Lenovo ThinkPad 10 First Impressions and Photos

Lenovo ThinkPad 10 First Impressions and Photos

A promising new tablet hybrid

The Lenovo ThinkPad 10 is billed as a follow-up to the quirky ThinkPad Tablet 2. But Lenovo's new full-sized tablet seems to fix everything that was wrong with the prior effort, offering a Full HD screen, a much less complex (and better) keyboard, and a standard, ThinkPad-type charger. In many ways, it's really a completely different device, one that is better equipped, I think, to compete in this hybrid PC world.

Like its predecessor, the ThinkPad 10 could be used as a pure tablet, and it's actually sold that way: The docking keyboard, desktop dock, stylus, and other accessories are all sold separately. In the scope of Windows-based tablets, it's a solid effort, with a thin and light design and a reasonable selection of ports. It's a hair bigger and heavier than the iPad Air and smaller, thinner and lighter than a Surface Pro 3.

iPad Air (top), ThinkPad 10, and Surface Pro 3 (bottom)

I'll be using and then reviewing this device—and a few choice accessories, noted below—in the weeks ahead. For now, here are some first impressions with a rundown of the specs and related photos.

Price. $599 and up.

Tablet first. Like the ThinkPad Tablet 2, the ThinkPad 10 is a pure tablet design that can be clipped onto a keyboard base to work like a slightly small Ultrabook. I'm still not 100 percent sold on the business case for pure Windows tablets, but as you might expect of Lenovo, this device excels at diversity thanks to its useful accessories. It can be what you want it to be.

Screen. The display is 10.1-inches and runs at 1980 x 1080 (Full HD), compared to just 1366 x 768 for its predecessor. It features full pen and touch support, with up to 10 touch points.

Internals. The ThinkPad 10 is powered by the latest (Bay Trail) Atom processor, the quad-core Z3795 model running at 1.6 GHz. My review unit features 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of onboard solid-state storage. (Out of the box, 28.2 GB of 47.8 GB is free.) But you can upgrade both: The RAM goes up to 4 GB, and you can get up to 128 GB of storage. Bay Trail is a reasonable improvement over Clover Trail, but the RAM and storage options are perhaps even nicer.

Ports. The ThinkPad 10 has a full-sized USB 2.0 port, which is a big deal on this kind of device, and microSD for storage expansion, as well as a micro-SIM for cellular broadband. Each is under one of those unfortunate covers—the microSD and micro-SIM are together under a single cover—while a micro-HDMI for video-out is uncovered. There is also a headphone jack, volume rockers, power button, and docking and keyboard connector on the exterior edges of the device. The charging port is now a mini-ThinkPad design instead of the awful USB-based charger from the previous version.

Pen. The device comes with a digitizer pen with a thin barrel. There's no docking hole for the pen on the device, as there was with the ThinkPad Tablet 2, but such a port is available on the optional Ultrabook Keyboard (see below).

Windows. My review unit came with the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 Pro, but you can opt for the 64-bit version, which would be a good choice, especially if you get 4 GB of RAM.

Office. As a Windows 8.1 Pro device, the ThinkPad 10 does not come with Office, but it does include an Office installer for Office 365 subscribers or those with a product key.

Crapware. I've been a bit unhappy with the amount of bundled apps I've seen on Lenovo's recent devices, but the ThinkPad 10 isn't too bad (or I'm just getting used to it): In addition to the firm's often-useful utilities, it includes Norton Security (completely unnecessary), Evernote Touch, Kindle and Zinio Reader. Not great, but not egregious.

Ultrabook Keyboard. Available as a $129 option, this must-have accessory provides a smallish ThinkPad keyboard that locks in pretty well to the tablet—i.e. it is not Bluetooth-based—at a single angle. (There's no way to adjust it, as you can with Surface Pro 3 and some other tablet/keyboard combos.) I was worried about the size of the keyboard, but placing it up against the excellent Surface Pro 3 keyboard, I Can see it's just a hair smaller. So I'll be testing how well that works. One knock: It features a trackpad instead of the excellent Thinkpad nubbin. (That said, Tablet 2 had an even worse fake nubbin that didn't work at all.) And this setup is much less complex than the silly Tablet 2 keyboard, which had a terrible latch and complicated charging routine; this keyboard doesn't need to be charged.

Quickshot cover. Like the similarly designed Quickshot cover for the ThinkPad 8 (see my review), this innovative cover ($59) has a little fold-over corner so you can use the rear camera while the cover is attached and folded normally over the back. The good news: The camera app launches when you use the cover like that, even if Windows was previously signed out. The bad: You can't use the cover with the Ultrabook Keyboard or dock (see below), so you'll be pulling it on and off.

Tablet Dock. Available for just $119, the Tablet Dock provides three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI out, and Ethernet capabilities. It props the ThinkPad 10 screen at a different angle than the Ultrabook Keyboard, but I guess that make sense.

Let me know if you have any specific questions about this device. (I'm sure some are wondering about the pen, for example, and I will of course test that and compare it to the Surface Pro Pen.)

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