ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

Summary: The ThinkPad Tablet by Lenovo is a Honeycomb slate that has typical ThinkPad engineering and quality of construction. It is as comfortable in the boardroom as it is the living room.

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Android tablets are a dime a dozen, but the folks behind the ThinkPad line of notebooks are looking to change that. The ThinkPad Tablet by Lenovo brings professional styling, sturdy construction and special features to the tablet that are unique to the genre. Android is ready for the boardroom.

The ThinkPad Tablet has typical black styling familiar of the line of laptops, and while a bit heavier than some Android tablets there is no mistaking the solid construction. The attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the tablet, from the solid casing to the buttons beneath the screen covered with Corning Gorilla Glass. The ThinkPad Tablet will satisfy anyone wanting to give a professional image.

Check out the ThinkPad Tablet with pen and Keyboard Folio captured in photos


Image Gallery: ThinkPad Tablet with optional pen input and Keyboard Folio Image Gallery: Charge Image Gallery: Charge
Hardware

Specs as reviewed:

  • OS: Android 3.1 Honeycomb
  • CPU: NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core mobile processor (1.0GHz)
  • Display: 10.1” Multi-Touch Capacitive-Touch IPS Display, 1280 x 800 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Memory: 1GB system RAM, 32GB storage (expandable through SD slot)
  • Cameras: 5MP rear-facing; 2MP front-facing camera
  • Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, SIM slot for 3G (not tested)
  • Ports: Full USB 2.0, MicroUSB 2.0, MiniHDMI, 3.5mm combo jack, DC-in jack for AC adapter, dock port
  • Battery: 3250 mAh Li-polymer
  • Measurements: 10.3 x 7.2 x 0.56 inches
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds

The specs of the ThinkPad are fairly typical of the genre, but Lenovo has included some special stuff to make this stand out from the crowd. Foremost is the use of an N-Trig dual digitizer which allows optional pen input on the screen in addition to the typical multi-touch input. The pen rests in a silo on the tablet when not in use.

Lenovo put a full SD slot on the ThinkPad, and a regular USB port that works with the optional portfolio case. The USB port can be used with standard USB flash drives for file exchange. File transfer can be done via the SD slot, too.

The 10.1-inch IPS screen is not the brightest I have tested, but it has outstanding viewing angles which is a good trait for a tablet. The front-facing camera does a decent job with video chatting, and the speaker, while not anything special, is quite loud for a tablet.

In a move rare for a Honeycomb tablet, the ThinkPad Tablet has four hardware buttons beneath the screen (in portrait orientation). These are a Lock Screen Rotation, Browser launcher, Back, and a Home button. These buttons are very rigid and can be hard to press. I find I end up using soft buttons on the screen out of habit.

There are two cameras on the ThinkPad, a 2MP front-facing camera and a 5MP camera on the back. The front camera delivered decent video chatting using Google Talk. The rear camera is nothing spectacular, as I found photos taken with it to be very basic. This tablet will not replace your basic point-and-shoot given its lackluster quality photos, not to mention its unwieldy size for snapping shots.

The ThinkPad construction used in the tablet make it easily the most rugged tablet I have used. It is heavy at 1.6 pounds, but it feels nice and solid in the hand.

Software

Lenovo is aiming the ThinkPad Tablet at the enterprise worker, and the software that comes standard reflects that aim. While there is plenty of entertainment software (Slacker, Netflix, Kindle, Zinio, Angry Birds), the tablet is loaded with apps for the worker. These include LANDesk, Computrace, Citrix Receiver, and McAfee Mobile Security. A full version of Documents to Go comes standard allowing viewing/editing of MS Office documents.

Lenovo has customized Honeycomb 3.1 to add a home screen launcher and a favorite apps wheel for easy access to the apps used most often. The Lenovo App Shop is front and center offering apps the company deems fitting for the ThinkPad.

The onscreen keyboard included on the tablet is the flexT9 keyboard by Nuance. This keyboard has good predictive text and autocorrection that starts learning from your typing as soo as you begin using it. I found it to be a decent keyboard, and it works with the optional pen to allow coarse editing of documents by pen. This experience was variable, and perhaps it would be better over time.

The web browser is typical Android with some special features. In the Settings screen there is a Labs function that makes web pages display in a full screen mode. Swiping in from either the left or right side of the screen causes a wheel menu to appear with common browser functions, such as Next and Previous. I normally use the Dolphin Browser on Android tablets, but this is a decent alternative.

The optional pen works with the MyScript Notes Mobile app that is preinstalled and uses a notebook metaphor to allow taking ink notes with the pen. Handwriting can be automatically converted to digital text if desired, or ink notes can be left as written. The latter worked better for me, as the ink-to-text conversion was not very accurate. The pen is the only input method allowed with the Notes app, which was a bit odd given the presence of an Android keyboard.

Performance, Keyboard folio, and conclusion »

Performance

The Tegra 2 performed as expected, and I found the overall performance of the ThinkPad Tablet to be similar to other Honeycomb tablets I have used. As is common with Android, I found the ThinkPad to occassionally lag at times for just an instant. It wasn't bad enough to be aggravating, but enough to be noticeable. The lags happened frequently when the screen was auto-rotating and when unlocking after sleeping.

Battery life is decent, and I easily went all day on a charge. I would rate it similar to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 I use, perhaps a little shorter.

Options

Lenovo sent me two options to test with the ThinkPad, the aforementioned pen and the leather portfolio case with an integrated keyboard.

The pen ($30) is a typical tablet pen that works with the N-Trig digitizer. It has a nice heft in the hand, and is comfortable to hold. While some will find the ability to use a pen to be important, I felt the pen input was limited in scope. I did find it nice that the pen could be used as a pointer on the screen, unlike the HTC Flyer I reviewed recently. It was nice to be able to swipe and point with the pen when it was already in my hand, while I was constantly frustrated with the Flyer which only recognized the pen in certain apps.

The leather keyboard folio ($100) surprised me when I took it out of the box as I was unprepared for how heavy it is. The folio has the same ThinkPad styling and sturdy construction, and this results in the case weighing in at 1.4 pounds which is almost as heavy as the tablet. The combined weight of the Tablet and the folio is 3 pounds, a considerable weight for a combo of this nature.

The reason for the hefty case is the quality construction that makes it stand up to the rigors of frequent travel. The inside of the folio is a plastic frame that secures the ThinkPad Tablet. The tablet is a bit difficult to remove from the case for taking it solo.

The real story of the folio is the keyboard that turns the tablet into a very decent laptop standin. It is typical ThinkPad keyboard fare, which means very good things for typing. The keys are wonderful, and the tactile feedback is very good. There are dedicated keys for controlling the tablet, eliminating the need to remove the hands from the keyboard. There are three slots that allow propping the tablet at different angles for viewing as desired. Magnetic closure is used to keep the tablet held securely while working with the keyboard.

There is an optical trackpad in the middle of the keyboard that moves a little cursor around the screen. The two mouse buttons beneath the keyboard work as expected. I imagine it would take a little practice to get proficient with this trackpad. I found it easy to just touch the screen most of the time.

The tablet has a sliding door on the side that covers the full USB port, and this port is used to plug into the folio keyboard. It's a snug fit, and that's why the tablet is tough to remove from the case as mentioned.

I could easily see travelling with the ThinkPad Tablet and keyboard folio combination for short business trips. It's not quite a full laptop but as close as anything I have used in the tablet world.

Conclusion

The ThinkPad Tablet is not the cheapest Honeycomb tablet out there but it is the best constructed by far. The rubberized ThinkPad coating makes this look and feel as comfortable in the boardroom as the living room. Lenovo is stuffing lots of software on the tablet, and while some will not appreciate all of this I think most will find the apps to be useful.

The ThinkPad logo on the back of the tablet is not just for show, with a red LED that indicates when power is on. The ThinkPad engineering and quality are reflected in all aspects of the tablet, and professionals will appreciate the package.

This tablet is not the thinnest nor the lightest available, but with the optional pen and the keyboard folio it is the most versatile tablet I have used.

Related:

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

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Talkback

36 comments
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  • Seriously? What percent of the board room wants android on their tablet?

    0.2? 0.4? ThinkPad is not consumer and android isn't enterprise. FAIL. If you want some ROI build Win8 tablet prototypes and spend your effort refining your hardware down to the last detail so when Win8 ships you're ready with a super kickass product. Dinking around in the android swamp is so worthless you'll not only lose money you won't even learn anything valuable from it that will help you with future products .
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

      @Johnny Vegas <br><br>If we could see your face, it's probably red with <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NRqoA1jf7A&feature=related" target="_blank">android</a> envy.
      Return_of_the_jedi
    • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

      @Johnny Vegas R U F* Kiddin? Windows 8 on a tablet? Can you say viri infected bloated worthless POS all in one breath? I can!
      SpankyFrost
      • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

        @SpankyFrost Are you seriously implying that Windows 8 will be bad on tablets??? The interface is perfect for tablets. I agree however that it is completely impractical on laptops,...
        And are you really still stuck on the whole virus thing. I can't remember the last time I got a virus, because it was probably before I even got XP. Just download a free Antivirus and you'll be fine. Android is not suited for anything. It is laggy, impractical and actually pretty useless. I fully agree with Johnny Vegas. I absolutely love Thinkpads, and I have no doubt that this has an absolutely perfect build quality but Android is not suited for business users, or any user who doesn't like using a laggy OS for that matter. The only reason why Android still has any Marketshare is because a lot of people don't want to buy the iPhone or the iPad by conviction and don't yet know about Windows Phone. As soon as people know what they're missing out on, they'll be flocking over to Apple and/or Microsoft.
        MarcXW
  • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

    This sounds like a device that they designed to run Windows 8 and are just selling with Android until Win8 appears. A lot of folks like the idea of a stylus on a tablet, so they may do well with it. The big details I wanted to hear were the price and the actual number of hours for battery life. All day for one person is half a day for another.
    BillDem
    • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

      @BillDem Lenovo's forthcoming IdeaPad P1 is a better fit for Windows users, like me. :)

      update: in fact, lenovo's site just made room to display another device (like the P1?) at www.lenovo.com/products/us/tablet/
      Bruce Lang
    • Price and Battery

      @BillDem I have one and on the Battery life, with some tweaking of settings, I can get 10-12 hours. Of course if my wireless is on when I'm not actively using the internet, or I'm using an app (like Angry Birds) that uses a lot of Battery, it will be less.

      Now on to cost. First, don't order direct from Lenovo as they are more expensive. I got the 32GB with the Pen from PC Connection for $549. I originally tried to order direct from Lenovo and also ordered the keyboard folio, but as the folio was on backorder and they wouldn't ship without it, I cancelled my order and placed a new one without the folio at PC Connection.

      I don't have a smart phone, and I've never used a tablet before, so there was a short learning curve on the "swipe" and on Android itself. I set up the Citrix receiver and have been able to use some of my work applications. The one I use the most works on there only if I want to check statuses, stop and start the processes, etc... so it's good for after hours and travelling.

      Overall, I'm pleased with it, and feel that it was worth it.
      GSG
  • Marketing?

    The product they created is surely going to grab attention of professional folks; but they have to work hard to get their word out there. Android is becoming fastest adopted operating system for enterprise because they have greater ability to customise many aspects of it.

    Thinkpad is number one in enterprise but they need to learn from Apple how to market something.

    First of all they did not give separate name for their product, which makes it difficult to search and pin down the product in search engines. Thinkpad is broad range, Lenovo had windows based tablets before and they have now two Android tablets (ideapad and thinkpad); so all combinations provide more broad results making it difficult to search for a product. Samsung uses Galaxy tab, motorola came up with Xoom, similarly "lennovo thinkpad BoardPad" could be distinct name for the product.

    Product reviews were very slow to come. Its been at-least 1 month since they launched the product and you can see very few credible user reviews coming in the market.

    Product is just coming in Europe and price in Europe is at-least $150 more than US. Every electronic gadget company is greedy when it comes to Europe, but Lenovo had better opportunity to crack the market by selling at same price as they sell in US.

    Product is still slowly appearing in the market; very few places it is available. Also keyboard folio is not yet available in most places.
    p.vinnie@...
    • taxes are extra

      @p.vinnie@... is the price difference between Europe and the US due to VAT (Value Added Tax) that must be added? Or is the price in Europe that is quoted prior to VAT?
      AtlantaTerry
      • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

        @AtlantaTerry import/export/excise taxes may be in that price too. They most likely can't sell it for exactly the same as the US price simply because of various different taxes.
        waterhzrd
      • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

        @AtlantaTerry
        I know prices in US are displayed Ex tax and tax is added at checkout; whereas prices in UK are displayed Inc Tax and only shipping is added in the end.
        So I asked a friend to provide his zipcode in NewYork and used that to calculate end user price. I then compare it for several items in the marketplace and found that most companies charge more in UK than they do in US.

        I asked an expert about this and he said that companies sell products at the highest possible price (to maximize profit). As most companies can get away with selling at inflated price in Europe, they do that.
        p.vinnie@...
    • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

      @p.vinnie@...

      "Android is becoming fastest adopted operating system for enterprise because they have greater ability to customise many aspects of it."

      I never saw so far any entrprise using android.I dont know where u got that idea, but so far on business ground there is only 2 OS who are really used Windows Xp/7 and Linux RedHat/Suse

      Android is far from beeing a business OS.Android is just good for basic task like consuming content.
      SylvainT
  • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

    Never read a tablet test where there is no mention of the iWord as a comparison. Guess this must be either vastly superior, or you don't do Apple?
    barneyhaye
    • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

      @barneyhaye I didn't compare it to any other tablet, iPad or Android. This review stands on its own.
      JamesKendrick
  • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

    I've had this tablet for a week now. I've had an iPad for a year. The Thinkpad Tablet (yes, bad marketing in the name) is nowhere as slick as the iPad. But I bought it for the stylus. Unfortunately, the MyScript product is buggy. Other note-takers handle digital ink better (handwriting recognition: bah), but have no good options for export to Evernote, etc.

    What's really needed in an Android version of OneNote with good ink handling.
    Dr_Zachary_Smith
  • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

    Looks great, too bad I just bought an <a href="http://www.android-tablet.org/android/new-review-asus-eee-pad-sl101-slider/">Asus Eee Slider</a> tablet. I love the fact that it has a built-in physical keyboard, makes writing so much faster.
    Jeffrey1980
  • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

    Had a chance to play with it for a short while - heavy as a brick. Solid, but you really feel the weight
    maxtov@...
  • Finally!

    After a whole multitude of lousy Android tablets released over close to a two-year period, it's great to see that finally some decent droid tablets are sneaking onto the salesfloor.

    Now, it's just a matter of time to win-back those of us who were burned and disappointed by the less-than-stellar early offerings. Apple avoided this pitfall by offering a top-notch product on it's first initial launch. Though Android came first (in tablet form) it's been playing a catch-up game and finally has some players that can actually hit when at bat!

    Finally!
    camcost@...
    • RE: ThinkPad Tablet: Ready for the boardroom (review)

      @camcost@... I didn't think the Xoom and Samsung (amongst others) were "lousy" tablets.
      waterhzrd
  • Hardware appears to be solid, but Android is clunky

    I have been testing and evaluating the Thinkpad Tablet for my work, and I have found that the stuttering and stalling mentioned in the article quite a nuisance. Also, the interface built into this is Android implementation is so not intuitive and so poorly documented, that I really can't recommend this for general consumption. Citrix Receiver will have to be upgraded out of the box. Cisco AnyConnect can only work if it is rooted. The touch interface needs to be finessed to work, but it only responds if you use much force. This causes intermittent missed button pushes and sometimes it will cause menus to show up because of overcompensation of pushing harder than necessary. I found that after playing the Angry Birds that comes with it to help with knowing how to use the interface and getting a feel for it, but having to learn this when using a Toshiba touch screen monitor or ipad just works makes this frustrating. The wireless and VPN interface is about as intuitive as using Linux conf files setting circa 1995. Once an app is in use, the app works. But the OS and touchscreen are really not user friendly.
    jahat