Running Windows 8.1 with a 1.3GHz Intel Bay Trail processor, this 8-inch tablet from Lenovo is a better-selection-of-apps away from unseating the iPad as the perfect portable companion for the home user. It is, in my opinion, the best sub-$500 option for work productivity. But that doesn’t mean the device itself is perfect. I purchased this tablet when it went on sale from $299 to $199 at Best Buy a few days ago. It included Microsoft Office 2013 Student Edition at no cost. Below are my impressions.
This is gorgeous. Lenovo has impressed me in the past 12 months with their designs. Most recently with the high-powered gaming laptop, the Y510p. The Miix 2 weighs in at 12.2 ounces and is 0.3 inches thick. It has a black bezel and wrapped around the sides and back with a slick silver chassis. Unlike other Windows-based tablets, the Miix 2 intuitively places the “windows” button at the bottom when held vertically. On the right side you’ll find a power button, volume switch, a micro SD reader and micro USB input near a headphone jack. The silver “Lenovo” logo on the top left sits beautifully against the black bezel.
Under the hood is a 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3740 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage. This yields a fresh boot of Windows 8.1 in under 12 seconds. While this tablet is zippy and quite stable, it is not going to get you very far without using the micro SD slot for additional storage. Between the OS and included Office 2013 I was left with roughly 8GB of storage. That’s 2 HD movies or any video game from before 2007. For me, that’s not going to cut it. I wanted to try running newer games such as Diablo 3 and Marvel Heroes. And I’m not about to install them onto a micro SD card.
The Miix 2 includes a 2MP front-facing camera and an 8MP rear-facing camera. I will use this on an upcoming episode of our podcast for testing purposes. Finally, battery life is roughly 8 hours. It will get you through a business day.
Here we go: Windows 8.1 is a schizophrenic and confused operating system. It’s 20% perfect for tablets and 80% perfect for laptops and desktops. That means that without a pen or mouse, using the “desktop” half of Windows 8.1 on any tablet is challenging. Simple functions such as copy and paste of files is like a dizzy blind-folded 3-year-old hitting a pinata. Still, my eyes light up when I see the full-featured Windows desktop on this sharp 8-inch screen. I installed Steam and my cloud-server client without issue. On the “tablet” side of Windows 8.1 is a really easy to use app layout. The selection includes some standouts such as Skype, Internet Explorer, and Smart Glass. I also like to read AppyGamer and the standard News app. Where iOS stands out, of course, is its enormous App Store filled with solid games and apps for productivity and entertainment. If you had enough disk space (perhaps by purchasing the Miix 2 with the 64GB SSD) you wouldn’t feel as inadequate. After all, you’d be able to play PC games on an 8-inch tablet. I do expect this to change for the better as Microsoft continues to bring their best franchises to the PC and blur the lines between PC and Xbox Console.
The processor is strong, the chassis and screen are gorgeous. What sets this tablet back is storage space. As fantastic a job as Lenovo has done with the hardware, they are weighed down by Windows 8.1’s confused interfaces. Regardless, it’s exciting to boot up into Windows and actually get some work done on the go with the pre-installed Office 2013. I can see myself taking this on business trips instead of my iPad. Microsoft needs to clean up the interface with Windows 9 and make it backwards compatible. But that’s an article for another time.