Today, we’ll see if the Lenovo Miix 510 has the chops to challenge the Surface Pro 4 as a worthy addition to a Tech-Nomad’s gadget load-out.
DESIGN / BUILD QUALITY
It’s pretty easy to see where the Miix 510 gets its primary design inspiration from (ehem… Surface), but even then Lenovo has managed to sneak in a few of their own personal touches onto the 2-in-1 slate. Putting it against a Surface Pro (an SP3 in the photo above) does illustrate how their overall dimensions differ slightly, with the Miix 510 being slightly bigger.
The hinge on the Miix 510’s kickstand is a particular high point, with an intricate “watch-band” mechanism that not only looks really cool, it works even better than what Microsoft has on the Surface Pros. It provides steady friction from zero all the way up to the maximum 150 degrees that it opens up to. It also attaches itself tightly to the bottom magnets when closed, which is nice.
Another highlight is the inclusion of a USB Type-C port (Display Port compatible) to accompany the single full-sized Type-A port available. This means that you can use one of the numerous Type-C hubs proliferating in the wild now thanks to Apple and their new Macbooks, while STILL having a spare full port left over for devices that require more power.
However, that Type-C port doesn’t support either PD or Thunderbolt 3, which does limit your options a bit.
However, Lenovo’s decision to stick with a “normal” AC port rather than going Type-C PD did come as a blessing for me personally, as the Miix 510 can now be made to work with my ultra-portable Innergie ICE 65W travel AC adapter (look forward for a review on that one later). Not that the supplied 45W Lenovo adapter is that big to begin with.
Moving on, the body is made out of a single cast block of Aluminum, which makes the Miix 510 feel extremely solid in your hands. Unfortunately, using Aluminum does mean that the casing needs a plastic window of some sort for the WiFi/LTE antennas and that weight-wise, the Surface wins with its lighter magnesium alloy chassis. The Miix DOES come in an all-black anodized finish though, which makes it stand out well in the sea of silver/grey tablets – though there IS a silver version available if that’s more your thing.
There’s also a distinct lip around the generously bezeled display. It’s a very small touch but I foresee that it would be more than useful in protecting the periphery of that 12-inch screen from knocks and bumps along the way.
As for the screen itself, next to the bezels and the fact that its not 2k or super bright like some of the competitors, there’s actually very little to fault the screen with. It uses a very good 1920×1200 (16:10) IPS panel with wide viewing angles, a decent gamut coverage (92% sRGB according to the fine folks at NotebookCheck) and enough brightness (around 300nits) for decent outdoors use.
UNFORTUNATELY, the panel does have one big issue to it though, especially if you have flicker sensitive eyes: It uses PWM for brightness control, and the PWM flickering starts right below 90% brightness. If you’re especially sensitive to flicker you might get headaches from it, though I’ve been fine myself so far.
As for the keyboard cover, personally I find it to be more than acceptable, with decent travel for both the keyboard and the (surprisingly sensitive) touchpad, though the layout is a tad suspect (tinnnny right Shift). It also has back-lighting (at least for my model SKU), and the magnets that help connect and hold them in place are also surprisingly strong.
Another plus point is the fact that unlike most other 2-in-1s, the Miix 510 is actually quite self-mantainable/repairable. Though the RAM is soldiered in, the WIFI, battery and NVMe SSD are decently accessible and replaceable (and Lenovo even provides a FULL maintenance manual for the 510 on their support site). Which is good news for Tech-Nomads who might need to do our own repairs on the road.
As a postscript, I do feel I need to rant a bit about the 510’s power button though. One, when the device is offline or in sleep mode, there is often a short delay between pressing it and something happening. Two, it’s pretty easy to activate… too easy in fact that once I knocked the button against something while carrying it in my bag and the 510 turned on without me knowing it.
Suffice to say THAT quickly turned into an impromptu thermal test… which the 510 fortunately aced, as it ran baking hot with no complaints all the way until its batteries died (and until I found it later on, all drained).
Equipped with a Core i5-6200U Skylake processor, which is paired with 8GBs of the fastest DDR4 RAM available (2133MHz) and a lightning quick 256GB NVMe SSD; the Miix 510 has got some serious specs for a 2-in-1. At least enough to make it a more than decent rival to the i5 Surface Pro 4s… even at its decidedly reasonable price.
And, thanks to the device’s active cooling system, it does generally make good of its high-end components, as can be seen from the benchmark results above. For comparison’s sake, the PCMark8 scores for the Surface Pro 4 (i5/8GB) are around 2700 (Home) and 3700 (Work) – at least from what I was able to gather from the Internet.
So yeah, taking that into consideration it’s pretty safe to say that the Miix 510 IS quite a fair bit faster than a similarly configured SP4. It probably helped that the 510 ships with VERY minimal OEM bloatware, which is kinda refreshing these days.
Additionally, the Lenovo Active Pen works awesome, thanks to the Wacom AES tech it’s based on. The stylus itself is powered by those tiny AAAAs you normally use on these active styluses (which is a right pain to buy… but oh well), but it doesn’t have the Surface or Dell Venue type clickable end button so you gotta live with just having the 2 barrel ones. Writing performance is really good though, and it leaves the Acer Switch Alpha 12’s wavy and jumpy Synaptic stylus far in the distance. It’s got slightly worse hover distance vs EMR digitizers though (like the one in the Samsung Notes), but it’s plenty acceptable.
As a bonus, the Lenovo Active Stylus are also quite cheap over from the ‘Bay if you need spares or replacements, at least compared to other Active styli. As long as it’s marked Wacom, any of Lenovo’s many Active Styli (and even Wacom AES pens from other makes) seem to work fine with the 510 as well.
Wireless performance is pretty decent, considering its only a 1×1 Qualcomm AC WiFi (rather than the Intel that some 510s in other regions get). Thankfully, it’s replaceable, which is good to know if it’s not working well with your wireless networking setup.
That said, the Miix 510 does have its share of problems in terms of performance. For one, the combination of high(-ish) spec components, active cooling and less then efficient power management (thanks Lenovo) means that the Miix 510 is a relative power-guzzler compared to other 2-in-1s.
Hence, battery life on the Miix 510 is nominally around 5-6 hours, which is, well, about barely acceptable considering a similarly specced Surface Pro 4 does around 6-7 hours. Guess that’s the price to pay for all that extra performance, unfortunately.
Plus, the active cooling fan seems really eager to help cool the Miix, and it’s pretty much on constantly when the 510 is on AC power, which might or might not be an issue for you. It’s not overly loud or anything, but it’s there.
Next, that integrated Intel HD 520 means that you’re not really gonna get much gaming done on the Miix 510, even if Skylake level graphics are a whole lot better than the Intel GMAs of old. If it had a Thunderbolt 3 Port I could try hooking it up to one of those “Graphic Docks” floating around… but that’s really not what the 510 was made for. I do have some oldies installed though (Nexus – The Jupiter Incident, Torchlight 2), and they do work rather well.
Finally, don’t expect stellar performance out of the 2MP front or 5MP back cameras on the 510. Frankly, they’re nothing more than “serviceable” – as in they can take decent photos, but I don’t see them replacing even my smartphone for snapshots any time soon. The front camera isn’t of the Windows Hello-compatible kind either, which is a shame.
Here in Malaysia, where I am, a similarly configured i5 Surface Pro 4 with Type Cover and Surface Pen retails for about RM6.4k (about $1.4k), though recent promotions have them going more for about RM4.8k on Lazada.
The Lenovo Miix 510 retails for about RM3.5k (about $780). From a normal retail shop. That’s a substantial RM1.3k saving over the Surface Pro AND that’s not even considering you can get even better prices from local online retailers.
PLUS, to further sweeten the deal, Lenovo Malaysia saw it fit to bless the Miix 510 with a 2-year International Warranty that even INCLUDES Accidental Damage Coverage. At no extra cost.
So yeah, in terms of value, the question you have to ask yourself is the RM1.3k-1.6k extra worth paying for the better battery life, screen and sliiiiightly lower weight of the SP4.
On the other hand, if you want to trade the better pen, battery life, keyboard cover, kickstand design AND warranty of the Lenovo Miix 510 for a better screen (sharper and no PWM), a microSD slot and no fans, the similarly priced Acer Switch Alpha 12 (Core i5) is also a viable option… though for me the Synaptic stylus and battery life on the Acer was bad enough for me to completely forgo it as an alternative.
To wrap things up, there’s also a very nice freebie felt sleeve in the box as well, which is a nice touch though the thin material of the sleeve doesn’t really protect the 510 from anything other than scratches.
In the end, while the Miix 510 is not quite “there” yet as far as being able to shake the Surface Pro 4 from its throne, it puts up mighty good fight performance-wise… considering the price paid.
And so, it’s relatively low cost, high performance, decently robust construction, repairability and that 2-Year International Accidental Damage Warranty earns it very good marks as an addition to a Tech-Nomad’s kit, though the screen, battery life and camera performance does trail somewhat against the Surface Pro 4 (and some of its other 2-in-1 rivals).
Therefore, considering everything, the Lenovo Miix 510 gets a 8.4 out of 10 from us here at Technomadica, and a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED tag to go along with it.