Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet review

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

When Lenovo announced a pair of Android tablets this summer, we didn\'t even imagine it was theIdeaPad K1 we were most jazzed about. Sure, it was exciting to see Lenovo enter the Android tablet market on any terms, but it was the Think Pad Tablet that set our curious minds rolling.

There was the design, for one -- an obvious homage to those black, red-nubbed laptops with the same name. It has personalThere was the design, for one -- an obvious homage to those black, red-nubbed laptops with the same name. It has personality, one that's inextricably tied to Lenovo's laptop know-how. It offers a full-sized USB port, an SD slot, 1080p output, a 3G SIM and a slew of accessories that includes a dock, pen and keyboard folio case. It's the kind of tablet we don't review all that often: one that might actually make for some painless productivity on the road.

As you can imagine, we've been waiting months to learn more, and if your tweets, comments and emails are any indication, so have you. Well, wait no more, friends. We've been spending almost a week with one and have oh-so much to say. So what are you waiting for? Meet us past the break, won't you?

 Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet review

Look and feel

The first time we saw the ThinkPad Tablet, back in July, we were struck by its odd proportions. It wasn't just that this thing was on the plump side (after all, most slates with a full-sized USB port are). No, this tablet was simply... outsized. At 10. 3 x 7.2 x 0.6 inches (260.4 x 181.7 x 14mm), it's both taller and wider than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (it measures 10.1 x 6.9 x .34 inches). On paper, that gulf might seem trivial, but the unusual shape was the first thing we noticed. Check the comparison above if you don't believe us!

At 1.58 pounds (715 grams), the ThinkPad Tablet feels like the serious productivity slate it claims to be. Because of the extra width, we found ourselves making an effort not to type in portrait mode, since the weight distribution felt particularly imbalanced. Fortunately, even though we felt some stretch in our thumbs while typing in landscape mode, we were still able to do so with relative ease, and discovered that holding the tablet that way made way more sense ergonomically.

This tablet's heft is also offset, in part, by the fact that it's generally a well made device. And if you're the kind of person who already finds ThinkPads' red nubs and boxy chassis endearing, you might even call it handsome. The back side has a nice, soft finish -- one of many ways in which the ThinkPad Tablet borrows design elements from the laptops with the same name. The lid's also stamped with not one, but two logos -- metal Lenovo and ThinkPad insignias, placed catty-corner to each other. As an added flourish, the "i" in "ThinkPad" glows red when the tablet is powered on.

Other things that make this tablet visually striking: a row of four physical buttons, which line the bottom of the screen when you holding the tablet in portrait mode with the front-facing camera up top. These include one to lock the screen orientation, a browser launcher, a backward navigation key and your requisite home button. Alas, they're stiff -- very hard to press -- and we eventually gave up on our efforts to get used to them and simply stuck with the touchscreen. It's a shame, really, since that tactile experience could have been yet another way for Lenovo to hearken back to the experience of using a ThinkPad laptop.

Taking a tour around the device, you'll also find a plethora of ports sitting just below that row of physical buttons. These include a door covering an SD reader and a 3G SIM card slot, along with an exposed docking connector, micro-USB port, mini-HDMI socket (1080p capable) and a headphone jack. On the opposite end (the other short edge), you'll find a volume rocker, along with a slot for the optional pen (much more on that in a moment). Moving along to the long edges, you've got a lone USB 2.0 port on one side, hidden behind a neat little sliding door, with a power / lock button rounding out the opposite side.