CES 2014: Hands-on preview with the Lenovo ThinkPad 8

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Lenovo claims that its newest offering, the ThinkPad 8 tablet, puts "a full PC in the palm of your hand." That might even be something of an understatement, as the new handheld not only offers business-grade productivity, it also provides an array of tablet features no laptop can match. I went hands-on with the device during CES, and I feel safe in saying that Lenovo has definitely delivered one of the more exciting Windows tablets I've seen.

The ThinkPad 8 is a Windows 8.1 tablet, boasting an 8.3in display with a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, which can easily be held in one hand, but offers more usable real estate than similar 7.9in and 8.1in tablets. The slim tablet measures just 9mm thick, and weighs a scant 420 grams, making it simple to grasp in one hand, and tap the screen with the other.

The tablet comes with a magnetic cover, which not only protects the display from dirt and scratches, it also puts the slate to sleep when closed, and offers one-flip access to the rear-mounted camera. The corner of the cover has a built-in fold, with an internal magnet that triggers the tablet camera automatically when folded down, making it more intuitive to use the tablet for a quick snapshot. With this functionality in mind, Lenovo calls it the QuickShot Cover, and it's available in either black or red.

The tablet cover also doubles as a stand, allowing a "Tent Mode" similar to that seen on the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. But while the tablet has an impressive display on its own, it can also be connected to regular PC displays through a microUSB 3.0 port. In the demonstration time I had with the unit, Lenovo had the tablet running with not one, but two external displays (see the first image in the slideshow below). As productivity software ran on the larger displays, the tablet could still be used as a touch display, allowing for the sort of multitasking normally associated with a laptop using a docking solution.

The tablet itself is outfitted with a quad-core Intel Bay Trail Atom processor, which provides decent performance and multitasking, along with good energy efficiency. Lenovo estimates that the ThinkPad 8 will get up to 8 hours of battery life, though we'll need to test it in the labs. In any event, the energy efficiency and portable design will make this a capable tablet on the go.

The combination of productive capability and easy one-handed operation already make the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 one of the most exciting Windows tablets I've seen, but the real treat is that, unlike many smaller slates I've used, which feel a bit cheap, the ThinkPad 8 feels substantial – much like the ThinkPad laptops. The construction is solid, and it has enough heft to feel like an object of substance, even though it weighs very little. Throw in the multiple features on the tablet and cover, and I can't wait to get my hands on this slate to review it.