The iPad mini proved that an 8-inch tablet can hold more value to some than a 7-inch device. The extra inch seems to allow for more impressive content consumption, while also lending itself better to getting work done. While smartphones get larger, so must our tablets. I have been a believer that 8-inch tablets are more compelling than smaller ones while being more portable than their 10-inch brethren. Now imagine an iPad mini running full x86 Windows 8.1. That’s the Lenovo Miix 2 8.
- 8" HD 1280 x 800 WXGA IPS display
- Intel Atom “Bay Trail T” 1.8 GHz (1.3GHz non burst)
- 2 GB LPDDR3 memory
- 32GB/64GB/128GB eMMC storage
- Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (5GHz supported)
- 2MP front camera / 5MP rear camera
- Micro-USB, Micro SD, Audio Combo Jack
- 5.2" x 8.5" x 0.3” and only 0.77-lbs
- Up to 7 hours battery life (but I saw more)
- Stereo speakers (in one opening) and a single microphone
- Windows 8.1 and Office Home & Student 2013
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The Lenovo Miix 2 8 was available for shipping on Amazon for a few days, and I was lucky enough to grab the 32GB model. It has since become unavailable, but it should be back in stock soon. There are several other 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets out now or coming soon. I picked the Lenovo because it was one of the thinnest, and is definitely the lightest. It has been used for a week, at both home and work. The battery was tested under various conditions, and the device only needed to be fully charged once. It came almost topped off, although it need to be plugged in before powering on the first time. After powering on, all available system updates, drivers and software updates were downloaded and installed. I let it sync settings and apps from my Surface 2. Work email was configured via the stock mail app via Exchange Active Sync.
It is all about the in-hand feel. And boy, does the Lenovo Miix 2 8 feel great! I owned an iPad mini previously, and this is the closest I have felt any device come. The back has a nice, ever so grippy matte texture. The very bottom has a shiny and smooth chin. The rear camera is no standout, but it is nice to have it. The speakers (although you really only see one) output a nice sound, albeit bass free. It did impress my coworkers while playing back a movie trailer on YouTube via Hyper. There is a standout feature, and it is on the front of the device. The screen is very, very good. Colors and backlighting are balanced. No dead or stuck pixels are present. Brightness is adequate, although I tend to use my device in low light conditions. Video playback is near flawless. YouTube, Vevo, NBC News and Watch ABC content all look incredible. The bottom bezel is the biggest, and that is where the capacitive Windows key sits. Originally I did have some issues* with it, however everything was resolved after a system refresh. Lenovo did build in some sort of accidental protection, so it works better than most. The rest of the bezels are at or below average size. It feels just as good in portrait as it does in landscape. One handing the device is no problem, at least for me. You won’t believe Windows 8.1 runs (and runs well) on something this light.
Just as impressive as the screen, is overall Modern UI performance. Video content ramps up to HD quality near immediately. I found myself watching 1080p content more on this device than any other midsize tablet. The Bay Trail Atom’s quad cores are perfectly suited to 1080p video playback, including 8-12GB MKV files. Apps launch quickly, multitasking is near perfect, and games don’t skip a beat. This tablet makes the ARM-based Surface 2 look like a slouch. That’s right, Xbox Music, Halo: Spartan Assault, Mail and Facebook load significantly faster than on the Surface 2. Clearly Windows is more optimized for x86 platforms than any ARM chipset. The only place it falls behind is on the desktop. It could be that the Surface and Surface 2 don’t have much to do in the desktop, but the Lenovo Mixx 2 8 is noticeably slower. Yes, that means Office 2013 performs worse on this device than the Surface 2. Not a deal breaker, as you can run any x86 Windows app on this tablet versus nothing but Office RT on the ARM-based Surfaces. The battery lasted me 2-3 days with my mild usage of a couple hours per day. This is a good day or more longer than my Surface 2’s battery.
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The device boots quickly, and gets you going right away. Every Modern UI app I tested felt better at 8-inches that at the Surface 2’s 10.6-inches. Amazon, 500px, Flixster and Netflix just felt right. New games like Star Wars: Tiny Death Star and Six Guns were easier to play, and provided more enjoyment. The Windows 8.1 mail app is a true pleasure. Work email is easy to keep up with, and the on screen keyboard in landscape can be used with two thumbs. At least for my big hands, thanks to the thin and light design of the device. Desktop Office apps were slow to open and load data, but they were touch navigable. This device excels at one handed use in portrait mode. In landscape, it feels better with two hands on the device. Hopping between meetings is where the Lenovo Miix 2 8 shines. You can keep up with your emails, Office documents and Remote Desktop needs (even via VPN). In your free time, various apps and IE 11 offer just about everything you need.
Buy one at $299. Use the SD card slot to compliment the 32GB on-board storage. If the Lenovo’s styling isn’t for you, check out offerings from Dell, Toshiba, and Acer. But it is truly amazing that you can have a full featured PC in a less than 1-pound package. Windows 8.1 and the Modern UI are perfect for this size. The desktop is there if you need it, and Bluetooth support means pointing devices and/or keyboards can be attached. There is no display out port however, and only one micro-USB. Lenovo is offering a detachable cover that can house a capacitive stylus. No active digitizer here, but sometimes that is OK. It is nice to see more and more games and other apps make their way to the Windows Store. Full x86 Windows means any app your desktop or laptop PC can run, so can this tablet. But don’t spend too much time in the desktop. The Modern UI is where this tablet stands out. It’s gorgeous screen and solid performance give other touch focused tablets a run for their money. In my opinion, you can take the Lenovo Miix 2 8 anywhere and it won’t likely let you down.
* The capacitive Windows key seemed impossible to enable without a double tap. I think the error protection was being too cautious. However, it works fine now after I reset the device.