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Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet Review This tablet means business

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Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet Review This tablet means business Powered By Docstoc
					From the moment you pull it out of the box, it is instantly apparent that
Lenovo's very first Android ThinkPad Tablet is made for work. It's not
trying to be pretty. In fact, looking at this thing, you might even have
the fleeting thought that maybe Lenovo is making a not-so-subtle point
about the pretty chrome devices that are fluttering around this holiday
season.This tablet is exciting because it means that above and beyond
rugged tablet makers, some of the PC manufacturers who are plunging into
this wide-open race for market share are beginning to think seriously
about the business sector's needs around tablet computing.Lenovo has been
making Windows-based tablets for quite some time. In fact, the company's
ThinkPad convertibles have generated a sort of cult following amongst
professionals. Tablet or not, the calling card of this line of ThinkPad
laptops has been fairly high-end Windows performance, some uniquely
integrated security layers, and an almost-legendary stylus that made
writing feel like, well, writing.With the $499 - $599 ThinkPad Tablet,
Lenovo gets almost all of these things right. Almost.Favorable first
impressionsAlmost universally, reviewers have panned the ThinkPad tablet
for its homely looks and awkward profile. They're right. The Thinkpad
does not taper or curve. It is boxy, and is a great design lesson on the
impact right angles have on aesthetic appeal.It also feels more
cumbersome--at 1.65 pounds, it's a porker and is roughly 20% heavier than
and twice as thick as the iPad. When compared to 10-inch tablets made by
other PC manufacturers like Toshiba and Acer, the aesthetic differences
aren't quite as noticeable.On the plus side, the ThinkPad Tablet does
have a distinct look that is consistent with the aesthetic legacy of the
brand's series of laptops, which are synonymous business. Maybe Lenovo is
onto something? Probably not. We expect that the next version of the
ThinkPad Tablet will be a little more stylish.One other aspect of the
tablet's design that also feels awkward is the inclusion of four hard
buttons at the bottom of the device (in portrait mode): rotation-lock,
web browser, back, and home. This is superfluous given that all of these
features save rotation lock can be quickly accessed from the top layer of
the Android Honeycomb OS. It doesn't help that these buttons feel stiff
and unresponsive.This tablet houses some business-important features that
are beginning to become standard on professional and high-end consumer
tablets. The ThinkPad's chunky chassis includes a full-sized USB port, a
full-sized 3-in1 SD card port, a micro USB port, a mini HDMI out port, a
headphone jack, and a SIM card slot. A 5 megapixel camera is on the rear,
and a 2MP camera is on the front.This is the only Android tablet on the
market today that comes with a built-in stylus, which in the same fashion
as Lenovo's X-series tablet convertibles, snaps snugly into place in the
top left area of the case. And in a surprising display of whimsy and
delight, the "i" in the Thinkpad logo on the back of the tablet lights up
when the device is in use.Top-notch displayThe ThinkPad Tablet's display
is nothing short of remarkable, and more than offsets the aesthetic
concerns. Lenovo's decision to go with an IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel
for its screen was a smart one. Colors are vibrant and viewing angles are
great, which is exactly what the professional set needs.Display quality
can be somewhat subjective, but of all the screens TabTimes has seen,
this runs second only to the iPad 2 in the larger 10-inch form-factor
tablet category. While the 1280 x 800 display and 149 pixels per inch
out-spec the the iPad 2's standard-bearing 1024 x 768 132 ppi screen, the
iPad 2 still has a slight edge in overall sharpness and visual
quality.Standard interface, subpar performanceThe ThinkPad Tablet ships
with Android's 3.1 Honeycomb OS. No legacy update to Ice Cream Sandwich
has been announced.Lenovo has created a few customizations to the Android
OS, the most noticeable of which is the "Launch Zone", which permits
quick access to the web browser and four user-defined functions. (The
defaults are email, video, music, and books/magazines.) It's one of the
more effective custom Android tweaks around. Aside from this, there's not
a whole lot of unique interface work.Unfortunately, the biggest flaw is
that, like many Android tablets (and phones), the ThinkPad Tablet's
insides are overmatched by Honeycomb. Moving between screens, launching
apps, and/or multi-tasking between apps elicits a surprising level of
jerkiness and stuttering. This is in evidence even when moving the home
screen left and right.Power users and iPad users will notice this and be
frustrated by it. Workers who are using their first tablet will not.
Thankfully, in-app performance does not suffer from the same frustrating
levels of slowdown.But the fact that a dual-core 1 GHz Tegra 2 processor
with 1GB of system memory can't keep up with Honeycomb is concerning. It
seems as if the Android tablet market is beginning to resemble the PC
Windows market of the 1990s, when manufacturers simply began throwing
more and more outrageous levels of processing power, memory, and energy
at systems in order to compensate for Windows' outrageous system
demands.The upside to the ThinkPad Tablets underpowered nature is that
the battery life is outstanding.The StylusThe star of Lenovo's first
tablet is far and away the stylus, which comes standard with all tablets
in this line. Even if it lacks some of the more sophisticated functions
of its Windows convertible tablet brethren, it's an elegant touch that
increases the use scenarios and potential appeal in professional
environments.You can use the stylus as a navigational device, pointing
and double-tapping as needed. You can also click a secondary button near
the tip of the digitizer pen for alternative functions, such as calling
up the global desktop view from the home screens.The pen also allows
users to write directly into apps that support it, and a custom input
layer of the interface allows you to use the stylus in lieu of a
keyboard, with the OS providing real-time character recognition and
translation. (Unless you have near-perfect hand-writing however, you'll
find this pretty much useless--at least initially.)Fans of the Windows-
based Thinkpad convertible tablets will lament that this stylus doesn't
feel as smooth as the digitizer pens on their laptops. Nor does it
automatically convert into erase mode when you turn it upside down.
However, the writing experience is superior to all other current
iterations of tablet devices--even the rubberized-dome solutions such as
Wacom's Bamboo Stylus for iPad.Business utilizationNot surprisingly, the
ThinkPad Tablet's built-in security features go far beyond any other off-
the-shelf tablet. The internal storage and SD storage are encrypted, and
all the USB ports, cameras, and even the microphone can be disabled and
controlled by IT administrators. And Rooted Device Protection allows the
device to automatically detect if it's been rooted, and can trigger an
automatically-generated report to IT, who can decided to restrict access
to the device if necessary.On the more productive side of the business
equation, the ThinkPad Tablet comes preloaded with McAfee anti-malware,
Documents to Go, Citrix' receiver app, a printer sharing app, and
Computrace, which will IT personnel to remotely wipe the tablet in case
of theft or loss.Even better, a customizable app stores allows
administrators to tightly define and control the apps that users have
access to. Want to completely lock users out of the Android store? It's
not a problem. Want to offer them access to approved apps only, or your
enterprise's proprietary apps? Also not a problem.Finally, the ThinkPad
Tablet ships with a standard one-year warranty that is upgradable e to
three years. That's far better than almost every other tablet available
today.Even better than all of the above is the ThinkPad Tablet's optional
keyboard cover accessory, which feels very similar to the ThinkPad laptop
series, and even features a thumb stick for mouse-style navigation. (Like
the stylus however, it doesn't function in quite the same way as most
thumb sticks do.)Final thoughtsIf the ThinkPad tablet had better
performance, it would be as close to perfect for business use as the iPad
is. This said, this is a great entry point for the franchise and portends
promising things to come from Lenovo around this line.As for the
performance issues? There's always the Ice Cream sandwich version of the
10-inch ThinkPad Tablet, which Lenovo has already stated will be equipped
with nVidia's next-gen quad-core Tegra 3 processor, a fingerprint
scanner, and more.Smart IT and business buyers may want to wait for this
release. Not because the newer ThinkPad Tablet will be better--it most
certainly will--but because the price of this first-generation tablet is
likely to drop when that happens. For the most part, rank-and-file
employees won't be put off too much.Given how versatile and appealing
this tablet is, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2012, when
Lenovo will almost certainly release a Win8 device.George Jones is the
Editor of TabTimes, and has been writing about technology since 1992.

				
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posted:9/27/2012
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