The Lenovo ThinkPad nomenclature is normally associated with high-powered laptops, for use by businessman to do businessman things. But when Lenovo lends that name to a tablet - by and large a media consumption-driven market - can it have fun while still retaining the “power to do,” as Lenovo claims?
Let’s start with the power. The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 has two gigs of RAM and an Intel Atom Z3770 good for up to 2.4 gigahertz. In English, it’s got the brawn to get work done, especially while multitasking or showing intensive presentations. And when things have quieted down, it’ll still pass our tablet game performance test - Asphalt 8. It doesn’t skip a beat, whether you ask it to play a racing game or keep track of your workload. The ThinkPad 8 also has a micro HDMI output to supplement your mobile work - plug it into an HDMI-equipped monitor, break out a Bluetooth mouse, and boom - instant desktop station. Sure, it’s not going to outpower a real desktop, but for what it is, the ThinkPad commands respect - you can just slip the tablet back into your pocket when you’re done, after all.
But a good tablet, even a “work-focused” one like this needs to do more than put up good performance figures. Like anything else in the tech world, it also has to look good, since, well, you’ll be staring at it quite often. The ThinkPad 8 doesn’t have an 8 inch screen, as the name implies - it has an 8.3 inch screen. Decimal pedancy aside, the display itself is...actually quite a brilliant little thing.
Unlike most tablets offered in this size range, the ThinkPad 8 has a real high definition display - 1920 by 1200 resolution. This isn’t always apparent, since most apps will conform to your resolution. But it is apparent when you’re watching videos. Since most HD videos are optimized for 1080p playback, when you run them on the ThinkPad’s 1920 by 1200 screen, you’ll see black bars above and below the video to fill out the screen. It’s not necessarily a problem, since it does create a movie-like cinematic effect, but I can’t help but think 1080 would have been an easier choice here. Games and other applications are unaffected. They fill the entire screen, as they should.
Speaking of looks, have a gander at the ThinkPad 8 without any apps running.It’s very simple and clean, if you disregard that ugly “ThinkPad” badge at the top. And look - a Windows home button on the front! Not every Windows tablet places their home button where it should be - on the front - but thankfully Lenovo picked the right spot.
There’s a nice lip running around the outside of the front display, giving the screen a chance to survive in case you drop the ThinkPad on its face. That’s all well and good, but it’s not the tightest of seams - after a day or two, dust and debris began to pile up in the ThinkPad’s cracks. That’s easily solved with a cloth of course, but the rest of the tablet’s construction seems to follow the same lack of desire to execute - there are good ideas here, but I can’t help thinking that they went out the door without a proper workshopping.
Take the buttons on the rim of the ThinkPad - power and volume adjustments. They’re well-placed so obviously a good bit of thought went into the decision, but actually pressing them reveals that they’re wallowy and uncommunicative. They’re not the only thing that suffers from this lack of quality control though; the USB 3.0 port that lives next door doesn’t let the charger sit quite right. It’s always hanging a little bit off.
Since we’re on the subject of charging, I have to expose the ThinkPad 8’s big flaw: the battery life. Lenovo claims that you’ll get up to eight hours on a charge, but...the best I saw with moderate use was four hours, and that was mostly light-duty stuff like Twitter. Start playing games and the battery life plummets.
One of the unexpected strengths of the ThinkPad 8 is actually its camera - and I can’t believe I’m saying that, since I think taking photos with tablets looks ridiculous. But the rear lens is a decently impressive 10 megapixel unit that captures fine details in photos and HD video admirably for a tablet that’s not booked as a media powerhouse. Sure, it’s not a DSLR, but it’s much clearer than expected.
As always with tablets in the seven and eight inch range, the ThinkPad 8 isn’t a real desktop replacement, but it makes a good case for itself as a supplemental machine. At $400, it’s a big jump from other Windows 8 tablet offerings from Dell and Toshiba in the spec range. But if you need a real laptop replacement and can deal with iffy battery life, the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 is a good value.