from a phone, and giving you the 'Pro' version of Windows over the vanilla release, Lenovo have hiked the price of the top model by an incredible £129. You can get a 3G wi-fi relay for about £60, and serve that internet connection to all your gadgets more cheaply.
For that reason I'd avoid the top of the line review model, while the amount of storage in the base model is also very off-putting. That leaves the middle option, at £569.99, costing roughly ten pounds more than a Microsoft Surface RT with 64GB. What you get with this is the full capability to run x86 Windows applications, which is probably worth the difference, and some more.
That would suggest that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 is good value for money, but fails to consider that for the price of it plus the obligatory keyboard accessory, you could buy an entire Acer Aspire V5-571P Core-i7 laptop.
If this was £400, then perhaps I'd be talking in more glowing terms about it, but at this price I'm unconvinced with the combination of a passable tablet and mediocre laptop.
• Prices: £519.99 (32GB wi-fi only), £569.99 (64GB wi-fi only), £698.99 (64GB wi-fi and Mobile Broadband)
• Manufacturer: Lenovo
• Website: shop.lenovo.com/gb
• Required spec: Wi-fi broadband or 3G Data contract SIM