(Pocket-lint) - It might be splitting hairs, but the 2-in-1 world is changing: there are now medium-powered tablets with clip-on keyboards, and powerful almost-laptops with removable keyboards. It's this latter category that the Lenovo Miix 720 slots into — given the Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM and QuadHD+ screen resolution of this particular review model — which make it more like a full-time laptop than tablet.
With great power comes great financial responsibility, though, given the Miix 720's £1,650 price tag (it's an even pricier $2,699 in the States). Which squarely positions it against the Microsoft Surface Pro both in terms of specification and price.
If you're looking for all the power then does this Lenovo have the right practical mix to compete?
Lenovo Miix 720 review: Design
- 8.9mm tablet only / 14.6mm with keyboard / 1.1kg all-in
- 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.0 (doubles as charging port)
- Watchband hinge adjustable stand
Lenovo has been refining its design for some time: the company logo, for example, was subtly adjusted with a new font face in 2015; a logo which sits pride of place on the rear of the Miix 720.
Then there's the so-called watchband hinge — as used on the company's great-looking (or arguably too bling for some) Yoga laptops — which appears on the Miix 720 as a more visual gesture to its rear adjustable stand.
With both keyboard and stylus included in the Miix 720's box, it feels like a complete laptop setup from the off. That keyboard includes subtle high-end touches, such as the chamfered edging around the interior of the trackpad.
Straddling the standards of today and the future, the Miix 720 features two full-size USB 3.0 ports (one on each side of the device), plus a Thunderbolt 3.0 (USB Type-C fitting) socket — the latter which doubles-up as the charging port, rather than being always available to use.
Unlike the Acer Switch 5, however, the Miix 720 uses fan-based cooling for either of its Intel Core i5/i7 load outs, hence the notable fan openings to the top of the device. They're not unsightly — we prefer that to the strange almost serrated edge of the Switch 5, actually — but are less present than in the lower-powered Miix 520, which doesn't make a great deal of sense for the higher-power device such as this.
Overall the Lenovo Miix 720 is a well conceived piece of design. It's not as striking as the Microsoft Surface Pro's more distinctive appearance, but it's more refined than the Acer Switch 5.
Lenovo Miix 720 review: Screen
- 12-inch, 2880 x 1920 pixel (QHD+) LCD panel
If you want resolution, then you're in luck. The Lenovo Miix 720 packs in an abundance of pixels. More than five and a half million of them, in fact, with its QuadHD+ panel cramming in a very dense array over this 12-inch panel.
And it looks great. You'll never catch out a jagged edge with this degree of resolution. But it's the clarity, colour and brightness that really help this panel to pop. We've had no issues with limited top-end brightness like we had with the Acer Switch 5. Indeed, the only issue we've had — if it can be truly called that — is down to the slightly reflective coating over the screen's surface causing some reflections.
The bezel design is also large, which isn't as eye-catching as, say, the Dell XPS "InfinityEdge" solution. But then this Lenovo is also a tablet, so the need to hold it means thumb-width bezels makes perfectly good sense.
Lenovo Miix 720 review: Typing, trackpad and stylus
- Clip-on backlit keyboard and Active Pen stylus included
With both keyboard and stylus included in the box, the Miix 720 is a step ahead of the keyboard-not-included Microsoft Surface Pro, which makes the Lenovo feel like a complete laptop alternative.
The keyboard clips into place with ease thanks to a strong magnetic pull, its exterior featuring a soft-touch finish that looks refined and helps protect the screen when closed. This soft material lips over the edge of the firm plastic base panel, the latter which does create a sharp line to the front — not ideal for resting wrists on for long periods of time.
The typing experience is good, however, save for the the tiny Shift key to the right-hand side, which sometimes caught us out by hitting the upward arrow instead of creating a capped proper noun mid-sentence! Each key is otherwise the correct size, has ample travel, and the backlight is one of the most uniform we've seen from a separate device such as this. Sometimes the keyboard does timeout to save on power, which can result in the first key stroke not being registered.
The trackpad also feels great. Its surface is smooth and responsive, ensuring no "tacky" feel, thus allowing fingers to glide over and make gesture controls. There are left/right corners, which give a satisfying click without being too deep. It's a better integrated trackpad then you'll find on the Acer Switch 5, on the basis of feel alone.
Then, of course, there's the Active Pen stylus, also included in the box, but which lacks any proper home. There's no keyboard loop to store it, as per the Switch 5, nor is there a magnetic connection, as per the Surface Pro. However, the Lenovo stylus does include a pocket clip, which might come in handy. Whether you'll want to use a pen for on-screen functions is a matter of preference, but it's ready and waiting for you to do so — assuming you don't lose it within five minutes, anyway.
Lenovo Miix 720 review: Performance and battery
- Intel Core i5 / i7 CPU (2.7-2.9GHz Core i7-7500U as reviewed)
- 8GB-16GB DDR4 RAM (16GB as reviewed)
- Up to 1TB SSD (256GB as reviewed), microSD slot
- Sub-5hr battery life per charge
It goes without saying that the Miix 720 is powerful. In this review configuration its Intel Core i7 with 16GB RAM is touching on MacBook Pro territory. However, the less powerful Core i5 with 8GB of RAM would be where we'd spend our cash: one, because it's less taxing on the battery; two, because it's more affordable and will likely suit all your needs just as well from a product of this form factor.
In its Core i7 configuration we've been able to smash through image editing, with video editing a pixel-for-pixel Full HD piece looking almost small-scale on such a resolute screen. If you're into gaming then there's the guts to run things at reasonable settings, too, although this isn't a gaming laptop and there's no discrete graphics setup.
But there's a bit of a problem with all that power: it creates heat. And the Miix 720 needs to cool its innards with fans. There's no liquid cooling here, as you'll find in the silent Acer Switch 5.
And not very much needs to happen for the Lenovo to call upon those fans at full throttle. After running the battery down, we popped the machine onto a desk to charge. The simple addition of the power cable caused its whirring fans to make a fair bit of noise. The Microsoft Surface is quieter in its Core i7 configuration, while the Acer Switch doesn't emit any noise at all.
The Miix 720's on-board battery also has to provide power for a whole lot of kit: there's the powerful processor, the fan units, the ultra-resolute screen, plus more. That's going to be a tough task for any battery and, unsurprisingly, it doesn't last even nearly as long as its near competitors.
As an ad-hoc test we streamed a 2160p YouTube video at maximum brightness with the sound on, which drained the battery from full to dead in three hours and 15 minutes. That's a rate of about 30 per cent an hour, which pales compared to 24 per cent from the Surface Pro and 20 per cent from the Acer Switch 5 during equivalent tests.
Not that that's indicative of battery life for everyday use. In the time we've had the Miix 720, we've not been calling on a non-stop Wi-Fi stream, nor for full-screen movie playback at maximum brightness. The mixture of word processing, browsing and general day-to-day work musings at 75/100% brightness sees the battery last for around four and a half hours — again, nowhere nearly as good as the current Surface Pro and, therefore, not really good enough overall.
The trick to get around this limited life is to tap on the Battery Saver option from within the taskbar. It automates a more aggressive screen brightness adjustment, but will extend battery life by a considerable margin, adding an extra hour, perhaps hour and a half to use. But the thing is, with an Intel Core i7 at its heart, surely having to fight away the potential of such power — power that you've paid extra for — is undoing part of its point?
So does the Lenovo Miix 720 have the right mix to see off the Microsoft Surface Pro? Not quite. Ultimately, it feels like a slightly different proposition.
Despite getting the visual design right, being all-powerful, hosting an impressive screen and including both keyboard and stylus in the box — which are all huge positives — the Miix 720 can't quite live up to the mark in terms of battery life.
With under five hours of use per charge from the Core i7 model on review, we would advise scaling things back, saving some cash, and looking to the Core i5 model instead. Or lean towards the even more affordable Acer Switch 5, which has silent operation thanks to its liquid cooling technology and lasts far longer. Or go for the daddy of Windows 2-in-1 devices, the Microsoft Surface, which feels the better balanced proposition of all.
That's the thing about the Lenovo Miix 720: for all it gets right — and there is plenty — it's just not enough to win in this category and the longevity per charge will frustrate if this is your on-the-go machine. With powerful, near-silent and long-lasting competitors already available to buy instead — not to mention other full-on laptop competitor alternatives — this Lenovo only needs to up is battery life and it'd be a winner.
Alternatives to consider
Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)
The daddy of the Windows 2-in-1 market feels like the best balance of design aesthetic, power and longevity. It's still not a perfect machine, and there's no keyboard included in the box, but it's the standout device in the category for a reason.
Read the full article: Microsoft Surface Pro 5 review
Acer Switch 5
The Switch 5's best card is battery life and silent operation. If longevity is key then this is the one to consider, or the Switch 12 Alpha.
Read the full article: Acer Switch 5 review