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Thread: Lenovo Thinkpad x201t full review

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    Default Lenovo Thinkpad x201t full review

    The Lenovo Thinkpad x201t is the successor to the x200t, which a widescreen version of the x61 tablet, which in an update to the x60 tablet, which is a more powerful version of the x41 tablet. This machine is the latest in a long line of solid convertible tablet offerings from the Thinkpad line. With core i series processor options, loads of RAM, and spacious hard drives, the x201t series stands out as a powerful choice for those who need a tablet that can handle nearly anything. With classic thinkpad styling and durability, this is a machine that should hold up to years of demanding use.


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    Quick Specs

    Processor - Intel Core i7 L640 @2.13 GHz
    RAM - 4GB, only 2.92GB usable due to the 32 bit OS, 64 bit is available
    HDD - 320GB 7200RPM, 9.76 devoted to the recovery partition
    12.1" Multitouch LED WXGA panel with Wide Viewing Angle
    Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
    Pen and Touch Input Available with 2 touch points
    Wacom Penabled
    Windows 7 Professional
    8 cell battery


    Design

    This computer is classic thinkpad through and through. The boxy chassis is a nice, girppy, fingerprint hiding matte black over a magnesium allow frame for light weight and durability. The whole thing is very solid with no flex. The boxiness can make it feel a bit bulky, but with a 12Ē screen, and under 4lbs even with the extended battery, itís not too heavy in a bag or in your arm. The screen does sit off-center in the bezel, which some find annoying. I didnít even notice it until it was pointed out to me and Iím not really bothered by it. Iím more annoyed by the fact that in tablet mode, the thickest part of the bezel that houses the tablet buttons is on the same side as the extended battery, making the screen feel frustratingly narrow (in portrait) compared to the total dimensions of the device. This could also be due to the fact that Iím used to the 4:3 screen of my TC1100 as opposed to the 16:9 widescreen on the x201t.

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    Speaking of the extended battery, in notebook mode it sticks out the back where you donít have to look at it, and it does also provide a little tilt which makes typing pleasant. That same tilt is a bit more awkward when writing on a table with the tablet in portrait.


    Ports


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    Front - 5 in 1 media card reader, screen latch

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    Left - Express card (54mm), wireless on/off switch, USB, Ethernet, VGA, air vents, power, lock slot

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    Back - all battery

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    Right - USB, headphone, microphone, modem (oh yes, modem), hard drive door, pen garage, USB

    One nice thing about the ports is that they are spread out. Initially, this would seem annoying Ė why are all these holes spread out around the computer? Why not consolidate them along one edge? But what it means is that nothing blocks anything. Have a big fat USB cell modem? Thereís a port on the back right thatís not near anything. The headphone jack is close to the front so you get as much of that cord length as you can for freedom of head movement. The mulitcard reader is in front so itís super easy to get to. It may not make for the cleanest edges, but it sure is convenient.


    Buttons

    This machine is exact opposite of Appleís design esthetic as it has about a million buttons, and I love all of them. The only thing I miss is a jog dial or scrolling button on the bezel to be used in tablet mode. Thanks to the multitouch screen, two fingers on the screen will scroll, but if youíve already got the pen in hand, it can be tricky to get the tip far enough away to get the fingers to register.

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    There are several tablet accessible buttons that have some funny looking labels. There is a power button that has a lock slide so you can carry the machine in tablet mode without the danger of it turning on in your bag. Then thereís one that looks like rotate that is really Ctl/Alt/Del. The next one that looks like a different rotate icon really does rotate the screen. A box with an arrow in it brings up a useful menu of stuff Ė the same stuff as the SimpleTap tab, but in a more menu-y looking style rather than big icons. Finally, a lock button disables the tablet buttons.
    Also on screen bezel are the dual mics and fingerprint reader.


    Screen

    The 1280x800 12Ē widescreen feels great in laptop mode. Itís a good balance of enough pixels while still being readable at table and lap distance. The widescreen does feel a bit awkward in portrait mode though. It feels a bit too tall and narrow. A full screen page of a book or PDF leaves a lot of blank space at the top and bottom. I included some pictures of this in the comparisons at the end.


    The screen is bright and clear with no glare. The touch layer doesnít add any graininess, although in bright light, the dots from the multitouch screen are faintly visible. Viewing angles are very good with the picture remaining clear and the colors good all around.

    There is a little wiggle in the latch, but the mechanism feels solid enough. Rotation is smooth and can go either way. When you get the screen all the way around, it settles into tablet orientation solidly to be laid flat on the screen. There is a latch mechanism on the screen that pushes through to latch in either screen down or screen up mode. At first, this piece seemed super easy to break off, but after using it for a week; Iím not worried about it anymore. It feels as solidly engineered as the rest of the machine.

    There is an accelerometer for automatically rotating the display, but I ended up turning it off after just one day in the studio. It was a little too responsive for me, and if I didnít pick up the machine just right, it would rotate. As my work involves a lot of picking the machine up to write a little and then setting it down again, it was easier to just leave the accelerometer off. While the accelerometer is responsive and quick to pick up on orientation changes, Windows 7 takes a few seconds to actually flip the screen.

    There are also options to get the screen without mulititouch, which makes the machine a hair lighter, or the SuperBright panel which is outdoor viewable. All should have the same wide viewing angles.


    Digitizer and Pen

    The inking experience on this tablet is great. Coming from an HP TC1100, the pen feels small, but the soft touch rubber coating is really nice. The eraser tip on the other side is really handy, although Iím not sure if itís more efficient to turn the pen over than to just tap an eraser tool on screen. It does make the experience feel more like writing with a normal pencil on paper. The smaller pen gives me a feel of finer control. The digitizer is very accurate and leaves me feeling like I have a lot of good control over the pen tip on the screen. There is a little drift between the pen point and where it puts the cursor on screen, but itís easy enough get used to. I can keep my writing small and it stays clear and readable, making the screen feel expansive for handwritten notes.

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    Top to bottom Ė regular pen, x201t pen, HP TC1100 pen.


    Touch

    Disclaimer: The tablet came to me with a screen protector on it, so all of this may be affected by that. It did hide fingerprints quite nicely.

    I have found touch to be mostly annoying. I thought it would be great to have the option to use a finger on the screen if I didnít feel like pulling out a pen. In reality, the screen was just not accurate enough for comfortable finger navigation, even after a few recalibrations. Sometimes the tap wouldnít register, and sometimes it was just in the wrong place. It also seemed to think I was using two fingers to zoom rather than scroll rather frequently. Itís a bit annoying to be trying to scroll and have the text blow up instead. It works great for playing Solitaire, and it was nice to be able to run SmartMusic with the tablet in slate mode on a music stand without having to pull out the pen.

    More often though, touch just got in the way. Touch is deactivated when the pen tip is close enough to the screen, but when I picked up the tablet to write on, my arm would make contact with the taskbar at the bottom of the screen before I could get the pen close enough. I managed to launch the ThinkVantage toolbox enough times that it now appears in the start menu. The TIP also keeps popping up at random times, which I can only attribute to the screen thinking I touched it. Also, the screen is recessed in the bezel, which can make getting to corners and edges difficult. Since the screen is capacitive, cramming a fingernail in the corner wonít register.


    Keyboard/Trackstick/Touchpad

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    This is actually the first time Iíve used a Thinkpad, and I can see what people are raving about when they talk about the Thinkpad keyboards. The keyboard is full size with solid feedback and good key travel. Iím used to the shallower travel of netbooks and my TC1100 clip on, so it does take a bit more work to press through the keys, but in a good way. Typing on the iPad works, but itís so odd to have your fingers run into the hard surface of the screen and go no farther. The keys need some travel to feel right, and these do.

    Extras on the keyboard deck (these are usually keys that are alternates on function keys or arrow keys): Dedicated full sized PrtSc, ScrLc, Pause, Insert, Delete, Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, physical buttons for volume up, down, and mute, ThinkVantage button, forward and backward buttons which conveniently switch through pages in OneNote.

    Iíve been alternating between the pointer nubbin and trackpad to get a feel for both, but I find myself going more for the trackpad as thatís what Iím used to. Itís nice to have the option. The trackstick has a grippy cover making it easy to push around. Itís responsive and accurate and comes with three buttons Ė left click, right click, and a middle button that puts it in scrolling mode. The trackpad is multitouch for two finger scrolling, although itís really small. The width is fine, but the height sacrificed to the trackstick buttons makes it feel frustratingly short. Thanks to the touchscreen, if you donít feel like pushing the cursor around, you can always reach up and poke the screen. Itís actually a great way to switch applications, as the windows taskbar is just a bit more of a reach than the top row of buttons.


    Heat and Fan Noise

    There is almost none. At home, I have not heard the fan at all. I could hear it very faintly in the quiet of my studio. The machine almost never heats up either. There was a steady stream of warm air coming out of the side vent while I was installing things, but as I type this, thereís nothing coming out of the vent and the keyboard remains room temperature. I did manage to push it a bit with some gaming, but just to warm, never hot. This is a very comfortable tablet to hold and very quiet running.


    Sound, Speakers, and microphones

    This is sadly what kills it for me. With the volume all the way up on the machine, and my external speakers all the way up, it failed to put out enough sound to provide audible accompaniment over my students in the studio. In all fairness, the TC1100 requires the sound to be all the way up, and I keep the external speakers all the way up, but the TC1100 just puts out a bit more signal, but itís enough for students to hear the accompaniment over their own playing. If you want to get sound out of this machine, youíll need some well powered external speakers, or good headphones, as the analog signal coming out of the headphone port is not high.

    The speakers on the machine itself are average for a business oriented laptop. At least there are two of them. They are on the underside of the front of the machine and put out clear sound even at top volumes. I think that might be due to the fact that the machine just canít put out enough signal to drive anything to distortion. As with most laptop speakers, youíll get nice high and mids, but no lows to speak of. Itís fine for watching the occasional youtube video or for listening to people talking, but if you want to watch stuff blow up, youíll want headphones.

    The dual array microphones are located on the lower bezel by the screen hinge. They are very sensitive and picked up everything. Having the dual array helps with accuracy and I was able to dictate quite easily and accurately into Windows Speech Recognition. Iím sure they would also do an excellent job of recording audio during a meeting or lecture.


    Software

    Lenovo includes a lot of useful utilities for managing the hardware. Thereís a nice big ThinkVantage button on the keyboard for entering the recovery mode at start up and launching the Toolbox in Windows. This is a collection of utilities to access system health, security and networking, and diagnostics and support.

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    Lenovo also provides their own battery and power monitoring program and wireless connection utility. Both of these leave nice large icons on the taskbar. I usually put battery bar on all my computers, but with the Lenovo power manager, I didnít feel the need. The power manager offers every option you could want and some great presets for Video Playback, Energy Star, Power Source Optimized, Maximum Battery Life, Maximum Performance, and a Presentation mode that turns the timers off. This gives the user a ton of control and flexibility in terms of balancing the power usage with the battery life.

    The wireless utility also provides a nice big taskbar icon, which will pull up the Lenovo Access Connections manager when tapped. This utility provides a neat GUI overview of available wireless access points and their approximate proximity, based on signal strength. It will also take care of Mobile Broadband, WiMax and other connections. I only had the opportunity to test it with wifi connections, and for just that it seems to be overkill. While the chart of access points looks neat, it also looks cluttered. Sometimes, I just wanted a simple list. If you frequently roam between wifi and cellular connections, this could be a much more useful tool.

    There is also a program called SimpleTap, which gives access to many hardware functions (brightness and volume, for example) with nice large, finger pressable icons. This is very useful in tablet mode, where the function keys are covered up.


    Battery Life

    The 8 cell extended battery promises up to 7.9 hours of battery life. The Lenovo Battery manager generally estimates about 6:30 for me when I unplug. I did make it through 6 hours of teaching with the wifi on and the screen at medium brightness and still had 25% left. I browsed the web and typed for another hour when I got home before it offered to go into battery stretching mode.


    Performance and Benchmarks

    With a core i7 processor and 4GB of RAM, nothing really slowed this machine down. I was able to run anything I wanted to run all at the same time. Nothing seemed to strain the machine. Running benchmarks and playing Sims3 (which runs very nicely by the way) were about the only things that could kick the fan on. Fullscreen HD youtube and hulu run flawlessly.

    Here are some benchmarks it blasted through:
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    And the Windows experience score:
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    Size Comparisons


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    Left TC1100, center x201t, right iPad

    Itís a little heavier and quite a bit thicker than the TC1100, but the size and weight are in line with other 12Ē convertible tablets on the market.

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    Unfortunately, for the purposes of displaying full pages, not much is gained in portrait mode except wasted space at the top and bottom. This is one of the main reasons Iím a fan of the older 4:3 ratio.

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    Itís similar in size to a 13Ē macbook, but a bit thicker and about a pound lighter.


    Conclusions

    This machine is a performer. Itís fast, responsive, and solidly built. The inking experience is excellent, and the keyboard is everything a Thinkpad keyboard promises to be. Despite some quirkiness in the touch implementation, and a widescreen that becomes a narrow screen in portrait mode, this is one really great computer.

  2. Default

    Hey Michelle

    Thanks for the info about the The Lenovo Thinkpad x201t. I was thinking about buying a used x200t. But now that I see al this i'll go for the x201t.

    Cheers,

    Micheal Pfeiffer

    The Netherlands
    http://pfeiffersymptomen.net/

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