With an 8MP back facing camera and a 2.1MP front facing one, the ThinkPad Tablet 2 comes well equipped.
The front-facing camera is only really ever meant to be used for video calling and it performs the task well in well-lit conditions. The rear camera supports 1080p video shooting. Keep it steady and it does a decent job with 1080p video outdoors, even on a wet and windy London morning we were testing on. With low indoor lighting, however, the camera struggles, with obvious noise and pixellation.
Photos are well detailed and the built in LED flash provides enough light to brighten up our dark store cupboard and take a good snap.
The integrated microphone does a decent job of ignoring background noise and only picking up your voice when using apps like Skype, due to its dual array and noise cancellation technology.
One of the benefits of having Windows on a tablet is getting all those great applications you use on your PC or laptop on it, like an office away from the office. Windows 8 attempts to marry the accessibility of the touch interface it supports with the older style desktop view most of us are more familiar with from Windows 7 and XP.
It’s debatable how successful it is but we do find the Windows 8 tiles to be a more grown up experience than Apple’s iOS or even Android, mainly because of the amazing amount of customisation it encourages. This means the learning curve is steeper than it will be with and Apple or Android tablet, but potentially the benefits are bigger too.
We particularly like the ability to “surface” content that was most relevant to you on the home screen. An email tile flashes every so often with your new messages, you can pin your favourite people where you want to and see all their social media posts, whether they’re from Facebook or Twitter. There are many customisable touches that add to the richness of the experience, which took a little getting used to but which we appreciated once we had.
Support for multiple user accounts is another obvious benefit, as it makes it easier to share your tablet with others – e.g. children – without them accessing sensitive material. It’s a lot easier to share content with other Windows PCs than with an iPad or Android tablet, too.
It’s just a shame one of the most useful applications you’ll want to use on the ThinkPad Tablet 2, Microsoft Office, is not free as it is on Windows RT tablet, only free to try. At around £150 for the 2010 Home and Student version, it’s a hefty investment but one you’re almost certain to have to make to get the most out of the Lenovo. This is where the Microsoft Surface RT has the edge as Office comes included, albeit with the trade-off of the less function Windows RT OS that’s won few friends thus far.
Using micro-USB to charge is a good and bad thing. If you forget your cables at home while on a trip it’s a not a big deal – most phones use micro-USB, so finding another cable is easy. The flip side is that micro-USB is low powered, so charging takes longer, up to several hours, as opposed to many tablets that have proprietary charging ports that charge faster.
Once charged, however, the ThinkPad keeps going and going, providing more than enough juice for all but the most demanding users. Lenovo claims a 10-hour battery life and we found it gave six hours 18 minutes using our very heavy duty benchmarks, which covers constant but varied use.
The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is a well-designed tablet but is a little pricy. Prices fluctuate widely, however, so you could find it for as little as £470 or for more than £700, so be sure to shop around. What also adds to the headache is that there are plenty of other options in the Windows 8 tablet world, what separates the ThinkPad Tablet 2 from the rest of the pack is its integrated stylus.
If you’ve got your heart set on a Windows 8 tablet then it’s a good option but it’s also worth considering the stylish HP Envy X2, the great value Acer Iconia W510 or the Asus Vivo Tab with its mammoth 19-hour battery life. All come with a keyboard as standard, unfortunately the performance of the Atom processor in all of them leaves a great deal to be desired.
If you’re not wedded to Windows 8 or using a keyboard with the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 then you should probably also consider either the much cheaper Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (if a stylus is a must) or the Nexus 10, which has a stunning screen. Of course it would be remiss to ignore the elephant in the room, Apple’s iPad 4. For most casual users these might be better options but for those who want a modicum of productivity ability then the ThinkPad Tablet 2 does a reasonable job.
It’s hard to recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 without using it with its keyboard accessory. Sure, it’s well-made, has a decent screen and a useful stylus, but the performance is frustrating and most would be better off with a laptop if productivity was the main reason for purchase, even if they are much bigger and heavier.
However, if you’re looking for a sleek, light tablet to use for basic Office tasks and entertainment, then the stylus, all day battery life and compatibility with other Windows devices makes the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 an intriguing, if flawed, option.