Over the last couple of weeks, I've been looking at switching from an iPad Pro as the computer I use when travelling to a Windows 10 device. I set out my wish list, did a bunch of online research, visited a few retailers and then put the call out to a bunch of vendors asking them to recommend and provide me with a review device. The ultimate aim of the exercise if for me to buy, with my own money, a new computer for when I'm working remotely. The first device to arrive on my doorstep is the Lenovo Miix 510.
What am I looking for
The list of criteria I provided to the vendors I approached was reasonably straightforward. I'm not too concerned about processor grunt as my needs are quite simple - text editing, light photo editing, web browsing and email. But I need enough storage to carry all my current work files with me as well as a few other bits and pieces.
- 8GB RAM (I guess I could live with 4GB if I had to)
- 256GB storage (must)
- Pen input (preferred)
- Detachable (preferred) 12 to 13 inch touchscreen display (must)
- Under $1500 (must)
- Cellular comms (strongly preferred)
The good news is the Miix 510 ticked all the boxes. On price, the recommended price is right on my $1500 budget but I've seen it discounted by as much as $250 recently making it a good deal - if it delivers what I need.
In order to make my comparison between each device fair, I'm going to prepare each device the same way. As review computers have often been used by several different journalists, I used the reset this PC option in settings to remove all applications, customisation and other junk that might be left over from previous users. I used my Windows account for log-in.
I then installed used Windows Update to ensure everything was up-to-date and installed the Windows 10 Creators Update.
I've only installed a couple of essential apps and am using the default Windows 10 apps for email and calendar so I added account details for those.
One of my concerns with devices like the Miix 510 is the keyboard. I spend a lot of time typing so a keyboard that is comfortable and responsive is a must. The last Windows tablet I spent a lot of time using was a Surface Pro 2. While it was a competent device for its time, I really disliked the keyboard. I found it very "bouncy".
The Miix 510 is far firmer - it's quite rigid making it nice to use on a desk, aeroplane tray table or on my lap.
While the Miix 510 was going through the reset and update processes, I noticed that the fan was quite loud. The iPad Pro I've been using for the last few weeks is silent but he Miix 510 hums occasionally My son, who is quite handy, thought someone was using his Dremel in the garage (which is some distance away) before he realised it was the Miix 510 on the coffee table.
It's not super-loud but it is noticeable in a quiet room.
I'm typing some of this article on a train, heading into the city. The screen, while bright is also very glossy and the reflection from the sunlight coming in through the adjacent window is quite severe, making it hard to read what's on the screen.
The Miix 510 has a SIM card slot, on the back under the kickstand. I removed the SIM from my iPad and plugged it into the Miix 510. Interestingly Windows 10 did not automatically configure the APN so I needed to add that manually, something I've not had to do in some time.
After years of using traditional notebooks, there was one thing i was completely unprepared for. Convertibles like the Miix 510 and Surface Pro are really crappy to use on your lap.
With most of the device's weight held by the kickstand - which is one of the Miix 510's strong points - I starts to dig into the area above my knees when I use the device on a train or when sitting somewhere, waiting for a meeting.
The keyboard on the Miix 510 is about a gazillion times better than the iPad Pro. Not only are the keys nicer to hit but the keyboard sits on a slight incline so the angle I'm working at is a little easier on the wrists - something I'm careful about as I've already had one round of carpal tunnel surgery and don't fancy another.
The kickstand uses what Lenovo calls a watchband hinge. What makes this special is that I can set the screen at almost any angle from perpendicular to almost flat relative to the keyboard.
I'm not going to formally benchmark all the devices I'm trialling. I'm not buying a tablet for high-end gaming or any other processor, memory or I/O intensive tasks. My use-case is very much that of a writer so any of Intel's current processors will more than suffice for my use.
With the Miix 510, I'm able to watch full screen HD movies from iTunes and Netflix without any problem. And I haven't experienced any annoying slowdowns or hesitations while working.
In short - performance has been fine for me. But if one of the other devices I test makes the Miix 510 feel inadequate I'll update this review and make it clear.
As far as connectivity goes, in addition to Bluetooth, cellular data and 802.11ac WiFi, it also has USB 3 with both USB-C and USB-A ports. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack, front and rear cameras, two microphones and integrated speakers that were good enough for me to enjoy the latest Doctor Who via iView last night.
Using the pen
The Miix 510 comes with a pen so you can scrawl notes and draw diagrams on the screen. This is a brave new world for me. Although the ipad Pro supports the Apple Pencil I never used it as I'm primary a keyboard kind of guy. But there are times when being able to scribble some notes or draw a picture can be really handy.
The Miix 510's pen gets its power from a single AAAA battery. There's no elegant way to store the pen on the device so you'll need to take care not to lose it.
For most of my work, the pen is unnecessary. But I thought I'd give it a try. Lenovo provides an application called WRITEit for writing notes and drawing diagrams. It's quite basic and I suspect OneNote is a better match for most people's needs.
There are two buttons on the pen so you'll need to hold it in such a way that your forefinger is placed so that it can tap the appropriate button. When using WRITEit, the buttons can be used for selecting text or erasing what you've just written or drawn.
I'm going to need some more time playing with the pen as it's a significant change to how I work. This will, most likely mean I'll need to adapt my workflow to a different, more pen-friendly set of software than my current tools.
There are two things that have annoyed me. One is the kickstand and how it makes the device uncomfortable on my lap.
The other is the fan noise. As someone who has not had to deal with fan noise for some time - the iPad Pro is silent and my two desktop machines are both silent almost all the time. But this is a minor annoyance and it is more than overcome by the other benefits I get from this class of device.
Would I buy this?
After a couple of days of use, I'm definitely going to shortlist the Lenovo Miix 510. t hits all my key selection criteria and my criticisms are quite minor. And if I can find one at the heavily discounted $1250 mark, it represents excellent value in my view. But even at the full $1500 it's a good buy.