Lenovo Miix 2 11in review
A powerful tablet with the genes of a hybrid, and an intriguing keyboard dock design
Lenovo has done a good job in the past at tackling the hybrid genre, with its Yoga range of laptops both reasonably priced and hugely flexible. Reception of its Miix devices – tablets with detachable keyboards – have been somewhat more, um, mixed.
The range, dubbed the Miix 2 (of which we have the 11.6in device for review), ups the detachable's game, bundling a rigid keyboard dock with the tablet instead of its predecessor's flexible cover. Lenovo calls this a 3-in-1 design, and as you might expect it offers a corresponding number of different positions for use: you can employ it as a straight-up tablet without the keyboard attached, clip the tablet into a magnetic slot above the keyboard and use it like a laptop, or reverse the tablet in the slot to face the other way. Lenovo says this “Stand Mode” is best for watching movies and viewing photos.
The 600g keyboard dock also adds a small touchpad with integrated buttons, a pair of USB 2 ports on either end of the keyboard's spine, and an extra, JBL-branded speaker, which runs the full length of the spine of the dock. The speaker faces forwards with the Miix 2 in Stand Mode, and when you're not using the tablet, the keyboard clips onto the front and protects the screen.
It's a clever design; alas, it isn't all that practical. The speaker does add some body to the audio, but only a small amount, and it doesn't reach very high volumes. There's no hinge, as with the Surface Pro 3, so you can't adjust the angle of the screen, and we found that fixed angle a little steep. It's fine for desktop use, but rest the Miix 2 on your lap and you have to lean right back to get a comfortable view. It's the same story in Stand Mode – the angle is too steep on your lap, and typing on the screen wasn't comfortable either.
To make matters worse, we had trouble connecting the two halves reliably, and frequently had to reinsert the tablet into the slot because it hadn't connected first time. Even then, the keyboard and touchpad aren't particularly good. The keys have very little feedback, the number key row is cramped, the touchpad is too small, and its built-in buttons only work if you press right at the bottom edge of the pad.
This is all a shame because, as a tablet, the Miix 2 has a lot going for it. Physically, it isn't the most attractive thing, all clad in silver-grey plastic, but it weighs the same as the Surface Pro 3 and it packs in a powerful selection of core hardware. Our review unit came with a Core i5-4202Y on board with 4GB of RAM (there's also a Core i3 model for £600), which was enough to deliver a score in our benchmarks of 0.39; that's slower than the Surface Pro 3's , with its faster 1.9GHz Core i5, and it has the same problem as Microsoft's tablet with throttling. Running anything really demanding, such as the 3D render part of our benchmarks, soon hits the thermal limits of the tablet's chassis, with the CPU dropping from its nominal speed of 1.6GHz to around 1.1GHz.
Storage is generous, however, with a 256GB SSD included and 128GB on the cheaper base model, and there's a microSD slot and those USB sockets on the dock for expanding that further. The third USB socket, on the body of the tablet itself, doubles as the device's main charge point, so can't be used with the tablet plugged into the mains.
The Miix 2's 11.6in screen isn't bad either. Its 1,920 x 1,080 resolution produces a slightly more awkward 16:9 aspect ratio, which isn't as practical as the Surface Pro 3's 3:2 or the iPad Air's 4:3, but since it uses an IPS panel the quality is pretty good. It goes brighter than the Surface Pro 3's display, reaching a maximum of 354cd/m2, contrast is a punchy 1,021:1, and colours are bright and saturated.
Battery life, finally, is very good. The Miix 2 lasted 9hrs 50mins in our light-use test, which isn't far behind the Surface Pro 3's time of 10hrs 33mins. We also ran our 720p looping video battery test, with the brightness of the screen set a little higher (120cd/m[sup]2[/sup]) and with flight mode on; in this test, the Miix 2 delivered a less impressive time of 7hrs 7mins.
Lenovo Miix 2 11in review: verdict
On paper, with plenty of hardware packed in, a decent display and battery life, plus a bundled keyboard dock, the Lenovo Miix 2 11in looks pretty good value. The Core i5 version we tested comes in at £656 inc VAT including the keyboard dock and 256GB storage; the Core i5 Surface Pro 3 with 256GB costs £1,109 - nearly double - and that's without the keyboard, which costs another £110.
The problem for the Miix 2 11in is that its keyboard dock is so poorly designed that it's hardly worth having – and that undermines a lot of what makes the Miix 2 such an attractive proposition in the first place. It's so close to being a good product, but we can't recommend it.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||302 x 11 x 190mm (WDH)|
|Weight||800g (1.4kg with keyboard dock)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Display type||multitouch, capacitive|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1.6GHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
|Built-in flash type||N/A|
|Mobile operating system||Windows 8.1 32-bit|