The race for a true iPad competitor is over, and now people are looking for tablets that do more than just act as a way of consuming content on the go. Lenovo’s latest tablet looks to offer that in the form of the ThinkPad 10, a new portable computer that bridges the gap between tablet, laptop, and desktop provided you buy the accessories.
The last time we checked out a Lenovo tablet, it was all about Android, with the Yoga 10 delivering a different interpretation of how a tablet looked with a focus squarely on entertainment. Before that, it was the ThinkPad Tablet, an Android tablet focused on the business sector, and while both of these were interesting, they weren’t really business-ready tablets.
This year, though, the focus for Lenovo’s tablets is back on business, starting with the ThinkPad 10, a product that indicates its screen size from the name alone. Yes, that “10” means it includes 10 inch screen, which in this case also runs a Full HD resolution of 1920×1200, relying on an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel protected by Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass.
Underneath the 10.1 inch screen is all the technology that will make this model shine, with Intel’s Z3795 quad-core Atom processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM, and 64GB storage built in and Windows 8.1 preinstalled. This storage can be upgraded with the microSD slot on the side of the tablet, which you’ll probably want to do given that Windows 8.1 only leaves you with roughly 30GB once you take it out of the box.
Graphics are handled with Intel’s HD4600 chipset, while the multimedia angle on the ThinkPad 10 is taken care of with a 2 megapixel front-facing camera and an 8 megapixel rear camera, both of which can capture video at 1080p Full HD.
Depending on the version you buy, the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 offers two sets of wireless options, with 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and Miracast part of both variants, with 4G LTE offered on top of those options in another model (4G/WiFi). The 4G model also supports Near-Field Communication and GPS, but only in that variant. Our review model supported the microSIM slot, but appeared to have no modem, making it the WiFi only model.
Ports are reasonably varied for a machine of this size, though some of them are a little surprising. As such, you’ll find a single USB 2.0 port behind a flap on the left side, just near Lenovo’s smaller proprietary power connector for charging the tablet. The right side of the tablet supports microSD and a microSIM (if you have the 4G version), with all of these sitting under a flap. Below this and near the bottom of the tablet, you’ll find a microHDMI port.
The bottom is a little bit interesting, though, with two proprietary ports for different accessories, with the small thin dock connector used for Lenovo’s desktop dock, while the five circle port to the right of this has been developed with Lenovo’s keyboard dock in mind. There are also some small crevices provided on this tablet to hook into accessories for stability.
A 3.5mm headset jack can also be found on the right side.
You will find a few buttons on this tablet, with both a power button and rotation lock button up top, and a volume rocker on the right side. The typical Windows Start logo found on Windows 8 tablets is also here, on the front of the device, acting as a button for the tablet to bring you back to the Windows 8 grid-based menu commonly referred to as Metro.
It may not be the first ThinkPad tablet, but Lenovo’s latest model isn’t just a tarted up re-release with new specs. No, this is no simple variant, as the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 is a totally different product from previous efforts.
For starters, there’s a new design here, with both soft squircle edges on one side and sharp rectangular edges on the other, providing a rather interesting look that obviously isn’t a clone. The reason for this design doesn’t appear to one based on simple aesthetics, though, as the harder straight edge makes the tablet fit into its dock accessories easily.
When this is done, you’ll find you have both laptop and desktop devices that actually resemble those styles of products, which we’ll get to shortly, because the accessories are just as important as the tablet itself.
Grab the tablet and you’ll find a thin and sleek device that’s totally different from the first ThinkPad tablet released by the company. It’s no longer big and chunky, but rather something that can compete with the products released by Apple, complete with an aluminium frame that’s comfortable to hold, with Lenovo’s typical charcoal coat of paint that looks very professional.
You may find a few fingerprints are stored by this paint job, that said, but close-to-black finish still gives off the impression that this is a computer made for business.
And that’s the feeling you should get when you use the computer because it’s paired with a decent amount of horsepower to make work — and a bit of play — possible.
The name should give it away, but in case you haven’t caught up with it yet, the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 is a 10 inch tablet, supporting a 10.1 inch screen. An important part of this 10 inch screen is the resolution, and Lenovo manages to go beyond what Microsoft used on its own 10 inch Windows-based Surface Pro models, running the slightly higher 1920×1200 resolution.
Is it a dramatic increase for Lenovo? No, not really, and mostly amounts to a difference of aspect ratios, but this Full HD resolution goes a long way to making Windows 8 look sharp on the ThinkPad 10.
Start using it and you’ll find the Intel Atom Z3795 makes the computer really perform, as it’s quick on its feet, letting us run multiple apps easily and switch between them without much lag at all.
We do need to note that this isn’t an Ultrabook like its Yoga or ThinkPad X series brother, so don’t expect Core i5 or i7 processing power, because you won’t get it.
Instead, you’ll find the Atom provides just enough grunt to get your work done and then some, while still providing the battery life you’re after (which we’ll get to shortly, as well).
We are going to tackle some of the accessories in this review, though, partly because they make the ThinkPad 10 even more usable, and closer to a laptop than some of the machines competing with it.
Our favourite has to be the ThinkPad keyboard dock (priced at $139), which isn’t just another Bluetooth keyboard, but rather a wired keyboard with a trackpad mouse. Wired is probably the wrong word though, because there’s no actual wire here, but rather a series of pins that connect with a flat port on the tablet, a connection which makes the tablet “wired,” so to speak.
That wired keyboard is a fair bit more useful than a Bluetooth not just because it can be used on flights, but also because the keyboard uses that port to take its power from the ThinkPad 10, meaning you don’t actually need to charge the keyboard accessory at all.
Also helping this keyboard dock accessory is the keyboard itself, which is well spaced and features excellent travel, similar to the keyboards Lenovo uses on its ThinkPad line of laptop computers. The left CTRL key is the only real change in the design, sitting just left of the Fn (function) button, and throwing out left hands used to reaching to the bottom left corner for a little control action, but other than that, it’s an excellent keyboard, and one we wouldn’t mind typing a novel or two on.
Lenovo has even managed to provide enough room for some function buttons, and while the volume and brightness buttons will be obvious inclusions, we were surprised to see buttons included for multitasking through the ALT+TAB keyboard combination (F9) and showing all the apps on Windows 8.1 (F10).
Lenovo’s keyboard dock even manages to pass our bus ride and type test with flying colours, which surprised us. We need to note that there is only one angle to show the screen in this dock, but thanks to Lenovo’s inclusion of a high grade panel, this is hardly a concern.
Add to this a magnetic connection, light as it is, and some clips helping to hold the tablet section into the keyboard dock and you not only have an accessory that makes the ThinkPad look like a laptop, but feel like one, too. When not in use, the keyboard dock will hold the tablet in position, so much so that it clips into place and doesn’t move until you decide to pull the tablet from its position.
Lenovo has also made two other cases, with the QuickShot acting as the Lenovo equivalent for the Apple Smart Cover, complete with magnets to let it cover the back, a section to flip down to let you use the camera with it on, and a fold over stand for watching movies.
The other case is Lenovo’s Protector, which takes a more ruggedised approach to give players like Panasonic a run for their money, with that last case even supporting a hand mount at the back for easy holding while in the field.
But there’s another accessory likely to grab the attention of computer users who don’t just work in the field, but also have a home or office to call their own.
This accessory is the ThinkPad Tablet dock ($149), and it’s basically a small brick of plastic that acts as both charger and port replicator, providing a way of quickly turning that 10 inch tablet into a desktop when you need it.
Like other docks, you simply place the tablet in the crevice provided, the dock connecting to the ThinkPad 10 via the proprietary short connector, which not only charges the laptop, but provides more inputs, including a Gigabit Ethernet port, a single stereo headphone and microphone headset 3.5mm jack, three USB 3.0 ports, and a lone HDMI port to plug in a monitor.
Between the keyboard dock and the desktop dock, the ThinkPad 10 manages to be one of the first tablets that feels like a real device that you can take between locations. No longer are you forced to carry a big laptop to and from work, and you don’t even have to work solely on that little tablet or laptop screen.
With the Lenovo ThinkPad 10, you can work in the field with the keyboard dock, turning the tablet into a sub-notebook, and then bring it back to the office and work on a big screen, say a 24 or 27 inch display with a larger keyboard attached. It’s a tablet that encourages you to work from lots of places, and it’s a pretty good effort altogether.
Beyond the accessories that make the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 feel like more of a computer, you’ll find a solid battery life, providing around nine hours of real world use, which is pretty impressive. That’s with the keyboard attached, so you might even be able to pull out a little more without it.
Size isn’t bad either, reminding us of the Surface Pro 2. By itself, the tablet is thin and light, but paired with the tablet keyboard dock, the size and thickness is reminiscent of Microsoft’s 10 inch Windows 8 machine, which is easy to carry, if not a wee bit chunky.
But the lack of ports will disappoint some, with only one USB port to speak of on the unit, located under a flap on the left edge of the tablet. Unfortunately, it’s only a USB 2.0 port, a bit of a let down when you consider that USB 3.0 pretty much comes with everything now, since it’s the new standard.
Also missing in action is support for the latest wireless technology, 802.11ac. You’ll find all the other typical connections here, with 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, but there is no support for what essentially amounts to the Gigabit WiFi connection known as 802.11ac.
While it’s a little on the exy side, Lenovo’s ThinkPad 10 is one of the best ultra-portable Windows machines we’ve seen yet, offering a slim design, great screen, and some accessories that really let you bridge the gap between laptop, desktop, and that tablet you prefer to carry.