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Lenovo Miix 510 review: This Surface Pro 4 clone (almost) beats the real thing

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The Good The good-looking hinged kickstand has a lot of positioning flexibility. Has a USB-C port for video output and peripherals with adapters. Unlike Microsoft, Lenovo includes a generally excellent backlit keyboard cover. Lenovo's Active Pen and palm rejection work very well.

The Bad The fans can get a little too loud for quiet environments. No memory card slot for expansion. The Active Pen is a $40 extra and its included holder blocks the power jack. The tiny right-hand shift key is horrible.

The Bottom Line The Lenovo Miix 510 is an excellent -- and more affordable -- alternative to Microsoft's 2-in-1 tablet PC. And it might be the better choice for you.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7

The Surface Pro 4's combination of a solid OS in Windows 10 and elegant hardware made it the first tablet PC to live up to Microsoft's message that a tablet really could replace a laptop. So if you were going to design a 2-in-1 tablet, it would make sense to emulate one that works, right?

The Lenovo Miix 510 definitely takes its design and feature cues from Microsoft's star tablet -- right down to the hinged kickstand that runs the width of the 12.2-inch screen. Lenovo brings its unique watchband-like hinges from its Yoga 900 series laptops to the kickstand, allowing you to tilt the screen back up to 170 degrees.

Combine that flexibility with its magnetic detachable keyboard folio cover (another nod to Microsoft) and you can type comfortably on a desk or slightly uncomfortably on your lap. With 1.5 millimeters of key travel, typing on the Miix 510's backlit keyboard feels more like a regular laptop than you might expect. I still prefer Microsoft's for its larger clickpad and full-size right-hand Shift key, but the Miix's is otherwise excellent and it's included in the price: Microsoft's is a $130 optional accessory.

lenovo-miix-510-17.jpg
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Doppelgängers: The Surface Pro 4 (left) and the Miix 510.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Miix 510 starts out less expensive than the Surface Pro 4 ($579 at Amazon), too. The configuration I tested is $750, AU$1,500 or £900. It has nearly the same specs as the Pro 4 we reviewed when it was released back at the end of 2015. As I write this review, the Pro costs $1,075 on Amazon -- and again, that's without the keyboard.

Although the Miix won't charge you for a keyboard, you will have to pay for its Active Pen. But that costs less than $40 (£40, AU$60) and it has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity, twice that of the Surface Pen.

Lenovo Miix 510

Price as reviewed $750 (AU$1,500, £900)
Display size/resolution 12.2-inch, 1,920x1,200 touch display
PC CPU 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Similar but different

There are a couple other differences that might sway you one way or the other. For example, instead of the Surface's proprietary Connect connector, the Miix has a USB-C 3.0 port. With adapters and a single cable, you can connect a display and other peripherals and add Ethernet and external storage. The Surface Dock can also add these things, but Surface users are limited to Microsoft's solutions or a more limited range of USB 3.0 accessories.

Both tablets have a single standard USB 3.0 port and a combo headphone-and-mic jack, but the Surface adds a microSD card slot. Not having a microSD card slot may not be a deal breaker, but the Lenovo's lower-resolution screen could be. It's got a 12.2-inch 1,920x1,200-pixel display compared to the Pro 4's 12.3-inch 2,736x1,824-pixel resolution display. Side by side, the Surface's display is sharper looking and generally looks better from close up and farther away. For the price difference, though, it's not that much better.

One last notable difference is the Surface Pro 4's camera. It supports Windows Hello facial recognition, which allows you to use your face to log in instead of entering a password or PIN.

The Miix is a balancing act for lap use.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Not a fan of these fans

As for performance, the two are pretty evenly matched. Both tablets' hardware combinations are fine for business use or school work. The Lenovo Miix has no trouble with photo editing or basic full HD video editing. It also has enough oomph for casual games, if nothing more demanding. Getting work done while a video or music streams in the background won't slow it down either. Just be prepared for the fans to whir loudly under load, which might be distracting in quiet environments.

The Active Pen uses Wacom technology and its performance is similar to the Wacom Intuos styluses I've used, with a pen tip that glides smoothly on the glass. I personally found it better for writing than for drawing but the experience was solid for both. There was no discernable delay and strong palm rejection. One minor irritation, though: The pen holder sticks into the USB 3.0 port, so you lose use of that, along with the USB-C and power jack, when the pen is in the holder.

As it's a tablet, you might expect the Miix to have a relatively long battery life, but that's unfortunately not the case. But in its defence, that's not the case for any Windows 10 ($110 at Amazon) tablet PC with similar components -- including the Surface Pro 4. In fact, the Miix 510 ran for a little more than five and a half hours on our streaming video battery drain test. That's about 30 minutes longer than the Surface.

Select-a-slate

If you're considering getting the Surface Pro 4, you should strongly consider the Lenovo Miix 510. Unless you're turned off by the lower-resolution display or the design differences, the Miix is an excellent -- and more affordable -- alternative to Microsoft's 2-in-1 tablet PC. And it might actually be the better of the two, depending on what you need from your tablet.

Multitasking Multimedia Test 3.0 (in seconds)

Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
510
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
519
Lenovo Miix 510
618
Huawei MateBook
825
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
856

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 3 Multi-Core

Microsoft Surface Pro 4
6775
Lenovo Miix 510
6361
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
6331
Huawei MateBook
5293
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
4722

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Online Streaming Battery Drain test (in minutes)

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S
435
Lenovo Miix 510
334
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
327
Huawei MateBook
309
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
298

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

Lenovo Miix 510 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Huawei MateBook Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel m3-6Y30; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 128GB SSD

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