Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 combines touch, all-day battery life, and ThinkPad styling to the Windows 8 Slate tablet market.
Photo of Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 combines touch, all-day battery life, and ThinkPad styling to the Windows 8 Slate tablet market. It’s not a bad first effort, but rivals currently have the upper hand. It can be your all-day companion running from meeting to meeting, and you can get work done with the help of accessories when you finally get back to your desk. Taken alone, it’s a very good tablet. Unfortunately, other rivals have better battery life, connections to keyboards, and overall differentiating features.

Design and Features
The Tablet 2 looks professional, with a black PolyCarbonate/ABS plastic cover over a magnesium internal frame. The tablet measures about 7 by 10.5 by 0.34 inches (HWD) and weighs a scant 1.21 pounds alone. Add the optional Bluetooth keyboard ($120) and fitted sleeve ($40), and you’re talking a 2.63-pound travel weight. One plus that the Tablet 2 has over its rivals is its built-in slot to carry its included stylus. The Wacom-style stylus has a right-click button, but lacks the eraser tip that rivals like the Dell Latitude 10 and Microsoft Surface Pro have. Weighing less than 1.25 pounds and with its built-in stylus holder, it is a very good handheld PC for running around the office park or for a full day of client meetings.

The Tablet 2 has a few ports and switches on its sides: a micro-USB port for charging, a low-power USB 2.0 port, MicroSD and a SIM slot under a shared door, headset jack, volume, power, rotate lock, a docking port, and a mini-HDMI out port. The SIM slot supplies authentication to an optional WWAN radio, which wasn’t in our review unit. The docking connector is mainly for the $100 enterprise-level docking station, since the Bluetooth keyboard and stand lacks a docking port.

The Bluetooth keyboard is very comfortable and has a built-in optical TrackPoint and the usual ThinkPad mouse buttons. But there is no room for a palm rest, and the keyboard has no retention mechanism aside from gravity and friction from the slot carved in its surface. This means that the keyboard stand works fine on a tabletop, but if you use the combo on your lap, the Tablet 2 is likely to slide out if you shift your weight during you work session. Both the keyboard and Tablet 2 fit in a tailor-made fitted sleeve, so the combo can work part-time. The Bluetooth keyboard has its own battery for operation, but it doesn’t supply auxiliary power like the keyboard docks for the HP Envy X2 or Acer Iconia W510-1422.

The Tablet 2 charges off of its micro-USB port, which is a plus for the road warrior. Most non-iPhone smartphones use micro-USB to charge, so you can get by only carrying a single charger. The Tablet 2 comes with a 2A USB adapter and a USB to micro USB cable, which you can use with your smartphone or tablet. This also makes it more convenient for the multi-device user, since he can charge the Tablet 2 off of a PC with the USB cable as well. Lenovo also sells a $20 USB vehicle charger so you can charge your tablet on the road.

The Tablet 2′s regular USB 2.0 port is problematic. It is full-size, so it will work with all sorts of peripherals like printers, keyboards/mice, and USB memory keys. But the USB port only supplies a few watts of power, so it won’t run a large-capacity external hard drive. This shortcoming is a large detriment to getting work done if all you have with you are bus-powered external hard drives. The Dell Latitude 10 and most ultrabook-class tablets have full-power USB ports. The Tablet 2 can connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 is supported. GPS is included.

The Tablet 2′s screen is a 10.1-inch IPS display with a 1,366-by-768 resolution. This means that you can playback 720p HD content natively, but 1080p content will be scaled down. The system’s Wacom-style digitizer and stylus back up the five-point touch screen. When the tip of the stylus comes close to the screen, the capacitive touch sensors turn off, so you aren’t making marks with your palm when you’re actually drawing on the screen with the stylus. The screen is bright, with a wide angle of view from all sides, and an accelerometer makes sure that screen elements point up at all times.

The Tablet 2 comes with an Intel Atom Z2760 processor, 2GB of memory, and a 64GB of flash storage. When we first turned the Tablet 2 on, it came with 33.4 GB of 50GB free. This is a bit less than the “36.8 GB of 52.2GB free” reported by the Editors’ Choice Dell Latitude 10. No doubt much of the used space is the recovery partition plus a selection of pre-installed apps. The Tablet 2 came with Lenovo Companion, Skitch Touch, Evernote Touch, Lenovo Support, a Lenovo Settings app, Accuweather, QuickSnip (a clipping/screenshot utility), Amazon Kindle, Skype, rara.com, Intel AppUp, Lenovo Cloud Storage (SugarSync), and Norton Studio (security). Lenovo also included their QuickLaunch app, which replaces the functions of the Windows 7 Start menu. It’s not the most heinous use of space, but since Tablet 2′s current options for storage are 64GB only, every bit of storage space is precious. You can of course add storage with the microSD slot. The Tablet 2′s front webcam is 2MP and the rear is 8MP with a LED flash. The Tablet 2 has a one-year standard warranty.

Performance

The Intel Atom Z2760 processor in the Tablet 2 ensures Windows 8 32-bit compatibility, so the tablet will work with all your enterprise apps and corporate network protocols. It also means that you can use the browser and plug-ins standardized at your business instead of being limited to Internet Explorer (as you would be on a Windows RT system).

However, while the Atom means that the Tablet 2 has 10-hour battery life (10 hours 11 minutes), it also means that it doesn’t perform too well on our multimedia benchmark tests. The Tablet 2 was one of the slowest systems we’ve ever tested on our Handbrake test (13:27 vs. 1:28 on a Core i5 system like the Microsoft Surface Pro). The Tablet 2 also lagged Atom-powered rivals like the Dell Latitude 10 and Acer W510 on the Handbrake test. On day-to-day tasks, the Tablet 2 put in a passable 1,410 point score on PCMark 7. Basically, if you have a need for corporate information retrieval and media playback all day, the Tablet 2 is fine, but if you need to work on graphics creation on a deadline, you’re better off with a more powerful system with an Intel Core processor.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a decent Windows 8 Slate tablet. It doesn’t win any of the performance tests, but is competitive with its Atom-powered rivals. It’s a simple work-based tablet that has a good set of ThinkPad accessories that make it a good fit if you’re transitioning ThinkPad users to something a lot more portable. However, for the ultimate in battery life, other systems like the Editors’ Choice Dell Latitude 10 and keyboard docking tablets like the Acer Iconia Tab W510 are better choices if battery life is paramount. And let’s face it, you’re looking at an Atom-based tablet because of its combination of Windows 8 Pro compatibility and phenomenal battery life, right?

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 with several other laptops and tablets side by side.

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Specifications
Screen Resolution 1366 x 768 pixels
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8 Professional
Dimensions 10.34 x 6.48 x 0.32 inches
Weight 1.2 lb
Processor Speed 1.8 GHz
Screen Size 10.1 inches
CPU Intel Atom Z2760
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 64 GB

Verdict
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 combines touch, all-day battery life, and ThinkPad styling to the Windows 8 Slate tablet market. It's not a bad first effort, but rivals currently have the upper hand.
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