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Lenovo Miix 720 Windows 10 2-in-1 review, is it a Surface Pro 4 in disguise?

There is no shortage of Windows 2-in-1 devices these days, and Lenovo recently unveiled the Miix 720, which is their answer to Microsoft’s Surface Pro lineup. As expected, the Miix 720 takes many cues from Microsoft and features a similar kickstand, pen, keyboard, and more. Well, the folks at Lenovo were kind enough to send me a unit to review, and I’ve been spending the last few weeks with the device in my life. So, please, follow along with me as I give you a tour of the device, helping to guide your purchasing decision.

TL;DR

  • The Miix 720 features wonderful build and design, reminiscent of the very first Surface, and the Surface Pro 2. It has the added bonus and durability of Lenovo’s strong watchband hinges.
  • The Miix 720 is more future proof than the Surface Pro 4 and includes USB C and multiple ports. Unfortunately, USB C requires the use of dongles for older accessories and you can’t charge and use an external display at the same time without a dongle.
  • The Miix 720 features a vibrant and very bright IPD QHD+ Glossy 12 inch display, with 2880×1920 resolution. The screen is .3 inches smaller than the one on the Surface Pro 4, so it is hard to multitask on, but still brings more pixel density for deeper and richer colors.
  • Included with the Miix 720 is Lenovo Active Pen 2, which has more screen friction and 4 times as many pressure points compared to second generation Surface Pen. Unfortunately, there is no magnetic attachment to snap the pen onto the device.
  • Unlike with Surface, a Folio Keyboard is included for free with the Miix 720, and the keyboard is too cramped but includes an awesome trackpad. On the bright side, the inside of the keyboard is made of a plastic which makes the keyboard feel more like a traditional laptop.
  • The Miix 720 well on par with the Surface Pro 4, but fans kick in after extended use, and the device gets hot quickly.
  • The Miix 720 has subpar battery life that is lower than the Surface Pro 4.

Lenovo Miix 720

Specs:

The unit which was sent to me was powered by Windows 10 Home, and an Intel Core i7-7500U CPU clocked in at 2.7 GHz. It arrived configured with 8 GB of RAM, and a 256GB Samsung SSD. Powered by an Intel HD Graphics 620, the 12-inch QHD+ IPS Glossy Multitouch display has a total resolution of 2880X1920, making for some impressive visuals. On the front of the device is a 1 MP camera, and an infrared camera for Windows Hello. The back camera, meanwhile, is a 5 MP fixed focus camera. When it comes to the battery, there is a 41 Wh battery, which I must say charges very quickly. As configured, this unit would cost $1269.99.

Build & Design:

The Lenovo Miix 720 features a very “Surface-esque” design, but with the added bonus of Lenovo’s watchband hinge. And, instead of the silver color which has been a part of Microsoft’s Surface lineup for quite a while, the Lenovo Mix 720 is black. This color is very reminiscent of other devices in the Lenovo lineup, which have always looked sleek.

As you can expect for a device in this price range, the Miix 720 is constructed out of metal and features a streamlined unibody design. Because of this, on cool temperature days, the device is cool to the touch. The metal also carries around to all areas of the device, except for the hinges, which are comprised of a stainless steel material. Overall, the design and color choice is very impressive, stylish, and similar to the original colors seen on older Surface devices, such as the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2.

The Lenovo Miix 720 features an all metal unibody design

What sets the Miix 720 apart from Microsoft’s Surface, though, is Lenovo’s signature watchband hinges. We’ve seen these hinges on other Lenovo devices, and they’re back on the Miix 720. Thanks to the hinges, you’re able to push the tablet down to an angle of 150 degrees. It’s a very well constructed hinge, and it does not feel too tight or too loose. The strong hinges also mean that the tablet is more lapable than the Surface Pro 4, which tends to wobble and move when I place it in my lap.

During my use, I had no issues at all, and I felt that the watchband hinges had more tension than the hinge on my Surface Pro 4. Simply put, I was not afraid that the hinges would break. This is one well-constructed device, and this build and construction are perfect for those who get dirty, like artists and engineers. Dirt and grime won’t easily collect, and the black finish hides any blemishes that could be picked up everyday day use.

Lenovo says that the device will weigh in at 3.42 pounds with the keyboard, and 1.72 pounds without the keyboard. The weight was never was a problem for me, and thanks to the total dimensions of 11.53″ x 8.5″ x 0.57″ when the keyboard is attached, I must say that the device is very compact and portable, even more so than my Surface Pro 4.

The Miix 720 in its lowest possible position.

Ports and Buttons:

Unlike Microsoft and the Surface Pro 4, Lenovo was a bit more forward thinking with the Miix 720. From my experience so far, I’ve found that most 2-in-1 devices do not usually have a lot of ports, but Lenovo has proven me wrong. The Miix 720 has plenty of ports, most of which I have found very useful during my time with the device. So if you’re the USB C lover or the type of person that has plans to use multiple ports, then you should pick up the Miix 720 over the Surface, as this is where the Miix excels.

On the right side of the device, there is the power button, the volume rocker, and a classic USB 3.0 port. I think it was smart for Lenovo to include the power and volume buttons on the side of the device. On my Surface Pro 4, the buttons are on the top, which means that I need to put my hand in front of my screen to access the buttons, which is not always convenient.

It’s also worth noting that the USB 3.0 Port is always on. More and more of Lenovo’s devices these days use the always on technology, and I really appreciate it. Like I have said before, always on technology means that you can use the USB 3.0 port on the Miix 720 to charge another device while the Miix is powered off and plugged into an outlet. This saves space on the desk and frees up a power outlet. On the surface, it’s familiar to the Surface Pro 4, which has a USB port on the charger that can be used to charge devices.

The right side of the Lenovo Miix 720

On the left side of the device is a headphone jack, a USB Type C port, and a USB 2.0 Port. Surface users will be shocked, but Lenovo has indeed chosen to include a USB Type C port on the Miix 720. This is definitely forward thinking, as more and more devices and accessories these days are using the new USB C technology, and the port also makes for fast transfer times and crystal clear images when plugged into a compatible monitor.

Unfortunately, the USB C technology does come with its downfalls. Since it is used to both charge the device and plug it into an external monitor, you will need to pick up an adapter to do both at the same time. This is a familiar problem with most newer devices, though, so it should not be a big deal since USB C dongles are very cheap these days. For me, it was a bit of a pain at first, since I was used to the mini display port on the Surface Pro 4, with a Surface Connect port which charges the device.

As a side note, I did find it rather strange that Lenovo included a USB 2.0 port on the Miix 720. While it’s great to have an extra port, I expected a modern device to have all USB 3.0 ports. There is, however, a plastic pen holder which is supplied with the device, and the holder inserts into the USB 2.0 port. From my experience, I am assuming Lenovo thinks no one will use this port. I decided to use the port with the pen holder, and it sometimes got in the way when I was trying to charge the device and use the pen holder at the same time.

The left side of the Miix 720

Interestingly, there is also a micro-SD card slot hidden underneath the kickstand on the Miix 720. It’s not nearly as noticeable as the slot on the Surface Pro 4, and it’s very well hidden. It might be hard to access while the kickstand is closed, but the same can be said for the similar slot on the Surface Pro 4. At the end of the day, though, it’s great to see that the SD card slot is there, as this will be a great way to expand on the 128 GB of memory without breaking your budget.

Display:

Similar to the Surface Pro 4, the Miix 720 features a vibrant and very bright IPD QHD+ Glossy 12 inch display, with a 2880 x 1920 resolution. At 12 inches the screen is .3 inches smaller than the one found on the Surface Pro 4. This means that multitasking on the Miix 720 is a bit harder than it is on a Surface, though you can always head into the display settings on the Miix 720 and adjust your scaling to gain some more real estate. Which reminds me, even though there is the sacrifice in screen size, you do pick up extra pixels and some more sharpness on the Miix 720, since the Surface Pro 4 only has a resolution of  2736 x 1824.

Much like on the Yoga X1, the screen on the Miix 720 does not disappoint. Though it has a 3:2 aspect ratio, colors are vibrant and pop out from the screen. It gets very bright when used indoors, and there is no noticeable reflection from any angles. I was drawing in Fresh Paint with the pen and the display on full brightness, and colors were so rich that I felt I was using an actual canvas. Unfortunately, when taken outside, the Miix 720 loses big on the display, and I noticed a bit too much of glare when sitting under direct sunlight. But on the good side, with indirect sunlight, and in the shade, there is less glare and more clarity.

Overall, the display is very similar to the Surface Pro 4. For the average consumer, and keeping the technical details aside, you won’t notice much of a difference between the two displays, other than the .3 inches of a different screen size.

The display on the Miix 720 is very vibrant

Pen and drawing:

Included with the Miix 720 is the Lenovo Active Pen 2. Unlike the Surface Pen’s 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, Lenovo’s pen can register up to 4,096 levels of pressure, and it features a solid tip, rather than a felt tip. The pen is powered by an AAAA battery, and feels very solid in the hands and has two forward facing buttons, one for erasing, and another one for clicking.

Because of the solid tip, the pen feels a bit more natural than the Surface Pen, as the tip creates friction on the screen. This is really useful when taking notes in OneNote, or when drawing in apps such as FreshPaint. The pen glides easily across the screen, and it makes for a pleasant experience compared to the Surface Pen.

Unfortunately, though, the pen has no magnetic attachments like the Surface Pen on the Surface Pro 4. As we touched on before, to attach the pen to the Mixx 720, you will instead need to use the included pen holster, which attaches to the USB port. It’s just one small problem with an otherwise perfect pen.

The Surface Pen with the Lenovo Active Pen 2

Folio Keyboard:

Unlike with Microsoft’s Surface devices, Lenovo is kind enough to include a backlit keyboard for free with the Miix 720. It connects to the Miix 720 with a similar magnetic connection that is seen on the Surface Pro Type Cover, and it even is able to snap and bend into the screen for extra support. On the outside is that familiar silky fabric material which is also seen on the Surface Pro 4’s Type Cover, but on the inside, things are much different.

Alongside the top, sides, and edges of the Folio Keyboard is a plastic material. I actually preferred this type of material, since it makes the keyboard feel like a traditional keyboard laptop. It also does not gather up sweat, grime, and funky smells like the Surface Pro 4 keyboard, and it feels so much more professional. But even with this so, the Miix 720 keyboard falls short in a few other places, losing some major points to the Surface Pro 4.

The Folio Keyboard Closed Up

The Folio Keyboard Closed Up

Overall, the keys on the Folio Keyboard are cramped too close together, which is surprisingly disappointing since Lenovo makes laptops with such great keyboards. The spacing of the keys, though, are largely due to the 12-inch form factor, so it’s very understandable why Lenovo might have wanted to have shrink things down a bit. Of course, over time my muscle memory improved, and I found myself getting used to the keyboard, but it took a very long time for me to get accustomed to the keys, and especially the smaller right shift key.

When it comes to the trackpad, Lenovo deserves some extra credit. Compared to the one found on Surface Type Cover, The trackpad is fairly larger and much more functional. I’ve found that the Surface Type Cover trackpad is a bit too tight, and a little too glossy for my liking, but the touchpad on the Miix 720 is a different story. It’s stronger, durable, and tacky, and it does not easily react to sweat or dirt and grime which are collected on fingers. Just like with the keyboard, the touchpad on the Miix 720 has that feeling that it’s coming straight from a laptop, which I really enjoy for a device of this form factor.

The Miix 720 Folio Keyboard

Performance:

Coming equipped with the 7th generation Intel Core i7 processor, and 8 GB of RAM, the Miix 720 is a well-specced machine. The device is powered by Windows 10 Home, and I never noticed any lag while using it. In fact, from quick and easy login via Windows Hello to the desktop, I was not waiting too long to get my work going from a fresh boot. Just as I have done with my other tests in my other reviews, the Miix 720 was able to keep up with my workflow of running multiple instances and tabs of Google Chrome. It’s definitely on par with the Surface Pro 4 when it comes to performance, and it does not disappoint.

The processor and RAM were more than enough to get my jobs done right, and never once did it slow down. However, similar to what I experience on my Surface Pro 4, the fans on the Miix 720 will kick in really fast, especially when the brightness is turned up past 75%, likely due to the heat from the screen. The fans are quiet, though, and never really bothered me, but the top of the Miix 720 did get a bit too warm while the fans were in action.

The start menu on the Miix 720

For some extra fun, I was also able to do some light gaming, including playing Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition with the highest possible graphics settings. While the Miix 720 got hot quickly, it still managed to keep up with the intensity of the graphics, and the game never once crashed or lagged. But, given that the Miix 720 uses Intel HD Graphics 620, I would not trust it with higher end games such as Grand Theft Auto 5.

As great as the specs are on this unit, the Miix 720 was shipped with a bunch of software pre-installed on Windows 10. Given the fact that Windows Defender has been proven to be reliable against most threats, I felt bothered by the presence of the included McAfee LiveSafe Trial. It was one of the first things I removed, but I choose to keep the Lenovo programs since they were small in size.

On the bright side, my unit came shipped with Office 365 pre-installed, and with a one-year subscription for free. I’m seeing fewer manufacturers do this today, so I’m glad that Lenovo is setting itself apart by including Office for free. This adds extra value to the Miix 720 for business professionals, and students.

Working on the Miix 720

Battery Life:

As great as the display, processor, and other areas of the Miix 720 is, the battery life is very sub par when compared to other devices and the Surface Pro 4. Keeping the Miix 720 plugged into a monitor, and at medium brightness, with Bluetooth and the keyboard backlight off, I did not get more than 3 and a half hours of battery life. My Surface gets about 4 to 4 and a half hours before a recharge when used with my monitor.

On the bright side, when not used with a monitor, and when used on its own, the Miix 720 gets a bit more battery life, but it’s still not what I hoped it would be. With how I use the device for multi media, blogging, and social media, I got about 6 or 7 hours of battery when using the Miix 720 solo. This is slightly more than the 5 hours which I get on my Surface Pro 4. So, at the end of the day, touch screen devices are very power hungry and keeping the device plugged into an outlet while you use it with a monitor might be s a smart move.

Another final bright spot is the fact that this battery will charge from 0%-100% very quickly. By my counts, it took less than an hour and a half for me to recharge and get back into the action, and this is more than half the charge time what I get with my Surface Pro 4.

Battery life

Conclusion:

At the end of the day, the Lenovo Miix 720 is one of the best Surface Pro 4 clones. If you’re looking to save some money and pick up a device which is like the Surface Pro 4, while not breaking the bank, you should definitely pick up the Miix 720. You’ll enjoy a beautiful display, future proof USB C technology, a great pen and average keyboard, and amazing performance. You can purchase the unit as I had it configured for $1269.99, or you can explore other configurations, including a $1,158 unit within the Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8 GB of RAM and 256GB SSD.

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Do you own a Surface, or a Lenovo device?