Lenovo's refreshed ThinkPad 10 tablet looks ready to take on Microsoft's Surface 3 for the title of best work slate under $500. The 10-inch device, which starts at $499, offers good performance and a handy Wacom stylus. Plus, it will come with Windows 10 installed when it launches in August.
The new ThinkPad 10 looks a lot like last year's model, with the same sturdy aluminum design and the same 1,920 x 1,200-pixel touch display. And like the 2014 version, the new ThinkPad 10 also comes with a Wacom stylus out of the box. That's a nice perk, considering that the stylus for Microsoft's Surface 3 is sold separately for $50.
If you're not familiar with stylus technology, a Wacom pen is about as good as it gets for taking notes and drawing diagrams right on your tablet's display. That's because the pens offer a high level of pressure sensitivity, meaning it's easy to vary the weight and thickness of your line – just like you would with a real pen.
Standard capacitive styluses – the kind you’d buy for an iPad – can't detect pressure at all. Only other Wacom-equipped slates, as well as tablets that come with N-Trig pens like the Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3, offer a pen experience this good. As an added bonus, the ThinkPad 10 comes with Lenovo's WRITEit app, which lets you write directly into Internet text fields using the pen.
The ThinkPad 10 is similar to the Surface 3 in a few other ways. It runs on your choice of an Intel Atom Z8500 or Z8700 processor, the latter of which is the same chip that provides good performance in the Surface 3. And like Microsoft’s slate, the ThinkPad 10 offers a good number of connectivity options, including a full-size USB 3.0 port, microSD card slot and micro HDMI port for connecting the slate to a monitor or projector.
Meanwhile, business users will appreciate that it offers better security options than the Surface 3, including a fingerprint reader and optional Smart Card reader. Both of those options are more secure than a basic password screen.
Like the Surface 3, the ThinkPad 10 is compatible with a range of accessories, including a keyboard accessory that’s sold separately for $120, just like Microsoft’s keyboard. Unfortunately, Lenovo's keyboard dock connects to the tablet at a fixed angle, meaning you can't change the tilt of the screen to get a better view. The Surface 3, in comparison, has a fully adjustable kickstand.
The other big downside to choosing the ThinkPad 10 is its compact 10-inch screen, which gives you less room to work than the 10.8-inch display on the Surface 3. That could be make screen-intensive tasks like editing a document or spreadsheet feel cramped. And while it’s slightly smaller than the Surface 3, the ThinkPad 10 weighs about the same as the Surface 3, so it's not much more portable.
Check back for a full review of the new ThinkPad 10 as soon as we get our hands on it this summer.