Lenovo Miix 2 8 – A Windows 8.1 8-inch Tablet Review

Written by on November 11, 2013 in Blog, Review, Tablets, Windows 8

Intro

“Many users want the convenience of a smaller screen tablet, but do not want to lose the performance and convenience of a powerful, quad core Windows 8.1 device. With the Lenovo Miix2 8-inch, users can take advantage of a small, light form factor without sacrificing performance.” – Bai Peng, Vice President and General Manager, Lenovo Business Group

The iPad mini proved that an 8-inch tablet can hold more value to some than a 7-inch device. The extra inch seems to allow for more impressive content consumption, while also lending itself better to getting work done. While smartphones get larger, so must our tablets. I have been a believer that 8-inch tablets are more compelling than smaller ones while being more portable than their 10-inch brethren. Now imagine an iPad mini running full x86 Windows 8.1. That’s the Lenovo Miix 2 8.

From Lenovo

  • 8″ HD 1280 x 800 WXGA IPS display
  • Intel Atom “Bay Trail T” 1.8 GHz (1.3GHz non burst)
  • 2 GB LPDDR3 memory
  • 32GB/64GB/128GB eMMC storage
  • Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (5GHz supported)
  • 2MP front camera / 5MP rear camera
  • Micro-USB, Micro SD, Audio Combo Jack
  • 5.2″ x 8.5″ x 0.3” and only 0.77-lbs
  • Up to 7 hours battery life (but I saw more)
  • Stereo speakers (in one opening) and a single microphone
  • Windows 8.1 and Office Home & Student 2013

Usage

The Lenovo Miix 2 8 was available for shipping on Amazon for a few days, and I was lucky enough to grab the 32GB model. It has since become unavailable, but it should be back in stock soon. There are several other 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets out now or coming soon. I picked the Lenovo because it was one of the thinnest, and is definitely the lightest. It has been used for a week, at both home and work. The battery was tested under various conditions, and the device only needed to be fully charged once. It came almost topped off, although it need to be plugged in before powering on the first time. After powering on, all available system updates, drivers and software updates were downloaded and installed. I let it sync settings and apps from my Surface 2. Work email was configured via the stock mail app via Exchange Active Sync.

Experience

It is all about the in-hand feel. And boy, does the Lenovo Miix 2 8 feel great! I owned an iPad mini previously, and this is the closest I have felt any device come. The back has a nice, ever so grippy matte texture. The very bottom has a shiny and smooth chin. The rear camera is no standout, but it is nice to have it. The speakers (although you really only see one) output a nice sound, albeit bass free. It did impress my coworkers while playing back a movie trailer on YouTube via Hyper. There is a standout feature, and it is on the front of the device. The screen is very, very good. Colors and backlighting are balanced. No dead or stuck pixels are present. Brightness is adequate, although I tend to use my device in low light conditions. Video playback is near flawless. YouTube, Vevo, NBC News and Watch ABC content all look incredible. The bottom bezel is the biggest, and that is where the capacitive Windows key sits. Originally I did have some issues* with it, however everything was resolved after a system refresh. Lenovo did build in some sort of accidental protection, so it works better than most. The rest of the bezels are at or below average size. It feels just as good in portrait as it does in landscape. One handing the device is no problem, at least for me. You won’t believe Windows 8.1 runs (and runs well) on something this light.

Just as impressive as the screen, is overall Modern UI performance. Video content ramps up to HD quality near immediately. I found myself watching 1080p content more on this device than any other midsize tablet. The Bay Trail Atom’s quad cores are perfectly suited to 1080p video playback, including 8-12GB MKV files. Apps launch quickly, multitasking is near perfect, and games don’t skip a beat. This tablet makes the ARM-based Surface 2 look like a slouch. That’s right, Xbox Music, Halo: Spartan Assault, Mail and Facebook load significantly faster than on the Surface 2. Clearly Windows is more optimized for x86 platforms than any ARM chipset. The only place it falls behind is on the desktop. It could be that the Surface and Surface 2 don’t have much to do in the desktop, but the Lenovo Mixx 2 8 is noticeably slower. Yes, that means Office 2013 performs worse on this device than the Surface 2. Not a deal breaker, as you can run any x86 Windows app on this tablet versus nothing but Office RT on the ARM-based Surfaces. The battery lasted me 2-3 days with my mild usage of a couple hours per day. This is a good day or more longer than my Surface 2’s battery.

The device boots quickly, and gets you going right away. Every Modern UI app I tested felt better at 8-inches that at the Surface 2’s 10.6-inches. Amazon, 500px, Flixster and Netflix just felt right. New games like Star Wars: Tiny Death Star and Six Guns were easier to play, and provided more enjoyment. The Windows 8.1 mail app is a true pleasure. Work email is easy to keep up with, and the on screen keyboard in landscape can be used with two thumbs. At least for my big hands, thanks to the thin and light design of the device. Desktop Office apps were slow to open and load data, but they were touch navigable. This device excels at one handed use in portrait mode. In landscape, it feels better with two hands on the device. Hopping between meetings is where the Lenovo Miix 2 8 shines. You can keep up with your emails, Office documents and Remote Desktop needs (even via VPN). In your free time, various apps and IE 11 offer just about everything you need.

Verdict

Buy one at $299. Use the SD card slot to compliment the 32GB on-board storage. If the Lenovo’s styling isn’t for you, check out offerings from Dell, Toshiba, and Acer. But it is truly amazing that you can have a full featured PC in a less than 1-pound package. Windows 8.1 and the Modern UI are perfect for this size. The desktop is there if you need it, and Bluetooth support means pointing devices and/or keyboards can be attached. There is no display out port however, and only one micro-USB. Lenovo is offering a detachable cover that can house a capacitive stylus. No active digitizer here, but sometimes that is OK. It is nice to see more and more games and other apps make their way to the Windows Store. Full x86 Windows means any app your desktop or laptop PC can run, so can this tablet. But don’t spend too much time in the desktop. The Modern UI is where this tablet stands out. It’s gorgeous screen and solid performance give other touch focused tablets a run for their money. In my opinion, you can take the Lenovo Miix 2 8 anywhere and it won’t likely let you down.

 

* The capacitive Windows key seemed impossible to enable without a double tap. I think the error protection was being too cautious. However, it works fine now after I reset the device.

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22 Reader Comments

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  1. Tyradius says:

    Thanks for the review! It seems the Lenovo is the best looking among the offerings, while not compromising on performance. I still have questions about it concerning miracast support. It may not seem like much, but I plan on using miracast or something similar. Microsoft really needs an answer to apples air play. Also can you connect an OTG connector? USB to HDMI? If you don't have those cables to test I understand. I'm just trying to get a solid understanding of this devices capabilities before I make a purchase. Thanks!

  2. Purian23 says:

    Great review, thank you!

  3. Mario says:

    You saw more battery life… how much more? average.

  4. Joe says:

    Boy, none of you guys seem to like The Surface 2. Sorry, but the Surface 2 beats this by a country mile, and no sane person wants to run x86 software on an 8" screen. x86 software stinks on touchscreens, because they were built for touch. When I use a tablet, I want it to work like a tablet. I don't want to have to put up with viruses, malware, crashes, and other issues that you have to deal with on a PC.

    • jwiskowski says:

      RT is unstable and not well support IMO. Original Surface was decent, thanks to a year of driver and OS updates. The Atom Bay Trail destroys the Tegra 4 is everyday usage as well. Surface 2 felt slower than it should.

      Glad you like yours, but 8" devices are much different than 10.6" ones. I want a 8" tablet right now, nothing larger.

  5. Joe says:

    By the way, you aren't watching 1080p content on a 1200×800 screen. That's worse than the original Surface RT.

    • jwiskowski says:

      I am streaming and processing 1080p thank you, 1080p content looks better on a 1280 x 80 screen than 720p content. 1080p content is downscaled, 720p content upscaled.

  6. JCdev says:

    I'm new to Surfacegeeks and quite excited about this new crop of 8 inch Windows 8.1 tablets. Very helpful review and looking forward to more Miix 2 reviews since there are not many folks who have this device as of now.

  7. Angel says:

    I just picked one up today. So far I like what I see. I plan to install some X86 apps for work to truly test this thing. But so far its really looking like a keeper. This type of form factor should of been out in 2012.8" is the sweet spot and yes I do feel like this can be my iPad Mini replacement.

    • jwiskowski says:

      I love this form factor, but it still feels new as it caught on so slowly outside of the iPad mini. Glad you are enjoying yours!

  8. esque says:

    Thank you for this review. The Miix2 seems to be a great little tablet.
    What I'm wondering is how much of the flash memory is free on a freshly installed tablet?

  9. kentma says:

    this device has a GPS , why don't you mention it? it is import piece if information in my opinion

    • jwiskowski says:

      Sorry for the omission! It is not very useful to me. But Bing Maps Preview is the first modern UI app that leverage GPS I enjoy using. I should revisit it as my current daily driver, the Toshiba Encore 8 has GPS as well.

  10. Great review. I happened to get one at best buy on 11/16/13 and haven't been able to put it down. Its like you said an iPad mini running full blown Windows 8.1. I can VPN and use the corporate apps on it AND use it for personal tablet stuff. This was the best $299 I've spent.

  11. den says:

    i can't wait for you to compare these 4 windows 8.1 8 inchers (acer w4, dvp8, miix2 and Toshiba encore) all their pros and cons, hidden or unpublished features like mimo wifi, sdxc, dual channel, etc, hopefully by Christmas I can finally decide on which 8 incher should I get, cheers guys!

    • jwiskowski says:

      Dual channel won't mean much on these devices, IMO.

      But for the (3) I have used, I think the Dell is the most supported of the bunch, and weight/thinness combo isn't too bad. The Miix 2 would be my pick if they can sort out their driver issues. But the Encore 8, even though heavier and thicker, is rock solid IMO. The additional of micro HDMI separates it from the others. The Acer will have the best screen, or so we hope!

      I use the Encore 8 everyday and am thrilled each time.

  12. Looking for the 8 incher which is capable of HDMI out, comes with Office 2013 and can use a stylus with One Note and other apps (I have my workstation and a solid laptop so it's a companion device). Yeah the Miix looks great BUT!!!!! no HDMI and I know you guys are fans of the Venue Pro 8 as well but the stylus on that sucks (Mobile Tech Review). Messed around with the Toshiba Encore 8 yet?

    • jwiskowski says:

      Remember, the Dell has received various firmware and driver updates, some targeted at the pen. Don't go off of all the reviews, check the forums too. I prefer the Toshiba for the HDMI and rock solid drivers. But no stylus.

      You might want to wait for the Asus. I don't know if it'll have HDMI out, but it will support a Wacom stylus.

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