Wednesday, 13 July 2005

ThinkpadX41TiconIt's been a day and a half now since I started using a ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC. Yesterday I posted a few initial thoughts, and today I have some more (part three is also now onlline and can be found here). I'm pretty much using the new computer exclusively now, which is a testament to it's usability, since I really liked the Acer I've relied on for the past couple years.

Update - Many people won't ever find it on the ThinkPad site, since it requires st00pid pop-ups, but there's a very good animated 3D demo of the X41T on the web site. And that link doesn't require a pop-up.

X41TA bit of a description of how this thing feels...

Essentially it's an X-series ThinkPad notebook, one that's thin and light. Mine has the 8-cell extended battery, and in the real world it provides about 5 hours worth of juice for off-the-grid computing (no pun intended, old-timers).

The keyboard is predictably great. I am surprised at how quickly I am adjusting to the little rubber eraser-like mouse pointer device. It's not as bad as I'd feared. I still need some time with it, but that has nothing to do with the fact that this is a Tablet PC - all the X-series notebooks are built with that pointer.

The pen/stylus provided with this model lacks an "eraser" end on the blunt end. I am used to having that with my Acer C300-series model, and I keep catching myself turning the stylus around to try to erase something and finding it lacking in that regard. I'll need to try an Acer pen on the ThinkPad tomorrow and see if it behaves well. If it does, someone needs to produce a good after-market stylus that fits in the ThinkPad holder and includes the "eraser" end. I'd buy a couple of 'em.

It's solid, clearly very-well-built, which is exactly what you'd expect from a ThinkPad. The hinge/rotation point appears to be significantly better-made than the one on my Acer tablet (which has a tendency to buckle and break under extended use).

The fingerprint reader and software (again, not tablet-specific, although on the X41 the reader is on the display panel (in the lower right, so you can use it in slate mode to log in or unock the computer - nice!) gets lots of "WOW, COOL!" comments, and it works quite well. So far, in my totally unscientific study, it has only let me unlock the machine - the fingers of others don't work. That's a good thing.

When you convert to slate mode (by rotating the screen panel backwards and folding it down over the keyboard), the whole thing fits in the hand quite well. It's well-balanced and the battery lets me comfortably grip it much like I would a paper notebook - a good physical metaphor. It also makes it easy to keep a very solid grip, which is a great think in the IT department world - Anti-dropping features are always good. And as a bonus, it has the requisite ThinkPad "hard drive air bag" capability that protects the drive and heads from shocks.

The screen has a very wide viewing angle (I think it's like 170 degrees). Once I installed the hey-its-about-time patch for the Tablet PC OS and configured a few tweaks on the machine (typical Windows stuff), it's running like a champ.

X41T-Detailthe 1.5GHz Pentium Mobile processor is quick enough, and the machine seems to run a little faster than the Acer overall. We'll see what happens when I install on it in the next day or two - Oh and that reminds me, it needs a bigger hard drive... I have a gig of RAM in it, and that certainly helps performance. the IBM software that helps control the display and a plethora of other things has improved over the years, and that's good to see. It even let me map the Right-ALT key to act as a Windows key, which is a welcome feature since the IBM keyboards don't have one. Nice tweak.

I was a bit confused when I saw a USB port on the right side, and another one on the left side with some goofy looking, slightly narrower port right below it. After doing some looking around, it appears the extra port is a power port that accompanies the USB 2.0 port. Nifty. Power to the people. There's also a SD card slot, which is how these pictures reached your eyes.

Okay - so... What makes this one better?

Up til now, most Tablet PCs have often been heavy in the "shiny" department - lots of cool looks and nifty flair - but somewhat lacking in the durability and consistency areas. Keep in mind, I haven't used every tablet out there. Motion and others make Tablets that I have no experience with. I have extended experience with the Compaq, Toshiba and Acer models. Of those, the Acer has been my favorite. Until now, that is.

But what I can tell you is that the ThinkPad X41 takes the strong utility value and characteristics of the IBM line, trims it down, and adds Tablet hardware. It's classic IBM (now Lenovo) to watch the market and wait things out to see what works and what doesn't, then take the market by storm.

X41T-DetaiLogolIn my book, it's all about ThinkPad keyboard and durability, light-weight construction, lonnnnng battery life, a nice bright/contrasty display (much better than Toshiba's in that area), and excellent placement of controls.

Areas to improve? Better pen (with the eraser end on it), higher-res display (Toshiba may be flat in terms of contrast, but they kick serious ass in the resolution department), more microphones (again a Toshiba win) and find some way to build in a slot-load or slide-out optical drive (not likely in this form factor, I know, but hey I can dream).

By the way, the screened label says "IBM ThinkPad" on it. On the bottom it also says "IBM" with no mention of Lenovo. I assume that will probably change over time.

There's no huge surprises here - and that's what makes this Tablet so great... You get everything you'd expect from a quality, lightweight, compact and durable ThinkPad, and you get well-designed and -built tablet PC components and functionality built into it. And it all works, without the typical third-party software glitches and digitizer electronics frustrations I've had to deal with in the past. It's already fitting like a glove.

In my book, that's a real success.

By the way - just to be clear - in my original post I said I have received this Tablet for "evaluation and testing." This is a purchased computer, one we are checking out for use at work. I just wanted to be sure to explain that no one sent a free one and I am only blogging about it because I think it's pretty nifty and sweet. - gh

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Tablet PC | Tech
Thursday, 14 July 2005 01:31:55 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
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