A couple of weeks ago, Best Buy had a quickie online sale of the 32 GB Lenovo Miix 2 8 tablet
for $199.99. That was cheap enough for me buy one just to see for myself how Windows 8.1 works on a tablet, particularly since it came with a full copy of MS Office 2013 H&S.
The quick answer is that the Windows 8.1 Modern interface is no better on a tablet touchscreen than on a desktop PC, meaning that it is close to unusable, but what really surprised me was how well the tablet runs the full Windows desktop environment.
The Miix 2 8 has a quad-core x64 Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM and runs 32-bit Windows 8.1, so I am not going to be loading Adobe Lightroom on it or doing MCMC simulations. But it runs Word, Excel and Internet Explorer just fine, as well as the other 32-bit Windows programs I have tried so far.
While It has less than 8GB of storage left after Windows, one can add a 32GB micro-SD card, so that isn’t a problem for me. Bluetooth keyboard and mouse work beautifully with it. The only thing keeping it from being used as a full blown desktop system is that it has no video out, and its 8” display is too small for serious work.
It does however, have a micro-USB port that supports OTG, and Plugable has a USB dock
that can be used to provides video from a Dell Venue 8 Pro, which is almost identical to the Miix 2 8. Unlike the Dell, Lenovo does not require a shorted data line to initiate charging through the USB port, so it is possible to use a Y-OTG cable to charge and connect a USB device at the same time. I have a Plugable dock on order and by next week should be able to test how well my Miix 2 8 can function as a full desktop computer.
The Miix 2 8 is roughly the same size as the Nexus 7 and weighs just 12 oz. In the next couple of months, Lenovo should be introducing the ThinkPad Tablet 2, which is similar in size and weighs just a couple of ounces more, but with a 1920x1080 display instead of 1280x800, USB 3.0 support and HDMI out, meaning it can substitute for a low-end desktop PC out of the box, although it will cost considerably more.
This really changes a lot of things. I expect Android and iOS tablets to remain the devices of choice for things like reading, watching videos, browsing, games, etc., if only because the Windows tiled UI is just too clumsy, and the desktop environment too complicated, for that kind of activity. But I can see Windows tablets replacing laptop and desktop PCs for many users in the not too distant future.