Lenovo Thinkpad 8

So far, small Windows slates have been fairly formulaic. They use Intel Atom processors, offer limited RAM and storage, and have mediocre 1,280 x 800-pixel screens.

The ThinkPad 8 changes this by offering a full-HD screen resolution. As a result, text looks refreshingly crisp. Icons are tiny on the Windows Desktop but they look fine in Windows 8's tile interface.

Coupled with excellent viewing angles, this screen is probably the ThinkPad 8's best feature. Watching videos on it is a delight. Weighing just 439g, this tablet with an aluminium body is light enough to be wielded with one hand.

In other words, of the 8-inch Windows tablets, the ThinkPad 8 comes closest to the display of the Apple iPad mini with Retina display. In portrait orientation, the ThinkPad's screen is slightly longer than the iPad mini's display but not excessively so.

However, Windows 8.1 is not iOS or Android. It still lags behind its mobile OS rivals in terms of apps, especially games.

Yes, Windows 8.1 has backward compatibility with older apps and the ThinkPad 8 comes with Microsoft Office. But minus keyboard or stylus accessories, the ThinkPad 8 is not the most suitable device with which to bang out a report. It feels more like a tablet for entertainment, not work.

Perhaps this will change if Lenovo introduces more accessories. But at the moment, the only one available for this tablet is the Quickshot cover ($47).

Like Apple's Smart Cover for the iPad, the Quickshot cover attaches to the tablet via magnets. Opening it wakes the device from sleep. Closing it sends it back to sleep. Make a tent shape with the cover and it doubles as a tablet stand.

But there is yet one more twist. When folded to the back of the ThinkPad 8, the top right corner of the cover has a flap that can be turned down to expose the tablet's rear camera. This triggers the default camera app, allowing you to take a shot quickly without having to hunt for the app.

The 8-megapixel rear camera is surprisingly decent for a tablet. This and the 2-megapixel front camera are both able to shoot videos in 1,080p resolution.

This tablet comes with 4G LTE support. You do need a data plan and a microSIM card from your telco.

The ThinkPad's battery life is not as good as its competitors. It managed only six hours when I was expecting closer to eight.

But my biggest concern is its $1,099 price tag. Even for the premium ThinkPad brand, this is too much. For this price, you can almost get a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Despite being heavier, the Surface is also more powerful and more useful for getting work done.

Expensive with mediocre battery life, this tablet is saved by its excellent screen.


This article was first published on September 17, 2014.
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