Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 Review
- Stylish, light and well built
- Good battery life
- Integrated stylus
- Atom processor struggles
- May be better suited to Windows RT (with free MS Office)
- Slow USB
- Review Price: £549.99
- 10.1in 1,366 x 768 pixel screen
- Wacom digitiser
- Windows 8
- 1.8GHz Atom CPU, 2GB RAM
- microSD, 3G SIM slot
The original Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet was a good attempt at making a tablet that stood out from the myriad 10.1-inch Android offerings. However, it lacked refinement and was chunky; both forgivable were it not for the price.
Lenovo has made some drastic changes to the ThinkPad Tablet 2. It runs Windows 8, and has moved from Tegra 2 to Intel Atom 1.8Ghz dual-core processor. It backs that up with 2GB of RAM and 64GB SSD storage, but does that warrant the £130 price increase from its predecessor?
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Design and Build
It’s obvious a lot of thought has gone into making the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 slim, light and sleek. At just 600g it is 52g lighter than an iPad 4, more than 400g lighter than the Microsoft Surface but is a touch heavier than what is arguably its closest Android competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
Good quality soft touch plastic covers the rear, with discreet speaker slots at the bottom and a well-integrated camera and flash flanked by etched Lenovo and ThinkPad logos at the top. The ThinkPad mark makes it feel like a work tablet, harking back to the IBM ThinkPad laptops, and this is further supported by all-black body that makes it look all business. The one exception to the monotone colour scheme is a splash of red on the top left of the ThinkPad 2, which signifies the top of the elegantly integrated stylus.
The Lenovo Thinkpad 2’s lightness and grippy back means it can be held in one-hand with reasonable comfort. Softened edges (the left hand edge that houses the stylus is totally rounded) help too, though the soft-touch plastic attracts unsightly greasy finger marks.
On the top edge are a covered microSD and SIM (if you go for the 3G enabled version), and a headphone jack; on the left, a full size USB (a thoughtful inclusion) and a micro USB slot, which is used for charging the Lenovo ThinkPad 2’s durable battery.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 feels robust – as typifies all things with the ThinkPad band. It has a bit of give and flex in all the right places, though there are a few areas where the seams feel as if they could fit together a more snuggly. It’s a plain but stylish tablet but, all in all, Lenovo has done a good job designing the ThinkPad 2.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Screen and speakers
If you’ve mainly used laptops then you’ll be more than satisfied with the ThinkPad’s screen, but 1,366 x 768 is still the norm on Windows 8 tablets and it’s a far cry from high resolution ‘retina’ screens of the Apple iPad 4 or Google Nexus 10.
That said the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 manages well even without a super-high resolution. Colours are bright without being oversaturated and 720p HD video looks excellent – the Intel Atom processor is fine at streaming HD video. Lenovo has opted for an IPS screen, too, which means the viewing angles, are great.
The touch screen is brilliantly responsive and five-point touch support means all the gestures that Windows 8 supports work impressively; the zoom in and out of the homepage is particularly fun.
Your hands won’t cover the speakers when you’re holding the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – something that many other tablets suffer from. They’re perfectly adequate for a tablet, without being outstanding, as they’re loud enough to watch a movie with company without straining your ears, and they create a pleasing stereo effect.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Connectivity
The Lenovo ThinkPad 2 comes with all you’d expect from Windows 8 tablets in terms of connectivity. There’s a welcome mini-HDMI out as well as a micro-SD card slot, which is essential if you consider there’s only 14GB of the 64GB spare after Windows 8 and the pre-installed software are accounted for. A micro-USB slot on the side of the tablet is used for charging only.
If you opt for the 3G version you can find the full size SIM card slot next to the micro-SD and obligatory headphone jack. We couldn’t test the Bluetooth keyboard connector dock as Lenovo had no available keyboards to test. We’ll update this review as soon as we get our hands on it, but we did find that even using a third party keyboard made the ThinkPad 2 a much better working tool.
It’s great to have a full size USB port, but it’s a bittersweet addition. Not only is it USB 2, not the faster USB 3 standard, it’s not powerful enough for an external hard drive to work, or any other USB-powered accessory, like a USB Pico projector.
It’s not great future proofing for a tablet that costs upwards of £500, especially one aimed at the business market. Yes, using a USB-powered hard drive or projector would sap power more quickly, but we’d like users to have the options to drain their battery faster for additional functionality if they want to. On the plus side USB flash drives/sticks work absolutely fine and appear in the ‘My computer’ section just as you’d expect on a laptop or desktop computer running Windows.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Specs and Performance
The Lenovo has an Intel dual-core Atom Z2760 processor running at 1.8GHz supported by an Intel Integrated HD SGX545 graphics chip, 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. In practice this means that the ThinkPad Tablet 2 boots very quickly, 14 seconds in fact. However we’ve often lamented the performance of Atom Z2760 processor and unfortunately the ThinkPad Tablet 2 can’t eek out any extra performance from the chipset.
But the Atom Z2760 is an adequate performer at best. If you only use the ThinkPad Tablet 2 for light tasks, such as internet browsing, apps and basic programs, you won’t have many problems. But waiting for apps and programs to open is frustrating.
It copes well with full HD video, but don’t even think about anything but the most basic 3D gaming, multi-tasking or heavy duty applications, such as image or video editors. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 grinds to a halt running these.
PC MARK score: 1426
Entertainment score: 1044
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Cameras and microphone
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.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Windows 8 and Office
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.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 – Battery life and charging
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.
Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 – Value
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.
How we test tablets
We test every tablet we review thoroughly. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly and we use the tablet as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 7
Battery Life 8