For a device that’s supposed to be all about work-play compromise, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 stands its ground like Dwayne Johnson in a tsunami. It’s sturdy, with a rectangular shape that has a hint of the Microsoft Surface about it, and although the plastic flexes a little, it feels as if it’ll survive a fairly hefty knock.
The Tablet 2 is one of the most attractive Windows 8 tabs yet, standing out from identikit slates with a black, blocky build and a curved left-hand edge to hide the digitiser. At 580g, it’s lighter than the iPad 4, and with all of your ports on the tablet part you can get along just fine without the keyboard/cover.
Well, unless you’re doing any typing that is. The keyboard is a mixed bag; it slots together with the Tablet part, but only connects via Bluetooth, and it lacks the flexibility of the likes of the Acer Iconia W510's hinged keyboard dock. There’s also no trackpad – just an optical trackpoint – but that at least leaves space for roomy keys that are a pleasure to type on.
The Tablet 2’s brilliant 10.1in screen is very bright, pumping out more nits than Windows 8 hybrid rivals and making it great for outdoor working. It might be bettered by the Asus VivoTab ME400 for colour accuracy but the 1366x768 IPS display is still very punchy with top-notch contrast. It is a fingerprint magnet though so watch out.
Comparing a dual-core Atom device like the ThinkPad Tablet 2 to full-sized Core i5 Ultrabooks will always leave the tabs trailing in the dirt. But of all the Windows 8 hybrids running Intel’s less powerful yet battery-saving Atom chips recently, the Lenovo Tablet 2 did the best job of masquerading as a fully fledged portable PC.
Standard tablet tasks such as browsing the web are a breeze and true multi-tasking in the desktop mode is also handled without a problem. From creating documents in Microsoft Office and sharing them via SkyDrive (or Dropbox) to installing and – patiently – playing half our Steam catalogue, the Tablet 2 managed to find power in its Intel guts to keep going. Gaming wise, you’ll be able to play less demanding casual games like Hotline Miami and FTL: Faster than Light which aren’t available on iOS or Android.
Don’t let the fact that the ThinkPad Tablet 2 warms up worry you, as a stutter or two aside, it’s a very capable device.
Pressing hard with the digitiser doesn’t mimic your fingers, annoyingly, but you can use the button as a right click or to take a screen grab. It’s helpful for accuracy when using the Pen tool in Photoshop and because desktop version of services like Spotify aren’t designed for touchscreens, the stylus comes in handy more regularly than you’d expect.
Working with images
This is a great tablet for snap-happy types as you can grab photos straight from your SD card with an SD-to-USB adapter, then organise and edit them with full fat Adobe Bridge and Photoshop. You'll need to be patient with big files, but with an update installed you can even work on RAW images.
Battery life is decent with the Tablet 2 lagging slightly behind rivals like the Acer Iconia W510 and HP Envy X2 but still giving you enough juice to stretch to a day’s video, email and web browsing. That’s despite the ludicrously bright screen and Bluetooth connection to the keyboard meaning there’s no extra battery coming from that direction.
All the ports you need are on the Tablet 2 itself including a full size USB 2.0 port although USB hard disks need their own power source. It also has microUSB for charging, mini HDMI and a microSD slot. The ace up its sleeve? A SIM slot for 3G or 4G on the move.
Atom’s limitations are easy to spot but if you ease the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 down the path of proper computing (writing documents, image and video editing, casual gaming) you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Sure, you’ll have to be patient and such desktop software doesn’t always look as pretty as full-screen iPad-style apps do but if you want finger-friendly fare, Windows Metro is just a button press away.
Bearing in mind that a 64GB iPad 4 comes in at $918, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2’s asking price of $899 (excluding the keyboard dock) doesn’t look unrealistic. It’s a sexy slab which puts in a good performance and adds a useful digitiser pen and an easy-to-type-on keyboard accessory. The bar for any slate trotting through Stuff’s doors just is now far higher.