We recently ran a review of Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet, a 10.1in. Android 3.1-based tablet aimed primarily at business users (although it also has a number of populist features). The review mentioned, but didn't cover in any detail, the optional £75.74 (inc. VAT) Keyboard Folio Case, which both protects the tablet and transforms it into something resembling a clamshell notebook. So, is the 'hybrid tablet' — also exemplified by the popular Asus Eee Pad Transformer — the way to go for the business tablet?
As far as the base device is concerned, we like the ThinkPad Tablet's solid build quality, including an excellent 10.1in. Gorilla Glass-protected IPS screen. Another standout feature is the optional digitiser pen and on-the-fly handwriting conversion, which adds an extra dimension to the device. On the application side, the ThinkPad Tablet's business credentials rest on a full version of Documents To Go (for creating and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents), Citrix Receiver (a virtual desktop client), security software from McAfee and Computrace, and ooVoo (a videoconferencing client).
Unlike many Android tablets, the ThinkPad device has a full-size USB 2.0 port, and it's this that's used to attach the Keyboard Folio Case. The case only supports landscape mode, clamshell-style operation and offers three magnetic grooves above the keyboard into which the screen section can slot to give different viewing angles. This works well enough at a desk, but is unwieldy if you're trying to work with the device on your lap (on a train, for example), when things can come undone.
Other design gripes include the fact that the tablet's SD card slot is blocked when it's in the case, and that there's no way to disable the keyboard if you fold it out of the way to work temporarily in tablet mode: as it stands, you'll get rogue keystrokes if you do this. Also, when folded down into folio-case mode, there's too much movement of the keyboard and screen sections, despite the presence of a magnetic clasp.
Another problem we encountered (and judging from the Lenovo forums we're not alone in this) was that the only way to get the keyboard to work with a UK layout seems to be select FlexT9 input, which may not be to all tastes. Also, the Ctrl key didn't appear to work.
This may seem like a litany of gripes, but the keyboard itself is as comfortable to type on as you'd expect from a ThinkPad device — although there's a touch more flex than we'd like. The two-button optical trackpoint works well too, once you get used to the fact that it's not the familiar ThinkPad pointing stick.
At £419.99 (inc. VAT) for an entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only tablet, plus £28.38 for the digitiser pen and £75.74 for the Keyboard Folio Case, this isn't a cheap device. More to the point, you can get a very nicely specified ultraportable notebook running a full-fat operating system for the same price. Until a hybrid business tablet comes along whose design and execution, or price, is irresistible, we're sticking with the good old laptop.