The tablet space is a bit of a disaster of late since the iPad came on like gangbusters, scared the hell out of the PC market, and then pretty much died off into obscurity due to a lack of promotion and marketing by Apple. And where the iPad went, so did the rest of the market.
My personal favorite tablet has been the Amazon Fire HD 10 that, at around $150, is one of the greatest bargains in the segment. Well, the Lenovo Smart Tab has similar specs to the Amazon Fire HD 10, but it also has some unique capabilities, making its near-$300 price worth the delta for some uses–particularly in the office. Let me explain.
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When I’m in the office, I like to use a desktop computer, not a docked laptop. This is because I want the extra performance, I don’t like the complexity of a dock, and the desktop computer can remain on the floor, giving me maximum desktop space (I tend to spread out). A tablet is handier than a laptop for taking written notes, reading documents, using while walking and consuming entertainment while waiting for a meeting to start.
The Lenovo P10 also performs the role of a digital assistant, which means you can ask it questions, have it surface alerts (like meeting reminders) and provide quick updates on things like the weather or breaking news, depending on how you set it up.
In addition, because you are carrying it, the device must look professional, so people don’t assume you are slacking off. The integrated dock not only provides music for the office (don’t do this in a cubicle; your neighbors will get pissed) but also provides a way to ensure that the tablet is always charged and ready to grab and go.
I’ve had the tablet in use in my office for several weeks now and, for work, it is a better alternative than my Amazon Fire Tablet. This is largely because it’s in dock and fully charged all the time and operating as an office desk clock/calendar when I’m not carrying it. Meanwhile, my Fire sat in my computer bag when it wasn’t in use. Now you can get a dock for the Fire Tablet, but it doesn’t have speakers, and it uses an awkward mini-USB connection which isn’t as convenient, so I stopped using it the same day I got it.
The Smart Tab just sits in the doc and uses contacts to charge, so it is more of a dock-and-run experience. For a digital assistant, the speakers are good; they lack a low end sound, but for an office it is fine. One thing I discovered is that an all-glass tablet–this is glass, front and back–is hard to carry, and it’ll slide if you put it on a surface that has any kind of a slope to it. So it does need a case, and I tried three of them before I found one that would work with the dock. The one I found was from Jingdu and costs a reasonable $20. But it makes all the difference in the world when you are carrying the tablet, and it does a better job of both holding the device in place and propping it up if you want to watch a video while you are away from the dock.
One other interesting design element is that the product has its forward-facing camera set up for landscape mode, so it works great in the dock but not as well when you are carrying it. However, I’ve found that most folks prefer to use their smartphone (in place of a tablet) when they are chatting while mobile, so I doubt that is an issue.
The Lenovo P10 Smart Tab sets a new bar for tablets used in the office (or kitchen, for that matter). What makes it different is that it performs very well docked and, with the recommended case, is good for taking notes or accessing material while away from the office as well as the entertainment capabilities for which tablets are most famous.
In short, the Lenovo P10 Smart Tab is the office accessory I didn’t know I needed, and it showcases how an OEM can rethink a product to target a specific use case that isn’t being adequately addressed by the market leader. It isn’t a laptop, nor does it try to be, but it is one of the best tablets I’ve run into for office use.
I’d like to see more OEMs think out of the box like this. I’m convinced there are a lot of more interesting things we could do with this form factor. Now that Apple isn’t setting the pace anymore, it is really time for another vendor to stand up and take the lead. This tablet won’t be that leader, but it shows a willingness to take chances on something new that is sorely needed in what has been a lackluster market of late: innovation.
Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is an award-winning analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.