Impressions and Conclusion
I tested the rear-facing camera on the ThinkPad under the same conditions that I did with the Acer and received about the same results. Simply put, tablet cameras aren't very good; none of them. You'd have similar or better luck with a basic smartphone camera. Something like Apple's iPhone 4 would easily put these to shame. The same goes for video recording quality – it's just not a high point for the ThinkPad.
Lenovo sent along the optional pen ($40) for our evaluation, which works with the N-Trig DuoSensor digitizer. The first of only a few possible places to use the pen is in the pre-installed Notes Mobile app. This app essentially turns the tablet into a notepad, allowing you to use the pen to take notes or draw directly onscreen. You can elect to keep your dictation as-is or have the app transcribe it into a few different fonts. Icons at the top of the screen control how you write and allow you to undo, redo and erase text.
Unfortunately this app still has a way to go before I'd consider taking it into a meeting. Even when trying to be precise about my handwriting, the app had trouble and got the translation wrong. Furthermore, it would draw lines where my palm rested as I was writing, resulting in undesired lines that would sometimes be translated into random letters. Overall it's a good concept that works fine sometimes but it's not reliable enough to replace a pen and notepad just yet (go figure!). Software updates could change this in the future, however.
Other uses for the pen include drawing apps and editing PDF files but aside from that, the pen likely won't get much use as it's easier to navigate the tablet using your fingers. If you opt to not buy the pen, you're left with a rather odd looking hole in the tablet where the pen would normally be stored.
The ThinkPad Tablet's display operates at the same resolution as the Acer Iconia Tab we tested a few months ago. Both displays showed about the same quality of color reproduction, viewing angles and brightness but the ThinkPad did not have the distracting gridlines of the Acer, especially when using it in direct sunlight.
Although it won't be as big of a concern for business users, one area that Lenovo clearly dropped the ball is audio. The single speaker is positioned on the edge of the tablet where, when holding the unit in portrait mode with my left hand, blocked the port. If that weren't bad enough, the speaker itself is the most underpowered speaker I've ever used on a tablet or notebook. When watching a TV show on Netflix, I could barely hear the audio even when the system was at max volume. During our battery test which consisted of running the movie Inception until the battery died, the Video Player application wouldn't even pick up voices in the film – only occasional loud noises or background music. Things were slightly better in YouTube but not by much. If you plan to listen to music or watch videos on this tab, a set of headphones are virtually a requisite.
One other thing I want to mention is the full-size USB port which is tucked away behind a sliding door. Initially I thought this was a great idea until I tried to use my MSI flash drive with the port. Because the port is tucked so deeply into the tablet, the flash drive wasn't fully able to plug into the port and I couldn't use it (an extension would be a less than ideal solution). One could just blame the flash drive's design but this is the first time I've had a problem with this thumb drive on any system.
To test the battery on the ThinkPad Tablet, I set the screen brightness to roughly 70%, disabled auto-brightness and loaded a 720p rip of Inception for continuous playback until the battery expired. The ThinkPad was good for 5 hours and 42 minutes of usage. In contrast, the iPad 2 lasted 10 hours and 25 minutes under the same test conditions and the Acer Iconia Tab was good for 6 hours and 18 minutes.
Aside from the pen and a few key Lenovo apps and UI changes, the ThinkPad tablet isn't very different than other Tegra 2 Android tablets. Much like I concluded with the Acer Iconia, it's not a bad tablet at all but either the Tegra 2 processor or its combination with Android Honeycomb are showing some age at this point. Apple's iPad 2 is smoother all around, from navigating the web to scrolling through menus and launching apps.
There are things that Android does better than Apple. Connectivity on the ThinkPad Tablet is good, with both an SD card slot and the USB port. There's also the micro USB connector and mini HDMI port, neither of which are found on the iPad.
If you are dead-set on the stylus pen, the ThinkPad Tablet could be the Android tablet for you. If you are an IT professional or a ThinkPad fan, again this could be worth your consideration. But if you can stand to wait a bit longer for Tegra 3, I think the performance benefits of four processing cores, improved graphics and Ice Cream Sandwich will be worth the wait.
Pros: Good selection of ports and expansion options, preloaded with business apps, quality display.
Cons: Terrible audio, mediocre battery life, relatively thick and heavy.