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ThinkPad Twist hands-on: It's a ThinkPad! It's a tablet! It's a super laptop!

The new Windows 8 laptops/hybrids are rolling out and Lenovo is leading the charge. The new ThinkPad Twist is a delightful Ultrabook with a swivel touch screen that becomes a decent tablet.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
Twist open

Laptop makers are racing to get new Windows 8 laptops to market for the holidays. Lenovo has just introduced the ThinkPad Twist which is a hybrid with a touch screen designed to take advantage of Windows 8.

Twist closed

I have been using the Twist for a week and the build quality is quite good for a hybrid that is available for as low as $746. It features a classic design for a hybrid with a 12.5-inch touch screen that swivels around to become a tablet.

Hardware specifications as reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 1.7 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Display: 12.5-inch IPS, 1366 x 768 5-point multitouch
  • OS: Windows 8
  • Storage: 128 GB SSD
  • Camera: 720p webcam
  • Ports: 2-USB 3.0, RJ45, audio combo, miniHDMI, miniDP, 4-in-1 SD/MMC card reader
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Battery: 7 hours
  • Dimensions: 313mm x 236mm x 20mm (12.3" x 9.3" x 0.8")
  • Weight1.58 kg (3.48 lbs)

It's a laptop

The ThinkPad Twist is a solid member of the product line in an Ultrabook form. It has ThinkPad styling throughout and is solidly constructed. The 3.5 lb. weight is acceptable for just a thin laptop and the display, while not high-resolution, is a solid IPS screen with wide viewing angles.

See also: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 hands on: Flexible laptop for flexible Windows 8 | Why I can't recommend the Surface RT for tablet shoppersSurface RT hands-on: Not a good tablet, not a good laptop

Twist keyboard

Lenovo makes some of the best laptop keyboards in the industry and the Twist has a great one. I make a living using keyboards and this one is as good as it gets. Lenovo used low-profile keys but they are full keys and not chiclet style as is becoming common.

Typing on this keyboard is a joy and the large palm rest rounds out the good typing experience.

As is common for ThinkPads the Twist has both a multi-touch trackpad and a red trackstick. There are the standard three mouse buttons placed above the trackpad for use with either pointing method. The trackpad is not as large as on the Lenovo Yoga 13 I reviewed, but it works well with Windows 8.

The top row of Fn keys include the standard laptop controls such as brightness and volume controls. There is a key that is really useful in Windows 8 that brings up the screen with all apps installed. 

It's a tablet

Windows 8 is designed to handle both laptops and tablets and the Twist has a swivel screen that turns it into a decent tablet. At 3.5 lbs. the Twist is not the easiest tablet to use but it is typical of the new hybrid class. 

Lenovo has designed the Twist to be easy to use in either laptop or tablet mode by putting common controls on the bezel of the display. There is the standard Windows button (a real button not capacitive), volume up/down buttons, and the sole power button. The latter is situated on the lower right side of the display and is accessible in either laptop or tablet mode. There is also a small screen rotation lock button above the power button that toggles auto-rotation on and off.

I find the Twist to be best used in landscape orientation as a tablet, not my favorite position but it works fine. The touch screen is very well calibrated and it is easy to control Windows 8 by touch in tablet mode. 

I like using the Twist as a tablet better than the Yoga 13 due to the swivel screen of the former. I ever got used to having the Yoga keyboard exposed on the bottom of the device in tablet mode. This is not an issue with the Twist. 

The Twist is reminiscent of the ThinkPad x200 convertible notebooks of the past. This is quite a bit thinner and lighter than the convertible of old, a very good thing. The only thing the Twist is lacking compared to the Tablet PC of old is a pen/inking option. Lenovo has chosen to leave the pen out of the Twist, even though Windows 8 supports it.

It is worth noting that Lenovo is quoting 7 hours of battery life on the Twist and my usage confirms that. It's possible to get all day on a single charge with the Twist.

Good value

Twist tent mode

The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist is an outstanding laptop and a decent tablet making it a good value for the price. It is available now from Lenovo starting at $746. It runs full Windows 8 making it a full laptop for those not wanting to go with Windows RT.

The unique tent mode of the Yoga 13, the ability to place the laptop in a "tent" orientation for working with the tablet can also be done with the ThinkPad Twist. The single swivel hinge on the Twist is rigid enough to place the device in this special mode for circumstances that require it.

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