Lenovo ThinkPad 8 review: Pocket Windows, with a sharp screen

Working and playing: From a ThinkPad 8
I tried writing this review on the ThinkPad 8, but gave up. The screen feels too small for some Windows applications, and the process of digging up and using another keyboard and mouse defeats the simple appeal of tablets like the Surface. The ThinkPad 8 is best used as a pure tablet, or docked into a suite of other desktop accessories. The on-screen keyboard on Windows 8 just doesn't feel fun to use at all.

As for play, viewing movies on this tablet is fantastic. It's fun to casually read on, too, to view photos, or even to lightly game. But the problem quickly becomes the limited app library Windows 8 still suffers from, as opposed to Android or iOS. Windows 8 has lots of classic applications, but fun, progressive, independent apps and games? Well, not quite so much.

That's where 8-inch Windows tablets still feel really lost in the middle.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's an imperfect fit for Windows. That's not Lenovo's fault, that's Windows 8, which wants to be on a computer with a larger screen and a keyboard/trackpad. At least, that's what I felt; after using the more versatile, Netbook-like Asus Transformer Book T100 and the bigger-screened, keyboard-optional Surface Pro, the ThinkPad 8 feels too much like a product meant to consume rather than create.

The best Windows productivity apps (and desktop-type applications, which can run on full Windows 8 here) don't work their best in an 8-inch, touch-only world. There's no stylus, either, something Dell's Venue 8 Pro has. But, Microsoft Office Home and Student Edition 2013 is included, at least, as is common on many of these tablets...unless you chose the Windows 8.1 Pro software, which doesn't include the free software. Go figure.

There are too many options for Windows 8 PCs out there, and the ThinkPad 8, as good as it feels in the hand, doesn't feel great to produce on.

Battery life
The ThinkPad 8, running Windows 8.1 Pro, ran for 422 minutes, or 7 hours and 2 minutes, using our video-playback test. The Dell Venue 8 Pro lasted a little longer: 7 hours, 30 minutes. The Toshiba Encore 8 fared the best at 8 hours, 52 minutes. Don't pick the ThinkPad 8 if you want the best battery life. Seven hours is decent, but iOS and Android tablets all do significantly better.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
Is Windows 8 best for you as a PC, or as a tablet? If you choose the latter, it's hard to think of a better design than the Lenovo ThinkPad 8. An 8.3-inch screen with 1,920x1,200 resolution offers a Retina-like richness to images and text, and the design feels solid, clean, attractive.

Is Windows best suited for a small tablet? Not really. But the ThinkPad 8 does work for media, apps, and everyday basic functions really nicely. It just doesn't come with a keyboard or trackpad.

You get a good package for $399, including an impressive 64GB of storage. And if you think of the ThinkPad 8 as a little computer in your pocket that can pair with keyboard and monitor into a full connected device back at home, you'll probably love this. But it's not the same as a Surface, or a Lenovo Yoga, for that matter.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
Lenovo ThinkPad 8
Windows 8.1 Pro (32-bit); 1.46GHz Intel Atom Z3770; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB Sasmung SSD

Toshiba Click W35Dt-A
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1GHz AMD A4 1200 APU; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 8180 Graphics; 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Acer Iconia W3
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 1003MB (shared) Intel GMA, 64GB SSD

Sony Vaio Tap 11
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1739MB (Sharedl) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 128GB Tosiba SSD

Asus Transformer Book T100
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z2370; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SanDisk SSD

Dell Venue 8 Pro
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB Sasmung SSD

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Type Windows 8.1 32-bit Edition
  • RAM 2 GB ( provided memory is soldered )
  • Weight 0.89 lbs
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