Lenovo has added tablets to its successful business-oriented line of computing devices. The company introduced two new slates earlier this year – the consumer-centric IdeaPad K1 and the business-centric ThinkPad tablet, which we are exploring today. Sure, Lenovo has been making Windows-based tablets with touchscreen capabilities for a while, but the ThinkPad tablet isn't one of them.
We have come to know Lenovo as one of the leading manufacturers of business notebooks over the past few years. After working with several ThinkPads during my time at Catrachadas, I was looking forward to the next one, with a few minor quirks. Lenovo's ThinkPad line was based on a consistent style that has stood the test of time. It is simple, practical, recognizable and conveys the value of quality to many. It will be interesting to see how this tradition was carried over to their first ThinkPad tablet running Android.
The ThinkPad tablet from Lenovo is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1 GHz processor, 32 GB internal memory, 1 GB DDR2 system memory, front and rear cameras, 02/08/11 b / g / n / Wi-Fi Connectivity and 10.1 inch powered WXGA (1280 x 800) IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass. Our evaluation unit came with Android 3.1 Honeycomb and included the optional pen priced at $ 530. 16GB and 64GB variants are also available, priced at $ 430 and $ 630, respectively.
Lenovo's Android tablet is slightly larger than the Acer Iconia Tab we looked at back in August, both in thickness and in height. Width is practically the same. According to the official data sheet, the ThinkPad Tablet is 260.4 mm wide, 181.7 mm deep and 14.5 mm thick. The device is listed with 742.2 grams only with WiFi and 756.1 grams with a 3G radio.
The first thing you'll notice about the tablet are the four buttons at the bottom of the display (in portrait orientation). These allow you to lock or unlock the automatic screen rotation from left to right, launch a web browser, return to the previous page, and go home. The buttons are centered along the front bezel, but they look a little strange as only two of the buttons are the same size. Plus, the keys are pretty stiff and have nothing to do with the great keys Lenovo uses as mouse click buttons on its ThinkPad notebooks. Perhaps the added stiffness was introduced to prevent accidental key presses in landscape orientation.
After using the tablet for a while, I wish Lenovo had added subtle backlighting to these keys as they are next to impossible to read in low light. Of course, there are only four buttons and it doesn't take long to remember their functions, but I digress.
Unlike most tablets on the market, the Lenovo device looks more natural when held vertically because of the aforementioned buttons on the bottom and the Lenovo and ThinkPad branding just above it. The entire front is black, the display is slightly embedded around a matching bezel. The front-facing 2MP camera and ambient light sensor are located on the top right of the front bezel.
The quality of the display when switched off is much higher than that of the Acer Iconia. If you remember this test, the Acer's touch panel showed an obvious grid line pattern that looked cheap and distracting. The grid, while somewhat visible on the Lenovo, is nowhere near as distracting and you really have to look for it to see it.
On the left side of the tablet is a single speaker that's about 3/4 of the way along the edge, followed by a sliding door that hides a single full-size USB port. At the bottom you will find another door which has an SD card slot, as well as a SIM card slot, a docking connector, a micro USB connector, a mini HDMI connector and a headphone jack. The docking station connector can be used with the optional Lenovo desktop dock.
It's worth noting that the door that covers the SD and SIM slots is difficult to open without assistance. I had to resort to an Xacto knife to open the cover. There is only a tiny horizontal slot to open the cover, which means you need something thin to slide in.
There's a power button on the right side of the device and a volume rocker, microphone, and slot for the optional pen ($ 40) at the top.
Around the back we have a smooth plastic surface that feels almost like rubber. Lenovo's reflective nameplate is on the left with a 5 megapixel camera. The ThinkPad branding is in the lower right corner and the "i" in ThinkPad glows red when the tablet is in use, just like we saw on the outer lid of the ThinkPad X100e.