You don’t think Lenovo when you think about the best tablets.
Small is in again. Sub-10 inch tablets are more commonplace than ever before. Samsung is doing pretty well with the laudable Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 in the 7-inch form factor. Also, Apple’s iPad Mini is another success story for the tinier tablet brigade. On the Windows side of things, the promise from Intel and Microsoft was that the upcoming ARK atom processor would run full Windows 8.1. In my hot not-so-little hands is the brand new Lenovo Miix 2 8-inch and yes it’s powered by Intel Atom CPU Z3740 (ARK) processor and it is indeed sporting the newly minted Windows 8.1. If you already have a kindle, you might want to look into the Amazon Kindle 2.5 update (is now available).
ARK is Intel’s answer to the ARM camp of processors, which are more widely adopted and found in familiar devices like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy S4. Readers may remember, the competitive performance of Clover Trail is what earned Intel a seat at the mobile device table. Yet mobile device manufactures remained cautious, leading to a less-than-stellar adoption rate of the Clover Trail silicon. Early reports paint a promising picture for the new processor where performance and power consumption are the main deciding factors. So let’s take a look at the Lenovo Miix 2 and see how the marriage with ARK performs. And if you have an Android or iPad tablet, you may be interested in our weekly hack: How to use your Android tablet/iPad as second monitor review.
The aesthetics and design are immediately noticeable as a pleasant departure from the more plastic looking original 10in Miix. The unit is thinner and features an elegant chrome band that runs all around the periphery of the unit. It definitely adds a more distinguished flare and sexier styling. When placed in portrait view, the unit can be held in a single hand, yet not quite comfortably. I can manage it but I have rather long fingers. Ultimately it’s not advisable.
In portrait view the Lenovo logo is at the upper right. The Windows logo’d Home Button is at the bottom of the display and centered. The right-hand side plays home to the power button, volume rocker, MicroSD card slot and the mini USB port for charging the battery. Top right-hand side is where the headphone jack is located. Atop the display is the front-facing camera centered. The rear-facing camera is on the back of the unit and is aligned to the left. Finally a single speaker is opposite the rear-facing camera.
Lenovo has opted for an 8-inch HD 1280 x 800 resolution WXGA display in a IPS panel. This is a gorgeous display, even at this resolution and looks far better with enhanced clarity over the original Miix with its 1366 x 768. Reading text is a breeze yet still nowhere near as clear as iPad from last couple generations. But what the Miix 2 does well is color saturation. It’s impressively rich and lends itself to web browsing and watching videos and other moving media. Brightness and contrast are great and help with viewing the unit on well-lit days from multiple angles.
The tech powering this new little slab is surprisingly, unsurprising. Well the CPU is quite impressive. If you’re looking for a complete rundown of the new ARK (formerly Bay Trail) silicon, we have you covered here. As mentioned the Miix 2 is using an Intel Atom Z3740 Processor clocked at 1.33GHz. The memory on deck is decent 2GB LPDDR3 memory. Yet some may be shocked to see the dearth in storage space.
Our model uses a 32GB eMMC SSD storage solution. For a little extra cash you can opt for 64GB version. That’s not a bad options. The 32GB flavor only leaves you with about 9GB of usable storage space after the OS and other baked-in applications have gobbled up all the other 20+ gigs of living space on your drive. In our present state of media streaming and infinite cloud storage, 9GB is not so bad. This is a tablet. You’re not loading it up will all your heavy-weighted programs and games. In fact the Lenovo Miix 2 functions best a simple window to the internet and your favorite media.
The 2MP front-facing camera is admirable. But it’s the rear-facing 5MP camera that really impresses. It definitely clicks off clearer pictures with much less noise than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.0 7-inch.
It produces better outdoor photos than when in lower light environments. But that’s pretty typical without a host of variable flash features and other tech to help clean things up. You also don’t get much by way of editing tools. In fact, the default camera app is the rather simple and plain Windows 8.1 photo app.
Although we’re using a x64 CPU. This version of Windows is a 32-Bit operating software. Going beyond Windows 8.1 OS and the garden variety cache of apps that come part and parcel to the OS, there are a few additions. We have Skype, Skydrive, Lenovo App Shop and 30-day McAfee LiveSafe internet security. It’s nice to see a device that’s not loaded down with bloatware. Sadly, I’d bet this city’s finest HotPocket, that Camp Lenovo would have added more if not for that tiny 9GB of remaining storage space.
I’m really enjoying the Lenovo Miix 2. The battery life is sufficient and will net you a days worth of moderate use. You should see approx. 8-hours of battery life before a charge is needed. The display sharp, clear with excellent brightness and the touch sensitivity is very responsive. Intel’s new ARK CPU is super peppy, at least in this environment. Navigation through applications and UI is smooth and responsive. The unit feels great when held, although two hands are more secure than one. But it is noticeably more solid than the original. The Miix 2 is more elegant and fun to use than the original. My only really standout complaint is the lack of available storage in the 32GB variant. But a MicroSD card can expand things nicely. Overall the 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2 flaunts a more solid build, faster CPU on Windows 8.1, resulting in a decidedly more sophisticated machine that is highly affordable.
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