This comparison review is written for visual content creators, graphic designers and digital artists. This is the accompanying text review for the video review I've posted on Youtube.
The specifications of the tablets I'm comparing are as follows: Lenovo Miix with quad-core Intel Core i5-8250U (1.6 - 3.4Ghz) and 8GB memory and Surface Pro with dual-core i5 7300U (2.6 - 3.5Ghz) and 8GB memory
Let's get right into it.
Design and build quality
Both are equally sturdy with solid build quality. Both are thin and lightweight, even with the magnetic keyboard cover.
Both have build-in kickstands that go low.
In terms of physical dimensions, even though the Surface Pro has a 12.3-inch screen over Miix 520's 12.2-inch screen, the Surface Pro is actually slightly smaller on the sides.
When it comes to design, the Surface Pro 2017 has a cleaner and simpler design that I like.
Ports. Miix 520 has a USB Type C gen 1 and USB 3 Type A. Surface Pro has a miniDisplayPort and USB 3 Type A. I find the miniDisplayPort useful because I have a cable that connects to the monitor. With the Miix 520, I would need to buy an adaptor to connect to an external monitor. The USB Type C is can be more useful because you can get a USB-C multi-port adapter to get more ports. You can't do that with the miniDisplayPort.
This is where Surface Pro lacks behind badly.
The Lenovo Miix 520 comes with the keyboard type cover, Active Pen 2 (US $50) and a carrying sleeve. Surface Pro comes without any accessories. The Surface Pen cost an extra US $99 and the Surface Type Cover is another US $100.
At the time of this review, the Miix 520 I have is priced at US $900 on Amazon while Surface Pro is priced at US$1089. That's a significant US $150 difference and the Surface Pro doesn't even come with any accessories. When you consider the accessories, the Surface Pro is $300 more expensive, and you're getting a dual-core processor. Wow. I didn't think the Surface Pro was that overpriced when it came out but now it is with competition.
I've used a Spyder5Pro colour calibrator to calibrate both screens and managed to get a readout of 89% sRGB support on Miix 520 and 99% sRGB support on Surface Pro. Colour gamut for both are good enough for graphic design. In real life, I can't tell the difference between the two.
After calibration, for some reason, I wasn't able to load the colour profile on the Surface Pro so it wasn't able to show the calibrated screen. I wasn't able to figure out what's wrong.
Lenovo Active Pen 2 vs Microsoft Surface Pen. Both are very solid and well build. Lenovo is using Wacom pen technology and supports up the 4,096+ levels of pressure sensitivity. Not sure what technology Microsoft is using but it has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity support as well as tilt support when used with certain applications.
Both tips are textured and provide friction when drawing or writing on the glass screen. This provides extra control.
On the Miix 520, I feel that there's even more friction when drawing on the screen. I think it has got to do with the screen coating but I can't be sure. When I use the Surface Pen on Miix screen, I can feel the extra friction as well, so it's not because of the pen. By the way, the pens are not interchangeable.
Lenovo pen has 2 side buttons while Surface Pen only has one.
Both pens have back buttons. The Surface Pen back button doubles as an eraser. Both back buttons can be configured to do certain tasks using the driver.
Lenovo pen and Wacom driver allow for way more customisation compared to the Surface Pen. There are more options to choose from for the buttons. In addition to the usual mouse buttons, you can choose to launch any apps you want, assign keyboard shortcuts.
Customising the Surface Pen is done through Surface app. Each button only has 5 options to choose from. You can only choose to launch the system apps that has already been pre-defined. There's no way to customise specific keyboard shortcuts.
Drawing performance of both tablets is quite similar. There are no jitter issues when drawing diagonal lines slowly. Pressure sensitivity and palm rejection work well.
In terms of accuracy, the Lenovo Active Pen 2 is more accurate. When using graphic apps, I was able to get the lines to taper gradually and smoothly.
Strokes on the Surface Pro taper more abruptly.
There's also an issue when misalignment on the Surface Pro when you're holding the device with two hands. When drawing with one hand and the other hand is not touching the device, the pen is very accurate and cursor is always directly beneath the tip. However, when two hands are touching the Surface Pro, the cursor will slightly misalign to the right but half a mm or a hairline. You can even see the cursor move itself to the right side. This may be a deal breaker for certain artists. This is a known problem to Microsoft but they were unable to fix it.
The quad core processor on the Miix 520 is two times faster than the Surface Pro's dual core even if the clock speed of the latter is higher
When I exported 100 RAW photos on both tablets, the Surface Pro took more than 9 minutes while the Miix 520 took more than 4 minutes. That's significant time savings. If you edit and export videos, the time savings are going to be huge.
The compromise on the Miix 520 is you have to make do with fan noise. Fans on the Miix 520 turn on almost instantly the moment you start Windows, sometimes even when you're not doing anything, or maybe just browsing some webpages. Fan noise is not loud but definitely audible. The Surface Pro that runs the Intel i5 processor does not have build in fans. The Surface Pro i7 models come with fans.
Battery life for Miix 520 is around 5 to 6 hours for normal usage. If you use processor intensive task, Be prepared to see battery life go under 5 hours.
Surface Pro has 7-8 hours battery life. But again, battery life depends on the work you do.
If I'm going to be doing a lot of work, I'll be sure to plug into the power outlet.
Overall, it's clear that the Miix 520 provides more value for the money. First of all, it's cheaper. Secondly, it includes the pen and keyboard. Third, the processor is just more powerful. Fourth, drawing performance is also slightly better on the Miix 520.
Each tablet has its pros and cons, but in this comparison, the Lenovo Miix 520 edges out in too many areas.