It’s impossible to look at the newly-announced Lenovo Miix 700 and not see a Surface knock-off. But then we should also thank Lenovo for doing what Microsoft refuses to do, and fix Surface’s biggest shortcomings: its too-small keyboard and trackpad and lack of PC-like expansion options.
Lenovo announced the Miix 700 and numerous other PCs and devices at IFA 2015 in Berlin this morning. But I was briefed separately about these announcements at a private event in New York and was able to get some hands-on time with the Miix 700 and whatever other devices I was interested in investigating further. Suffice to say the Miix 700 was at the top of the list.
So let’s step through what’s happening here.
From a basic form factor perspective, the Miix 700 looks and works exactly like a Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3. (In fact, it kind of cuts the difference between the two.) It is a 12-inch Windows 10 tablet with a detachable keyboard cover and a built-in kickstand. Looking at the device, you would be forgiven for believing that it is, in fact, a Surface.
In the words of Lenovo North American Consumer Business vice president Mike Abary, the Miix 700 has a premium design—again, just like Surface. But it does differentiate from Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3, and in some ways that I think are important.
The kickstand? It features Lenovo’s “watchband” hinge, which is also found on the most recent Yoga 3 Pro, itself one of the best Ultrabooks ever made. That means it offers variable positioning, just like Surface Pro 3. (And unlike Surface 3.)
The detachable keyboard cover comes with the Miix 3. That’s a big deal, as Microsoft charges Surface customers an additional $130 for a Type Cover. The Miix 3 keyboard cover looks and works like Type Cover for Surface Pro 3, in that it supports two typing positions, with the raised position coming thanks to magnets. It attaches and detaches using a mechanism that looks exactly like the one on Surface.
Whether this keyboard cover is “better” than the smallish Type Cover remains to be seen. On the plus side, it’s a ThinkPad-derived keyboard, and those keyboards are the best in the business. However, it is also much more low-profile than any ThinkPad keyboard and looks similar to Type Cover. The trackpad almost certainly has to be better than the unit on the Type Cover, as it is bigger.
While we’re still focused on the outside of the device, we can quickly see where Lenovo improved on the Surface design. First, it has two full-sized USB ports (one is 2.0, one 3.0), answering one of my key complaints about Surface, which lacks this basic expansion capability. It also features an optional Intel RealSense camera, meaning, yep, Windows Hello sign-capabilities. MicroUSB, micro-HDMI, and micro-SIM ports are also included. (LTE is optional.)
The Miix 700 will come in both black (which I played around with briefly) and gold versions. (Oh, the Chinese and their curious fashion choices.)
Inside, the Miix 700 splits the difference between the Atom-based Surface 3 and Core-based Surface Pro 3 in offering a 6th generation (“Skylake”) Intel Core M3 or M7 CPU. It comes with up to 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. The 12-inch screen looks great, and Lenovo tells me it runs at 2160 x 1440 resolution, so higher than Full HD. Weight is just 1.7 pounds and battery life is rated at 9 hours, so this will be a great travel companion.
The price? Lenovo says it will start at $699 and go up from there. I expect a fully-configured unit to be just north of $1000. Again, right between Surface and Surface Pro 3.
So. What do I make of a Surface knock-off that improves on most of my issues with Surface while hitting the right price-point? I think, great, Microsoft needs this competition. And I can’t wait to test it.
The Miix 700 arrives in November.