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.
Pages to are hidden for
"Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet Review This tablet means business"Please download to view full document