Tablets are the hot tech product of 2011, but most seem to offer very little differentiation in screen size, specifications and software. Lenovo is at least attempting something new with its ThinkPad Tablet: it's aimed squarely at business users and comes with a digitiser pen for drawing.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet: Hardware and design
Lenovo describes the ThinkPad Tablet as having the "DNA of a commercial notebook" so it's no surprise that its thick design intends to mirror the company's ThinkPad range of business laptops. Lenovo's commercial product group manager David Heyworth says the company tried to provide a balance of durability and portability when it came to designing the ThinkPad Tablet. Weighing 715g, the ThinkPad Tablet is heavier than both the iPad 2, and Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab 10.1 but surprisingly lighter than Lenovo's own IdeaPad Tablet K1, which is marketed directly at consumers.
The key design elements of the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet include square, sharp edges, and physical shortcut keys below the display. The latter is a key feature according to Lenovo: it says that accidentally bumping the edge of the keys will not depress the buttons, avoiding accidental presses. The physical buttons are large and easy to press, and we much prefer them over the software buttons on most other Android tablets.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet definitely feels a little heavy and chunky, but the weight isn't overwhelming. We particularly like the rubber-style finish on the sides and rear, which doesn't attract fingerprints. The same can't be said for the front of the tablet, which is fairly glossy and does become a grubby mess after limited use. Lenovo says the use of a glossy screen is due to the fact the display is manufactured with gorilla glass, and this wouldn't have been possible with a matte finish.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet comes standard with a digitiser pen that sits in the top left corner of the device, much like a stylus. Critically, the digitiser pen doesn't feel too different from an ordinary pen. It has a relatively fine tip, and is comfortable to grip. The pen allows users to take notes straight onto the screen. It supports handwritten text entry, document mark-up and drawing. The ThinkPad Tablet includes a note taking app that is compatible with the digitiser, but users can also annotate PDF documents, too. Lenovo cited the use of the digitiser pen in the education sector as once example of its appeal.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has a thick design that intends to mirror the Lenovo's ThinkPad range of business notebooks. It has square, sharp edges, and physical shortcut keys below its display.
Perhaps the best feature of the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is its optional keyboard portfolio carry case, which will sell as a separate accessory for $89. Much like the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, the portfolio case turns the ThinkPad Tablet into a notebook-style device. Unlike the Transformer, the accessory doesn't have its own battery, but it does double as a proper protective case, and has a surprisingly responsive optical trackpad.