Hands-on review: Lenovo ThinkPad 8, the little Windows tablet that could

This small tablet deserves to make Windows 8.1 huge

There's still something a bit thrilling about seeing the full version of Windows running on a tiny screen.

That's particularly true if the screen is of almost Retina-level resolution and the device it's running on could slip inside a jacket pocket without tearing the lining. Lenovo's Thinkpad 8 is just such a device - and Windows 8.1 makes a crazy kind of sense on it.

Design and build - as solid and thoughtful as a Thinkpad should be

Hands-on review: Lenovo ThinkPad 8, the little Windows tablet that could - Design and build - as solid and thoughtful as a Thinkpad should be 2Hands-on review: Lenovo ThinkPad 8, the little Windows tablet that could - Design and build - as solid and thoughtful as a Thinkpad should be 3Hands-on review: Lenovo ThinkPad 8, the little Windows tablet that could - Design and build - as solid and thoughtful as a Thinkpad should be 4

The 8.9mm ThinkPad is amazingly skinny considering what's inside. It's home to a quad-core Intel Atom running at 2GHz (2.3GHz in burst), 2GB of RAM and 32 to 128GB of storage, as well as a slot for microSD expansion, microHDMI out, a microUSB 3.0 port and optional 4G. Those innards aren't low-power ARM: they're unfettered, full-fat 64-bit x86, which means the Thinkpad can run Windows 8.1 desktop apps and all. 

It feels solid as an aluminium and high-grade plastic rock. The screen doesn't warp under pressure, either. In terms of aesthetics it's not quite up to the iPad Mini's standards, but it's a close second.

Screen - bright, vibrant and almost Retina-crisp

Hands-on review: Lenovo ThinkPad 8, the little Windows tablet that could - Screen - bright, vibrant and almost Retina-crisp 2Hands-on review: Lenovo ThinkPad 8, the little Windows tablet that could - Screen - bright, vibrant and almost Retina-crisp 3

The Thinkpad 8 runs a 1920x1200 pixels on its 8.3in screen, which results in a comfortable 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 273ppi. That's not quite as high as the iPad Mini, but you'll see no visible pixels here.

It makes Windows 8.1 look fantastic. The colours pop off the screen, and those big flat icons look sophisticated in this mini, hi-res guise.It's covered with smooth, flex-free Corning Gorilla Glass and reacts fluidly to gestures. 

One complaint that other have raised is that the Thinkpad doesn't have stylus support - there's no digitiser in its screen, which some think is odd considering this is a device aimed at enterprise users. Although it limits the device, it also keeps the price at a realistic level.

More after the break...

Power and connectivity - this thing flies (with caveats)

At CES we couldn't test out web browsing, video streaming, media editing or gaming, so these observations are based on the altogether less demanding metrics of transitions, animations and app loading times.

For those still quite telling tasks, the ThinkPad didn't stutter. Windows 8.1 Pro's Metro interface glides and transitions to the desktop flawlessly, while windows open instantly and apps start speedily. We have high hopes.

Desktop mode looked a little comical - those icons are tiny, and closing windows with a fingertip requires pinpoint accuracy - but you can scale everything up if you wish, and chances are you'll mostly be using Metro any way.

In theory, the Intel Bay Trail-based Z3770 processor's integrated graphics should be capable of casual gaming, although it's unlikely to support almost any title at the screen's native 1920x1200 resolution. We'll be loading Steam on one as soon as we get a test sample.  

Cameras - 10MP rear, 2MP front

The Thinkpad 8 has twin cameras, the rear of which is cleverly accessed by a snap-down corner of the magnetic flip cover. This has a 10MP resolution, but it was impossible to judge its quality in show conditions. Likewise, the 2MP front camera seemed perfectly adequate - grainy, but just fine for Skyping.

Lenovo Thinkpad 8 - first thoughts

Not just our favourite small-screen Windows tablet, the ThinkPad 8 is contender for our favourite Windows tablet yet. Windows 8.1 Pro looks elegant on its sharp, vibrant screen, and the performance is promising.

The price is tempting, too. Sure, a Google Nexus 7 will cost you significantly less, but a Retina iPad Mini is more size and price-competitive - and, ignoring Windows 8's current paltry app offering, there's no doubt that the ThinkPad is capable of doing more.

Look out for a full review at Stuff soon, and stay tuned for a video review of the ThinkPad 8.

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