In my experience slapping on a high-resolution screen onto a mobile chip powered device is a risky maneuver. Case-and-point with the Dell XPS 11, an insufficient processor can leave a machine woefully underpowered to handle both the display and full Windows operating system. Luckily that was not the completely the case with Lenovo's new tablet but its performance still leaves something to be desired.
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 10,002; Cloud Gate: 1,031
- PCMark 8 Home: 1,130
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 4 hours, 21 minutes
In our benchmark tests, the ThinkPad lagged behind the Iconia W4 and Venue 8 Pro with a lower Ice Storm score, in which the two machines ranked 13,905 and 14,007 points, respectively. However, the ThinkPad's faster processor made up for this deficiency in the more demanding Cloud Gate test, edging out the Dell, which could not run the test at all. Meanwhile, the Acer still managed to beat still beat the ThinkPad with 1,188 points.
Like the other tablets of its class, the ThinkPad 8 was not able to complete the Fire Strike test, which could be due to anything from an incompatible driver to the chip being pushed to its limits. The test is normally used to test real-time rendering with detail and complexity far beyond normal graphics of games today. Seeing as this is a business tablet, I would have been amazed if the ThinkPad 8 managed to finish the test.
Unfortunately, we could not gauge the CPU or GPU performance of the ThinkPad 8 in Cinebench, because the tablet has a 32-bit operating system. The latest version of the test only supports 64-bit Windows 8.1. While it's easy enough to find 32-bit versions of most business applications, it's a surprise that Lenovo chose this version of Windows 8.1, given the Intel Atom Z3770 is built on a 64-bit architecture.
While the Lenovo failed to pass the synthetic benchmarks with flying colors, in regular use the ThinkPad 8 handled multitasking desktop applications with a mix of Metro apps like a champ. Even with 25 Chrome tabs open, Spotify running, and Lightroom editing images all at the same time, the ThinkPad 8 never choked.
1080p? Try 1200p
A 1920 x 1200 resolution screen does not just look good on paper: it's a sight to behold. With such a pixel-dense screen, the ThinkPad 8 makes content look just as crisp as the current Nexus 7, which features the same pixel count. What's more, the color is balanced, without any extra saturation or hints of blue tint from the backlight. The display also boasts nearly 170-degree viewing angles all-around, which helps when sharing it to watch movies.
And while the tablet isn't a gaming machine by any stretch, it had no qualms with playing Hearthstone with the graphical settings set to low. The ThinkPad 8 also does an exceptional job with Steam's In-Home Streaming. With a wireless controller, I was able to race a gorgeous, lag-free lap of Grid 2 on my couch rather than in front of my gaming PC.
A need for odds and ends
Between its sharp screen and beefy CPU, the ThinkPad 8 is aimed at the office worker who wants to carry one machine to work and clip it into a dock at their desk. Supposedly, the Lenovo tablet is powerful enough to power an external display, or two, but TechRadar did not receive a USB 3.0 dock to test its capabilities. As for using the tablet as a standalone productivity machine, that's not quite in the cards.
Like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, Lenovo's latest tablet needs a keyboard to fully function as a workhorse. The built-in touch keyboard is functional, but annoyingly, it fills up half of the screen in landscape and a decent portion in portrait mode.
Worse yet, the touchscreen can also be frustrating to use because of its high resolution. While the 1200p screen makes media and text look crisp, it also turns menu buttons and even taskbar icons into tiny targets that take multiple taps to trigger. Ideally, I would have liked an option to increase the size of the icons and text but Windows 8.1 only comes with an option to scale everything to a smaller size.
Bummer of a battery
The one area where ThinkPad 8 is weakest by far is battery life. Where the Iconia W4 managed to last 8 hours and 30 minutes and the Venue 8 Pro for 8 hours and 17 minutes, the Lenovo hung on for a measly 4 hours and 21 minutes on the PCMark 8 battery test.
Even on a lighter endurance run, the ThinkPad 8 only lasted for 5 hours and 18 minutes of use with everyday applications, watching a movie on Netflix, and a quick round of gaming.
The ThinkPad 8 comes with plenty of bundled software, but most of it is replaceable. Quickcast and Reach are Lenovo device-specific file transfer clients that could be traded up to more open systems, like Dropbox or Box. The same goes with Rara Music, when nearly everyone already uses Spotify or another streaming service.
The most useful piece of Lenovo's software package is Hightail, a respun version of YouSendIt with 5GB of free cloud storage for Lenovo device owners. Hightail also has a few extra perks, like digital signatures and automatic backups. Otherwise, uninstall the Companion app once you get acclimated to the device, and keep Lenovo Support for access to service and the warranty information.