What could be better than a tech company having its own tablet? Having two tablets.
On the surface it makes sense. IdeaPad is a laptop line meant for general consumers, and ThinkPads are built for business. You pay more for ThinkPads, but you get more: Higher-end features, better build quality, and top-shelf performance. Because it’s for business.
While the tablet works perfectly well with a fingertip, a pressure-sensitive stylus gives you finer control when doodling handwritten notes or, say, creating an illustration masterpiece with Sketchbook Pro.
And so it is that the ThinkPad Tablet is a bit of a cryptic offering. It’s got the same size screen (10.1 inches at 1280×800 pixels), the same RAM (1GB), and the same CPU (Nvidia Tegra 2 at 1GHz). It, too, runs the latest Android. It costs a bit more — $499 for 16GB versus the 32GB you get on the IdeaPad — but you also get a somewhat unique feature in today’s tablet world. While the tablet works perfectly well with a fingertip, a pressure-sensitive stylus gives you finer control when doodling handwritten notes or, say, creating an illustration masterpiece with Sketchbook Pro. You know, for business.
In all seriousness, I can see how the stylus could be useful in a business setting — picking out just the right cell in your thousand-entry spreadsheet — but so much more about the device makes no sense. It has the same, mass-market-focused skin as the IdeaPad K1, and it’s similarly stuffed to the gills with preinstalled applications. Apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Angry Birds. For business!
OK, even stuffed shirts need to kick back with Keyboard Cat once in awhile, I get that. But do they want to be seen with this garish, two-tone tablet while they do it? Built from two pieces of plastic snapped together, the underside is matte and sleek on the underside but the top bezel surrounding the LCD looks cheap, uber-shiny, and smudgetastic. Looks are one thing, but I also had a much bigger issue with the product: The tablet would frequently drop its Wi-Fi connection, only to find it again several minutes later.
Putting its problems aside, you will find some legitimate business cred in the ThinkPad Tablet, namely in the form of preinstalled apps that the IT crowd will love, including LANDesk, Citrix Receiver, McAfee Mobile Security, and a tablet version Computrace’s theft recovery system. Documents to Go is also preinstalled. And even the unemployed will appreciate the full-sized USB slot the device uses for file transfers. There’s actually a second micro-USB port that also works for file transfers — and can trickle charge the tablet, a rarity in this space.
Still, while I love some of this tablet’s features on their own, as a whole the ThinkPad Tablet feels more like a shopping cart filled with options, some of which work, some of which shouldn’t be here, and some of which are full-on failures. Coupled with the premium pricing, it all adds up to a somewhat questionable experience.
WIRED Top-notch performance in all areas. USB charging. Outstanding battery life (over 9 hours at full tilt). Preinstalled IT apps make sense for enterprise buyers, but they aren’t packaged here very thoughtfully.
TIRED Major problems with wireless networking. Display seems dim if not viewed dead-on. Expensive. Design simply not up to snuff compared to Lenovo’s other products, especially ThinkPad laptops.
Photos by Jon Snyder/Wired