The ThinkPad 10 is a tablet that wants to be your laptop. That's not an unheard of concept, thanks to the likes of Microsoft Surface Pro, various transformers like the HP Split x2 and keyboard-optional tablets like the Dell Venue 11 Pro. However, at just 10.1", the ThinkPad 10 is one of the smallest to straddle both worlds. Make no mistake, it's a tablet first and foremost though, and one that runs full Windows 8.1 32 bit rather than the hobbled RT edition. The ThinkPad 10 will start at $599, which is a wee bit on the steep side, but you do get higher end amenities like a slightly better than full HD 1920 x 1200 display, both multi-touch and Wacom digital pen and a full size USB 2.0 port on the tablet rather than a fiddly and obscure adapter-craving micro USB port. Since it's a ThinkPad, you also get a rugged build and Gorilla Glass, but that doesn't mean the tablet is bulky and heavy; it's 1.3 lbs. and 0.35" thick. Put it next to the iPad Air and it doesn't look like a wildebeest. Put it next to the slower, lower resolution ThinkPad Tablet 2 it replaces and it looks similar.
As with most smallish Windows tablets, the ThinkPad 10 runs on the quad core Intel Atom Bay Trail CPU. This is the faster 1.6GHz Z3795 with Turbo Boost to 2.4GHz. It's about twice as fast as the last generation dual core Atom and much faster than Netbooks of old. No, it's not nearly as fast as Ultrabooks or Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 with Intel Core CPUs, but it's plenty competent to handle everyday productivity and school tasks like MS Office, web, email, full HD video playback and photo editing. The tablet has 2 gigs of DDR3 RAM soldered on board (not upgradable), and Lenovo's website says up to 4 gigs for configurations, though we've yet to see a manufacturer follow through with a 4 gig Intel Atom tablet. Like all Atom-based machines, the ThinkPad 10 uses eMMC storage (think of it as a non-removable MMC or SD card) rather than the faster ATA-based SSD storage. That means the 64 gigs of internal storage doesn't contribute great speed here, but it does use much less power and is shockproof, unlike spinning HDDs.
The tablet has dual band Broadcom WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 and 3G/4G LTE with a micro SIM card slot is optional. The front 2MP camera is quite capable for video chat and the rear 8 megapixel camera with flash is pretty good by tablet standards. It works with Lenovo's $45 black and red Quickshot cover that protects the screen and when flipped back has a magnetic flap that reveals and launches the camera app. Location services are provided via WiFi triangulation on the WiFi model, but we'd assume inserting a SIM card would provide aGPS location.
There's no other way to put it: the tablet looks ThinkPad-ish. That matte black finish, rigid build and no-nonsense design say ThinkPad as much as the logo on the back with the usual glowing dot on the "i" that lets you know that tablet is turned on. There's no flex here and the glass mates with the casing evenly. Our only small complaint is the fiddly plastic covers for the USB port and card slots: they seem a bit cheap and the USB cover is hard to seat. Like the ThinkPad Helix (a more expensive and powerful Intel Core tablet with included keyboard dock), the tablet's top corners are rounded but the bottom edge is flat since it mates with the optional $119 Ultrabook keyboard. Happily that accessory isn't the complex contraption that is the Helix keyboard.
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Lenovo ThinkPad 10 Video Review
Display and Pen
The display is crisp and quite bright with wide viewing angles. It competes well against the full HD Dell Venue 11 Pro and the Surface Pro 2. It's clearly a step above 1366 x 768 displays on less expensive tablets in terms of sharpness, though at 10.1", I'd argue that even 720p looks acceptable. The real star here is the included pen; a must have for note takers, some vertical market customers and artists. It allows for precise writing and drawing and you can rest your hand on the glass when using the pen - something you can't do with a capacitive stylus. The pen and digitizer are Wacom technology with 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Wacom is well-supported by art programs that use the legacy WinTab drivers, so Photoshop works fine out of the box with pressure levels, as does Corel Painter. More modern apps that use the Windows Ink API will of course work as well, since pretty much every digital pen technology works there.
Lenovo's included pen isn't the hand-cramping toothpick bundled with the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga. Of course, a toothpick will fit in a slim laptop or tablet, but this normal size pen doesn't. That means you'll need to keep track of it when transiting the tablet, or buy one of Lenovo's accessory covers or keyboards that has a pen holder. The pen has a spring-loaded eraser on the end, though it's not rounded as I'd prefer, so using the edge for more precise erasing means dragging that abrupt edge against the glass. Happily, this is Gorilla Glass and the pen's eraser edges are nicely machined for smoothness, so there's likely no need for concern.
Accessories Make the Tablet?
Like Dell, Lenovo understands the importance of accessories, especially those that transform a tablet into something more. Enter the Ultrabook Keyboard, a robust weighted keyboard that feels as much like the wonderful AccuType ThinkPad keyboards as anything this pint-sized could. That was a hint: yes the keyboard is truly amazing given its size, but nothing gets around the fact it's small at 10.1". If you're a fella with big hands, it might be too small for you. That said, I have very long fingers and fairly large hands and I managed just fine. In fact, unlike other keyboards this size, my mind didn't constantly wander to my desktop or full size laptop keyboard and how much more efficient they feel. The keys are tactile, have that Lenovo smile shape to keep your fingers located and travel is good for such a thin device. It reminds me of the ThinkPad X120e keyboard, and that's a compliment.
As the Ultrabook name implies, the keyboard turns the ThinkPad 10 into a tiny Ultrabook of sorts. When the tablet is docked in the clamshell position, it looks and feels like a slim little laptop or a classy netbook. There are two positions: closed clamshell and open with a moderate tilt back for the display. Locator holes and weak magnets hold the tablet in laptop position and there's a ledge to prevent wobble. It's fairly secure, but not as versatile as a hinge like that of the Acer Aspire Switch 10 keyboard dock given the single viewing angle. The keyboard has no other features beyond a very wide but short trackpad that works quite well. There are no ports, battery or storage in the keyboard.
For those who like to travel lighter, there's the also $119 Touch Case, a wrap-around slim case with keyboard. The keys and trackpad are touch sensitive, like the Microsoft Surface Touch Cover. We received the Ultrabook keyboard but not the Touch Case for review, so I can only surmise that the typing experience in terms of tactile feel won't be fantastic, but the upside is that it's lighter.
We're not done with accessories yet. We covered the Quickshot cover earlier in this review, and it's a pleasing, slim cover with camera activation that folds into a stand. Lenovo will also sell a rugged bumper case. And there's one more goodie: the $129 ThinkPad 10 dock, which is a desktop stand and it also offers a healthy selection of ports: 3 USB 3.0, full size HDMI, Ethernet and charging (a 65 watt ThinkPad laptop style charger is included in the box).
Lenovo claims 10 hours of actual use time on a charge. Manufacturer claims are generally optimistic, and in this case, we averaged 8.5 hours with brightness set at a very adequate 50% and WiFi turned on. As with most tablets except the competing Dell Venue 11 Pro, the battery is not removable unless you're willing to dismantle your tablet.
Since Windows 8 hit the market, we've seen a variety of transformers, tablets and convertibles hit the market. The second generation machines have been quite good, and particularly the Intel Atom Bay Trail models are finally worth looking at thanks to significant performance improvements. That is, if you're needs focus on everyday productivity. The Dell Venue 11 Pro is a viable opponent, also running on Bay Trail but with a lower price tag. If you don't need the pen, it's certainly worth a look and we applaud the removable battery. If you do need the pen, the Dell's isn't very good, so I'd go with the ThinkPad 10. Dell also sells a $159 keyboard dock that has a battery inside for phenomenally long runtimes.
If $599 or $499 plus $120 for a keyboard is more than you can spend, the Acer Aspire Switch 10 for $379 surprised us with it's good design, quality display and included keyboard dock with a normal hinge. It's not full HD and there's no pen option though, and Acer's drivers tend to be a bit rockier than Lenovo's.
The Lenovo ThinkPad 10 tablet isn't the only Bay Trail convertible on the block, but it is one of the few that brings a Wacom digital pen and a robust and highly usable optional keyboard. You also get a strong yet slim design, a sharp full HD display and optional 3G/4G LTE, all appealing features. Its resolution and Wacom pen put it in between that small collection of affordable Intel Atom Windows 8.1 tablets and higher end Intel Core machines like the ThinkPad Helix and Surface Pro 2. Business users won't blink an eye at the tweener price tag, and they're the target market for this product, along with zealous note takers and artists.
Display:10.1", 1920 x 1200 IPS display with multi-touch and Wacom digitizer/pen. Intel HD integrated graphics. Micro HDMI port and Miracast wireless display.
Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.
Performance:1.6GHz Intel Atom Z3795 quad core (Bay Trail) with Turbo Boost to 2.4GHz. 2 gigs DDR3 RAM and 64 gigs internal flash eMMC storage.
x 6.96 x .35 inches. Weight: 1.3 pounds.
Camera:2MP front camera and 8MP rear camera with LED flash.
Audio:Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone/mic
Networking:Integrated dual band
Broadcom WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. 3G/4G LTE with micro SIM card slot optional.
Software:Windows 8.1 32 bit (standard and Pro editions available).
Expansion and Ports:1
microSD card slot (compatible with cards up to 128 gigs), 1 full size USB 2.0 port, micro HDMI, docking connector, 3.5mm combo audio and micro SIM card slot if 3G/4G option is present.