Lenovo Brings Hybrid Computing Home

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I love tablets. You should know that before we proceed. If I could, I would own multiple tablets. I love how the iPad Air feels, I like how the Dell Venue 11 Pro is productive yet fun and I love the way the Transformer series from ASUS is presented as hybrids, complete with included keyboard docks. But my budget does not appreciate my fondness for tablets in the same way I do, so I am limited to one tablet, and I still carry a laptop around to get work done. Why can't someone (*cough, *cough, Lenovo) give me a tablet that can truly double as a workable laptop, so that I don’t have to carry both of them in my bag? And do it in a way that doesn't involve me giving my bank account a seizure (*cough, *cough Microsoft Surface 3)?

Well, all coughing aside, Lenovo introduces the Miix 2 11.6" Multi-touch, a fun tablet/laptop hybrid with enough power to get some serious work done. The basics are all there―an Intel® Core™ i5 4202Y Haswell dual-core processor running at 1.6 GHz (and providing you with up to 8 hours on a single charge, depending on usage), 4GB of RAM, a 128GB solid-state drive, and Intel HD 4200 graphics. The Miix 2 runs Windows 8.1, and does a good job with it. Some Windows tablets have serious problems with Windows 8.1, including screen freezes and startup problems, but in the week we've used this tablet we’ve found none of that. It also comes with a keyboard to make things even more productive―more on that later. There is also a Miix 2 11.6" with 1.5 GHz Intel Core i3-4012Y (Haswell) model available.


The tablet has a nice solid feel, with rounded corners around a 0.4-inch frame. The bezel on the screen is at least an inch all the way around, so don’t expect edge-to-edge real estate, such as what you might find on other tablets. The screen resolution is a respectable Full HD 1920 x 1080, and although some tablets are going as high as 2048 x 1536 (*cough *cough, iPad Air), most casual users won't be seeking premium screens (without paying a premium price, that is).

The 11.6 inch IPS touchscreen features 10-point capacitive touch, so you get the full set of touch features that Windows 8.1 is built for―multitouch, trackpad gestures, pinch and zoom, all literally at your fingertips. We had no problems navigating the screen with our fingers, and in most cases, prefer it to using the trackpad. The IPS gave us some decent outdoor play time, and when the family grouped around the screen to watch a YouTube video, even the ones at the edge had a good view of what was going on.

The detachable keyboard is a full QWERTY key layout with chiclet-style keys. The travel on the keys was reasonable, with little bend (especially in the middle, where keys take the most pounding). As I do with most review units, I again wrote this review on the Lenovo Miix 2, and found the experience good if not better than on most tablet-sized keyboards. The trackpad did a fairly good job of navigating, although I admit I never did like or use the trackpad on newer laptops and hybrids with most Windows 8.1 programs or apps. The keyboard is not attached to the tablet by a traditional hinge. It simply uses a connector on the bottom of the tablet to attach to a groove at the rear of the keyboard. The tablet rests in this slot, which doubles as a dock and stabilizer for the tablet. To remove it, you simply lift the tablet out―no buttons to click, no hinges to unlock, and no possibility of accidental disconnect, unless you drop the whole unit.

This also means that when you close the unit, it requires you to remove the tablet from the groove and simply lay it flat against the keyboard. While inelegant, it does form a tight and snug seal. There's little to no chance of the tablet and the keyboard disconnecting accidentally while closed. There’s a nice heft to the unit, and the case and screen give the impression of a solid-metal build (unlike cheap plastic-encased tablet hybrids). But this hefty weight may affect your use―more on that below.

For display mode, you simply turn the tablet 180 degrees so that the screen faces away from the keyboard, and place it in the dock. This allows you to use the tablet in a viewing mode that is ideal for presentations or client-facing meetings where you have to show your work.

Other amenities include an integrated 720p HD webcam and a rear 5MP camera for online video chatting or taking selfies. The camera also does double duty as a security system. This version of the Miix 2 includes Veriface Face Recognition software, which uses your face as your password to unlock the computer. This added layer of security, which can have multiple users in the same account, may seem gimmicky, but for anyone who knows the fear that accompanies the loss of a mobile device, it comes in handy.

Also included is 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and optional 3G connectivity, along with microHDMI and microSD inputs, integrated microphone, and stereo speakers, both on the tablet and on the dock. There are two USB 2.0 ports (a minus for this—USB 3.0 should be the standard on everything now) but they are only on the dock. To use them, the tablet has to be in the dock. An odd configuration, but not a game changer. Most people who use tablets rarely use USB-connected peripherals, but the option to plug one into the tablet would have been nice.

On the dock, the JBL stereo speakers even include an integrated subwoofer. When playing music or watching movies on the dock, the speakers produced amazingly good bass, and incredible cinematic sound.

But the question remains: is this the perfect tablet/laptop hybrid?

Yes and no. I hate to be ambiguous, but I don’t know you really well, so I must be. Perfection depends on what you use the device for. Do you want the tablet for entertainment purposes, with a sidebar of productivity (did I mention it comes with a full version of Microsoft Office)? Or do you want a laptop replacement with a sidebar of fun and games? With the Lenovo Miix 2, you get a taste of both. As a laptop replacement, the Intel® Core™ i5 processor is perfect for web browsing, word processing, and spreadsheet work, but the lack of an integrated graphics option and a faster processor leaves photo and video editing and intense graphic-design work out.

"If you want the full PC experience with a tablet’s convenience, this could be the right Miix for you."

As a gaming and entertainment unit, the Lenovo does a great job. Full HD resolution makes movies and games pop, and the processor does a decent job of keeping up with fast-moving graphics. Size and weight may be an issue, though. Most tablet use is handled by keeping the unit in both hands at once (if you can play games and handle the tablet with only one hand, more power to you). The tablet is 12" long, and weighs almost 2 pounds―you will fatigue yourself with extended game play. This leaves using the dock to hold up the tablet, which takes away from its mobility. If you need to use the keyboard dock, you might as well use a laptop.

This, however, does not apply to all users. Some people don’t use their tablets in marathon gaming sessions. Others don’t mind docking it periodically. Still others (like me) love the versatility of being able to do some work, and then lift the tablet out for on-the-go fun and games. When using the tablet for this review, I took it to the beach, worked in the car for ten minutes using the clubhouse Wi-Fi, then lifted the tablet out and took it down to my favorite beach chair to check FaceBook and watch a movie. It worked perfectly in those scenarios.

While you may want the full experience of a tablet and productive laptop in one easy-to-carry and easy-to-transform model, most manufacturers are not there yet. Lenovo comes very, very close without sacrificing features. The addition of multiple viewing modes also helps to boost this hybrid in our esteem, and puts another checkmark in the productivity column. If you want the full PC experience with a tablet’s convenience, this could be the right Miix for you.

  Lenovo Miix 2 59413201 Multi-Mode 11.6" Multi-Touch Notebook Computer Lenovo Miix 2 59414153 Multi-Mode 11.6" Multi-Touch Notebook Computer
Processor 1.6 GHz Intel® Core™ i5-4202Y Dual-Core 4th-Gen Haswell 1.5 GHz Intel Core i3-4012Y Dual-Core 4th-Gen Haswell
Cache L3: 3MB L3: 3MB
Memory Type: DDR3L SDRAM
Installed: 4GB
Type: DDR3L SDRAM
Installed: 4GB
Graphics Card Type: Integrated
Installed: Intel HD Graphics 4200 Shared
Type: Integrated
Installed: Intel HD Graphics 4200 Shared
Display
Type Touchscreen Touchscreen
Size 11.6" 11.6"
Aspect Ratio 16:09 16:09
Finish Not Specified By Manufacturer Not Specified By Manufacturer
Native Resolution 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080
Storage
Hard Drive Installed: 128GB SSD Installed: 128GB SSD
Optical Drive None None
Input/Output Connectors
Ports 2x USB 2.0 (A) 2x USB 2.0 (A)
Display 1x Micro-HDMI 1x Micro-HDMI
Audio Integrated Stereo Speakers (JBL with a subwoofer)
Integrated Microphone
1x 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack
Integrated Stereo Speakers (JBL with a subwoofer)
Integrated Microphone
1x 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack
Flash Media Slot 1x Micro SD  
Communications
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0
Webcam Yes
2MP Photo
Yes
2MP Photo
General
Operating System Windows 8.1  Windows 8.1 
Keyboard Type: Standard Notebook Keyboard Type: Standard Notebook Keyboard
Pointing Device TouchPad TouchPad
Battery Providing up to 8 Hours per Charge Providing up to 8 Hours per Charge
Dimensions (WxHxD) 12.5 x 0.4 x 7.4" / 31.8 x 1.0 x 18.8 cm (tablet only)
11.9 x 0.4 x 7.9" / 30.2 x 1.0 x 20.1 cm (keyboard dock only)
12.5 x 0.4 x 7.4" / 31.8 x 1.0 x 18.8 cm (tablet only)
11.9 x 0.4 x 7.9" / 30.2 x 1.0 x 20.1 cm (keyboard dock only)
Weight 1.76 lb / .80 kg (tablet only)
1.21 lb / .55 kg (keyboard dock only)
1.76 lb / .80 kg (tablet only)
1.21 lb / .55 kg (keyboard dock only)