Lenovo has announced the upcoming availability of its first tablet to run the new Microsoft operating system. The product, pitched as a “multi-use” tablet, has a 10.1 inch display, is 9.8 mm (0.39 in) thick and features an optional digitizer and pen. There's no word on price yet, but the release date is set to correspond with the October launch of Windows 8.
The ThinkPad 2 runs on an Intel Atom processor and comes with the Pro version of Windows 8. For the uninitiated, that means you get access to both the new, app-friendly Start screen and the traditional desktop environment. The tablet comes fitted with full-size USB and HDMI ports.
The optional digitizer pen provides some extra functionality in the form of hand-written annotation and note taking, and the device comes with the ubiquitous front and rear-facing cameras. There's also good news for those on the move, with 3G and 4G models available for purchase.
Lenovo is apparently pitching the device as a sort of middle-ground between work and play, claiming it will help manage “the increasing overlap between personal and work life today”. But marketing spiel aside, it's clear that Lenovo is targeting the enterprise market with this new offering. Accordingly, it comes equipped with a number of security features including a fingerprint reader, IT manageability technologies, and corporate level service and support. The new device will replace the current Android-powered ThinkPad tablet.
When looking at the competition, the obvious candidate for comparison is Microsoft's own Surface tablets. The Windows 8 Pro version of Redmond's tablet weighs in at 903 g and is 13.5 mm thick. Lenovo's offering has the edge here, coming in at less than 600 g, with a thickness of 9.8 mm. However, the Surface features a 10.6 inch Full HD display, while the ThinkPad's 10.1 inch offering comes with a 1366 x 768 IPS display. The Ivy Bridge Intel i5 CPU in the Surface also packs a significantly bigger punch than the ThinkPad's Intel Atom offering.
Additionally, the Surface also has an advantage in the form of its Touch and Type Cover keyboards, making it the more obvious choice for those looking for a device capable of replacing their laptop or desktop PC. However, Lenovo is addressing this issue by means of an optional keyboard and dock that aim to provide the user with “PC-like computing in the office”.
There are also accessories such as the recently announced Wedge Mobile Keyboard and Mouse made by Microsoft themselves. Products such as these could serve to significantly narrow the Surface's advantage, allowing third-party tablets to achieve laptop levels of functionality.
There's one other significant consideration: the price. The cost of the ThinkPad 2 remains a mystery, but its non-premium construction, lower screen resolution and less powerful processor will almost certainly translate into a lower price tag than the Pro version of the Surface (expected to retail for around US$1000).
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