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Lenovo Miix 2 8: A fast tablet that's short on features

Michelle Mastin | March 7, 2014
Intel's Bay Trail-class Atom processors make it easy for PC manufacturers to build powerful tablets with a key feature that competitors like Google's Nexus 7 and Apple's iPad mini can't deliver: The ability to run Windows 8.1 and all the apps available for that OS. Lenovo's Miix 2 8 has that to its advantage. But while it delivers impressive performance, it falls short in features.

The Miix 2 8's touchscreen display delivers resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels. That's not as high as the 1080p screen on the $269 Nexus 7, or the crazy-dense screen of the $499 iPad mini with Retina display (2048-by-1536 pixels), but it's enough that text, graphics, and video are crisp and clear. On the other hand, with an 8-inch screen, you may find that once you zoom text to a readable size, you'll still be scrolling around quite a bit.

Reading books is one of my favorite applications for mini tablets like this one. I've tried several dedicated e-readers and a horde of smaller slates in pursuit of the perfect balance between doing one thing or everything on the same device.

With so many previous generations of screen technology, my biggest complaints were that the screen was dim, or that the touch layer ruined the clarity. That's not a problem here. The Miix 2 8's IPS panel is bright and clear. In fact, I found it a bit too bright for reading in a darkened room, even on its dimmest setting. My eyes tired much sooner than my wrist, thanks to the tablet's thin profile (it measures 0.3 inch thick) and light weight (just 0.77 pounds).

If videos are more your thing, you'll be in better shape. The built-in stereo speakers are loud enough to fill my home office with the sounds of Netflix binge-watching, but they begin to distort if you really crank them up. Lenovo's optional Flip Cover with Stylus ($30), meanwhile, will both protect the display and fold into a handy stand while the tablet is in landscape mode.

Years of using Android phones and iPads have taught me to press something at the center bottom of the device to get to the home screen, and the Miix 2 8 didn't leave me hanging: There's a capacitive Windows button on the bottom bezel. Sure, I can get used to swiping in to pull up the charms bar, or finding a home button on the side, but it's nice to work with the muscle memory I already have.

Any Windows tablet can run any program that can get by with less than 2GB of memory, but you'll be happiest with apps that have been optimized to run on a tablet. The Windows store remains sparse compared the iOS or Android app markets, but the basics are there and the ecosystem is growing. And since the Miix 2 8 runs Windows, you can watch all those Hulu videos that aren't available on mobile platforms — at least when you're not being productive with the copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 that comes preinstalled.

 

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