Lenovo's Miix 510 is a capable 2-in-1 Windows tablet that's terrific for taking notes. The system sports a gorgeous 12-inch display with a handy flip-out kickstand, and it works with Lenovo's excellent Active Pen stylus so you can draw and write on the display with full pressure sensitivity. Plus, you get a snap-on keyboard included in the box.
But for all the Lenovo's slate has going for it, business users are likely to be disappointed by the system's short battery life and awkward keyboard layout. Still, starting at just $599 ($729 as tested), the Miix 510 is a solid pick for the money.
Commuters will appreciate the Miix 510's slim and light design – even if it it's not quite as portable as Microsoft's Surface Pro 4. The Miix weighs in at 2.7 pounds and measures 0.6 inches thick with the keyboard attached, making it a tad thicker and heavier than the Surface (1.8 pounds, 0.4 inches thick).
Otherwise, the Miix matches up pretty well against Microsoft's premium 2-in-1. I like its matte aluminum design, which feels sturdy. Meanwhile, the keyboard sports a synthetic faux leather covering, which looks nice and should ward off dirt and dust better than the Surface Pro 4's felt keyboard cover.
The Miix has one feature you won't find on the Surface Pro 4: a USB-C port. The port is good for transferring high-speed data, charging newer smartphones and attaching the Miix 510 to an external monitor. The Surface Pro 4 has a mini DisplayPort instead, which can only be used to connect to an external display.
On top of that, you'll find a single full-size USB 3.0 port on the Miix's left edge. There's no microSD card slot, though, so you can forget about expanding the system's external storage. The Surface Pro 4 does have a microSD card slot.
Of course, what separates the Miix 510 from your average convertible laptop is the fact that its display can detach completely from the keyboard, letting you use it as a 12-inch tablet. That's ideal when you want to use the system for entertainment – say, watching movies or browsing the web while you lounge on the couch – but the 2-in-1 design will also benefit business users in a couple of ways. That's particularly true if you make use of touchscreen “universal” apps that you can download in the Windows 10 store.
Unlike an iPad, the Miix 510 sports a flip-out kickstand that's really handy for propping the tablet up while you work, with or without the keyboard attached. That'll come in handy if you want to use the slate for showing off a presentation to a small group, for example. Plus, the kickstand is fully adjustable, letting you tilt the display to get any viewing angle you like. That's good for getting a nice sloped angle when you want to write on the screen with Lenovo's Active Pen stylus.
Note takers will love writing and sketching directly on the Miix 510's 12-inch display. The system is compatible with Lenovo's Active Pen, which lets you draw directly on the screen with full pressure sensitivity. The pen isn't actually included in the box – it must be purchased separately for $40 – but I consider it a must-have accessory for most workers.
The Miix 510 can pick up 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity when used with the Active Pen. That's twice as sensitive as what the Surface Pro 4 offers, and I can tell. When I took the stylus for a spin inside Microsoft's OneNote note-taking app, everything felt super smooth. I was able to feather my brush strokes and taper my lines, just like with a real pen. Keep in mind that there's no place on the Miix 510 to stow the pen when it's not in use, though, so it'll be easy to lose track of if you're not careful.
Lenovo's Active Pen itself is made of matte black plastic and doesn't feel as sturdy as the metal Surface Pen. It has two reprogrammable buttons on its side, one of which serves as a right click and one that defaults to the eraser function in most drawing apps.
The Miix 510's 12.3-inch display is bright, crisp and colorful, with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. Text looks sharp and colors are vibrant; when I checked out the HD trailer for "Ghost in the Shell," the neon lights of a bustling futuristic city really popped.
As with the Surface Pro 4, the Miix 510's display is taller than your typical widescreen laptop display, with an aspect ratio of 2:3. That gives you some extra breathing room while browsing the web or editing documents. It also makes for a wider display when you're using the tablet in portrait mode, so you don't feel cramped while jotting down notes. But while the Surface display has identical dimensions, it's sharper, with a resolution of 2736 x 1824 pixels.
If your typing habits are anything like mine, the placement of the right Shift key on the Miix 510's keyboard will drive you batty. It's been positioned just to the right of the up arrow key, which makes it hard to reach. While typing up this review on the system, I kept navigating upward in my document when all I wanted to do was capitalize a letter.
If you don't use the right Shift key very often, then you might be satisfied with the keyboard. It offers a decent 1.34 millimeters of key travel, which is only a bit under the 1.5 mm we look for in a laptop keyboard. I wish the keys felt snappier, though; there isn't much tactile feedback on each stroke. Overall, it's not a bad typing experience for a 2-in-1 tablet.
Like the Surface Pro 4, the Miix 510 is not ideal for lap typing. That's because you'll need to balance the kickstand on your knees, which meant that I couldn't quite scoot the system back on my lap as far as I wanted in order to get an ideal angle for typing and viewing the screen. It's far from a deal breaker, but it is something that workers who do a lot of lap typing should keep in mind.
Mobile workers will love the Miix 510's portable design, but they'll be less thrilled by its short battery life. The system ran for just five hours and 25 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That falls short of the marks hit by the Surface Pro 4 (6:04) and HP Spectre x2 (6:31). All three of those systems died sooner than the 2-in-1 category average, though, which is around eight hours.
The Miix 510 delivers zippy performance, allowing me to multitask without a hitch. My review unit came equipped with a 2.3GHz Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. I wrote this review on the system while jumping between about a dozen tabs open in the Chrome browser, as well as doing some light photo editing in Photoshop, and never noticed a moment of slowdown.
The Miix racked up a very decent score of 6,313 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That's not bad at all, even if the Microsoft's Core i5-6300U-equipped Surface Pro 4 was a bit speedier, scoring 6,811 on the same test. The ultraportable average is 7,021.
Lenovo's slate fared better our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in four minutes and 31 seconds. That better than the ultraportable average of 6:34, though again it trailed the Surface Pro 4's mark of 4:11.
Lenovo sells the Miix 510 in two different hardware configurations. The entry-level model comes equipped with a sixth-generation Intel Core i3-6100U processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage for $599.
Workers would be better off with the model featured in this review, though. The higher-end configuration is powered by a speedier Intel Core i5-6200U processor with 8GB of RAM and double the SSD storage (for a total of 256GB) for $729.
All configurations of the Miix 510 come with a keyboard in the box, and the pen is sold separately for $40 extra. With Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, it's the opposite; the pen is included, but the keyboard is sold separately for $130.
Lenovo's Miix 510 is a versatile 2-in-1 laptop that doubles as an excellent digital notepad. I loved using Lenovo's Active Pen to write and sketch on the system's sharp 12-inch display – even if the pen must be purchased separately for $40.
Altogether, you're looking at $770 for the midrange Miix 510 and pen – and that's far more affordable than Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, which will run you $930 when purchased with the keyboard. In other words, Lenovo's 2-in-1 is a pretty good bargain.
Then again, the Surface lasts longer on a charge and has a comfier keyboard that's better for marathon typing sessions. Plus, the Surface has a microSD card, something that's conspicuously missing from Lenovo's slate. The Miix 510 is still a good alternative, though, offering snappy performance and an equally versatile design at a lower price.