As has become the unofficial norm with Windows 8-based tablets, this one also measures 11.6 inches. But unlike dedicated tablets, an example being the iPad
, this Lenovo device has a widescreen format. What's this mean in practical terms? Well, this layout makes the IdeaTab Lynx (and every other widescreen 11.6" slate) occasionally odd to use as a tablet. The iPad is about as large as a slate can get without being awkward to use, while 7" units tend to be far more useable for those with average-sized hands. The Lynx's wide stance means that you can't realistically use this with one hand, and trying to type on it without having it propped up or on your lap could be a lesson in frustration.
The good news, however, is that you aren't likely to use this device so much as a standalone tablet. Moreover, those that do find themselves in situations where using the optional keyboard dock isn't in the cards will appreciate the Metro interface. Those big icons are easy to swipe through, and it works quite well when you're mostly out to consume information and get yourself up to date. When it comes time to be productive, the "desktop" side of Windows 8 is still where it's at, and of course, having a physical keyboard and trackpad comes in handy.
Despite being classed as an IdeaTab (and not a ThinkPad), the unit is still surprisingly sturdy. A lot of these elongated tablets tend to exhibit some amount of flex, but the Lynx is solid and rigid throughout. The rear has a textured gray finish that's actually quite useful in helping the user keep their grip when using it as a tablet. It's also delightfully thin (0.30 - 0.38"), and while the bezel may seem a little thick at a glance, it's actually nice to have. The bezel actually gives you plenty of room to position your thumbs when grasping the tablet.
Along the bottom, there are two latch inputs and a micro-USB port (which doubles as the connector to the optional keyboard dock). On the right edge, there's a micro-HDMI socket and a 3.5mm headphone / microphone combo jack. The microSD card slot and the Power button are along the top, while the left edge is home to a rotation screen lock and a volume rocker.
There's but a single physical button on the front -- that Windows key that takes you back from anywhere onto the Start (Metro) screen. The IPS panel boasts only a 1366x768 resolution, but at least it's vivid, sharp, and the viewing angles are terrific. We occasionally found ourselves longing for a few more pixels, but when you consider the price, it's clear that this device is aimed at a segment that won't be clamoring for full 1080p resolution.
Oddly, the sole micro-USB port is used for both charging and for peripherals -- things like a USB card carder, USB optical drive, etc. In other words, you can't exactly charge and use the USB port for an accessory unless you buy a split cable that can handle both. On the upside, this is one of the few Windows 8 computers that you can charge over USB. Think about that. A machine running a full copy of Windows 8, but there's no power brick needed. It would be nice if every laptop made could also be charged over a simple USB connection.
While the panel itself is surely glossy, it did a great job of not showcasing fingerprints too terribly. Yes, they appear, and yes, you'll need to wipe it down after a few days of use, but we anticipated that the issue would be far more serious than it ended up being. As for touch performance, it's laudable. Exceptional, actually. In Metro, we never had an issue with the screen responding to our exact touch inputs. On the Windows 8 desktop, however, it's more difficult. The same could be said for using Windows 8 with any touch panel; it's just not built for use with fat fingers. It's built for use with a precision cursor being directed by a mouse.
There's no rear camera here, but we aren't missing it. Truth told, my opinion is, no one with any dignity should take photos with a tablet. The front-facing camera works fine for Skyping, though.
As for software -- anyone who has used Windows 8
on a tablet will find it all very familiar. Lenovo throws a few special apps on here, but in reality, they aren't all that special. Many of those same pre-installed programs (like Skype, eBay, Kindle, and Merriam-Webster) can also be found on Samsung slates that run Windows 8. The good news is that it's fairly bloat-free as far as a pre-built Windows rig goes. Yes, there's an Atom and Windows 8 sticker on the rear, but they're easy enough to remove.
The Charms tool bar is useful for searching for items that are now buried due to the removal of the conventional Start menu (like Task Manager, Control Panel, etc.), and it all worked very fluidly in practice. Despite having just a dual core Atom chip at the helm, overall snappiness was quite good due to tablet's flash-based storage. It's amazing what flash can do. This device would feel significantly slower with a traditional HDD, and while we would obviously found ourselves wishing for more than 35GB of usable storage, the speed improvements are tough to scoff at.
Speaking of storage limitations, it's obvious that heavy users of the Lynx are going to need to lean heavily on the cloud. There's just no way to store everything you'd typically store on a Windows 8 laptop here. Your images and videos? Those need to be on a cloud. You can stuff a few documents and the like here, but most users are going to run out of space in no time if not looking to the cloud for storage, instead of local storage. Unfortunately, Lenovo nor Microsoft provides bonus cloud storage. You can get 7GB of SkyDrive space, but that's meager. We wish these companies would take a note from Google; the Chromebook Pixel comes with 1TB of Google Drive storage for free for three years. That's a great way to differentiate and compete.
It's also worth noting that the typical Windows 8 hang-ups are still here. For example, it's particularly frustrating that any IE surfing sessions started in Metro don't port over to the IE on the desktop side of Windows; these run independent of one another, which makes little sense. There's also no Start menu (nor an option to recreate it), and in general, Windows 8 just occasionally feels awkwardly less accessible.
We'll close this section with a mention of the $120 keyboard dock. It's well designed, and it brings a pair of USB 2.0 ports to the equation. The tablet easily slides (and locks) into place, and you instantly have access to a mouse cursor courtesy of the built-in trackpad. However, the keyboard dock is a less quality component than the tablet itself. It's very plastic feeling, and the keys themselves are quite mushy. If you're accustomed to a solid ThinkPad keyboard, prepare to be a little disappointed. The keys also feel a little cramped. The trackpad, while a nice extra, is small. Moreover, it doesn't support gestures, so there's no two-finger scrolling up and down Web pages (as an example).
Truth be told, the keyboard dock's biggest benefit is the internal battery. It easily doubles the lifespan of the tablet when the Lynx is docked, giving the entire package a crazy amount of battery life. If you're looking for a mobile machine with outrageous longevity, the Lynx's keyboard dock is a no-brainer option.