The Lenovo Miix 2 tries to pack the full Windows 8.1 experience into an 8-inch tablet.
With the arrival of Windows 8, the concept of a PC is a wholly different beast to the chunky laptops and desktop towers of yesteryear that pop into our heads. So how well does the experience translate to these new mediums?
Microsoft’s Surface is perhaps the most obviously evolution of the sort of hardware you can expect to find fully-fledged Windows on, but there are other offerings pushing this once desktop-only operating system into new and surprising places – like Lenovo’s Miix 2 tablet.
Lenovo Miix 2 design: Silver surfer
Aside from the Windows logo floating below the display, you’d be forgiven for expecting Android on booting the Miix 2 up and that’s predominantly down to its size. This 8-inch slate is light (at 350 grams) and you can happily wield it in one hand as it’s just 8.35mm thick – that’s bulkier than a Nexus 7, but what’s on offer is arguably more versatile.
The display is bordered by a fairly broad black bezel adorned with a silver Lenovo logo and a small 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Flip it over and you’re greeted with some non-descript matt silver plastic. The rear 5-megapixel camera, speaker grille, hardware controls and ports are accented by more a reflective silver, but on the whole, the design comes across as pretty generic, surprising when you look at some of Lenovo’s more iconic Windows laptops.
Whilst the feel in the hand may not be the best, the back is lightly textured to improve grip and the bezel gives your fingers additional purchase without affecting the touchscreen.
Lenovo Miix 2 screen: Reading rainbows
The body of the Miix 2 may leave you feeling a little cold, but its display is far more impressive. The WXGA (1280×800) 8-inch IPS LCD won’t win any awards, but it’s more than capable of offering a clear, crisp and colourful visual experience with solid viewing angles should you want to share a movie with a friend.
The Windows 8.1 Start screen is perfect for sizing up colour and clarity, with the live tile interface helping showcase a full range of hues. It’s not the most vibrant panel on the market, but doles out an accurate viewing experience. Brightness is great too, with a strong enough maximum level to ensure that even outside, you can browse the web or get some work done, provided you avoid any nasty reflections. If anything, the minimum brightness is set too high, as late night work sessions proved strenuous on the eyes.
Lenovo Miix 2 OS: Halfway house
It’s a jarring experience finding full Windows 8.1 on such a small, slim device. On the one hand it provides excellent compatibility for the majority of applications, not to mention an extremely high level of customisation, should you wish to dip into the command prompt or Regedit. On the other hand, the classic Windows desktop is still clearly geared towards a keyboard and mouse over touch input with your fingers and thumbs.
The aforementioned Start screen is far better accustomed to your swipes, taps and pinches and does well to cover your basic computing needs, the Micrsosoft app store has improved too, although arguably not enough despite touch-optomised offerings Facebook, Flipboard and Evernote. The clunkier desktop experience is really for those who need the full power of Windows, which for most, will only be an occasional necessity.
Typing has always been a sticking point on Windows 8 and hasn’t improved too much on Windows 8.1, we had to manually ensure the application for the on-screen keyboard would run at startup as we weren’t initially able to input a password as no keys popped up, something not all first-time users would be able to fix. For writing short emails or Facebook posts, it’s bearable, but tapping too quickly can result in unusual characters and error-correction is still very hit and miss. The iPad Air and Mini still have some of the best on-screen typing experiences on the market.
For a budget tablet, the Miix 2 does offer one key strength over iPads and even many Android devices – fantastic USB support. Should you wish to plug in USB drives, external hard drives or other peripherals like optical mice you can. Admittedly you’ll need to pick up a fairly unusual microUSB to full-sized USB adapter (we found one from StarTech.com if you’re curious) to use most accessories, but the fact that the capability is there to begin with is impressive.
Lenovo Miix 2 performance: A bit of a lightweight
Hinted at by the sizable ‘Intel Inside’ sticker on the tablet’s back, there’s a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Bay Trail processor and 2GB of RAM at the heart of the Miix 2. General usability is wonderfully fast when it comes to snapping Windows apps side by side for multi-tasking, playing Full HD video is problem-free and although classic applications draw on more resources, they only push up loading times a fraction.
Lenovo promises up to seven hours per charge from the Miix 2’s battery and with general usage we’d have to agree. If you’re looking for a tablet for checking emails, organising your holiday snaps and streaming the occasional movie then expect to charge this thing up once every two to three days, use it less and the excellent standby will ensure you won’t have to worry if it’s been sitting idle for a while.
Storage is a sticking point for the Lenovo, with the majority of the 32GB of internal memory taken up by the sizable operating system. Before expansion you’re only really left with around 10GB before you start adding applications, which isn’t much when you’re talking about a full Windows PC. The ability to add expandable storage via USB or microSD (up to 128GB cards) is handy, but with the limited internal space, there’s only so much your Miix 2 can do before it fills up.
Lenovo Miix 2 verdict: A miixed bag
Pushing Windows 8/8.1 onto a broader array of devices is a smart move on Lenovo’s part. It offers greater compatibility between its products and a unique level of flexibility over mobile-centric rival offerings using Android and iOS, but there are drawbacks…
The demands of full Windows tax the Miix 2 from the get-go, particularly in the storage and screen departments. The desktop side of Windows 8.1 is awkward to manoeuvre on that tablet’s 8-inch screen and although the ability to support full Windows applications is impressive, the lack of space snubs the potential benefits on offer.
At under £250, the Lenovo Miix 2 has a lot to offer and in many ways out-paces pricier rivals, but if you’re after a budget tablet, this is certainly not the only option worth considering.