Sure, you can now use Microsoft Office on an iPad, but you can run Office and just about every other productivity app on a Windows 8 tablet. And while many of those devices have all the same specs, Lenovo is banking on its ThinkPad 8's faster CPU, higher-resolution display, and business-like styling to earn a coveted spot on your desk.
Where 8-inch competitors such as the Toshiba Encore 8 and the Dell Venue 8 Pro max out at a resolution of 1280x800 pixels, the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 goes all the way to a desktop-like resolution of 1900x1200. That high pixel density — around 270 pixels per inch--results in very crisp, clear text and video. Business documents are readable no matter how fine the fine print.
You needn't be concerned that desktop elements will appear unusably tiny at this resolution. The desktop scales to 200 percent by default, which makes icons and thumbnails look about the same as they would on a 1280x800 display. That's large enough that I can navigate the OS with my fingertip while holding the device. When I'm sitting at my desk with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, I'm comfortable with scaling set to 150 percent, so I can see more content at once.
Display brightness is good at both ends of the spectrum. I could read outside in bright sunlight and in the dark without burning my eyes out. The sound emanating from the stereo speakers near the bottom is decent for a tablet of this size. You won't fill a boardroom with an amazing audio presentation, but you'll annoy your next-cube neighbor just fine.
Where's the pen?
Given Lenovo's collaboration with both Wacom and N-trig on previous ThinkPad tablets, I had hoped to see an active digitizer in a business-oriented ThinkPad tablet. I've used Windows tablets in my studio for years, and the ability to mark up PDFs with a pen was a large part of what I did all day. I tried a capacitive stylus with the ThinkPad 8, but it didn't work well in either OneNote or Windows.
Lenovo beefed up the ThinkPad 8 by including a quad-core Intel Atom Z3770 processor, instead of the lesser Atom Z3740 found in most of its 8-inch competitors. Like those devices, it comes outfitted with 2GB of memory, but it offers twice as much standard storage--64GB--and you can upgrade to 128GB for an additional $140.
When we benchmarked the Thinkpad 8 with PCMark 8: Work, Lenovo's tablet slightly outperformed tablets with Intel's Atom Z3740 processor, but it fell slightly behind the Atom Z3770-powered Dell Venue 11 Pro. (That device has an 11-inch screen with resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. It earned a PCMark: Work score of 1404, to the ThinkPad 8's 1378.) In my usage, the ThinkPad 8 handled everything I threw at it, including some more intense desktop programs, but it just didn't leave me as impressed as the Venue Pro 11 (which is far more versatile in terms of its optional accessories).
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