It wasn’t long ago that I truly believed the best notebook was the biggest, bulkiest brick I could buy. Weight was never a factor, as the top priority was performance. In fact, any machine that didn’t contain a discrete GPU was immediately off the list. I forgot the purpose of notebooks: portability. Ultrabooks were neat machines, but they were either far too under-powered (I actually downgraded one of the first 7” ultrabooks to Windows 2000) or too expensive. I’ll openly admit that this is my first exposure to Lenovo’s Miix line, and with my limited experience with 2-in-1s, I’m curious to see how the Miix 510 handles higher performance tasks. How will it hold out? Read on.
Note: The Miix 510 was gratiously supplied for this review by Lenovo.
I am not one to normally comment on the visual appeal of notebooks. As I have said above, I tend to select bulk over design. However, there are a few physical features of this unit which cannot go un-mentioned.
The Miix 510 sports a 12” 1920x1200 display. I was quite surprised to see the 1200 lines of vertical resolution unlike the standard 1920x1080 displays seen in most notebooks and TVs. Although I did not attempt to install control system software in the period of this review, the added resolution is excellent for reviewing scanned PDF documents and control logic.
The colours on the display are extremely vivid thanks to the glossy display. However, this does impact visibility once under direct sunlight, and the display can quickly become a fingerprint magnet. I would recommend to always carry a microfiber cloth to wipe down the display if working outdoors.
Lenovo has provided 2 USB ports on the Miix 510, with one being USB 3.1 (Type C). Unfortunately, I had no accessories that are Type C, and ended up ordering a Type C to 3.0 adapter online. Both ports acted... well... as USB ports. Luckily, since the attached keyboard and touchpad don’t utilize these ports, you can use both ports for extra storage or a mobile datastick (if you do not purchase with the WWAN add-on).
The Miix also provides a 3.5mm headphone jack, and 12V barrel jack power port. Personally, I would have liked to see the Lenovo rectangle power adapter for rigidity, however, it’s not a practical feature for such a thin form factor.
Lenovo Active Pen
I have bought into the whole touchscreen craze several times, going from resistive touchscreens to 10 point multitouch. However, this was my first true opportunity to play with the 2048-stages of pressure sensitivity offered with the Lenovo Active Pen.
After not owning a Wacom tablet in years, I was a bit surprised to see some mainstream applications still don’t support the multi-pressure point pens. However, I did manage to have some (very untalented) test time in Krita.
(I am not by any means an artist, however, I did manage to fill in between the lines... mostly...)
The response time of the Active Pen was extremely prompt. Only when I was looking at the pen’s tip when drawing did I notice any latency between the motions and what was showing up on the display. For an out-of-box experience (the drivers are pre-installed on the Lenovo image), I was extremely impressed with how the pen performed. I’m sure talented artists could better showcase the pen’s capabilities, but the pen’s usage truly is intuitive.
After years of seeking a good tablet keyboard, I won’t lie when I said Microsoft came extremely close to perfection with the Surface Pro 3’s Type Cover. Lenovo shares the great design qualities of the Type Cover, and has improved it by making the cover more rigid. With the added thickness, there is much less flex in the cover, making a more comfortable typing experience when in your lap. In addition, it feels as though the keys have a slightly longer travel distance, resulting in a more comfortable typing experience. The biggest pleasure was to see this add-on come standard with the Miix 510.
The Miix 510 being reviewed comes with an i5-6200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD.
This week has been my first jump into the NVMe realm. All of the SSDs in my household have been SATA III, maxing out around 550MB/s read and write speeds. The Samsung NVMe delivered surprising results in the CrystalDiskMark test, reaching sequential read speeds of 1700MB/s:
CPU and Memory
Although the Miix 510 has portability in mind, it still manages to squeeze in a quad core processor running at 2.3gHz, with a turbo boost of 2.8gHz in the review model. Just for fun, I decided to put it through the PassMark test:
The above results are rather misleading, but they paint a clear image: the Miix 510 is not a desktop replacement. The lower powered processor scores quite low in the PassMark database, since the U series chips are designed for low power usage and thus longer battery life. As the graphics core is located within the CPU, it’s expected that graphics will not score high against the discrete GPUs in other notebooks and desktops.
The memory score shows a rather high score of 3 1/2 stars, thanks to the high speed memory bus of the Intel Skylake architecture. But the real surprise is the score of the NVMe drive noted above. The Miix 510, although being an ultraportable tablet, has scored one of the highest benchmarks I have seen. With the combined RAM and disk speeds, the only bottleneck on the Miix 510 will be the CPU, and I haven’t personally reached a slowdown outside of the gaming tests.
The Miix 510 certainly has business productivity in mind with its design. I am currently typing this review in LibreOffice Writer, and am running the unit with 100% DPI scaling at a 1920x1200 resolution. The fans remain almost silent, and the typing feels as though I am typing on a standard 12” laptop. However, I couldn’t help myself when I said I wanted to try gaming on this machine. And boy, was it a mixed bag of fun.
Recently, I have seen an immense increase in the amount of time I spend on the road for work. As much as I loved carrying my Y700 17” gaming laptop with me, it is somewhat difficult carrying a gaming laptop and a workstation laptop to all sorts of sites. Now, I never expected Intel’s Skylake GPUs to even come close to running current gen games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 or Fallout 4, but I was curious to see how older games would fare. All benchmarks were done at the native resolution of the Miix 510: 1920x1200.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Average FPS: 16.33
Duration: 37.11 sec
CPU Usage: 77%
System memory usage: 70%
Video memory usage: 48%
Video Mode: 1920 x 1200 (60 Hz)
Texture Quality: Low
Shadow Quality: Low
Reflection Resolution: Low
Water Quality: Low
Texture Filter Quality: Tri-Linear
Night Shadows: Off
View Distance: 19
Detail Distance: 12
Now, let me just say I’m happy the game booted. GTA IV has a reputation for being one of the least optimized PC games of all time. However, after seeing this benchmark, the game is almost playable. Given the form factor of the Miix 510, this serves as nothing more than a benchmark than a gauge of playability. However, if you REALLY are itching to play GTA IV, the Miix can barely run it.
I’m not sure what wizardry Valve did to make Portal 2 run on Intel GPUs, however, the game averages 45-60fps at full resolution. Maybe it’s just me feeling old, however, the fact that I can play Portal 2 on such a thin mobile device astounds me. I did attempt to play with the touchpad, and although it was possible, I’d highly recommend pairing the tablet with a good portable wireless mouse such as the Lenovo Yoga Mouse.
Quite literally my Game-Of-The-Year nominee, Stardew Valley is the ultimate nostalgic farm life simulator game. As a 2D platformer, it does not strain the GPU nearly as much as the 3D titles above.
The game never hesitated to drift below 60fps, even with the sheer number of sprites on the screen. If you are into 2D games, the Miix does not struggle whatsoever.
For the first time in 10 years, I decided to jump back into audio sequencing and picked up a copy of FL Studio. Back in 2006, you needed a high end PC to get songs to playback in realtime without studdering. Again, the Miix surprised me in playing back the program’s demo track without studders:
Playing back the demo track resulted in a CPU usage under 20%, and about 512mb of RAM utilization. Paired with a MIDI controller, the Miix 510 can easily be used by DJs for live performances without a risk of skipping audio.
The Miix 510 is a surprising little powerhorse in an ultraportable form factor. The lack of 3D gaming power is easily made up by its usability as a mobile workstation for light to medium workloads. Starting at $699 USD, the Miix 510 undercuts the competition on pricing while still providing a high quality, durable design. If you are a traveller and needing a companion unit for travel, the Miix 510 proved more portable than my Yoga 3 Pro, especially on flights.
+ : Low Price Point
+ : Sharp 1920x1200 Resolution Panel
+ ; Detachable Keyboard included
- : Lenovo Active Pen not included
- : Low 3D gaming performance
- : Single USB 3.0 Port. USB Type-C Port limited usage without adapter.