Lenovo has expanded their successful business-oriented line of computing devices to include tablets. The company introduced two new slates earlier this year – the consumer-oriented IdeaPad K1 and the business-minded ThinkPad Tablet that we are examining today. Sure, Lenovo has been producing Windows-based tablet PCs with touchscreen functions for quite some time, but the ThinkPad tablet isn't any of those.
We've come to know Lenovo as one of the premiere business notebook manufacturers over the past years. Having worked with several ThinkPads during my time at TechSpot, aside from a few small quirks, each unit left me looking forward to the next. The foundation for Lenovo's ThinkPad line has been a uniform style that's stood the test of time quite well. It's simple, practical, recognizable and instills the value of quality in the minds of many. It'll be interesting to see how that tradition has carried on to their first ThinkPad tablet running Android.
Lenovo's ThinkPad Tablet is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor, 32GB of internal storage, 1GB of DDR2 system memory, front and rear cameras, 8.02.11 b/g/n/ Wi-Fi connectivity and a 10.1-inch WXGA (1280 x 800) IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass. Our evaluation unit shipped with Android 3.1 Honeycomb and included the optional stylus pen with a retail price of $530. Both 16GB and 64GB variants are also available, priced at $430 and $630, respectively.
Lenovo's Android tablet is ever so slightly larger than the Acer Iconia Tab that we looked at back in August, both in thickness and height; width is virtually identical. According to the official spec sheet, the ThinkPad Tablet measures in at 260.4mm width, 181.7mm depth and 14.5mm thickness. The unit is listed at 742.2 grams with Wi-Fi only and 756.1 grams with a 3G radio.
The first thing you will notice about the tablet is the four buttons across the bottom of the display (when in portrait mode). From left to right, these allow you to lock or unlock auto screen rotation, launch a web browser, go back to the previous page and go home. The buttons are centered along the bezel but they look a bit odd because only two of the buttons are the same size. Additionally the buttons are rather stiff and nothing like the great buttons that Lenovo uses as mouse click buttons on their ThinkPad notebooks. Perhaps the added stiffness was introduced to prevent accidental button presses when using in landscape mode.
After using the tablet for a good while, I wish Lenovo had added a subtle backlight to these buttons as they are next to impossible to read in low light situations. Of course, there are only four buttons and it doesn't take long to memorize their functions, but I digress.
Unlike most tablets on the market, Lenovo's unit looks more natural when held vertically due to the aforementioned buttons across the bottom as well as the Lenovo and ThinkPad branding just above them. The entire front side is solid black with the display slightly inset around a matching bezel. The front-facing 2MP camera and ambient light sensor can be found at the top right side of the bezel.
The quality of the display when powered off appears much higher than what we found on the Acer Iconia. If you recall in that review, the touch panel of the Acer displayed an obvious gridline pattern that looked cheap and was distracting. The grid, while somewhat visible on the Lenovo, isn't nearly as distracting and you really need to be looking for it to see it.
On the left side of the tablet is a single speaker positioned about ¾ of the way down the edge followed by a sliding door that hides a single full-size USB port. Across the bottom we find another door hiding an SD card slot as well as a SIM card slot, a docking connector, a micro-USB connector, mini-HDMI connector and a headphone jack. The docking station connector can be used with Lenovo's optional table dock.
It's worth noting that the door covering the SD and SIM slots is difficult to open without assistance. I had to resort to an Xacto knife to pry the cover open. There's only a tiny horizontal slot to open the cover, meaning you'll need something thin to slide in.
On the right side of the device is a power button and across the top is a volume rocker, microphone and a slot for the optional stylus pen ($40).
Around back we are treated to a smooth plastic surface that almost feels rubber-like. Lenovo's trademark reflective nameplate is positioned on the left with a 5MP camera. The ThinkPad branding is placed on the bottom right corner and the "i" in ThinkPad lights up red when the tablet is in use, just like we saw on the outer lid of the ThinkPad X100e.