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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2

Lenovo's Windows 8 tablet will be a full-fledged professional tablet running off an Atom processor, and will be available at Windows 8 launch. Is this a hint at Surface competition to come?

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As Windows 8 nears its debut on October 26, you can expect to see a ton of Windows computing devices, tablets and otherwise, set to take advantage of the touch-friendly features of Microsoft’s next operating system.

Microsoft's Surface isn’t the only Windows tablet you’re likely to see in October, not by a long shot. One of the first announced tablets is the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, a reconceptualization of the original Android-based ThinkPad Tablet.

Unlike the two versions of Surface running Windows RT on a Tegra processor and Windows 8 on a full-fledged ultrabook-grade Intel Core i5 CPU, the ThinkPad Tablet 2 runs a full Windows 8 Professional OS, but does so on a next-gen Intel Atom processor.

Little had been seen or heard about the 10.1-inch ThinkPad Tablet 2 before August 8’s 20th Anniversary ThinkPad event in New York City, but we had a chance to quickly look at one firsthand at that event, and during a one-on-one meeting a few months back.

Setting the ThinkPad Tablet 2 apart from other tablets on the market will be its optional digitizer and pen for precision input, a stylus that slides out of the side of the tablet and works the way most Windows tablet styli have in the past.

Scott Stein

The antiglare 10.1-inch IPS display has a 16:9 1,366x768-pixel resolution matching that on most Windows laptops. Windows 8 looked readable and functional, both in Metro and standard Windows-based interfaces.

Mobile wireless options include 3G wireless with Lenovo Mobile Access pay-as-you-go plans, along with 4G models (AT&T LTE is currently the only U.S. 4G provider mentioned). Additional security features, according to Lenovo, include a Fingerprint Reader, optional TPM, IT manageability technologies, encrypted storage, and “corporate-level service and support.”

Scott Stein

The ThinkPad Tablet 2 is 9.8mm thick and weighs 1.3 pounds, and feels about the same in terms of heft as a third-gen iPad. Its look is a bit boxy, but reminiscent of the clean design also seen in the Surface.

Scott Stein

The tablet's equipped with a mini-HDMI connector, headphone/microphone jack, MicroSD card slot, a USB 2.0 port, and a docking connector for keyboards and other accessories. Smart Card and optional NFC (Near Field Communication) are also supported. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 could also be positioned as an above-average teleconferencing device: an 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera are accompanied by a noise-canceling microphone.

How will an Atom processor handle a full Windows 8 computer? That remains to be seen. The tablet’s responsiveness was smooth in our fleeting time with the Metro interface, far better than previous Windows 7 tablet experiences. Multitouch gestures seemed much more responsive than during an earlier session with the ThinkPad Tablet 2 earlier this year.

Scott Stein

A variety of accessories will be available for the ThinkPad Tablet 2, and two were on display at Lenovo’s event. The first, a docking keyboard, turns the tablet into a laptop-like device, taking advantage of Lenovo’s superlative keyboard technology. The second, a folio-like sleeve, is built to carry the tablet and keyboard together.

Scott Stein

Unlike Microsoft’s full-fledged Windows 8 Surface Pro, Lenovo says the ThinkPad Tablet 2 will be available when Windows 8 launches in October. No price has been announced, and that could be the sticking point: many businesses happily use iPads, and the ThinkPad Tablet 2 will need to be more affordable than a laptop or significantly more functional than an iPad in order to succeed in what will be a very crowded Windows 8 device landscape.

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