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Lenovo Miix 520 review: This Surface Pro clone runs faster and longer

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The Good The Lenovo Miix 520 looks identical to the Miix 510, but its new processor and components help get you better performance and battery life. Far-field microphones have been added for better use of Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant. Keyboard cover and Active Pen are included.

The Bad The pen holder completely blocks the USB-A port and, when it's holding the pen, partially blocks the power jack and USB-C port. The fans can get a little too loud for quiet environments. Battery life is unimpressive.

The Bottom Line Intel's eighth-gen Core i5 processor breathes new life into Lenovo's midrange detachable two-in-one to make the Miix 520 an excellent choice for home office and students.

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

There are a number of Surface Pro ($579 at Amazon) clones on the market such as the Acer Switch 5, Samsung Galaxy Book and HP Spectre x2, but Lenovo's Miix series continues to impress us the most with its design, features and included accessories. 

The midrange Miix 520 sticks to that script and also doesn't change much from 2016's excellent Miix 510 ($400 at Amazon). At a glance, it's still a dead ringer for Microsoft's tablet PC and also looks just like its predecessor. Centered around a 12.2-inch, 1,920 by 1,200-pixel responsive touchscreen, the detachable two-in-one is updated on the inside with an eighth-generation Intel 1.6GHz Core i5-8250U processor that gives it a performance boost above the 510's sixth-gen i5 and even the seventh-generation Core i7 in the Miix 720, the line's premium model.

There is currently only one configuration for the Miix 520 priced at $999, which includes the company's backlit keyboard cover and Active Pen 2 with 4,096 levels of sensitivity. The combo isn't readily available in the UK or Australia at the moment, but you can find it for around £1,000 in the UK. The cost roughly converts to AU$1,260. It's a good price for what you're getting and, as long as you don't need all-day battery life, the Miix would make a fine pick for a student, home office or other undemanding work use. 

Lenovo Miix 520

PC Geekbox Lenovo Miix 520
Price as reviewed $999
Display size/resolution 12.2-inch, 1,920x1,200 touch-display
PC CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
PC Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB (dedicated) Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
07-lenovo-miix-520

The built-in kickstand gives you a lot of positioning flexibility. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The complete package

One of our biggest issues with the Surface Pro (and the iPad Pro ($399 at Back Market), too, for that matter) is that the keyboard and pen don't come bundled with the tablets. That's not the case with the Miix 520, which includes its magnetic keyboard and its Active Pen 2 so you're ready to go out of the box. Both are nice to use, too. 

With 1.5 millimeters of key travel, typing on the Miix 520's backlit keyboard feels more like a regular laptop than you might expect. It's impressive considering how thin the cover is, but depending on how hard you hit the keys you might feel some bounce. Also, if you've read past complaints about Lenovo using a small right shift key, it's a normal size on this model's keyboard. Its touchpad is on the small side, though, which can be frustrating. 

The built-in kickstand gives plenty of range for positioning and the attractive, strong and sturdy watchband hinges keep it in place. You might still find it awkward to use on your lap, but I generally throw it over a crossed leg to balance it out. 

13-lenovo-miix-520

The Miix 520 is ready to write on. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The kickstand also means you don't have to rely on the cover to keep the screen upright for watching video. And since the keyboard is magnetically attached, it's easy enough to remove it when you want to use the 520 as a tablet. For casual sketching or taking notes, the bundled Active Pen 2 is great, but creatives who need a screen with accurate colors will probably want to pass. Also, while the display gets reasonably bright, you'll probably have trouble using it outside. 

When it comes to ports, the Miix 520 offers just enough. There's a microSD card slot tucked under the kickstand but everything else is on the sides: A USB-C 3.0 port, a USB-A 3.0 port and power jack on the left and a headphone/mic jack on the right with the power and volume buttons. 

The USB-C port does not support Thunderbolt 3, but you can connect up a dock for video output and peripherals. What's a bit of an annoyance though is that Lenovo's pen storage solution is a little plastic holder that fits into the USB-A port. It obviously blocks that port entirely, but once the pen is in, it partially blocks the power jack and USB-C port as well. 

19-lenovo-miix-520

A microSD card slot is hidden under the kickstand.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Although the biggest update on the Miix 520 is the processor, Lenovo did upgrade the tablet's cameras to a 5-megapixel fixed focus webcam on front and an 8-megapixel autofocus rear-facing camera. Also new are far-field microphones so Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated digital assistant, can better hear your commands. 

8th-gen wins again

Though we've only tested a handful of PCs with Intel's latest Core i-series processors since their launch in late 2017, they've all shown improvements over the last generation chips. The new Core i5 here along with the tablet's other components gave the system a noticeable bump in multicore performance on our benchmarks, but just felt snappier overall. 

The Miix 520 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.

If you're expecting the long battery times of an iPad ($219 at Back Market), you'll be disappointed by what the Miix has to offer. In its defense, Windows 10 ($158 at Amazon) tablet PCs with similar components don't generally have "all-day" batteries. Still, the Miix 520 was unimpressive in mixed use and ran for 6 hours and 27 minutes on our streaming video test.

Excellent Alternative

Like its predecessor, the Lenovo Miix 520 strikes a good balance between price, features and performance. You get a really good midrange package for around $1,000 and, in some ways, it's better than what the Surface Pro gets you. I just wish the battery life were better by now.  

Geekbench 3 Single-Core

Microsoft Surface Pro 4
4014
Dell Latitude 12 5000 Series 2-in-1
3620
Acer Spin 5
3619
Lenovo Miix 520
3597
Lenovo Miix 720
3565
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
2965
Lenovo Miix 510
2946

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance


Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Lenovo Miix 520
13495
Acer Spin 5
13077
Dell Latitude 12 5000 Series 2-in-1
8369
Lenovo Miix 720
7859
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
6775
Lenovo Miix 510
6361
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
6331

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance


Streaming video playback battery drain test

Dell Latitude 12 5000 Series 2-in-1
530
Acer Spin 5
507
Lenovo Miix 720
400
Lenovo Miix 520
387
Lenovo Miix 510
334
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
327
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
298

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)


System Configurations

Lenovo Miix 520 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit): 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz, 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Miix 720 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Dell Latitude 12 5000 Series 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7600U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 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
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
Acer Spin 5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit): 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz, 128MB dedicated Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
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

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