Lenovo ThinkPad X201 Tablet review

Oh sure, the world may be off creating underpowered, web-based tablets, but Lenovo's not giving up on those who still need an old-fashioned, fully-powered tablet PC (all 10.1 of you). Truth be told, powerful is exactly how we would describe the new X201 Tablet with its new Intel low voltage Core i7 CPU and 4GB of RAM. But beyond being one of the speedier 12-inch laptops out there, its capacitive touchscreen now lets the touch-happy among us alternate between taking notes with its Wacom stylus and putting two fingers down to zoom or scroll. Sounds like a near perfect experience to us, but before tossing over $1,900 we figured you'd want to make sure it really is. We've been putting the X201T through the paces over the last few days, so hop on past the break for our full review.

Look and feel

While the ThinkPad Edge was a major design departure for Lenovo, the X201T doesn't stray from the traditional ThinkPad roots. In fact, there are really no noticeable design differences between it and the X200T – intact is the classic soft touch plastic lid, square edges and that signature durability of its magnesium alloy chassis. We could do without the shiny plastic piece on top of the front edge, but apparently it's a WiMAX / 3G antenna, so yeah, we'll take it.

Though we're fans of the simple aesthetics, we've got to admit we're peeved by the system's thicker 1.3-inch body and vertically protruding eight-cell battery. While you can pick up the inch thin, three pound X201s sans a convertible touchscreen, the four pound X201T feels heavier than it should, especially when resting on an arm in tablet mode. At least the extra space on the sides does accommodate a laundry list of ports, including a trio of USB 2.0 sockets, Ethernet, VGA, ExpressCard/34 and headphone / mic jacks. Yeah, we know -- we would've loved an HDMI port as well.

Under the lid is the tactile, spill-proof ThinkPad keyboard we have come to know and love -- as usual the keys feel firm and have a near perfect angle to them, yet they did feel a tad bouncy. What you won't find us complaining about, however, is a lack of ways to push the cursor around on the X201T's screen. In addition to all the touchscreen functionality, there's the classic red pointing stick and a new teeny tiny touchpad below the keyboard. We can't say the addition of the touchpad is all that useful since it's smaller than a sugar packet and requires a ton of backtracking, but at least there's now the option for the nipple haters.

Lenovo, if you are listening, please do something about these speakers. We get that this isn't a multimedia machine, but the two speakers on the bottom of the laptop made our stellar music collection almost unlistenable. They are worse than most netbook speakers, and describing the sound as tinny is a gross understatement.

Screen and tablet performance

The 12.1-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel resolution screen is quite bright and lacks the greyness that's sometimes symptom of the added touch layer. Viewing angles of the matte (kudos!) display were also surprisingly good when we looked at it from all sides and flipped the screen around into slate mode. Speaking of flipping the screen around – the unit's bi-directional 360-degree hinge feels solid, and the latch keeps it locked in place when positioned on top of the keyboard. Oh and if you've glanced at the first photo of this review you're well aware that the screen becomes pretty seeped in fingerprints.

So, how is that touchscreen? We must say that it recognizes both finger and stylus input very well. The capacitive display was extremely responsive to our light finger taps and familiar multitouch gestures like two finger scrolling and pinching to zoom. There aren't many programs that take advantage of the multitouch capability, but we did have fun playing around with some of the preloaded Windows Touch Pack applications as you can see in the video below. Nothing beats scaring away digital fish. On the topic of software, we've got to hand it to Lenovo for understanding that digging through Win 7's menus with a finger can be more than frustrating -- its SimpleTap application provides shortcuts to system controls, which is helpful for quickly turning down the volume or launching a program or website.

Though the Windows 7 onscreen keyboard is decent for typing a quick URL in tablet mode, we much preferred using the stylus for writing or taking notes – alright, us bloggers don't really take notes, but we pretended to be all corporate for a bit. As soon as we turned the tablet into portrait mode the accelerometer adjusted the screen orientation, and when we put the Wacom stylus to the screen, our chicken scratch was immediately turned into accurate editable text. Impressed that we wrote the whole first paragraph of this review out on the screen? Don't lie.

Performance, graphics and battery life

The 2.13GHz Core i7 640LM CPU and 4GB of RAM make the Lenovo X201T one of the fastest ultraportable laptops we've ever used. Though the lower voltage i7 processor isn't as speedy as the faster clocked Core i5 Sony VAIO Z Series, the X201T's benchmark scores are still quite high, and everyday performance was incredibly snappy. Launching a number of programs – iTunes, Microsoft Word, GIMP, FireFox, Skype and others – didn't slow down performance in the slightest. Its 320GB 5,400 hard drive isn't as fast at the Z's dual SSDs, but we didn't get impatient for programs to launch.



Battery Life

Lenovo X201T (2.13GHz Core i7, GMA HD)




Sony VAIO Z (2.53GHz Core i5, NVIDIA GT 330M)




Toshiba Satellite E205 (2.2GHz Core i5, GMA HD)




Lenovo ThinkPad Edge (1.3GHz Core 2 Duo, GMA)




While we expected the Core i7 CPU to heat up our lap or wrists, the system actually remained relatively cool – the left side got warmer when we ran a Flash HD video on loop for a few minutes, but it wasn't scorching like the HP Envy 15's temperatures. The integrated GMA 4500HD graphics performance is fine for some casual 3D games – our WoW gnome enjoyed a nice stroll around at 28fps – and handling full HD video, but as the 3DMark benchmarks indicate it isn't going to provide the sort of performance one would expect from a dedicated GPU.

It should be noted that Lenovo will offer the X201T with a less cumbersome four-cell battery, but the six-cell battery allowed it to breathe for 4 hours and 16 minutes on our video rundown test (with brightness set to 65 percent). That translated to about six hours of normal use -- i.e. web surfing and writing this review in Google Docs. Sure, that isn't as long as a ULV laptop, but endurance is the sacrifice you make for the Core i7 performance.

Lenovo's ThinkVantage software has about every utility tool you could ever want including apps for battery management, hard drive recovery, and password storage. The fingerprint reader software is actually pretty James Bond – you can customize it so that your finger swipe boots the laptop and automatically logs you in.

Wrap -up

Similar to the way we felt about the Sony VAIO Z Series, the X201T doesn't have the endurance to match that of the thinner ULV laptops out there, but it provides loads more power in its small shell. It isn't as light or thin as we'd like, but if you're in a line of work where you must get your fingers on a multitouch capable ultraportable that can endure your everyday computing routine, you'll probably need to liquidate around $1,900 worth of assets, pronto.