|Introduction & Specifications|
|As a follow-up to its ThinkPad 8 tablet (see our review), Lenovo has now incorporated Intel's Bay Trail platform into its larger size ThinkPad 10, a business-ready slate the company claims can offer users a full PC experience. Stopping there would be selling this tablet a bit short, however, as it's really a multi-mode device that can serve a number of purposes, both during and after business hours. Ideally, this would negate the need to purchase separate systems for work and play.
What Lenovo's really doing here is tapping into the potential of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 ecosystem. From the beginning, Microsoft envisioned Windows 8/8.1 as a universal operating system built for work, play, and everything in between, but software will only get you so far. It's up to Microsoft's hardware partners to figure out how best to take advantage of Windows 8.1, and with the ThinkPad 10, Lenovo's answer is to accessorize the platform.
In addition to the tablet itself, Lenovo sent us its QuickShot cover, keyboard, and docking station. Instead of forcing them down your throat and extracting additional funds for the privilege, each of these accessories are sold separately as optional add-ons. By going this route, consumers only end up spending money on the features and functionality they want and need. Some people might be content with a powerful Windows 8.1 tablet, whereas others might want the added convenience of a hardware keyboard during work hours.
The list of hardware is pretty impressive for a 10.1-inch tablet. Sitting inside is an Intel Atom Z3795 quad-core processor (Bay Trail) clocked at 1.6GHz-2.4GHz with integrated Intel HD 4600 Graphics, which provides plenty of oomph to drive the tablet's 10.1-inch Full HD (1920x1200) touchscreen display.
At the $599 starting price, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage come standard, though you can select up to 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. If you find you need more after the fact, there's a microSD card slot, plus a plethora of cloud options out there, including Microsoft's OneDrive, which the Redmond outfit recently made more attractive by offering more free storage and dropping subscription plans by 70 percent.
You may have noticed from the spec sheet that the ThinkPad 10 sports a full size USB port, but it's a last generation USB 2.0 flavor. That's a bit of a buzz kill, though as we'll get to later, the optional dock adds USB 3.0 connectivity for those who really need it.
So, is this the Windows 8.1 tablet to get? Let's take a closer look.
|Design & Accessories|
|The overall functionality of the ThinkPad 10 is directly tied to the accessories you choose to equip it with, which is by design -- Lenovo's ecosystem of optional add-ons is a major selling point compared to the competition. We have three on-hand to examine, including the QuickShot cover ($45), Ultrabook Keyboard ($119), and Tablet Dock ($129). There's also a Protector case ($69) and Touch Case ($119) available, and as time goes on, we expect even more accessories will find their way to the ThinkPad 10. We'll take a look at the three Lenovo sent us, but first, let's get up close and personal with the ThinkPad 10 itself.
At just 1.3 pounds, the ThinkPad 10 certainly fits into the light and portable category with ease. Like all tablets in this size range, fatigue will inevitably become a factor after extended one-hand holding, but with a two-handed grip, you can squeeze in plenty of reading time before bed.
A sizable bezel tracks around the main display. This gives your thumbs a place to rest, and in our testing, accidental screen taps never became a problem. This was true no matter which way we held the ThinkPad 10. We weren't sure if this would be the case after noticing its asymmetrical shape -- the top two corners are rounded while the bottom two are flat and sharp. Lenovo designed its tablet that way to accommodate the wealth of accessories that clip onto the bottom section.
The 10.1-inch touchscreen display sports an IPS panel with a 1920x1200 resolution. It's protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass and supports Lenovo's Digitizer Pen, which will come bundled with some models. A Full HD resolution might not seem all that exciting compared to the ultra high resolutions being offered by some Android and iOS tablets, but it's very much a sweet spot for a Windows 8.1 tablet designed for work and play. Once you go too much higher, funky things can happen on the desktop in terms of icon sizing (a pixel scaling issue) and navigating built-in tools for applications that weren't written to take advantage of ultra high resolutions (such as Photoshop). Lenovo chose the ThinkPad 10's resolution wisely, and being an IPS panel, you're able to see the display from a variety of viewing angles.
Compared to Apple's iPad Air, the ThinkPad 10 is slightly thicker at 0.35 inches (8.89mm) versus 0.29 inches (7.5mm). It's more comparable to Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 (see our review) in that regard, which itself is 0.36 inches thick and weighs 1.76 pounds. That's to say it's not the thinnest or lightest tablet available, though it's not chunky and it feels solid thanks in part to its aluminum construction.
We haven't talked about the speakers yet, and that's because they're firing out of the ThinkPad 10's backside. If holding the tablet in landscape mode, the stereo speakers are found on the left and right side. There's enough volume to compensate for rear-facing speakers, though in terms of quality, we found the built-in speakers to be a bit tinny, even by tablet standards.
An 8-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash occupies the top-left corner of the backside. Over on the front of the tablet is a 2-megapixel webcam. Both cameras can record in 1080p.
The optional QuickShot cover runs $45 from Lenovo. A felt-like material protects the tablet's display when closed, while magnets inside the cover put the ThinkPad 10 to sleep and wake it up when opened.
When you open the cover and lay it flat on the tablet's back, the rear-facing camera is covered. However, you don't have to remove the cover to snap pics -- there's a flap in the upper-right corner that folds back and magnetically snaps into place. This also fires up the camera app automatically.
The last trick of the QuickShot cover is to serve as a stand. Just fold the cover back into a tent and the tablet sits propped up for watching movies on Netflix, YouTube, and so forth.
A ThinkPad 10 Ultrabook Keyboard is available for $119, as is a Touch Case, which is a folio type case with an integrated keyboards. Lenovo sent us the former, and if you're planning on doing a lot of typing, it's the better option. The keyboard is compared to the ones found on Lenovo's laptops, only a little flatter. The curved keycaps are easy to type on and there's sufficient spacing between keys to keep from tripping over yourself.
The integrated touchpad is a different story. At first we thought there was something wrong with our ThinkPad 10 sample because mouse movements via the touchpad were jerky -- an errant app hogging too many CPU cycles, perhaps? It turns out the touchpad just isn't all that great with continued movement. We verified this by plugging a mouse into the tablet's USB port, after which the cursor sprinted back and forth the length of the display without any hiccups. The touchpad is fine for short bursts, but long stretches of movement, the loss of finger detection will drive you batty.
All work and no play might make Jack a dull boy, but try telling Jack's wife and kids they need to sell their home and all their belongings because dad was fired for neglecting his work. Jack could avoid such an unhappy fate by picking up a Tablet Dock for $129. This gives Jack three USB 3.0 ports to play with, as well as an Ethernet port and full size HDMI port, and it also serves as a charging station. That means at the end of the work day, you can pop the ThinkPad 10 out of the dock, put the QuickShot cover on, and bring home a fully charged tablet.
|Camera Performance & Software|
|As previously mentioned, there's a 2-megapixel camera on the front of the ThinkPad 10 and an 8-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash on the back. Both can record video in 1080p.
Having an office located in Michigan affords us a unique opportunity to test camera performance under a variety of unpredictable weather scenarios. To start with, we snapped a handful of photos just after a rainstorm and under gloomy conditions. This is roughly the equivalent to indoor lighting, provided you don't live in an underground bunker.
There's quite a bit of software that comes pre-installed on the ThinkPad 10. Several of these belong to Lenovo, such as its Solution Center, ThinkVantage System Update, Photo and Video Editors, Tap to Share (QuickCast) and a few others.
Lenovo also bundled in a bunch of third-party apps. They don't clutter the desktop, though they do splash the Start screen. Most of it is trialware, such as 30 days of Norton Internet Security 2014 and Office 365. Had this tablet shipped with the regular version of Windows 8.1, you'd get a year of Office 365 Personal, but since it's Windows 8.1 Pro, Microsoft only allows a free 30-day trial.
|Performance: Web Browsing|
Lenovo's ThinkPad 10 starting things off in fine fashion by racing to the top of the charts. It scored 357.4ms in SunSpider, second only to Lenovo's own ThinkPad 8, which scored 326.6ms. They're the only two of the entire bunch to post scores lower than 400ms (note that lower is better/faster).
Browsermark is a bit more rounded in its evaluation web performance. It focus on page loading, page resizing, conformance testing, network speed, WebGL, Canvas, HTML5, and CSS3/3D performance. The ThinkPad 10 leapfrogged ahead of the ThinkPad 8, joining the upperclassmen with scores of 3,000 or higher (unlike SunSpider, higher scores are better/faster in Browsermark). Comparatively, it was nearly a draw with NVIDIA's Shield handheld with only 24 points of separation.
One interesting thing to note is that the top five spots all belong to non-Windows platforms (iOS, Chrome OS, and Android). This is probably due to the additional overhead in Windows. That said, the ThinkPad 10 posted the highest score of any Windows-based slate.
When we switched our focus to graphics, it didn't take long for the ThinkPad 10's performance to take a step back. Scoring in the middle of the pack is consistent with what we saw with the smaller size ThinkPad 8.
We witnessed more of the same in the Egypt Off Screen test. The ThinkPad 10's Intel HD Graphics 4600 isn't built for hardcore gaming, though there's enough pixel pushing oomph to approach 40fps in this test. That's not bad in and of itself, though obviously there are other tablet solutions out there if gaming is your main priority.
The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 scored well (compared to many of the tablets we've recently tested) but again fell slightly behind the Dell Venue 8 Pro in the 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme score. Neither device is a match for tablets like the iPad Air when it comes to heavy-duty graphics.
|Performance: Battery Life|
|Lenovo didn't disclose what size battery the ThinkPad 10 is toting, though the company claims you can squeeze up to 10 hours of run time before racing to the nearest wall socket. It's an interesting metric, considering Lenovo rates the smaller ThinkPad 8 at up to 8 hours. In any event, we tested this by running the tablet at half brightness and refreshing a web page every few minutes until the battery gives up the ghost. This is a relatively lightweight tests, save for the the display and system being turned on and awake throughout the duration of the test.
In this test, the ThinkPad 10 lasted 8 hours and 45 minutes. That's above the claim for the ThinkPad 8, though short of the maximum claim for this tablet. Despite how the graph makes it look, that's not bad -- keep in mind that that the 10.1-inch display is never allowed to turn off during this benchmark.
What this boils down to is all-day battery life, though that's going to depend on what kind of load you're putting the tablet. For general purpose work chores, your results shouldn't be too far off, versus watching movies and playing games, which will inevitably shorten battery life.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
|Performance Summary: Wrapping Intel's Bay Trail platform in a 10.1-inch tablet and then injecting 2GB of RAM into the mix is a fine recipe for a daily workhorse. By that we mean productivity chores -- Microsoft Office, researching topics on the web, and anything else that isn't overly demanding. The ThinkPad 10 posted strong web browser scores in SunSpider and Browsermark, and even the graphics performance was acceptable for a business-class machine, though far from being this tablet's focus.
Can a Windows 8.1 tablet truly replace your laptop? Just as Microsoft set to prove it can with its Surface Pro 3, Lenovo also believes it can be done, and its ThinkPad 10 is the tablet it envisions doing it. To some extent, Lenovo succeeds. The 10.1-inch display with its 1920x1200 resolution complements Windows 8.1 nicely, and the Bay Trail platform provides sufficient muscle for general purpose computing chores and productivity software.
It's when your workloads are more demanding that the ThinkPad 10 falters, at least as configured. For tasks that include serious photo editing (Photoshop) and other types of content creation, you really should be looking at a Haswell-based machine with more RAM, possibly a dedicated GPU, and a 64-bit OS.
That's to say there's a performance ceiling with the ThinkPad 10, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. As configured, this is a $599 slate -- the same price as Apple's 32GB iPad Air, but a heck of a lot more functional. Make no mistake, this isn't solely a content consumption tablet, though you can use it as one after the work day is done. Instead, Lenovo built a multi-mode tablet that can tackle a variety of tasks.
One of the big selling points is the robust ecosystem of accessories. Whether it's a hardware keyboard or docking station that you need to get through the work day, Lenovo has you covered (for a cost). It's almost a modular system in that sense, though we prefer to think of the ThinkPad 10 as a Surface Pro Lite. It may not be as powerful, but it's just as flexible and costs less to boot.