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January 19, 2014

Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 2 8″ Review

The IdeaPad Miix 2 8-inch is among the new breed of 8-inch Windows tablets that poses to become a good replacement to the decade old netbooks. They’re as affordable, more powerful, more portable with almost the same battery life and yet offers the same features and functionality. Read our full review of the Lenovo Miix 2 8″ just after the break.

Microsoft has been pushing its ODM partners to come up with Windows tablets for several years now as iPads and Android tablets have been eating up the PC markets for the past few years.

It even prompted MS to create the Surface line of tablets just to showcase what can be done and they did but at a huge loss. Nevertheless, it was a catalyst.

However, there were some mis-steps. First is Windows RT which is a cripple, dumbed down version of Windows. Then, there’s also the choice of the right processor — Intel Core i5/i7 were powerful processors but they eat up a lot of battery that they’re no better than regular laptops when it comes to battery life; there’s also the dual-core Intel Atom which lasted longer in battery life but was way slower; and NVidia’s Tegra 3 processors can only run on RT.

The Lenovo Miix 2 belongs to the second generation of Windows tablets. It runs on a more optimized Windows 8.1 and a more powerful quad-core Intel Atom Bay Trail chip. That’s a combination of a smaller operating system footprint and a more capable chip that offers much better battery life.

Design and Construction.

The Miix 2 8 is of the same size as an iPad Mini which is around 8 inches across. It would seem that 8 inches has become an acceptable form factor that’s not too small and not too big and bulky.

It’s very portable, light and can be easily held with one hand. The build quality is good and very solid, the corners are slightly rounded and the edges are curved from the backside to give you a better grip of the device. At 7.9mm, it’s also very thin.

Most of the physical buttons and ports are found on the right side — the power button, volume controls, microUSB port and the slot for the microSD card. On top is the 3.5mm audio port.

The backside is made up of polycarbonate material with a matte finish and two-tone silver color that gives it that metallic look. The design slightly reminds us of what Lenovo did with the K900.

The 8-megapixel at the back is flished on the top leftmost corner while the speakers are on the opposite side. There are also a lot of stickers at the back, one for Intel, Microsoft, Lenovo and the FCC.

Display.

Lenovo used an 8-inch IPS LCD on the Miix 2 8 which provides a good display quality, better color reproduction and brightness. The screen resolution of 800×1280 pixels is just right, maintaining clear and crisp image quality.

The bezels around the display is just right except for the thicker part on the bottom corner where there’s a soft button for Windows home. The capacitive button didn’t really worked well with us and we rarely use it in favor of the gesture swipe navigation commands.

The front panel is covered entirely with Gorilla Glass and surrounded by a thin silver trimming that’s a bit glossy. While it gives it an elegant look, it proved to be a bit cumbersome as our grip can be slippery at times.

Overall, the size of the display is just right both for reading, browsing, watching movies and even for gaming (we’ve played a full game of DoTA on this tablet with the help of an external mouse and Bluetooth keyboard).

OS, Apps and UI.

There is really nothing much to say about the OS of the device. IT runs your typical Windows platform, a full version that you’re familiar with in desktop PCs and laptops.

As such, you can practically install any of your usual software and games — a full version of Office, Photoshop, Outlook, Thunderbird, WinZip, uTorrent, Warcraft, and many others.

While the Metro UI is good for casual use, we still tend to gravitate towards the old desktop UI, the use of the File Manager and the vasr real estate of the home desktop.

More often than not, we tend to look at the Miix 2 as a laptop replacement rather than a tablet.

When most mobile users would gravitate towards iOS or Android because of the app ecosystem, they will be glad to learn that the Windows ecosystem is way more diverse.

Performance and Usability.

Performance can be relative but we’re glad to be able to do almost anything that we wanted to do using the Miix 2. We’re very dependent on ti with office productivity, doing emails on Outlook and Thunderbird, some basic Photoshop work, iTunes and even do simple video edits in MovieMaker.

We tried playing Warcraft (DoTA 1) on the tablet and it performed real well except for some minor hiccups that we also often encounter when we use our laptop.

Using Bluetooth, we are able to connect it to a wireless keyboard. Using the microUSB port with a USB-OTG cable, we’re also able to plug a gaming mouse, an external HDD, a printer, digital camera, handy-cam and many other 3rd party devices. We can even plug in our Nexus 7 and iPad Mini 2 just to sync or transfer files. It can also recharge our smartphones.

The internal storage is limited to only 32GB and Windows 8.1 has taken more than half of the space which means you’re limited to install other storage-heavy applications. There’s also a 64GB model and if you really need more space, just add a 64GB microSD card as a secondary drive.

Unlike other tablets, the Miix 2 isn’t just an independent device but a hub where all your other iOS and Android devices can be integrated.

Battery Life.

Windows tablets used to have crappy battery life. However, the newer ones running an Intel Bay Trail chips seem to be doing pretty well. Using our standard battery bench of 50% brightness and 0% volume, we were able to achieve a little over 8 hours of movie playback.

Once we optimize everything (like 10% brightness), we’re able to push the battery even further. We wrote this review on the plane during our 13-hour flight from Detroit to Nagoya and we managed to squeeze around 12 hours of work with just MS Word and a Bluetooth keyboard connected to it.

However, once you work with the heavy stuff, the result is also very significant. Heavy multi-tab browsing on Chrome is about 7-8 hours, photo-editing (Photoshop) is about 5 hours, DoTA is about 3 to 4 hours tops.

Conclusion.

The Miix 2 is a very capable tablet but not a tablet for everyone. It can be complicated or cumbersome for some folks but it is very powerful and versatile. If you need a simple and elegant device just to run apps and games, you might be better off with an iPad or an Android tablet.

But if you want something more than just a simple tablet, more than just a repository of your photos and videos, then the Miix 2 can certainly offer that — full office productivity, heavy content creation, integration with other devices, and the flexibility of a mature and well-supported platform like Windows, then the Miix 2 is more than just a tablet, it’s potentially a laptop replacement.

The Lenovo Miix 2 8 retails for $249.99 in the US (32GB) and $349.99 for the 64GB.

Lenovo Miix 2 8 specs:
8.0-inch IPS LCD @ 1280×800 pixels
Intel Atom Z3740 1.3GHz quad-core processor
Intel HD Graphics
2GB DDR3 RAM
32GB internal storage
up to 64GB via microSD card
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
5MP rear camera
2MP front-facing camea
Li-ion 4,730mAh battery
Windows 8.1

What we liked about it:
* Good performance
* Versatile platform and ecosystem
* Impressive battery life
* Very Affordable
* Expandable internal & external storage

What we did not like:
* OS eats up a lot of internal storage

Best Windows 8 tablets under 10-inches
Lenovo IdeaTab Miix 2 8" unboxed, in the flesh
Lenovo Miix 2 8 launched, priced at Php21,999

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