My company has been trialing tablet solutions for the last year. They have tried out iPad’s and Nexus 7’s at other sites with limited success. The basic web apps work fine and the users can send/receive email on them, but none of our native apps work and some of the more complex web apps don’t work properly. I knew that until we got a full Windows based tablet they would not be useful for our management staff. I was very excited when my boss gave me the approval to order a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 back in October. I patiently waited week by week receiving accessories and emailing my sales rep checking on the status. Toward the end of December I was beginning to wonder if it was every going to show. I almost gave up in January when I received a tracking number in my email. It was finally shipped.
When the box arrived I was surprised how small it was. I thought they somehow made a mistake and sent another accessory. Upon opening, I found I was wrong. The tablet was much smaller and lighter then I expected. Compared to my year old HP Touchpad it is like a cell phone. I couldn’t believe that this small form factor was a full blown Windows PC! Keep with me as I go through the Tablet 2 and provide some pictures. Fore warning, these pictures are taken from my phone and I am not a photographer by any means.
This was my biggest question when I was pushing for the tablet. Could this little 1.8 Ghz Z2760 Atom SoC processor handle the day to day tasks and completely replace someone’s desktop machine? For the Average user, I think it could. Using the dock, I was also able to plug in a second monitor via HDMI and it pushed the 10.1 touchscreen along with the 23″ 1080P external monster sitting next to it. During the last few weeks using it on and off I never ran into any problems with shuddering or lag. I didn’t throw a lot at it, but I left my laptop at my desk and had no issues using it as my main machine away from the office. Could it replace all my machines? Absolutely not. Could it replace my laptop as my main portable machine? Absolutely.
Hardware and Design
First look the tablet looks amazing. When you start looking closer you start to see some flaws. It does not have the Thinkpad build quality that Lenovo is famous for. The corner of the 10.1 inch Gorilla Glass “creaks” when pressed, and pops out past the bezel once in a while. The camera on the front seems also off center. They added a FCC sticker on the back as well as a sticker that says “Not Encrypted”. The sticker with the serial and the type code placed under the SD Card flap is protruding out the top. Mostly minor issues, but problems that screams “I was thrown together and pushed out the door”. I am guessing they didn’t want to delay shipping any longer then they already did, but I would much rather have seen these issues worked out and wait another couple of weeks to receive the tablet.
There are few expansion ports and buttons on the Tablet 2, but I am very happy for the ones they included. Starting on the top right you will find a small power button, moving to the middle there is a door that opens up to a Micro SD slot as well as a SIM card for AT&T 3G/4G connectivity and all the way to the left is the pen for digitizer input. On the left side of the tablet you will find a full sized USB port (something I will rarely use, but absolutely needed) and a Micro USB slot for charging. Yes, you heard that right, a standard Micro USB port for charging. On the right side you will find a headphone jack, volume up and down ports as well as a Auto Rotate on/off button. I find myself accidently hitting that button quite often. On the bottom you will see the standard dock port, and a Mini HDMI port.
With a little more attention to detail I think this could be a very good design for a tablet.
I am still not sold on some of the “enhancements” Microsoft has put in place inside of Windows 8, even on a touch screen tablet. It is MUCH more touch friendly then their previous OS’s but not as much as it needs to be. I am still not a fan of full screen applications and I am not sure if I ever will be. One thing that surprised me is a lot of the famous Thinkpad software was missing. There was a few Lenovo programs but the software suite they are famous for is missing. I also experienced frequent lock ups that started the first weekend I received the device with just the default software stack. I don’t think this is a performance related problem but rather a software or driver issue. Hopefully Lenovo can find a quick fix for this problem and get it pushed out.
I could not get the Cisco VPN Client to function properly (ShreSoft VPN works fine) and Symantec Whole Disk PGP Encryption is not yet compatible with UEFI or Windows 8. If I wouldn’t have experienced issues with the Tablet 2 freezing, these two programs not functioning would have delayed the rollout. No matter which of the CloverTrail Atom devices you pick, these issues will follow because they appear to be limitations with Windows 8 (x86 more then x64).
Battery Life and Portability
With light use I was able to get almost the 10 hours of Battery life Lenovo claims the Tablet 2 can get. Each user will have different experiences, but even streaming HD video I still got close to 8 hours. It charges from a Micro USB port at the bottom left hand side of the tablet. The charge is a 2A charger (same as the HP Touchpad charger). In my experience any Micro USB charger will work with this device but as most of the Micro USB charges are only rated as 1A, it may take longer to charge with the Micro USB chargers you have laying around the house. At only 10 inches long, 6 inches tall and less then a half an inch think the Tablet 2 will go anywhere you want it to. I was able to fit it inside of my already crammed 14″ laptop bag with ease.
The Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 is a awesome companion device for power users and could be a complete desktop/laptop replacement for the normal office user. I am disappointed about the design flaws I have mentioned as I am used to a top notch machine when I see the brand of Thinkpad or ThinkCentre. Overall I have enjoyed working with the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 and I think it has found a spot in my laptop bag for now. With the problems I brought up (especially with it freezing) it will stay as a secondary device to my laptop and will not make it to prime time for our Management team. However, I may look at upgrading from my Thinkpad T420 to a T520, since I can always break out the “T2” if I need more portability.