By Tom Warren
Lenovo’s second 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet might just be the best one yet. While Lenovo only unveiled its 8-inch Miix 2 tablet back in October, the company is launching the 8.3-inch ThinkPad 8 today with a focus on power. Alongside the slight increase to the tablet’s display size, Lenovo has opted for a 1920 x 1080 resolution. That makes it the first 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet with a higher resolution than the standard 1280 x 800 that most OEMs, including Lenovo, originally opted for. It doesn’t come close to the iPad mini Retina display resolution, but the ThinkPad 8 still has great viewing angles and good color reproduction.
Levono’s intended audience with the ThinkPad8 appear to be what it describes as “professionals.” Instead of opting for the 1.8GHz quad-core Intel Atom processor that’s used in the Miix 2 and Dell’s Venue 8 Pro, Lenovo is shipping the ThinkPad 8 with a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom processor. It’s still an Atom, so performance will understandably lag behind Core chips, but for a tablet of this size it appears to power all of Windows 8.1’s built-in apps just fine. The big difference with the ThinkPad 8 over Lenovo’s previous effort is the addition of a micro HDMI port. You can connect a monitor to turn this mini tablet into a workstation, and a micro USB 3.0 port also helps for hooking up additional accessories, or even monitors, through optional docks.
NO STYLUS SUPPORT THIS TIME AROUND
While the performance and display improvements are solid, Lenovo has opted to ditch its optional stylus support this time around. The lack of stylus support will disappoint those looking for the perfect small Windows 8.1 tablet, but Lenovo makes up for it in other ways. An optional Quickshot Cover is one of the more interesting options available for tablets of this size. As with Apple’s iPad Smart Covers, it attaches magnetically at the side of the tablet and protects its screen. As you’d expect, the cover automatically wakes the device when it’s peeled back, but it also has a neat trick where you can fold a corner to expose the 8-megapixel rear camera and automatically launch the built-in camera app. The cover also doubles as a stand used to prop the tablet up in a tentlike mode.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad 8 weighs 0.92 pounds and is 8.8mm thick, so it’s slightly heavier and thicker than the Miix 2, but it certainly doesn’t feel chunky or heavy during use thanks to its aluminum build. With options for 3G / LTE support and 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB models, it seems like Lenovo has one of the best 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets available. The company’s Miix 2 goes head to head with Apple’s iPad mini, pricing at $299; the new ThinkPad 8 also compares well with the iPad mini Retina pricing, and launches later this month starting at $399.
Dante D’Orazio contributed to this report.