A Comparison of ThinkPad Tablets

In January 2013, I bought a Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 for myself. Since I’m firmly in the Windows ecosystem camp, I didn’t want to get either an iPad or an Android tablet, and the TPT2 was the first Windows tablet that started to tick all the boxes I had in my list. Being a tablet with a second generation Intel Atom processor at its heart, it was no powerhouse, but it suited me very well.

Fast forward to now, and there are tablets available with the next generation of Intel’s Atom, and new low-power versions of the Atom’s big brothers, the Core processor range, are also starting to appear in devices. For the past few months I’ve been comparing my trusty TPT2 to Lenovo’s new ThinkPad 10 tablet, and to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, wondering whether to make a move to a newer device. I finally came to the decision, after much vacillation, to sit this round out, hang on to my TPT2,  and wait for up to a year before purchasing a replacement device.

However, yesterday a small box was delivered, courtesy of Lenovo, which contained a ThinkPad 10. I’ve been fairly active in a couple of online forums trying to help people with TPT2s, and Lenovo have sent me a TP10 on long-term loan so that I can move into helping with TP10 issues. Very nice of them, I must say, but I’m not going to let that sway my judgement.

I thought that one way to get started would be to compare the TP10 with its predecessor, the TPT2. It should be an improvement over the earlier product, but is that true in every respect? Let’s take a look…

First of all, here’s the comparison of the basic specifications of the particular models of the tablets I currently have:

ThinkPad Tablet 2 ThinkPad 10
Processor Intel Atom Z2760 (2 cores, 1.80GHz, 1MB cache) Intel Atom Z3795 (4 cores, burst 2.40GHz, 2MB cache)
Display 1366 x 768 (16:9) 1920 x 1200 (16:10)
Memory 2GB / 800MHz LPDDR2 4GB / 1067MHz LPDDR3
Storage 64GB eMMC
+ MicroSD up to 32GB
128 GB eMMC
+ MicroSD up to 64GB
O.S. Windows 8.1 Pro* 32bit Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit
Digitizer Pen Yes Yes
WLAN 11a/b/g/n 11a/b/g/n
WWAN GPRS / WCDMA / HSPA / HSPA+ No
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
GNSS Yes Yes
NFC Yes No

*The TPT2 originally came with Windows 8 installed. I upgraded it to Windows 8.1 when that became available.

You’ll notice that the TP10 that I have on loan does not have WWAN or NFC fitted. These are available as options for some models of the TP10 line. Other than that, it is clear from the table that most of the important elements have performance improvements over the TPT2 equivalents.  This is also borne out in benchmarks. Here, for example are the Windows Experience Index scores:

TPT2:

TPT Comparison 02

TP10:

TPT Comparison 01

Whilst the gaming graphics and hard disk subscores are only slightly improved for the TP10 over the TPT2, the other measures show substantial improvement. That translates in practice into a snappier feel for the TP10 over my TPT2. Office programs start up much faster, for example.

Physically, the two tablets are close in size, the TP10 (on the left) being slightly taller and narrower than the TPT2:

20140930-1247-21

Also shown in this photo is the Lenovo Quickshot cover fitted to the TP10, with an Armour Dog cover from Lente Designs fitted to my TPT2 on the right. The Armour Dog cover wraps around the TPT2, and is very stable when used as a stand, but it does add thickness to the tablet when closed. The Quickshot cover is thinner, and only covers the screen (it can be completely folded back under the TP10 in use). It can also act as a stand, but it is less stable, and with less angles to choose from.

20140930-1252-35

You’ll notice that it also has a loop to hold the TP10’s pen. Since the TP10 is slightly thinner than the TPT2, it is not possible to store even a small stylus in the tablet itself, as was done for the TPT2, so Lenovo has delivered a normal sized pen.

The TP10 has a larger display and a higher resolution than the TPT2, and I like the 16:10 aspect ratio of the TP10 over the 16:9 ratio of the TPT2. When I’m reading books, for example, I prefer the TP10 experience (on the right) over the slightly longer and narrower page rendered on the TPT2:

20140930-1314-11

The difference in aspect ratio also means that I get five rows of Tiles on the Start screen with the TP10 versus four on the TPT2:

TPT Comparison 04

TPT Comparison 03

The TP10 is certainly sleeker than the TPT2, but there are aspects about the case that I find less ergonomic than the TPT2. For example, the TP10’s buttons are flush with the case, rather than being slightly raised as with the TPT2. Finding and using buttons (e.g. the volume controls) on the TP10 is an exercise in frustration for me.

On both the TP10 and the TPT2, the USB socket has a cover. It may be just me, but the cover on the TP10 seems much more fiddly to pop off and to put back in place than the one on the TPT2. Here’s a photo of the cover on the TP10, and next to it, the power charging socket:

20140930-1939-53

The power charging socket on the TP10 is proprietary to Lenovo; on the TPT2 it was a micro-USB. This means that you can’t use a micro-USB phone charger with the TP10 in an emergency. Some people might view that as a drawback. I’ve noticed one other concern about the design and position of this socket. Here’s a photo of the TP10 being charged while being used flat on a desk:

20140930-1942-46

Notice how I have folded the Quickshot cover back under the tablet, as I think most people would tend to do. For one thing, it now protects the smooth metal back of the tablet from getting scratched. However, if the pen is stowed in its loop, then it pushes up on the charging plug and raises the tablet slightly on that side. I just wonder what the long term effects and stresses will be as a result.

The TP10 comes with a lot of software applications and apps pre-installed. This is stuff such as:

  • Lenovo Companion
  • Lenovo Support
  • Lenovo Tap to Share (QuickCast)
  • AccuWeather
  • Evernote
  • Norton Studio
  • Skype
  • Zinio
  • 1-Year Office 365 Personal subscription (Trial only on Win8.1 Pro)
  • Norton Internet Security 2014 with 30 days of virus protection
  • Nitro Pro 8
  • Lenovo Solution Center
  • ThinkVantage System Update
  • Lenovo Reach
  • Hightail –metro (cloud storage)
  • Maxthon Browser
  • Lenovo Photo Editor (by CyberLink)
  • Lenovo Video Editor (by CyberLink)

Frankly, most of this I view as Bloatware. The first thing I did was remove all but a couple of packages from the TP10. I then left the TP10 to update itself with Windows and Lenovo driver updates. A few hours, and 60+ updates later, it was ready to use.

I uninstalled Office 2013 Home & Student from my TPT2 and installed it on to the TP10. I needed to activate it via the telephone, rather than the painless internet route, but after punching in reams of numbers into my phone and into the TP10, Microsoft was happy and activated Office. After another round of software updates, this time for Office 2013, I think the TP10 is now finally ready to be put to work.

I’ll report back over the coming months on how I’m getting on.

Addendum: I do rather wish that manufacturers would strive for consistency with accessories across generations. For example:

  • The TPT2 has a mini-HDMI port; the TP10 has a micro-HDMI port. So I have to buy yet another HDMI cable for the TP10…
  • The Docking connectors are different, so I have to buy a new TP10 Dock, I can’t re-use the TPT2 Dock.
  • The TPT2 has a VGA Adaptor that fits into the Docking connector on the tablet. I use that to connect my TPT2 to a VGA projector in meetings. There is no equivalent adaptor available for the TP10. In fact, apparently the only way to connect a TP10 to a VGA projector is to use the Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Adaptor. Note that is a USB 3.0 connector. The TP10 only has USB 2.0 on the tablet; I would have to get the TP10 Dock to provide a USB 3.0 connection for the adaptor…

Sigh.

Posted in Computers and Internet | 2 Comments

Listen

A wonderful episode on Doctor Who last night: Listen. Right up there with Blink in terms of plot dovetailing and hide-behind-the-sofa factor. Clara is developing into a nicely-rounded character, and the restaurant scenes between her and Danny Pink were very good in their toe-curling embarrassments, and reminiscent of Moffat’s earlier work in Coupling.

I thought it was interesting that the central idea in Blink was that you must not look away from a Weeping Angel, but that in Listen, you must never look at a Listener; polar opposites, but both equally capable of racheting up the fear factor. And the reveals of the boy in the barn and the barn itself at the end – well, I gasped at the audacity of it.

I liked the way that the central idea of there being listeners hiding under every bed was never entirely resolved one way or the other. Is it all in our imaginations or not?

Classic Doctor Who.

Posted in Television | 2 Comments

Pride

There’s a new film coming out (if you’ll pardon the pun): Pride. It tells the true story of a group of lesbians and gay men from London who went deep into the Welsh valleys to support the miners during the dark days of the miners’ strike in the mid-1980s.

It looks as though it’s wonderful, and will take me back to remembering those times. There’s a good interview with actor Bill Nighy and writer Stephen Beresford here.

Addendum: Mark Simpson has a terrific post about the film and his recollections of being involved with the LGSM group. Shake that bucket!

Posted in Film, LGBT Politics, Society | 4 Comments

A Romp With Robin

Just finished watching the Doctor Who episode: Robot of Sherwood. My, that was fun! Mark Gatiss writing at the top of his form, with lots of jokes and a serious question of what it means to be a hero. Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman. Tom Riley, et al, delivered in spades. A terrific episode, despite the hasty re-editing to remove a beheading.

Loved it, from beginning to end. Capaldi is going to be one of the great Doctors, mark my words.

Posted in Television | 1 Comment

Nailed?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking at the specifications of the Lenovo ThinkPad 10 (the TP10) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (the SP3) tablets, and trying to decide which of them is the best fit with my needs and usage. It’s been a bit of a saga, beginning back in May, with the announcement of the SP3 by Microsoft. I thought that the specifications of the SP3, whilst impressive in some respects, had some surprising omissions. I concluded that I would probably give the SP3 a miss. I revisited the topic in June, once TP10 models were becoming available, and pricing details were known. At that point, despite the SP3’s negatives, the SP3 model that I was most interested in (with the Intel Core i3 processor) was only slightly more expensive  (€15) than the closest equivalent TP10 available at that time, with its smaller display and less powerful processor. However, my decision was still not clear-cut, so I returned once more to the topic in July when I compared both the TP10 and the SP3 to my current tablet, the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 (the TPT2). I’ve had the TPT2 since January 2013, and it has served me very well. Things were becoming clearer by this time, as a result of both the TP10 and the SP3 getting in the hands of customers, and them posting their experiences and issues in community forums. In recent weeks, the TP10 has started appearing in Lenovo’s online web stores around the world. Interestingly, the models offered include versions with Windows 8.1 with Bing, a lower-priced alternative to those offered with Windows 8.1 Pro (which have, up until now, been the only versions available here in the Netherlands). I don’t need the additional features of Windows 8.1 Pro in my tablet, so that gives me an immediate saving of €130. That means that a TP10 with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and no WWAN (i.e. the closest equivalent to the Core i3 version of the SP3) is €620 versus the SP3’s €819. I have to say that while the SP3 is an impressive engineering feat by Microsoft, the design has just too many compromises for me:

  • The rear camera is a low-resolution, fixed-focus device, which can’t be used for scanning documents, and which does not support the Panorama feature in Microsoft’s Camera App (despite Microsoft’s SP3 User Guide falsely claiming that it can).
  • There are too many complaints that the WiFi capability does not work properly. Microsoft has admitted that there is an issue, and is working on a fix, but that is not yet available, with no estimate on when it will arrive.
  • In addition to the WiFi connectivity issue, there is also evidence that WiFi performance is poor under certain circumstances.
  • There is no GPS chip in the SP3. Personally, I think that every tablet should have one by default. Location via WiFi triangulation is not sufficient outside of built-up areas.
  • The SP3 is very difficult to repair (that IFIXIT teardown is hilarious, and well worth reading). If something goes wrong, the SP3 really needs to be thrown away and replaced. That doesn’t help my hankering to improve my green credentials.
  • And the big one: the SP3 is not fanless. It uses the Haswell generation of Intel’s Core processors, and their thermal output requires fan-assisted cooling for the most part.

On that last point, it is true that Intel has now managed to produce a version of the Haswell chip that can be used in fanless tablet designs, but it’s clear that the SP3 was designed around the mainstream Haswell chips, and that means a fan is a necessity. All eyes are now turning to Intel’s next generation of chips, code-named Broadwell, and now becoming available under the moniker of Core M. These really do promise to deliver a full x86 platform as well as the performance beyond that of a smartphone or an Intel Atom-powered tablet (e.g. the TP10) in fanless designs. The first Core M-based fanless tablets/convertibles have already been announced by Lenovo (a new Helix model) and HP. They are both larger than the 10.1” form factor of the TP10 (possibly because the Core M chips are physically larger than the current Intel Atom chips?), so it’s quite possible that smaller tablets will continue with Atom-based designs. However, it seems almost a certainty that Microsoft must be at least thinking about a fanless SP4 having the same form factor and size as the current SP3, and such a design would be based around Core M. To sum up. Now that a wider range of TP10 models are available here in the Netherlands, I could get a TP10 (faster, with a better display, and twice the RAM) to replace my existing TPT2 for €620. I definitely won’t be going for the SP3 (at €819) – too many compromises and issues for me. I could also equally continue using my TPT2 quite happily and wait to see what an SP4 has to offer. There’s no rush.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Praise Indeed

David Mitchell’s new book The Bone Clocks is published today. I was knocked out by his Cloud Atlas and by The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, so I’m looking forward to reading the new book with great anticipation. I went down to the local village bookshop last week and ordered my copy.

Today’s Guardian has a review of the book by another writer whom I admire without reservation and trust absolutely – Ursula le Guin. She likes it, so I’m sure I will too.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Photo Metadata – Software for Rights Test

The standards organisation IPTC has just published the results of a test of commonly available software to find out how effective different tools are in writing, editing and reading rights data in an image.

I’m pleased to see that Photo Supreme, the software I use for managing my photos, has come out well.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Photography | 4 Comments