Lenovo announces ThinkPad Tablet 8 -- a Windows 8.1 slate with great specs

Even though CES has yet to officially commence (it starts on January 7), tech companies have already started to announce products that will be showcased at the well-known trade show. One of the latest is Chinese maker Lenovo, which just unveiled its newest Windows 8.1 tablet, the ThinkPad Tablet 8.

Unlike some other 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets that we have seen so far, the ThinkPad Tablet 8 is the first to actually rival, specs-wise, the latest Android flagship slates and Apple's iPad Mini with Retina display. Heck, it is so intriguing that I might actually buy one (assuming that it will be available, locally).

Here's what you need to know. The ThinkPad Tablet 8 features an 8.3-inch display with a resolution of 1920 by 1200 (OK, so it's technically not an 8-inch tablet), and is powered by a 2.4 GHz quad-core Intel Z3770 processor (Bay Trail generation), 2 GB of RAM and a 20.5 Wh (watt-hour) battery. So far so good. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours. But, Lenovo has decided to bestow it with some other nice features, that business users and power users alike will undoubtedly appreciate.

The real highlights, aside from the full HD display, are the storage capacity (up to 128 GB, internal), optional cellular connectivity (4G LTE or 3G), the microHDMI port, microSD card slot and Microsoft Office. The only tablet in this segment that gets close, storage and connectivity-wise, to the ThinkPad Tablet 8 is the iPad Mini with Retina display, but even it cannot offer the expansion port or the additional (external) storage. Needless to say, the software differences between the two are obvious.

Lenovo has not shied away from offering front and rear-facing cameras, as the ThinkPad Tablet 8 has a 2 MP unit on the front and an 8 MP unit, with flash, on the back. Both cameras are capable of 1080p video recording.

The downside is the weight, as the ThinkPad Tablet 8 is on the heavy side (for the segment). It comes in at 430 grams for the Wi-Fi version. Add 9 grams for the cellular model (439 grams for those who prefer not to do the math). The slate measures 224.3 x 132 x 8.8 mm. By contrast, Apple's iPad Mini with Retina display weighs 331 grams for the Wi-Fi version, and 341 grams for the 4G LTE variant (nearly 100 grams less than the equivalent ThinkPad Tablet 8).

The price? When the ThinkPad Tablet 8 will be officially available later this month, it will start at $399 (expect to shell out quite a bit more for the best specified models). And, for the money, the slate will be one of the most attractive choices, in the 8-inch segment, on the market. An official cover will also be available (called Quickshot Cover).

The option of cellular connectivity is highly appealing to me, as I often find myself using a tablet in areas without Wi-Fi coverage. Also taking into account the small form factor and high-resolution screen, I could see the ThinkPad Tablet 8 replacing my 2013 Google Nexus 7.

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