I Like Lenovo's New Tablet, But I'm Still Not Dumping My IPad

After nearly a year-and-a-half on the market, Microsoft and Windows 8 device manufacturers still haven’t found the secret sauce of software and hardware needed to make a device as nice to use as an iPad.

I’ve been using Lenovo’s $399 ThinkPad 8 tablet for nearly two weeks now.

For the same price as an iPad Mini with Retina, it seemingly offers the convenience of an 8-inch tablet with the horsepower and app selection of a laptop.

Though I’ve been able to do things that I never could have accomplished on my iPad, there are simply too many little oddities throughout Windows 8 and its hardware that make it unwieldy as a tablet and less useful than a real laptop.

It may be simple, but there's no denying that the ThinkPad 8 isn't bad to look at.

It feels good to hold, and the screen looks great with the brightness cranked up.

Unfortunately, way too many things dump you into a traditional Windows desktop experience.

Which could be OK, if all of the interface elements weren't shrunken down to a ridiculously small size by default.

After using iPad and Android tablets, it feels bizarre to go to a different interface to do something as simple as installing an app.

Most apps in the desktop environment simply aren't pleasant to use on such a small screen.

Even for 'real' work, the iPad offers a better experience because interface elements are a usable size.

Email is a huge part of what I do. Outlook fans might like Windows 8's default email app, but it doesn't work very well with how I use my Gmail account.

Also: compare this and the previous photo. Windows 8 apps tend to feel cramped in a vertical orientation.

The fact that you can run Steam means you can play nearly any PC game that's more than a few years old with decent performance.

The 'Back to the Future' game from 2010 was certainly playable, but I felt like I might as well play the tablet-optimised version that's already on the iPad.

And though it's nice that I get all of my desktop extensions for Chrome when I use it on the ThinkPad, they don't really feel worth losing the more-touch-friendly interface from the iPad or Android apps.

There's a touch-optimised Internet Explorer app that's rather nice. You can only use it if Internet Explorer is your default browser.

Many of the ThinkPad 8's weaknesses are solved by simply plugging in a USB dock to attach a keyboard and mouse. But those can be expensive, and having all of those things hooked up to a tablet makes it less convenient than just using a laptop in the first place.

The key to getting the most out of the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 *is* compromise. If you're looking for a nice tablet, it's a fantastic device as long as you can stick to apps from the Windows Store. If you need a desktop replacement, buy the cords and dongles needed to plug in a keyboard, mouse and monitor. If you want something in between, the experience simply isn't seamless enough.

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