I love my Nexus 7. That little Android tablet has been my constant companion for quite some time. The 7-inch form factor is just right for a pocket-able machine to take with me anywhere I go.
But when I saw the new 8-inch, Atom-powered tablets from the likes of Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba... I'll admit, I was a bit envious. The 7-inch screen of the Nexus 7 is great, but I could use just a little more. And I felt like my jacket pocket could handle the extra inch.
So I got my hands on one of these little bad boys (specifically the Lenovo Miix 2 8-inch tablet, which retails for less than $300 but can be found for closer to $200 if you look around) and took it for a spin. I was left completely in love, and yet I wanted to kill it with fire. To say I am conflicted on this little tablet would be an understatement.
First off, let's talk about the hardware.
As I predicted, the 8-inch size is absolutely perfect. It even fits in my pants pockets (though just barely). The screen is big and beautiful. Watching movies on this screen is an astoundingly better experience than watching them on the Nexus 7.
The rig is fast. Really, really fast. It's rocking a quad-core Atom processor with 2 gigs of RAM. I did a few quick benchmarks (using two different Windows benchmarking tools) and it clocked in at roughly similar to a high-end Core 2 Duo desktop. In a tablet. That's just plain awesome.
Battery life is good, but it’s nothing exceptional. Active use resulted in roughly similar battery life to the Nexus 7. However, when in standby, this puppy chewed through the battery much faster than its Android-powered competitor - fully charged before I went to bed, down to about 60% remaining when I woke up. All of which means this tablet will do fine, battery-wise, for a full day of being out and about. But you'll need to be damned sure you charge it fully every night.
The unit I have comes with 32 gigs of storage, 10 of which is taken up by a recovery partition. Another 12 is taken up by the stock install of Windows 8.1 that it comes loaded with (more on that in a moment), which means that you only actually have about 10 gigs of storage to work with. This means that a 32-gig Miix 2 has several gigs less of storage available than a 16-gig Nexus 7, which is less than awesome.
The build quality is stellar: good weight, good size, and it feels sturdy and high-quality in my hand.
Basically, from a hardware standpoint, this would be the perfect rig to throw Linux on and use as a tablet – or even a laptop replacement if you pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard. In many ways, this is exactly the piece of hardware I've been looking for.