Lenovo Miix 320 Review: Almost a Surface Successor

Read my Surface RT review and you’ll get a take for just how much I loved the Surface RT. I think it was an incredible device for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, after two successors, Microsoft has all but abandoned the standard Surface line, opting to focus on the Surface Pro along with their other new products.

Revisiting my Surface RT made me realize that I really miss having that type of device in my arsenal, so I did what any sane tech geek would do and scoured the internet for a suitable modern successor to the Surface RT. I was surprised to find that there are actually very few Windows 10 tablets on the market today, and many of them are either very low end or very high end.

The Lenovo Miix 320 is definitely closer to the low end, but made for a compelling product that I was excited to check out. Does it fit the bill?

Design

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With my first trial of the Miix 320, I was quite impressed with the design. While the tablet portion is primarily plastic, and the keyboard deck seems to be some mix of plastic and metal, it has a near-metal look and feel that is completely passable at it’s price point. It is slightly thicker than many of the other tablets out on the market, but it is not overly heavy to the point of being uncomfortable to hold.

The connection between the keyboard and the tablet is impressively sturdy, and despite looking a little lower quality, I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t do this. I was instantly looking for a release switch or button and was surprised when I could just pull the tablet away with a little force. The magnets are strong enough to hold when you are holding just the tablet or just the keyboard, which is great.

I was a little disappointed to find that you cannot reverse the attachment of the tablet to the keyboard, in order to use it as a stand for flights and such. The magnets in the connection mechanism are not reversible like those in say, the Surface Book. While it is not a big issue, the tablet has a slightly taller footprint than the keyboard, so when closing the device like a laptop, a lip of the tablet portion slightly overlaps the keyboard. It does not have an impact on usability, but it is something I would expect out of a tablet at this price point.

 

Keyboard and Trackpad

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The Miix 320 keyboard has the feel of many lower-mid-range Lenovo IdeaPad computers, which is perfectly fine. It’s got a lot of travel for a tablet along with islanded keys. Unfortunately there just isn’t a lot of space to fit it, and therefore there are a few oddly placed keys. The first issue I have is the number row. Since the ` and the ~ key was included to the right of the Esc key, the whole number row is squished, so I often found myself hitting 1 when I was trying to hit 2, and hitting ` when I was trying to hit 1. Similarly, Backspace and Delete are right next to each other, so I feel like my right little finger has to stretch to get the Backspace. Finally, a PrintScrn button was included just right of the right Alt key, which I don’t find a lot of use for. I believe an opportunity for a fantastic keyboard was just missed by the exclusion of a function row, which possibly could have been squeezed just below the hinge. There is no software or hardware indication for when the keyboard is set to CAPS LOCK, so entering passwords can sometimes be a guessing game.

Despite its size, the trackpad is quite impressive. It’s smooth and very usable. The two-finger left click isn’t quite perfect.

 

Performance

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I definitely threw a lot at this device. One of the things I was impressed by was how well it handled Synergy, which has typically caused a lot of my higher spec devices to run hot. It might be the 4 GB of RAM as compared to the 2 GB model.

Even opening some apps takes long enough to the point where I wonder if the computer registered my click. Windows has a tendency to “freeze” apps while in tablet mode, resulting in having to reload those apps when you switch back into them. It’s very frustrating. While I don’t know who to blame, the touch screen keyboard has a very large amount of input lag.

Tilting the device upwards while using it sometimes yields a small whirring sound which I imagine is coming from the fan. It’s not terrible but it is noticeable in a quiet room.

 

Other

  • I really wish there was USB C charging. While having USB Type C is nice, it is not entirely useful without being able to charge with a standard cable.
  • It is incredible that they provide two USB Type A’s, one on either side, on the keyboard portion of the device.

 

Bottom Line

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Alas, despite how much I love this device, I cannot keep it. I tried so hard to make it work, but the fact is, the performance is just not enough for it to be usable. After installing all of the required Windows updates to get the device on the latest software, I noticed that I was getting less lag in Windows 10 apps such as OneNote. Unfortunately, I tried to use the tablet to watch a YouTube video and was very disappointed in the amount of lag I got from just navigating the website. Ironically, in normal use and navigation, the original Surface RT actually felt faster. That’s pathetic. And so, the search continues.

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