Lenovo ThinkPad 8 review: first look

8 Jan 2014

Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 is the first compact Windows tablet to enter the ThinkPad family, and it's an absolute stunner. With Windows 8.1 powered by quad-core Bay Trail and an 8.4in, 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display, this looks to the be the must-have business tablet.

The hardware

In a word: gorgeous. The aluminium rear is cast in a pleasingly understated greyish black, and a gentle accent of ThinkPad red skims around the rear 8-megapixel snapper. It's not as ostentatiously lovely as Apple's iPad Mini, but from the moment you cradle it in your hand (and you can actually hold it in one hand), it feels every inch the ThinkPad. It's a premium-feeling, rock-solid tablet - and it weighs a very respectable 430g.

The optional Quickshot cover is a nice touch, too. It attaches magnetically, just like the Apple Smart Cover, and is finished in a lovely velour effect material which is black on the outside, and bright Thinkpad red on the inside. The party trick is the foldable top corner – flick it back, and it reveals the 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and fires up the camera app. There’s no word on any matching keyboard docks as yet, though – we can only hope.

The display

The display is fantastic. It's great to see that Lenovo has dumped the 16:9, Full HD panels of consumer devices in favour of a more spacious 16:10, 1,920 x 1,200 panel. The extra vertical breathing room is very welcome, and very noticeable coming after a standard HD panel - as ever, those 120 pixels of vertcial resolution make all the difference.

Of course, pushing so many pixels inside an 8.4in diagonal means that pixel density reaches a squint-inducing 224ppi, so it is necessary to rely on Windows 8.1’s scaling to keep text and applications at a comfortable size. Still, quality is near-perfect. To the naked eye, the panel is fantastically bright (we'd say it was well over the 400cd/m2 mark), which bodes well for outdoor usage. Colours look balanced and nicely saturated, too.

Desktop power

Behind the scenes, the range-topping Bay Trail CPU, the 1.46GHz Atom Z3770 takes the reins. It’s the same CPU we saw in Dell’s excellent Venue 11 Pro, and that means you can expect a pretty respectable level of performance. We clocked the Dell at 0.38 in our Real World Benchmarks, and we’d expect the ThinkPad 8 to perform very similarly. With the same 2GB of RAM as the Dell, and 32-bit Windows 8.1, the only question is whether the Lenovo’s 64GB eMMC drive will be nippy enough to squeeze the best from the Z3770.

The level of power afforded by Bay Trail is enough to blaze past pretty much any other compact tablet, but it’s looking likely that the ThinkPad 8 will also be able to double as a very functional desktop. This is down to the presence of a micro-USB 3 port on the ThinkPad 8’s edge – this serves charging duties, but also provides the bandwidth needed to hook up to a docking station back at a desk.

Features

In addition to that micro-USB 3 port, there’s everything else you could ask for. Dual-band 802.11n, optional 3G and Bluetooth 4 serve all your networking needs; there’s expandability via the microSD slot; and the presence of TPM ticks the security box, too.

The only omission? A stylus. Lenovo told us that it simply wasn’t possible to accomodate one without either shrinking the stylus to uncomfortably tiny proportions, or dramatically increasing the device’s thickness. We’d say it made the right call.

Our verdict

Intel’s Bay Trail has spurred a swell of promising, compact Windows 8.1 devices, and the ThinkPad 8 is one of the most exciting yet. It’d be unfair to cast it purely as a business device, though – there’s no reason that this shouldn’t make plenty of friends in the consumer sector, too. It’s a light, well-built tablet which packs serious power into a 430g chassis.

In fact, the only thing which may put off any prospective purchasers may be the price. With confirmed US pricing putting the Wi-Fi version at $399, and the  QuickCover costing another $49 on top, we suspect the ThinkPad 8 will probably grace UK shores at around the £350 mark. Regardless, this is one tablet we can't wait to get in for review – keep an eye on PC Pro for the definitive verdict.


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