Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lenovo Mix 2, 8" Windows Tablet

I had already made three trips to the local Best Buy to lay hands on Lenovo's 8" tablet. What made me pull the trigger and get one, I'm not sure. I think it's like I said before, this is toy territory.
No pen input or 64 bit processor means I'll be using my Miix 2 to primarily consume, browse, and play.

It does run full Windows 8.1 and comes with Office Home and Student for free. One could use the tablet as a productivity sidecar, but I am more curious about how well it runs games, plays video, and browses the web.

The Bad

Other than the usual WiFi connectivity issues that seem to plague my Windows 8.1 devices, they ship the device with a really short USB cable to charge it with. Some folks might complain that the Miix 2 has only has a mini USB port, micro SD slot, and headphone jack. Personally, I like the simplicity and thinnest a limited port selection grants the device.

It comes with Windows 8.1, one of the worst versions of Windows I've used but one of the only tablet optimized desktop operating systems out there. I could complain (again) about all the things I dislike about Windows 8.1, but until there's a touch friendly version of Ubuntu, this is pretty much what everyone is stuck with. Grin and bear it as it were.

The Good

With devices designed for consumption it is the screen that is most important. There are tablets with higher resolution screens, but for my purposes 1280 x 800 in an 8" form factor is dazzling. It will also be better for scaling in both new and older programs and games. The pixel density is plenty, and I didn't notice much of a difference between my iPad 3 and the Miix 2 when looking at my photos or digital artwork. I think there's a point where the eyes don't care anymore. 

The second most important thing is how the tablet feels in the hand. The Miix 2 does not disappoint, being very thin, light, and comfortable even in one hand. The rounded edges and slightly textured back panel are a pleasure to hold without being so course you can't put decals or stickers on the back of the device.

Finally, there is durability to consider. In the two days I've owned the device I've managed to drop it once. "Drop" falls somewhat short of describing what I did. While fumbling with my scarf I tossed the Miix 2 into a wall, whereby it ricocheted over into another wall, and then finally came to rest on the floor. My wife gasped audibly but having already logged a charge cycle with the device I had some notion of how tough it is. The device survived without a scratch.

Fallout 2 and my library of games from the Windows Store all run just fine. I get a little nostalgic loading old games to the device because of the limited hard drive space. I have to choosy about what I load, like it was 1989 all over again. Games load and run very quickly provided you're playing older or tablet optimized games. I haven't tried anything more modern as there is no room.

Battery life is more or less as advertised. I think I get slightly more than the advertised seven hours but I have the screen brightness turned to the lowest setting all the time. Yes, it's plenty bright like that except for the brightest ambient conditions.

I used the Miix 2 to Skype with my family and used both cameras during the conversation. It's as good an experience with Skype as I've had with any other device. It took a minute for the service to spin up but once it'd been running the picture and sound quality was good. There was some break up on my end but I think that was a connection issue as opposed to something with the device.

Recommended Accessories

Bluetooth Mouse and Keyboard - You'll need these for actual productivity and playing older games that aren't touch screen capable. I'm using the Microsoft Sculpt Mouse and a Logitech Backlit keyboard with mine. Edit: DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT install the Logitech SetPoint software. It is crap. Just pair the keyboard using the Windows Bluetooth Utility.

6" Micro USB to standard USB Cable - As already mentioned, the cord that comes with the Miix is really short.

Capacitive Nub Stylus - Wacom makes a good one. Everything else I've used has worn out quickly.

Micro SD Card - 32 GB is not a lot of room and if you have any audio or visual media you'll want to store it off of the primary storage. SanDisk is what I use.
Ear buds/Headphones - The speaker on the Miix 2 isn't bad, but headphones are recommended.

Case - I had a Waterfield Designs/SF Bags keyboard case/bag laying around. It has four interior pockets and a partitioned external pocked. It holds the tablet, Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, cables, micro SD cards, and capacitive stylus with ease and in a compact form.

Stuff I Might Try

I'm thinking about getting an external battery, like what people get to recharge cell phones on the go. If I could find one that could fit in my SFbags Keyboard Case with everything else I'd have a pretty good travel machine. Also, a wall outlet charger with two USB ports would be pretty great as well.

I'm still on the hunt for a suitable sleeve when I just want to carry the tablet and leave my "travel kit" behind. The Samsung Note 8.0 has very similar dimensions and anything that isn't a vacuum formed fit would probably work. I'll update if I find anything decent.

How to add RAM to your Miix 2?
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