An ideal-sized detachable 2-in-1 for kids (or adults with small hands), the Lenovo Miix 320 (starting at $199, $299 as tested) offers better battery life than similarly priced PCs, as well as decent performance, a vivid display and solid audio. As you might expect from a 10.1-inch laptop, this machine's keyboard is fairly cramped. But once you get past that -- and younger users may not even notice it -- the Miix 320 a very good budget machine.
With its shiny, bevelled edges and sparkling, tapered shell, the Miix 320 might look like a relative of an Apple MacBook. Holding it, though, you notice that it's not made of aluminum or metal, but of plastic instead.
My one gripe with the design is that the detachment process requires so much force -- you just pull the tablet off of the keyboard -- that it felt like I was breaking it the first time. Because the tablet outweighs the keyboard, the system is unevenly balanced. I found the detachable wobbled when I used it in my lap.
Docked, the Miix 320 measures 0.7 inches thick and weighs 2.3 pounds, making it a good size for children and much more compact than 11.6-inch competitors such as the HP Stream 11 (0.7 inches, 2.5 pounds), Dell Chromebook 3180 (0.8 inches and 2.8 pounds) and Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 (0.8 inches, 2.8 pounds). The 10.1-inch iRulu Walknbook (0.7-inches, 2 pounds) is lighter.
The Miix 320's two USB 2.0 ports are split between the left and right sides of the keyboard. Lenovo placed the device's headphone jack on the left side of the Miix 320's tablet display, leaving the machine's data-only USB Type-C port and micro HDMI input for the right. The tablet and keyboard connect via a connection port, a pair of rubbery teeth and a pair of extremely strong magnets.
The Miix 320's 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 display is relatively low resolution but good for the price. When I watched the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, the red tone of Spider-Man's suit and the yellow sun popped against the clear blue sky as the superhero vaulted over the Washington Monument. However, I had a harder time making out any detail in the gardens and fences of a nighttime chase sequence. Part of the problem is the notebook's 1280 x 800-pixel screen, which can't show you clips in crisp, 1080p quality. At this price, though, we don't expect that kind of clarity.
According to our colorimeter, the Miix 320 produces 95 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is close to the 98 percent reading from the Walknbook. The displays in the Chromebook 3180 (73 percent), Stream 11 (78 percent) and Inspiron 11 3000 (56 percent) show fewer hues.
The Miix 320 emits up to 218 nits of brightness, which beats scores of the 210-nit Chromebook 3180, 208-nit Walknbook, 188-nit Stream 11 and 208-nit Inspiron 11. While this is fine for surfing and reading text indoors, I found the Miix 320 impossible to read when I brought it outdoors and exposed it to direct sunlight.
The Miix's touch-screen display accurately tracked my taps and accepted my swipe-in navigation gestures without even a hint of lag.
Ideal for child-size hands, the Miix 320's cramped keyboard will throw adult touch typists for a loop. Taking it for a spin on the 10FastFingers typing test, I made so many mistakes that I fell to a rate of 57 words per minute, well below my 80-wpm average. My higher error rates can be traced to the different sizes for the letter, number and functional keys, and the narrow, adjacent delete and backspace keys, which are so slim that I kept hitting the wrong one, or the space between them.
If you can get used to the layout, the keys are OK, providing 71 grams of actuation force (we look for at least 60g), which makes up for a slightly shallow 1.2mm of travel (we hope to see from 1.5 to 2.0 millimeters). Of the Miix 320's competitors, the 11.6-inch Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 (1.2mm, 69 g) offers the best typing experience, with normally sized keys that aren't crammed into place.
The Miix keyboard's 3.5 x 2.3-inch touchpad feels a little stiff but accurately tracks input. It also registered two-finger scrolling and three-finger gesture swipes speedily.
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For a budget machine, the Miix 320 packs some decent sound, which filled one of our medium-sized offices. The vocals and horns on Kesha's "Woman" sounded accurate and strong, and the track's drums hit crisply.
The included Dolby Audio sound presets utility comes set to the Music profile, which offers the best audio quality. I found that the Movies setting overemphasizes vocals and the Dynamic setting didn't sound too different from Music.
The Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor and 4GB of RAM in the Miix 320 allow for a moderate amount of multitasking. The 2-in-1 stayed responsive with eight Chrome tabs (including ones for Slack, TweetDeck and Google Drive) open, but it became sluggish after I started a split-view with that window and a streaming 1080p YouTube video.
The Miix 320 scored a decent 2,416 on the Geekbench 4 general-performance test, beating the 1,813 from the Inspiron 11 (Intel Core m3-6Y30, 4GB of RAM), the 2,023 from the Stream 11 (Celeron N3060, 4GB of RAM) and the 2,209 from the Walknbook (Atom x5-Z8350 CPU, 2GB of RAM).
The 128GB eMMC storage drive in the Miix 320 duplicated 4.97GB worth of multimedia files in 1 minute and 33 seconds, for a speed of 54.7 megabytes per second. That places it ahead of the Walknbook (28.3MBps with 32GB eMMC), Stream 11 (50.4MBps with 32GB eMMC) and Inspiron 11 (27.2MBps with 500GB Serial ATA).
The Miix 320 took a lengthy 17 minutes and 27 seconds to finish our OpenOffice benchmark, matching 20,000 names to their addresses. That's shorter than the time from the Walknbook (18:04) but longer than those from the Stream 11 (13:42) and Inspiron 11 (6:16).
The integrated Intel HD 400 graphics in the Miix 320 achieved a low score of 15,509 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. That's below the 17,725 from the Walknbook (Intel HD Graphics), the 16,230 from the Stream 11 (Intel HD 400) and the 42,354 from the Inspiron 11 (Intel HD Graphics 515).
The Miix 320's gaming prowess appears to be limited to superlight games such as Candy Crush. The detachable ran Dirt 3 (set to Medium graphics, 1080p display) at a too-low 19 frames per second, falling below our 30-fps playability standard.
The Miix 320's lengthy battery life shows that sometimes you get more than you pay for. Lenovo's 2-in-1 lasted 9 hours and 17 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, a better time than those from the Chromebook 3180 (8:55), Walknbook (7:06), Stream 11 (8:23) and Inspiron 11 (5:30).
The Miix 320's 2-megapixel webcam is for teleconferencing only, and you can likely forget that the device's 5-MP rear camera exists. While I recognized myself in selfies that I shot with the front-facing lens, those images had a gauzy texture and washed out the red of the wall behind me as well as the purple of my purple shirt.
The photos I shot of our rooftop captured barely any detail from the bushes or clouds, but did a solid job capturing color. Still, most smartphone made in the last three years have better cameras.
The Miix 320 gets warm, but you won't notice that in laptop mode. After we streamed 15 minutes of HD video on this system, our heat gun recorded a temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit on the back of the Miix 320's detachable tablet, which exceeds our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo has loaded the Miix 320 with the company's own system utilities and others from third parties that you may want to delete. Lenovo Settings provides tools such as the Companion section, which contains a trove of helpful info, and the Battery Mode, which cycles the charging process to optimize battery life.
If you've already cut the cord (or are thinking about doing so), the Sling TV app may be of some use. Lenovo also pre-installed a license-free version of the Keeper password manager on this machine, which is free to download online. Feel free to delete it, as our sister site Tom's Guide gave that service 7 out of 10 in a review, and recommends you use LastPass (9/10) instead.
Our test model of the Miix 320 features an Intel Atom x5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB eMMC hard drive, and this configuration is available at CDW for $299. Newegg sells a version that costs $100 less, but that model has half as much RAM, which would stifle the machine's already modest multitasking abilities.
The Miix 320's solid screen, sound and performance combine with terrific battery life to make an affordable 2-in-1 worthy of your consideration, especially if you're buying for a child. The laptop's cramped keyboard is a drawback for adults, but should be fine for kids. A top-heavy design makes this device balance awkwardly in your lap, but its light weight and compact size make it easy for kids to carry.
If you want an affordable laptop, you can save $100 by getting the similarly performing $199 HP Stream 11, but that non-touch laptop doesn't offer a detachable tablet display. The bend-back touch-screen Dell Inspiron 11 3000 offers the best keyboard of these budget machines, but its battery life is 3.5 hours shorter than that of the Mixx 320. Overall, the Miix 320 is a great choice for children, as well as a good budget 2-in-1 for adults with modest needs.