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Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 720: Proper Competition for the iPad Pro and Surface Pro

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Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 720: Proper Competition for the iPad Pro and Surface Pro

For mobile users, Lenovo’s Miix 720 is a powerful tablet that can replace your laptop with its bundled detachable keyboard folio cover and active stylus. With its familiar convertible form factor, the Miix 720 joins a growing list of competitors that aim to ape and outshine the category defining Microsoft Surface Pro. And the Miix does just that—balancing performance, futureproof port selection and upgradeability, making this the ultimate “pro” level tablet.

Despite its placement at the top of Lenovo’s consumer tablet lineup, the $1,029 starting price of the Miix 720 makes it a more affordable alternative to other solutions. This year’s model packs in Intel’s latest 7th Generation U-series Core i5 or Core i7 processor and ships with Lenovo’s Active Pen stylus as well as the keyboard cover.

Microsoft’s comparably configured Surface Pro is priced at $1,299, for example, but the pen is a $100 add-on while the Signature Type Cover keyboard adds another $159 to your total. The Miix 720 also competes against HP’s newly announced Spectre x2 and Apple’s iPad Pro in the premium segment.

Design

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The Miix 720 marries Microsoft’s slate-like design from the Surface lineup with Lenovo’s signature watchband hinge from its Yoga series convertible for the kickstand, creating an elegant tablet with Lenovo’s design DNA. Like other premium detachables in this category, the Miix 720 employs a metal alloy unibody construction, and the slab’s black paint makes it look and feel more like a ThinkPad than a member of Lenovo’s consumer IdeaPad family.

The result is elegant, and the black hue makes the Miix 720 a nice alternative to Microsoft’s silver-bodied Surface lineup. The sea of black on the back is only broken up by two small areas along the left and right edges where two small watchband hinges are located, which helps the tablet recline up to 150 degrees. Lenovo states that the hinges are comprised of 256 pieces of stainless steel.

Curiously, despite Lenovo’s warning to not overextend the hinge or apply too much pressure to the hinge’s completely wide-open position, I never encountered any problems with the functionality of the hinge mechanism—if you’re a digital artist, likely you’ll want to extend the hinge fully, and resting your hands on the slate when drawing will put pressure on the hinge.

Measuring a svelte 11.5 × 8.27 × 0.35 inches with a 12-inch display, the Miix 720’s dimensions are similar to those of the Surface Pro, which comes in at 11.5 × 7.39 x .0.33 inches and a 12.3-inch display size. The keyboard cover adds another 0.22 inches to the Miix 720 when attached, and at 1.72 pounds, the tablet is very comparable in weight to the Surface Pro—Microsoft’s weight quotes vary depending on your processor selection.

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On the back, you’ll find a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus, while a 1-megapixel 720p HD webcam sits on the front. The webcam also has an IR camera to support password-less Windows Hello logins.

Like the Surface Pro, you’ll be treated with a 3:2 aspect ratio display, which is better suited for productivity than for entertainment, and the Miix 720 sports an LCD IPS QHD+ display resolution of 2,880 × 1,920 pixels. The Surface Pro has a 12.3-inch display with 2,736 × 1,824 pixels, making the Miix 720’s screen slightly sharper. The Miix 720’s screen gets bright —especially when the brightness is cranked up. I had no problems with screen readability under shaded areas outdoors.

Like the Surface Pro, port selection on the Miix 720 is similarly limiting, but you do have more ports on Lenovo’s design. Where the Miix 720 shines is that it comes with a Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C port, making the laptop a bit more futureproof than the Surface Pro, which comes with a single USB Type-A port and a miniDP port for video. Additionally, the Miix 720 comes with two USB Type-A port, one of which supports USB 3.0 speeds, a microSD card slot and a combo audio jack.

Lenovo ships a clever USB adapter with the Miix 720 that comes with a plastic clip. If you’re not using one of the USB ports on the tablet, the adapter can be inserted into one of the two USB Type-A ports, allowing you to easily slide in the Lenovo Active Pen and have a stylus holder with your Miix 720.

Depending on how you use the Miix 720, you may need an adapter for the USB-C Port— Lenovo doesn’t include one in the box. For instance, if you need to connect the tablet to a display, you may need either a multiport USB-C adapter or a USB-C to HDMI or VGA dongle. Support for Thunderbolt 3 means that you can connect the Miix 720 to a GPU box, for example, and gain even more graphics power when using the tablet as a desktop replacement. In this configuration, connecting the Miix 720 to a GPU box and a larger display, you can even replace your desktop workstation or gaming rig with this mobile computer.

There are two speakers, one located on each side of the tablet. The speakers are positioned towards the roar of the tablet near the opening for the kickstand, but they’re angled so that they aren’t completely backfiring. The speakers are Dolby-tuned and provide stereo sound. The speakers sound good, with minimal to no distortion even at the highest volume, delivering clear sound. The speakers get loud enough for personal use, but don’t expect room-filling sound from the Miix 720 like what you get on the iPad Pro.

Keyboard Folio Cover

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The typing experience is very comfortable with the backlit keyboard. There are three positions for the backlight—off, light backlighting and strong backlighting. The backlight brightness can be adjusted manually to fit your needs.

Unlike Lenovo’s ThinkPad keyboard, key caps on the consumer series feel a bit flat, but there is still a decent amount of key travel to make typing feel comfortable. The keys are responsive and clicky, but not overly loud to be bothersome when used in more quiet environments, like during a meeting. I had no problems with typing speed or accuracy with the island-styled key arrangement.

One thing that I appreciated with this keyboard is that the arrow keys are full sized with good spacing between each key. This makes navigating with the arrow keys far easier than on competing Ultrabooks or convertibles, and Lenovo should be applauded for a thoughtful keyboard design on this detachable. I prefer Lenovo’s keyboard folio over Microsoft’s similar Type Cover accessory for the Surface Pro. No matter how hard I typed on Lenovo’s keyboard cover, I didn’t find any flex or bounce on the keyboard. The Type Cover, on the other hand, flexes if you’re typing on the center of the keyboard.

The keyboard deck feels like it is constructed with a matte plastic, and the choice of material does a good job of not attracting oils or fingerprints. The outside cover, like on older Surface Pro 4 model Type Covers, is constructed of a suede-like material. When working on public surfaces, like at a cafe, I find myself using the secondary magnets to attach the keyboard to the screen. Not only does this provide better typing ergonomic, but it also minimizes the contact area where the keyboard would meet the surface. My hope in doing this is to help keep the backside of the keyboard clean.

Just the below the keyboard is a sizable touchpad that can be clicked when pressed. The clicking noise is a bit more loud than I’d prefer, but it works well and the tracking surface is smooth and accurate. The trackpad doesn’t feel quite as wide as newer Type Covers on Microsoft’s Surface Pro line, but I didn’t feel like it was a cramped experience.

Specifications

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Our review unit of the Miix 720 came configured with a 2.70GHz 7th Generation Intel Core i7-7500U processor, integrated Intel HD Graphics 620, 8GB DDR4 RAM and 256GB PCIe SSD. As configured, our review unit is priced at $1,129 and includes both the active pen stylus and the keyboard cover, making it a more affordable alternative to a similarly configured Surface Pro or Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft.

Lenovo’s website currently only lists two configurations for the Miix 720, so you’ll have less options for customization than for the Microsoft Surface Pro. Lenovo only allows you to choose between a Core i5 and Core i7 processor at this time. The base $1,029 configuration shares our review unit’s 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD, with the only difference being the 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U CPU. If you need more storage, the SSD is upgradeable if you’re adventurous and willing to dive into your tablet’s internal.

Performance

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With a 15W Core i7 processor, our Miix 720 has the horsepower and hardware to compete against some of the best modern Ultrabooks and convertibles on the market. I do wish Lenovo would offer the high-end Core i7 with better Intel Iris Plus graphics to match the Surface Pro’s high end configurations, but the integrated HD Graphics 620 does a good job nonetheless.

Although our Miix 720 review unit ships with a Core i7 processor, performance was weaker than the Core i5-equipped Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. One culprit to the Miix’s slow down may be the inclusion of more preloaded titles, like a trial version of McAfee’s antivirus suite. McAfee bombarded the Miix with a number of pop-ups during my test.

Because the Miix 720 is positioned as a premium consumer convertible, Futuremark’s Home test was more appropriate than the Work test that was performed on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga review. The Miix 720 scored 2,441 points using PCMark 8’s Conventional Home Test, compared to the ThinkPad’s score of 2,719 despite sporting a weaker processor. PCMark 8 also produced a battery life score of three hours and 17 minutes.

In use, I averaged around five hours of battery life on a single charge of mixed use, with tasks ranging from multiple browser windows, working in Microsoft Office 365, video consumption and some limited photo editing. The Lenovo Active Pen is a useful tool for making more granular photo edits, and graphics artists will appreciate the wide angles for screen recline.

While the kickstand is solid, and I didn’t notice any wobbling when working on a flat surface, lapability remains a problem with the Surface Pro-like form factor. This is due to the fact that the kickstand occupies room on the rear, and when the tablet reclines with the keyboard attached, you’ll need plenty of room on your lap to work. However, because the keyboard can clip onto the screen on the front, this not only provides a more ergonomic angle for typing, but it also makes the whole setup feel more secure and stable when you’re working on your lap.

The Miix 720 also scored 318 points using 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark. With Cinebench, it earned a processor score of 265 points and a graphics score of 33.77fps.

Under heavy stress, the fans kick in, and you can feel airflow being pumped out from the vents up top. The fans were not particularly loud, but fan noise is more noticeable on the Miix 720 than on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. Unlike the ThinkPad, however, the Miix 720 never felt overly hot and the surfaces feel cool.

Inking with the pen is smooth, and there is a slight bit of friction when writing with the nib of the Active Pen on the Miix 720’s glass panel, making it feel more natural. The Active Pen 2 is capable of registering up to 4,096 levels of pressure, and I found that the pen does a good job of keeping up with my note-taking—and latency was very, very minimal.

Battery life

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Lenovo rates the sealed internal battery on the Miix 720 for eight hours of battery life. In use, I got closer to five hours of active usage, though battery life numbers will vary depending on how you use your device. While the numbers are favorable when compared to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, Lenovo’s battery rating seems low in light of the new Microsoft Surface Pro, which uses a similar Intel Kaby Lake architecture CPU.

Microsoft  rates the Surface Pro for up to 13.5 hours of video playback. Likely, the Surface Pro benefits from stronger battery performance due to the lack of fans on the Intel Core m3 and Core i5 models of the tablet—only the Core i7 configuration uses a fan, but the i7 configuration also ships with more powerful Intel Iris Plus graphics (the Miix tops out with an Intel HD Graphics 620 integrated GPU).

Serviceability

The Miix 720’s upgradeability will be a big selling point for prosumers and small business owners looking to purchase a detachable. Whereas Microsoft’s Surface Pro is completely sealed—like Apple’s iPad Pro—offering no way to easily access or upgrade the tablet’s components, the Miix 720 is a different story.

On the Miix 720, the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard, so you won’t be able to upgrade the memory on the device. However, the battery and SSD can be upgraded on this tablet. Underneath the kickstand, you’ll find a set of screws that allow you to remove the back plate and access the battery and SSD. Over time, your battery may deplete and being able to swap in a new battery can extend the life of your tablet. And being able to pop in a larger SSD will help your slate evolve along with your changing needs. Currently, Lenovo offers configurations with up to 256GB of solid state storage, but you can also buy a 2TB M.2 SSD and perform the upgrade yourself should you find yourself needing more local storage.

If you need more storage but don’t want to deal with accessing the internals of the Miix 720, you can alternatively use a microSD card. The maximum available capacity that’s widely available today for microSD cards is 256GB.

Lenovo also offers various extended warranty options, and you can add a three-year warranty package with accidental damage protection for $179 on top of the standard one-year standard warranty.

Verdict

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By drawing from its expertise in creating some of the most coveted business computers on the market, Lenovo has created a sleek alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro that delivers more “pro” features to more advanced users.

And while the portability of the Miix 720 makes it an ideal Ultrabook replacement for mobile users, it’s middling battery life compared to the new Surface Pro means you’re sacrificing all-day battery life for the convenience of Lenovo’s convertible form factor. There are other notable features absent from the Miix 720, like the omission of WWAN and the lack of a fingerprint scanner option. However, if you want performance and don’t mind the battery life compromise, the Miix 720 stands out with its futureproof Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C port, which adds a lot of flexibility to this tablet. I just wish that Lenovo had done a better job of tuning the Intel Core i7 processor on our review unit to deliver better performance.

With specifications that match the Surface Pro, the Miix 720 is a powerful computer in a highly mobile form factor that offers an excellent balance of price, power and performance. The excellent keyboard cover and active stylus are both included in the price of the tablet, and the Miix 720 promises to deliver similar Surface Pro-level performance.

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