Ultraportable Windows 8 tablets and hybrids tend to cover a lot of the same ground. Low-power Intel Atom, Pentium or Celeron CPUs, prices around $300-400, and somewhat creaky plastic bodies. Some, such as the, have pull-apart bodies that latch a separate slate and keyboard dock together, while systems like the or have hybrid hinges that fold back into a tablet mode.
Stepping up to the next level in terms of build quality, features, and performance takes you up to something like the, starting at $800 ($930 with a keyboard) and going way up from there.
Finding something in between those two extremes can be difficult, forcing some hard choices between design, performance, and features. Lenovo attempts to thread that particular needle with the ThinkPad 10, a 10-inch Windows 8 tablet with a feature list that takes from both low- and high-end tablets and hybrids.
Lenovo currently sells a single base configuration, with an Intel Atom Z3795 CPU, 4GB of RAM, an active stylus, and a big-for-a-tablet 128 SSD, for $746 (it starts at £440 in the UK and AU$849 in Australia), although I've seen it on Amazon for as little as $499. Note that our review unit is a slightly different configuration, with a smaller 64GB SSD.
That's significantly more than many other Atom-powered PCs, and would be a hard sell, if not for the big 128GB SSD and high resolution 1,900x1,200 display. Lenovo's typically excellent design and construction makes this tablet, a mix of aluminum and plastic with a Gorilla Glass screen feel very sturdy and road-worthy.
The biggest selling point, however, is the large ecosystem of accessories and add-ons that Lenovo offers for the ThinkPad 10.
The $120 Ultrabook keyboard (£97 in the UK and AU$139 in Australia) is a keyboard stand close in size to a standard ultraportable keyboard and includes a small but workable touchpad. The ThinkPad 10 can fold on top of the keyboard for easy clamshell-style transport, but it doesn't actually attach as a hinged hybrid would.
The $129 tablet dock (£96 in the UK but not currently available in Australia) is very similar to other tablet docks we've seen, offering connections for a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Ethernet, allowing you to set the ThinkPad 10 up as a desktop PC, or just prop it up in front of a small audience for video or PowerPoint presentations.
A $45 Quickshot cover (available for £34 or AU$44) feels like a snap-on iPad cover, but with a fold-back corner to expose the rear camera lens for easy on-the-go photography. Lenovo has also shown off some other options, including a water-resistant protective case with a hand strap.
The upshot is that you can pair the ThinkPad 10 with one or more of these accessories to create a multimode PC that works for your office or on-the-go needs. Add a keyboard, mouse and monitor to the dock, and you have a simple all-in-one desktop, or use the keyboard attachment for a very laptop-like experience, thanks to its excellent keyboard layout.
Combining the tablet and all its accessories can drive the price up quickly, and when you factor in the slower performance of the Atom compared to Core i-series (or the new Core M) CPUs that can be found for nearly the same price, the ThinkPad 10 doesn't feel like a great value.
But especially if someone else is paying for it (as many ThinkPad systems are sold to companies for employee use), the ThinkPad 10 works as a very flexible tablet-based platform that uses clever accessories to transform itself based on your needs.
Lenovo ThinkPad 10
|Price as reviewed||$746, £440, AU$849|
|Display size/resolution||10.1-inch, 1,900x1,200 touchscreen|
|PC CPU||1.6GHz Intel Atom Z3795|
|PC Memory||2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics|
|Networking||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
Design and features
Eight-inch Windows 8 tablets are common, comparing favorably with. But slightly larger 10-inch models are harder to find, in part because at that size, a slate gets a little awkward to hold and one might be tempted to make the leap directly to an 11-inch laptop or hybrid. Lenovo is one of main purveyors of 10-inch Windows tablets, including the recently introduced (available in both 8-inch and 10-inch versions).
The 10-inch display on the ThinkPad 10 feels dwarfed inside the bounds of the thick screen bezel, but the chassis itself is thin, with a flat matte surface on the back that gives you just a hint of gripe.