Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Review

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Listen to the market analysts, and they’ll tell you that tablets are the next device to sweep the enterprise. In fact, a survey of stakeholders by Model Metrics found that 22% of businesses had already deployed tablets, while the rest, 78%, plan to do so by 2013.

Despite the coming tablet wave, the enterprise has been a difficult nut for tablet makers to crack. Just ask RIM, which is sitting on a huge pile of unsold PlayBooks. And while Windows 7 tablets have found their niche inside certain vertical segments like insurance and real estate, and Windows 8 will shake things up in 2012, the Apple iPad is still the most popular tablet amongst the business sect.

Lenovo is hoping to change that and is expanding its respected ThinkPad brand to include an Android Honeycomb tablet. The aptly named “ThinkPad Tablet” sports similar specs as a half dozen other 10.1-inch Honeycomb tablets, but Lenovo differentiates its offering with N-trig active pen support and full-sized ports. Will that be enough for the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet to make it in the business world?

BUILD & DESIGN

Just like Toshiba with the Thrive before it, Lenovo eschewed the recent trend toward thin and light tablets, and instead settled on ‘relatively thick and sturdy’ for the ThinkPad. At 1.66 pounds and .57-inches thick, it’s still mobile, but has a solid build and feels especially sturdy. Any business device should be built to last, and the ThinkPad certainly leaves that impression.

In addition to the full-sized USB, HDMI and SD Card inputs, Lenovo added two features that make the ThinkPad unique compared with similar Honeycomb tablets. First is the docking pen. The ThinkPad Tablet is the only Honeycomb tablet to support pen input at launch (the HTC Flyer and EVO View 4G both run Gingerbread), and it’s one of, if not the, only mobile tablet to feature a pen dock on the device.

Second, where most new tablets rely on one button or softkeys for navigation, the Lenovo ThinkPad four large physical buttons on the display side of the device. They are composed of the same glossy plastic that frames the display, and what they lack in aesthetics (they resemble the buttons on first-generation or budget Android tablet), they make up for in function. The home and back buttons simply duplicate the ever-present Honeycomb softkeys, but I found the orientation lock and quick web launcher to be especially handy. Also, there is something satisfying in pushing an actual button and hearing an audible click. It’s typically preferable to pecking away at softkeys, for my money.

The four buttons are on the bottom short side of the device (or right side, if held in landscape), with icons implying the ThinkPad tablet is built for primarily portrait orientation. The front-facing webcam is on the top right-hand corner, with the 10.1-inch glossy display and border filling up the rest of the space.

The back panel is rubberized, which is good for general ruggedness and shrugs off fingerprints well, but I wish Lenovo would have put a bit of texture to aid in gripping. In a very neat design touch, the “i” in the ThinkPad logo doubles as the power indicator light. The mic input and rear-facing webcam is on the same corner, opposite the front-facing camera.

Along the sides, Lenovo included some full-sized goodies, including a real USB 2.0 port next to the speaker on the bottom long side. The power button sits on the top.

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