Lenovo X60 Tablet PC road test begins

The kind folks at Lenovo have provided me with a review unit of their latest Tablet PC, the ThinkPad X60. I'll have a few months of hands-on time to evaluate this convertible and share my impressions (at last) of Tablet PC life in Vista. I've been laboring mightily, but ultimately unsuccessfully, to get my trusty old Toshiba M200 Tablet running Vista. The best I've been able to manage is a slow jog.

The kind folks at Lenovo have provided me with a review unit of their latest Tablet PC, the ThinkPad X60. I'll have a few months of hands-on time to evaluate this convertible and share my impressions (at last) of Tablet PC life in Vista. I've been laboring mightily, but ultimately unsuccessfully, to get my trusty old Toshiba M200 Tablet running Vista. The best I've been able to manage is a slow jog.

As an aside, I've had a number of discussions with fellow M200 users who have expressed their dismay at being "abandoned" by Toshiba who decided pretty early on in the public beta cycle for Vista that they were not going to support the new version of Windows on that device. Given that the M200 was, in its heyday, the best-selling Tablet PC on the market I'm sure the decision was not made lightly. But it is a three-year-old PC and there were obviously enough driver issues to force the decision.

I've been saying for some time now that the X60 was emerging as my object of desire for my next Tablet. At the CES show in January, I spent enough time at the Lenovo kiosk in Microsoft's pavilion playing with the demonstration unit they were showing that I think the booth folks were convinced I was some kind of crazy stalker. That admittedly sub-optimal test drive only reinforced my opinion that this was the right device for me.

I've just received the unit (it arrived at my office yesterday afternoon) and have only first impressions to share with you at this early juncture but they are almost completely positive. The evaluation unit I'll be working with is a pretty stocked system with a Centrino Dual-Core processor, 2GB of RAM, a 5400 RPM hard drive, and the extended eight-cell battery. The X60 has Windows Vista Business Edition installed along with a full suite of Lenovo utilities (and nothing else except Norton Internet Security, and Google Desktop and Picasa). Lenovo also provided the Ultrabase unit that acts as a combination docking station and drive bay. This is an ultraportable machine and does not have a built-in optical drive but the base unit has a speedy DVD-everything/CRDW drive installed.

Much has been made of the fact that the X60 does not come with either a built-in or bundled optical drive. While I agree that you must have an optical drive for software installations and robust backups, the pain of not having an onboard drive has lessened considerably since the time I got my first drive-less Tablet PC in the M200. The combination of iTunes for watching TV and movies and listening to music and podcasts and the ability to carry a few gigabytes of data/backup space on a couple of USB flash drives has pretty much eliminated my need to have an optical drive when on the go.  

The real bonus for me is that the Lenovo folks obviously did a bit of homework and recognized that I'm a high-res screen fan (it was the single reason I selected the M200). The evaluation unit I'm working with has a delightfully sharp 1400 x 1050 display that provides an extraordinary amount of pixel depth on the 12.1" display. As with the M200, it means that some text is pretty darn small but Vista is a lot better at dealing with large fonts and icons than XP ever was so I've already gotten things configured pretty nicely. Lenovo also offers a dual-mode touch/stylus display but that option is at the lower 1024 x 768 resolution common on 12.1" Tablets. 

I'm not going to get into serious hardware review mode because this unit has been available since November and there are excellent, in-depth reviews posted by David Berlind here on ZDNet  and C|Net Reviews and a great Inkshow from my Tablet PC buddies at GottaBeMobile.com that will show and tell everything you might ever want to know hardware-wise. No, I'm going to focus on the actual experience of using this device and discuss how Office 2007 (particularly Outlook and OneNote) and some of my longstanding favorite Tablet PC applications work on this beauty. Office 2007, OneNote 2007, MindManager Pro, and my essential utilities (ActiveWords, Anagram, SnagIt, and ClipMate) are already installed (yes, it was a late night).

I'm sending the Dell D620 I've been using back to the office for redployment. The X60 looks to be all the PC I need.

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