June 09, 2007

Updated:Lenovo X60 Tablet PC w/ Windows Vista Review Part I

update 1: Remember that Lenovo X60 comes with different screens - the typical screen is SXGA+ which gives high resolution of 1600x1400 (for some the font would look too small, but gives lot of screen space). The issue with these screens is that they're not clear to view from any angle, and they are hard to use in sun light. You could alternatively choose a XGA+ multi-touch/multi-view which would let you use your fingers on the screen and tap it, and also make it easy to view from any angle and in sun light. I chose SXGA+.

update 2: Why not X61 instead of X60? Well, apart from the fact that it's a couple of hundred $$$ extra, the reviews I read and heard don't place the Santa Rosa processor much better than my current Core 2 Duo. In the absence of a compelling reason, I'd rather use those dollars elsewhere

update 3: I find the whole ability of lazing on my couch and just tapping on the screen so much easier. Tablet usage is definitely better than tapping on keyboards for everything.

Recently I blogged about my list of gadgets and tools for school. I got my Lenovo X60 Tablet PC with Windows Vista about a week ago. Screenshots are posted below as well. I purchased it directly from Lenovo during the Memorial day weekend sale and got some additional % off thanks to Visa card deal, and this was pointed to me by fellow INSEAD blogger Byoost.

Shopping Experience

The online shopping on Lenovo is good, though some of their 'help' tips during customization are pretty useless. But the check-out was quick, and my shipping date was supposed to be around 1st week of June. Ultimately they actually shipped a lot faster - within 3 days of buying, instead of the expected 1-2 weeks.

First impressions

Lenovo (IBM...) notebooks have that solid, black polish look to them. Very business like and I prefer it that way. Thank god I did not have to open the box to see a frilly laced pink colored notebook. The feel is sturdy, the keyboard is pretty solid, and there are many functional shortcut keys available.

The battery was part charged when I opened the box, and I could get started right away. The initial setup takes some time and multiple re-boots as the disk image gets loaded and configured (Windows Vista Business). Then Vista walked me through creating users, fingerprint recognition (cool) and some customization and then I finally connected via Wi-fi to Internet and I was on my way.

Experiencing the Tablet

The monitor swivels to the opposite direction and folds over to become the tablet. Though the monitor is only 12.1", it actually feels surprisingly 'large' and clear (SXGA+ high res screen) when you use it like a notebook.

When you use it like a Tablet with the Wacom pen, a small 'input panel' appears by the side of the screen. You use this to input text to any area that requires text. I was surprised by how good the handwriting recognition was, right off the bat - I was able to write quite a bit and it got most of it right. The tactile feel of the pen on the screen feels quite solid - it doesn't feel like you're sliding the pen on glass, there is a certain amount of 'feedback' so it feels like you're writing on a soft paper. Browsing around also works well (as long as you aren't typing way too much and have most of what you need configured in RSS feeders - I use Google Reader and in your bookmarks).

I like to doodle once a while, and this makes it a whole lot simpler. By using Paint.NET (which is a really good free drawing program) I can now draw what I want, and it works really well. Once I get Microsoft OneNote 2007, I will be writing the part II of this review to cover how it feels to take freehand notes (which is one of the prime reasons for getting this notebook).

Landscape/Portrait mode

One very cool feature is that the tablet has an inbuilt gyroscope - so let's say you're working in portrait mode and you turn your tablet to landscape orientation - the device automatically recognizes that you switched orientation and re-orients screen display.

There is also a button below the screen that lets you switch orientation. A dedicated button for 'Thinkvantage' (Lenovo support suite) is available to access a lot of system update/maintenance tasks.

Getting Extra RAM
Typically, you get notebooks with 1 GB RAM, sometimes configured internally as 2 512MB chips. This is a dirty trick that can waste your money - a lot of notebooks have 2 memory slots. So let's say you get it by default 2 x 512 MB = 1 GB. You want 2 GB, then you have to throw both current chips away and get 2 x 1 GB. When you customize, make sure you choose the option of 1 1-GB memory chip so you have 1 slot empty for the other GB.

I chose 1 GB default config. I did not add another GB on Lenovo site because they really rip you off, almost 100+ $ for an additional GB. Instead, just go here and order a cheaper 1 GB SO-DIMM DDR2 memory yourself, and install it. The booklet that comes with Lenovo tells you how to install extra RAM. It's really easy to do so don't need to run crying like a little girl ;) You'll get the new RAM at less than 50% of what Lenovo tries to rip you off with.

I also got myself a Tablet Sleeve so I can carry it around like a notebook and use the screen without having to remove it from the sleeve. Nice.

A few other observations/things you should know
  • I ordered it with Bluetooth added because I could then use it to sync with my phone. Don't want to add more external peripherals.
  • Keep in mind the tablet does not come with inbuilt optical reader, you need to order it separately and it can be expensive. I've chosen to just get a cheap external burner as I don't need to use it that much.
  • Why Vista? well, I'm bored with XP. I did not want a Mac (I actually own a MacBook Pro which I'm selling now). And I kind of like Vista - Aero interface looks good and it's easy to use.
  • I downloaded Google Pack so I get some of my more often used programs.

For now, I'm happy with the purchase, but I'll have a much better perspective on the whole Tablet usage thing once I get Microsoft OneNote 2007 which is supposed to be really good. It's on the way from Amazon and should be here soon. I'll write about OneNote and its usage on the Tablet sometime next week. Until then, uh, nothing.


Chris Kerns said...

Thanks for the review. I'm really torn between getting a tablet or getting a T61. I like the idea of the slim, light weight notebook, and the tablet capabilities would be awesome, but then again, having a full size key board and 15.4" widescreen display, along with the extra ruggedness make it a tough choice. It's really a trade off between having a computer that is pleasant to spend hours on or having one that is more convenient to be constantly lugging around.

Still undecided.

Bradley said...

I'd be interested to hear about your experience with handwriting personalization in Vista, if you decide to use it.

DTLF said...

Great review, Necro. I need to go get my credit card limit raised again.

Anonymous said...

If only it wasn't running Vista.

Other said...

Vista is THE windows OS for tablet PCs. The handwriting recognition code is much improved and it adds things like pen flick gesture navigation (kind of like mouse gestures in Opera) which is extremely cool with a touch screen. You can slag Vista off in terms of looks, price, hardware requirements etc. but as far as tablets go, XP just isn't as good.

Also, when you get 2 sticks of 512mb ram in both slots, you get better performance than 1 stick of 1gb ram. Its not a deliberate attempt to rip people off: most people buy third party or generic ram anyway. It is a more expensive upgrade though.