A small business tablet can often be a real convenience, letting you access cloud services, your email and lots of handy apps on the go—with a roomy screen that's it easier to work on than your smartphone. But sometimes it's just not enough—like when you need to run real Microsoft Office or QuickBooks, not an app that delivers limited functionality. Some people work around that by carrying both a laptop and a tablet.
The Lenovo ThinkPad 10 Tablet (starting at $599)—and Lenovo's ecosystem of add-ons—bridges that gap and lightens your load. You get a world-class tablet, plus the power of an ultraportable notebook when you need it. In fact, thanks to the Windows 8 operating system, you can run your entire business on it.
A Sleek, Standalone Business Tablet
The ThinkPad 10 is, first and foremost, a tablet. The classic "ThinkPad black" color scheme reinforces that this is a business tool, while looking chic at the same time. The glass-and-aluminum tablet measures 10 inches by 7 inches and is a scant one-third of an inch thick. That's slightly thinner than an Apple iPad, and at 1.3 pounds it's lighter than the classic iPad, too.
Figure 1: The ThinkPad 10 Tablet features a svelte case and a beautiful 10.1-inch screen.
The small business tablet is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3795 processor mated to an Intel HD 4600 graphics chip and either 2GB or 4GB of RAM, depending on the model you choose. You can opt for 64GB or 128GB of solid state storage for your files and applications. While Lenovo claims 10 hours of battery life for the tablet, and we got about an hour shy of that in our day-to-day use (admittedly with more streaming-video use than a typical business day would involve).
The tablet's main feature is the responsive, bright 10.1-inch touchscreen (as opposed to a 9.7-inch screen of an iPad) that makes interacting with the device a pleasure. You can use single- or multi-finger gestures such as swipe, tap and pinch to quickly move, open and zoom. For more precise control on the high-resolution (1,920 x 1,200) screen, use the digitizer pen to tap, drag, double-click and so on.
The tablet's pen also lets you capture signatures, annotations (such as highlighter), freehand sketches and handwritten notes that can be converted to text. As with all tablets, writing on the glass surface takes some getting used to, but a little practice will let you make the most of Windows' pen capabilities.
Figure 2: Snap the ThinkPad 10 into the ThinkPad Ultrabook keyboard and you've turned the tablet into an eminently usable notebook PC.
The device itself comes packed with ports and connectors that you won't find on an Apple tablet or on most Android models: a micro-SIM card slot, a micro-SD card reader slot, a headset jack, a USB 2.0 port and even a micro-HDMI connector for sending the audio and video to an external display. There's a built-in microphone, of course, along with two cameras.
The front-facing camera is a reasonable 2 megapixels, which is good enough to deliver a crisp image while keeping bandwidth requirements to a minimum for video chats and the like. The rear-facing camera delivers an impressive 8 megapixels of resolution, for crisp, clear photos.
Figure 3: The ThinkPad 10 dock serves as a charging cradle, stand, and port station.
On the software side, you can choose a model with either the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 Pro. The upside of the Windows 8 operating system is that it can run the entire universe of current Windows software. So you don't need an Office emulator—you can run full Microsoft Office. The same is true of you CRM program, your accounting package and what have you. The downside is that, if you are hooked on apps, there's a smaller library of apps available for Windows 8 than for iOS or Android tablets.
A Small Business Notebook When You Need It
If Lenovo had stopped there, the ThinkPad 10 would be a very good entry in a crowded field of Windows tablets. But it's the add-ons that set it apart—and make it a contender to serve as your only portable computing device.
Our favorite accessory is the fantastic ThinkPad 10 Ultrabook Keyboard ($119), which features a stand to hold the tablet at just the right angle. The keyboard itself features island-style mechanical keys that mimic the excellent typing experience of Lenovo's ultraportable notebooks, along with a wide (but rather squat) touchpad. Lenovo also offers a Touch Case folio case ($119), which acts as a case, a stand, and an integrated touch-sensitive keyboard.
Figure 4: This folding cover protects the tablet's screen when not in use and folds into a stand when it is. There's even a flap that lets you expose the camera without removing the cover.
If you need more ports than the tablet delivers, invest in the optional ThinkPad Tablet Dock ($129). The cleverly designed dock serves as a charging cradle, holding the tablet upright so you can use it when docked. In addition to the power connector on the back, the dock also sports three high-speed USB 3.0 ports, which let you leave your peripherals—printer, external drive, and so on—plugged into it and ready for use. The dock also has an Ethernet jack for wired network access, along with a full-size HDMI port for connecting an external monitor.
Another handy accessory is the Quickshot cover ($45). As with other tablets' folding covers, the Quickshot protects the screen when the tablet isn't in use, and folds into a stand to let you use the tablet more conveniently on a desk or countertop. When covering the screen, the magnetic closure also puts the unit to sleep and wakes it upon opening. The neat trick is the small flap that, when folded down, exposes the camera and automatically launches the camera software so you can take photos without removing the cover.
Figure 5: The Protector case shields your ThinkPad 10 Tablet from dust, drops and smudges in harsh environments like a job site or the hands of your toddler.
If your business takes you to harsh environments, such as construction job sites, The ThinkPad 10 Protector case ($69) is a good idea. Made of a combination of hard plastic, foam, and silicone rubber, the case protects the tablet from shocks and drops. The screen protector repels dust and smudges yet still retains the touch sensitivity, and custom cut-outs allow access to the machine's ports.
If you're ready to commit to a Windows tablet, there isn't much to find fault with in the ThinkPad 10. Indeed, the device is the ThinkPad of tablets: well-built, well-optioned, and certainly not the cheapest option available. But if you want a serious business machine that can serve as a tablet and, with the right add-ons, a notebook to boot, the ThinkPad 10 Tablet may be the ideal choice.
Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.
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