Decision Time: Choosing My New Computer

Over the last few weeks, I've been road testing a number of different Windows 10 tablets and 2-in-1 computers. When I started the journey, my goal was to replace an iPad Pro - which is a great piece of hardware but doesn't quite meet my specific needs - with something else. I really like the idea of a "proper" file system that lets me easily save documents and sync them to the could without any messing about. And a touchscreen is also part of my life. So, what did I choose?

Here's the TL;DR. I went with the Lenovo Miix 510. Here's what I learned along the way and why I made that choice.

Operating Systems

I've been a Mac user for about 15 years. I really like the way OS X, and now macOS, work on desktop and notebook computers. Arguing about which OS is best is likely to spark a religious war but, for me, it passes the "just works" test.

iOS, within its limitations, also passes that test. But I need more from a $1500 computer that I carry around almost everywhere. And while UI is pretty good, I like to have more than two apps open on my screen sometimes. Split Screen on the larger iPad Pro works well but there are times I want three, or even four, windows open at the same time.

Windows 10 overcomes most of the issues I face with iOS but adds the touchscreen I really like - something I can't have from a device running macOS - unless Apple unleashes something unexpected at WWDC in a couple of weeks.

Compromises

I maintain that all portable computing devices are a series of compromises. We balance screen size, storage, memory, cost and other factors when we make the decision to buy a portable computer. We make similar compromises with desktop systems but portable require we compromise usability.

The Miix 510 I chose delivers on some key elements for me.

The display is good - perhaps not market leading but well and truly good enough for me. The keyboard is superior to the Surface Pro it's most like of the four machines I looked at. And the price - by giving up the cellular connectivity (which I really like and think may cause some buyer's remorse in the months to come) got down to $1200.

None of the machines I tested could get close to the iPad and its TouchID system when it comes to resuming from sleep and logging in. Even the HP Spectre 360, which had me questioning my budget, couldn't get close with Windows Hello and its facial recognition.

And none of the systems I tested could get there with their fingerprint sensors. For now, I think Windows systems are way behind when it comes to fast authentication.

Key factors

Aside from the price, display and keyboard, I came to realise the detachable keyboard is something I like. It means i can pass the Miix 510 through customs at the airport without having to extract it from my bag as it passes as a tablet and not a laptop.

Of course, it's likely I won't be able to carry it internationally at all soon. But, for now, I'm OK.

The presence of both USB-A and USB-C connectivity is useful as it offers me support for legacy devices and some future-proofing with peripherals. Integrated video output would be handy but I can live with using a dongle for the odd time I need to do that.

The purchase

Although I could, potentially, have taken advantage of discounts that are sometimes offered to journalists (the marketing term is "influencers") I shopped around and found the Miix 510 at a local Officeworks outlet.

As usual, I politely declined the offer of an extended warranty and paid my $1199.

But there are so many new systems out there

It's easy to wait for something newer and better. Announcements made by Microsoft, Asus and others over the last week point to lots of new devices. But I need a computer now - I can't wait another month. So, my decision is based on today, not what may come tomorrow.

What do you think about my decision? Did I blow it? What would you have bought?


Comments

    Help I'm in the same boat but I havent even considered the Miix 510.
    I am struggling to choose between the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360 but yes they are both expensive. I think i will have to revisit my list and see if its worth getting something like this espeically for the price.

      I really liked the Spectre 360 - it's a very sweet machine and of the four I tried it was the hardest one to repack and ship back. But it's $1000 more than the Miix 510 - and I'm not convinced it's that much better. This is not a primary computer for me - it's the one I'll use when I travel. in the office I have a desktop with a big screen and all the extras so the Spectre seemed like overkill for me.One of my friends picked up a discontinued Lenovo Yoga at a good price recently. I went looking for one of those but couldn't find one. But he's happy with that.

    "None of the machines I tested could get close to the iPad and its TouchID system when it comes to resuming from sleep and logging in."

    Nice article.

    I do not have the features you speak of "facial or finger scanners" but with W10 I just tap the space bar and enter a four digit pin. You do not even have to tap enter after the fourth digit, it's close to instant.

      I think Windows systems are way behind when it comes to fast authentication
      I have a 3 year old Windows 8 laptop that unlocks/logs in immediately with a swipe of the fingerprint scanner. I don't see how it could be any faster.

      I can do that too - but a PIN is less secure than a reliable biometric IMHO

    I have a 2 month old Miix 510, i3 model, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

    Battery life is about 3 hours not 7+ hours claimed.

    Keyboard is too flexible when "raised" and it swallows characters.

    Even when "lowered" it doesn't lie completely flat so it still bounces and swallows chars though not as badly as when "raised".

    I had to increase the keyboard delay before repeating to reduce but not remove the problem of multiple chars being entered.

    The touch pad is useless. When you try and click and drag to highlight an area it releases. I have to click with left finger and then slide left finger onto touch pad to lock it in drag mode while I use right finger to highlight area. I have been using touch pads for 20+ years so I know how to use a touch pad and I have never had this problem before.

    While writing this post I have had half a dozen keystrokes (like the s on the end of keystrokes) missed.

      While the battery life is bad, you sound particularly annoyed by the keyboard. Would you consider using this with a different keyboard?

      Specifically, a decent 87-key mechanical keyboard, attached to a USB port?

    I have used it with a Logitech K400 keyboard with a built-in touch pad that doesn't release so the problem is with the keyboard touch pad.

    I bought this PC as a travel PC so it's impracticable to carry an extra keyboard.

    I bought a Dell Inspiron 3000 11 inch touch 2-in-1 on eBay special for half the price. It is twice as good.

    The Miix is now used for mixing, ie I gave it to my partner and she has it on the kitchen bench to display recipes while she is cooking. The useless keyboard works well enough for her to page down. The keyboard is covered with an A4 page protector to keep the gunk out of it.

    When I get my act together I will sell it and she can go back to using the slightly dodgy, ie Safari drops out quite often, 2010 iPad 1.

      I read this to my partner after I had posted the comment above. She said emphatically "It's bloody dodgy!"

      It looks like we're keeping the Miix.

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