Dec 14 2011

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

This business-minded tablet will put a charge in students’ productivity.

Most tablet computers cater to the needs of consumers. But ­everything about the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet was designed with business (and school) users in mind.

The device runs the Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system, ­without the custom skin that can kill performance. A 1-gigahertz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor and 8.7-hour maximum battery life provide plenty of computing power and time for most school applications. Several connectivity and storage options give IT managers the flexibility to choose those that best serve users’ needs.

A large, lustrous screen (10.1 inches with a 1280x800 resolution), two integrated cameras (2 megapixels in the front, 5MP in the back) and multiple connectors round out the core feature set.

End-User Advantages

Anyone familiar with Android devices won’t have a problem grabbing this tablet and getting to work. Although the ThinkPad Tablet feels a bit hefty when you first pick it up, the device’s half-inch thickness and roughly 1.6-pound weight are comparable to its competitors — and reasonably comfortable for older students, teachers or staff to handle over long periods of use.

Those who have trouble adjusting to touch-screen functionality can opt for the ThinkPad Tablet Pen, a pressure-sensitive stylus that converts written text and drawings into digitized content. I found that the software accompanying Lenovo’s stylus, which ships with some models or can be purchased separately, has excellent handwriting recognition capabilities.

Lenovo also offers an optional Keyboard Folio Case that cushions the tablet while simultaneously ­giving users traditional keyboard functionality and an optical version of TrackPoint, the familiar red pointing device found on all ThinkPad ­computers. The keyboard connects via a full-size USB port rather than relying on Bluetooth technology.

Why It Works for IT

Lenovo entered the tablet market ­later than its competitors, but it used that time to build into its products the controls for which IT departments have been clamoring. The ThinkPad Tablet can be configured to communicate with the Android Market and the ­curated Lenovo App Shop, enabling IT to specify which applications to run on school-owned devices. This high-level customization — a huge boon for management — is unique.

The tablet comes with more than 25 free apps preloaded, and many of them are right at home in a school setting. For example, Absolute Software’s Computrace is embedded into the tablet’s BIOS software, so schools can monitor the device’s whereabouts and perform remote ­security and management functions.


Even Lenovo admits that the AC charger that ships with the tablet is weak, noting in the product’s User Guide that the fastest way to charge the device is through the optional ThinkPad Tablet Dock. I found in testing that the tablet did, indeed, charge very slowly via the charger.

And then there’s the battery-draining bug that causes Wi-Fi–only tablets running Honeycomb to ­endlessly search for a 3G signal.

Because the Keyboard Folio Case doesn’t fold back behind the screen, it’s impossible to use the device in tablet form without extricating it from the case. The case also occasionally activates the tablet’s power ­button — another source of battery drain.