Comparing the roughly half-dozen Intel Atom Windows 8 tablets that we've seen to date is relatively easy. Nearly all of them, from the HP Envy X2 to the Dell Latitude 10, are built around essentially identical hardware platforms, starting with an Intel Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD, along with either a 10- or 11-inch 1,366x768-pixel screen.
The real differentiators are price, available accessories, and the design and construction of the tablet (plastic versus metal, for example). For Lenovo, in particular, this is a tale of two tablets, the 10-inch ThinkPad Tablet 2 and the 11-inch IdeaTab Lynx, also known as the IdeaTab K3011.
On paper, at least, these two products are remarkably similar. Both stick to the guidelines outlined above, and have a 1.8GHz Intel 2760 processor, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of solid-state storage, and both cost about the same, with the ThinkPad Tablet 2 starting at $679 and the Lynx at $649.
But there are differences beyond the $30 price break, and they don't always favor the allegedly more consumer-friendly Lynx. The ThinkPad version has a full USB 2.0 built in, offers wireless broadband and NFC options, and has dual Webcams. The IdeaTab version has a bigger screen, 11 inches versus 10 inches, and its keyboard dock includes a second battery for longer overall battery life.
Like the HP Envy X2 or Acer W510, the Lynx feels more like an ultraportable laptop when plugged into its clamshell-like keyboard base, but it doesn't stack up to even inexpensive ultrabooks in terms of hands-on utility and usability. Annoyingly, Lenovo's Web site doesn't seem to have the $129 keyboard dock for sale as of this writing, but I've seen it from Amazon, Staples, and others, for as much as $20 above the list price.
As a standalone tablet, the Lynx benefits from its bigger screen, but also feels less substantial, with a plastic back instead of the metal back panel of the ThinkPad Tablet 2. Side by side, unless you really need an 11-inch screen over a 10-inch one, or just can't spare the $30, it's hard to see this as the better of Lenovo's two Windows 8 tablet choices.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$779 / $649|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760|
|Memory||2GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||64GB SSD|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.8 x 7.4 inches|
|Height||0.37 inch (tablet only)|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||1.4/2.9 pounds (tablet only); 1.6/3.1 pounds (w/keyboard)|
Design and features
With lower prices than Core i5 tablets, most of the Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets we've seen tend toward plastic construction and generally looser designs. There are rare exceptions, as in the case of this tablet's sister product, the ThinkPad Tablet 2.
As a standalone tablet, the Lynx has a footprint on the larger end of the spectrum. It's thin and light, but the plastic back panel does not inspire confidence (nor do other plastic-backed tablets, to be fair). It's when connected to its optional $129 keyboard/battery dock that the Lynx really finds its own personality.
The two pieces together look and feel more like a clamshell laptop than a tablet with a keyboard accessory -- it's a style also found in the HP Envy X2 and Acer W510. The balance between the screen and base is better in the Lynx than those other two examples, and less prone to tipping over. The connection is made via a bulky central hinge, and the release mechanism is a big physical button in the middle, similar to those found on similar systems from HP, Samsung, and others. It's an inelegant look, especially compared with the way more tablet-oriented hybrids, such as the Surface Pro or ThinkPad Tablet 2, connect with their keyboards, but I don't think anyone has really nailed the perfect clamshell hybrid hinge design yet.
The keyboard dock adds some additional ports, but more importantly contains an extra battery for extended use. The keyboard is of the usual Lenovo design, with flat-topped keys that bow out slightly at the bottom. The keyboard layout is great for typing on a small system, but the entire keyboard dock has a lot of flex, especially towards the middle. It's frankly unusual for a Lenovo, and a bit cheap-feeling.
Adding to my frustration, the latch connecting the screen and keyboard felt sticky. Even with the release button firmly pressed, the two parts didn't come apart cleanly and required some awkward tugging almost every time.
The touch pad below the keyboard omits both left and right mouse buttons and a trackpoint in favor of clickpad-style buttons, which gives you the maximum finger surface on the small pad.
The big 11.6-inch display is a highlight. The 1,366x768-pixel resolution is standard for an Atom-powered Windows 8 tablet, but the screen is clear and bright, with excellent off-axis viewing angles, and a very responsive touch surface.
|Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||Micro-HDMI||HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 Micro-USB 2.0, microSD card reader (tablet); 2 USB 2.0 (keyboard dock)||2 USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|