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Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet: An Android Business Slate
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Date: Dec 07, 2011
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction and Specifications

Lenovo's first business-class Android-based tablet has arrived. The ThinkPad Tablet comes with many of the features business users want and demand from a tablet, including full encryption, remote wipe capabilities, productivity apps, VPN support, pen-based handwriting recognition technology, and more.

Running on Android 3.1, the ThinkPad Tablet comes preloaded with more than 25 free apps. Many of these apps will be useful to business users, such as Documents to Go by DataViz, PrinterShare, Computrace Mobile by Absolute Software, and Citrix Receiver. With the optional digitizer pen, you can also take advantage of the preloaded MyScript Notes Mobile app which lets you take notes, draw, and insert pictures. This program supports handwriting recognition in 27 languages.


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With the tablet's full-size USB port, full-size SD card slot, and microUSB port, transferring files to and from the tablet is easy. The ThinkPad Tablet also has a mini HDMI connector so you can connect the device to a larger display or HDTV for displaying presentations or sharing your favorite video. Using the optional ThinkPad Tablet Keyboard Folio Case, which sells for about $100, you can dock the ThinkPad Tablet and quickly type out a few emails or reports.

First, here's a quick hands-on demo with the new ThinkPad Tablet and then we'll run down user experience, the performance numbers, battery life and more.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet
Specifications & Features

Operating System
Android 3.1
Wi-Fi Options
Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and 3G
Processor
NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core ARM processor
Memory
1GB
Internal Storage
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB (depending on Tablet)
Display Technology
IPS Technology (178º viewing angle), Corning Gorilla glass
Display
Size: 10.1" (257mm), Screen resolution: 1280x800, Automatic brightness control, multitouch technology, Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display (TFT LCD) technology, Supports for ThinkPad Tablet Pen input
Battery Life
8.7hrs with Wi-Fi
Integrated Camera
Front-facing camera – 2MP, Rear-facing camera – 5MP
Connectors
mini HDMI, USB 2.0, micro USB, dock connector
Wireless Features
Wireless LAN, Bluetooth 2.0, 3G on some tablets
Specs and Dimensions
Weight: 742.2gm (about 1.65 pounds)
Wi-Fi: 756.1gm 3G

Size
10.25 x 7.15 x 0.57 inches (HxWxD)
Battery
24.1W 3250 mAh Li-Polymer battery
Sensors
Accelerometer, Gyroscope,  Assisted GPS, Ambient light sensor
Card Slot or Card Reader
SIM card slot, 3-in-1 media card reader
Preloaded Software
Documents To Go, MyScript Notes Mobile, USB Data Transfer Utility, Lenovo Launch Zone, Lenovo SocialTouch, Favorite Apps, User Data and SD Card Encryption, Wi-Fi Import or Export, others
Price
16GB: $499, 32GB: $569, 64GB: $669
ThinkPad Tablet Pen: $30
 

Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet - Click to enlarge

Lenovo is currently offering the 16GB, Wi-Fi version of the ThinkPad Tablet for $499. The ThinkPad Tablet Pen is sold as an optional add-on for $30. Various other configuration options for the tablets are available as well, including 32GB and 64GB models.

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Design

Although today's tablets work well in landscape or portrait mode, many of today's 10-inch tablets seem to be designed with landscape as the primary or default orientation. Lenovo took a slightly different approach with the ThinkPad Tablet and selected portrait mode as the primary orientation of the tablet. When you first pick up the ThinkPad tablet, you'll notice four hardware buttons along the bottom edge of the tablet when you're holding it in portrait mode. Of course, these buttons work in landscape mode as well. The front-facing 2MP webcam is located above the screen in the upper right corner of the bezel.

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Along the top edge of the ThinkPad tablet, you'll notice the tablet pen storage for the optional tablet pen (in red, pictured here) and a volume rocker. Next to the storage slot for the pen, you'll notice a couple of holes that are designed to be used for tethering the pen to the tablet with string if you desire. The power button is located on the upper right edge of the tablet. On the left edge of the ThinkPad tablet, you'll find a speaker and a full-size USB port hidden behind a sliding door.

In addition to the four hardware buttons (Screen Lock, Browser, Back, and Home) along the bottom bezel of the ThinkPad tablet, you'll find various ports along the bottom edge of the tablet. These ports include a ThinkPad tablet dock connector, microUSB port, mini HDMI port, and headphone jack. On the far left side of the bottom edge, you'll notice a flip out door that opens to reveal a SIM card slot, emergency reset hole, and media card reader.

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When you turn the ThinkPad tablet over, you'll see the 5MP rear facing camera in the upper left corner along with the ThinkPad tablet pen storage in the upper right corner. The back of the ThinkPad tablet has a matte finish and features the ThinkPad and Lenovo logos.

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The ThinkPad tablet measures 0.57 inches thick, which is slightly thicker than the Acer Iconia Tab A500 (0.52 inches thick) and the Motorola Xoom and Asus Eee Pad Transformer which both measure 0.51 inches thick. At about 1.65 pounds, the ThinkPad tablet is slightly heavier than both the Motorola Xoom (1.61 pounds) and Asus Eee Pad Transformer (1.499 pounds).

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User Interface

Lenovo has customized the Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) experience by including a few add-ons and several preloaded apps. One of the added features we particularly liked was the App Wheel which provides easy access to apps without cluttering the screen with icons and without launching the full application listing. You can customize this App Wheel to include apps of your choosing.

Lenovo also places the Lenovo Launcher front and center on the main home screen. This launcher has four panes (Watch, Email, Listen, and Read) that can be customized to your liking. In the middle of the panes, you'll notice an icon for the web browser. To customize the Lenovo Launcher, press the gear icon on the left side of the widget. The Lenovo Launcher also provides easy access to the Android settings menu on the right side of the widget. 

   

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Lenovo says it put a lot of effort into making the tablet ready to go as soon as it's turned on. To that end, Lenovo has included plenty of preinstalled applications with the ThinkPad tablet. Some of the preloaded apps include Documents to Go, Netflix, MyScript Notes Mobile, Nuance's flexT9 virtual keyboard, Absolute software, Citrix Receiver, McAfee Mobile Security, Angry Birds HD, and more. If you don't like or don't want some of these applications on your tablet, Lenovo makes it possible for you to uninstall them using the Settings menu.  Good news for those of you that are bloat averse.

Lenovo also includes its own Lenovo App Shop with the ThinkPad tablet. According to Lenovo, this store is designed to take the uncertainty out of the Android Market by vetting applications for validity and usefulness as well as to help users avoid any apps that could contain malware or viruses.

   

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Using the tablet's pen (sold separately), we felt the interface was very accurate and responsive. We primarily used this pen with the included MyScript Notes Mobile application. With this application, you can use the drawing pen to keep your information as it is written or use the conversion pen which will convert your handwriting into digital form. You can organize your notes into different notepads and share individual pages of notes via email, Bluetooth, Picasa, and more. 

   

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We liked this app and functionality but some of the features we felt were missing were the ability to consolidate multiple pages of notes into a single PDF file and the ability to share multiple pages of notes from a single screen.


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Performance Benchmarks

Next, we'll take a look at how the Lenovo ThinkPad tablet compares to other tablets by running and examining a few benchmarks that are currently available in the Android Marketplace.

 

In the Linpack test, the ThinkPad tablet outscores all of the other tablets in our reference bank. An3DBench and An3DBenchXL weren't quite as nice to the ThinkPad tablet as some of the other benchmarks, but Lenovo's tablet still produced very respectable results that were competitive with many of the other tablets in our reference database.

In the BenchmarkPi test, the ThinkPad tablet came in third behind the Motorola Xoom and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. The ThinkPad tablet also scored very well in the SunSpider benchmark, coming in behind the Asus Eee Pad Transformer and the Acer Iconia Tab.

Generally speaking, the ThinkPad tablet achieved scores that were in the upper third of all results. In our real world testing, we felt that the ThinkPad tablet was plenty responsive.

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Battery Life Testing

A Note From Lenovo On Battery Life:

When rating battery life, Lenovo says you should get up to five days of use from the ThinkPad tablet in suspend mode and up to 10 hours in idle mode. Lenovo expects up to nine hours of battery life while browsing the web over Wi-Fi and up to eight hours of battery life with 3G browsing and video playback. To further clarify these numbers, Lenovo explained that the ThinkPad tablet is in idle state when you let it sit and the screen automatically turns off according to the preset system timer. Suspend mode can be achieved by pressing the power button and putting the system into a deep sleep. It's important to note that suspend mode is different from pressing and holding the power button to turn the tablet completely off.

With other tablets we've tested, we haven't noticed a significant difference in battery life when the tablet was in suspend mode versus idle mode. As you can see from the battery ratings listed here, Lenovo says there is a big difference in longevity with the ThinkPad tablet (five days in suspend mode versus 10 hours in idle mode). Indeed, we experienced much shorter battery life on the ThinkPad tablet when we let the system put itself into idle mode. Using a tablet, it's not uncommon for us to let the tablet put itself to sleep. When we did this with the ThinkPad tablet, it also wasn't uncommon for us to pick up the tablet the next day and find that that battery had drained completely.

Battery Life Testing
Constant Web Browsing Uptime

To quantify the ThinkPad tablet's battery life, we ran our standard web browsing test. In this test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics and text. The page automatically refreshed itself every three minutes. We set the ThinkPad tablet's display to 50% brightness. For this test, the ThinkPad tablet managed to last six hours and 25 minutes before it died. Here's a look at how the ThinkPad tablet compares to other tablets using this same test:



The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet lasted about 7 hours in total in our web-based test.  Not bad at all.  Lenovo's tablet wasn't in the lead of the pack but a little over 7 hours is solid performance in this very typical real-world usage model.

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Conclusion

Lenovo designed the ThinkPad Tablet with business users in mind. The optional pen accessory and the preloaded software are options business users may appreciate. During our tests, we felt the ThinkPad tablet was great for taking notes, surfing the web, checking email, and many other daily tasks that are typical of a business user.

Battery life with the ThinkPad Tablet is a bit of a mixed bag. Although the tablet is rated at up to five days of use, this longevity is dependent upon the user putting the tablet into suspend mode each time he or she is finished using the tablet. Even then, battery life is sure to vary greatly depending on how much you use the tablet. We would expect that many users may place the tablet on their desk to take a phone call or deal with another interruption and forget to press the power button. In doing so, you'll suffer a considerable hit in terms of battery life.

  
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In terms of connectivity, the ThinkPad Tablet has a lot going for it. Not only does the ThinkPad Tablet have a full-size USB port, but it also offers a card reader, microUSB port, mini HDMI port, a ThinkPad Tablet dock connector, and headphone jack. Most tablets on the market today offer considerably fewer ports, so this is an area where the ThinkPad Tablet really shines.

IT departments will also appreciate the encryption and remote wipe capabilities of the ThinkPad Tablet. The optional pen accessory is definitely a nice add on that gives the tablet some additional functionality, and we found ourselves using it often during our evaluation process. The biggest drawback to this tablet is its battery managment. Assuming you're religious about pressing the power button each time you're finished using the tablet, it won't be a problem. If you're like us and tend to forget however, you'll want to keep a charging cord nearby at all times. Regardless, we feel the ThinkPad Tablet is a great tablet for business users who want some of the added capabilities and software that Lenovo includes.  It's a full-featured device that offers a tablet experience not found in many others on the market right now.

 
  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz ARM SoC w/ NVIDIA graphics
  • 1GB of RAM, 16 - 64GB Storage
  • Lots of ports: mini HDMI, USB 2.0, micro USB, dock connector
  • Full size media card reader
  • Relatively short battery life in idle mode
  • Pen is not included (costs $30)



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