Lenovo X201T – Review
Last week I become the proud owner of a Lenovo X201 Tablet. This device is a loaner for Lenovo to my company and I am lucky enough to be given the 1st opportunity to review it.
First things first was to rebuild the OS. The x201T was delivered with Windows 7 Professional x86. That’s right x86 Windows on a computer that boats the following hardware stats.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-620LM (2.00GHz)|
|Memory||4GB (2GB x 2) PC3-8500 DDR3-1066 SoDIMM|
|Hard Drive||320GB / 7200 RPM|
|Display||12.1” WXGA Multitouch LED-backlit|
|Graphics||Intel Integrated Graphics 4700MHD|
Whilst it only boasts 4GB of memory the processor alone is enough reason to run a 64-bit operating system. So as mentioned above I rebuilt the OS with Windows 7 x64 Enterprise.
I was disappointed that the Intel NIC (an 82577LM) was not able to use any of the built in drivers and as such I needed to grab a copy of the driver and install from USB. At this point I was hoping that a quick visit to Windows Update would pick up the majority of the drivers, oh how wrong I was.
Next step was to trek over to lenvovo.com and I downloaded the Think Vantage package and all the drivers. This was a relatively painless process and I was getting ready to start using the tablet to it’s full potential.
Next I installed the Windows 7 Touch Pack which includes cool “Microsoft Surface” style apps such as photo collage and the garden pond screensaver which simply screams to passes by “THIS IS A TABLET AND IT’S COOL”
My first point of note about this tablet is that the accelerometer doesn’t seem to be working correctly. Even before the rebuild it didn’t seem to detect change of orientation. Other reviews that I have read about the x201 stated that this feature worked really well. We are currently talking to Lenovo to confirm if there may simply be an issue with this one.
Getting into the tablet and how Windows 7 plays in tablet mode. Firstly I will say it’s not a replacement for a traditional keyboard and mouse. I initially tried to use it in this manner and spent a large amount of time attempting to get the handwriting recognition to improve. The biggest problem here is my handwriting. It is, to be honest horrible. I doubt I would be given my pen license if I was in primary school today and this is simply an indication of how much I type. Don’t get me wrong the handwriting recognition is very good and there is a set of 50 sentences and phrases that can be used to train recognition. This information is stored in your user profile (%userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\InputPersonalization) and can be transferred to another computer using the “Windows Easy Transfer” to save re-doing it after rebuilding your tablet.
The first of the applications I was really wanting to try was OneNote. Unfortunately I bitterly disappointed with how it worked in tablet mode. I was wanting a better experience then with a keyboard and mouse and this wasn’t the case. The keyboard shortcuts are so good in OneNote that the touch interface just didn’t keep up.
Keeping with the office theme I opened up Excel and Word and used a few of the ink features. I really liked being able to scribble all over a spreadsheet whilst in a meeting, taking notes and highlighting info. But again the handwriting was limited and really withdrew from the potential of the touch interface.
Office Communicator was another app that didn’t really shine with the touch interface. Sure a few colleagues were a little stunned to see my handwriting appear on the screen but after the ‘oh shiny’ moment was gone they were left simply struggling to read my handwriting.
Feeling a little dejected about the whole tablet piece I decided to sue the x201 as a traditional laptop for a while. This is important to cover because most people will spend a fair amount of time using the x201 in this manner. Firstly it’s a nice improvement over the x200, and includes a touchpad as well as the thumb bum for mousing. The battery included on this demo is the 8 cell and on full charge Windows says it will last for 5 hours and 45 minutes. I would say this isn’t too far off the mark, although it also seems to take an eternity to charge. One of the biggest battery saving functions is the removal of the optical drive, also absent in the non tablet x201. The optical bay is included in the base docking station and for most users this is probably enough. I’m torn by the removal of the optical drive, in reality I don’t use it that often but as an IT Pro sometimes need to burn an image on the run.
As a laptop the x201 therefore is a nice choice, but I kept thinking that there had to better use of the tablet. I started to think about which apps would make better use of the touch screen and couldn’t think of a lot other then Media Centre, which isn’t too bad. Rather then thinking what would work well in tablet mode I started to think about the applications that seem limited when using a mouse. Visio sprung to mind.
I tend to spend a lot of time in Visio and it seemed like an application that would work well with touch and the stylus. Boy was I right. Visio ROCKS with touch. Being able to switch from pointer to connectors is fast, made even easier by the Fluent UI (Ribbon) which has made it’s way into Visio 2010. Moving shapes, connectors, lines and drawing is easy and works so well. If there is no other reason to get a tablet then this reason is enough for me.
With my new found enthusiasm for the tablet I started thinking about other apps that I often spent time moving shapes around in…… Ahhh PowerPoint. Creating animations is a breeze with touch and creating custom motion paths which is near impossible with a mouse is a breeze with touch.
Not that many readers will be effected by this but the incident logging software used by the State Emergency Service in New South Wales, Australia is awesome with touch as well. It needs the stylus as the checkboxes are only small, but wow. I was using it for a few hours this morning and had a mouse sitting next to me but found it easier to grab the stylus and tap away on the screen. A number of other members had a look as well and thought it was a really great way to interact with the application.
Does the tablet warrant the cost. Well I’m not sure. Certainly I found the tablet most useful when the screen was positioned as a traditional laptop and just reaching over the keyboard every now and again. The exception is Visio of course which tablet mode rocks for. Whilst not a corporate use flipping the tablet around and sitting it up is a great way to watch video’s as well. Using the tablet is useless without wireless, sitting in tablet mode with a patch lead stuck in the top looks weird.
At the end of the day there aren’t many really great touch devices on the market and in my opinion the best of them are made by apple namely the iPhone and iPad. What really sets these two products apart is that they were purely designed with fat fingered touch in mind. Windows 7 is better then previous versions of the OS when using touch but it has a long way to go. There are a number of rumours doing the rounds the touch will be a focus of Windows 8 and this would be great however OS is only the start, applications need to be designed for touch as well.