The ThinkPad X200 Tablet, the latest convertible business notebook from Lenovo, combines the portability of LAPTOP’s Editors’ Choice award–winning ThinkPad X200, with the excellent tablet functionality of the ThinkPad X60 and X61. It may lack an optical drive and a touchpad, but it’s still one of the best tablets of the year thanks to smooth performance, durability, and numerous wireless options.
The first thing you’ll notice about the X200 Tablet is its light weight; it’s almost mini-notebook light. According to Lenovo, the X200 Tablet with the four-cell battery weighs just 3.5 pounds. Our review unit, which came with the eight-cell battery (which protrudes out the back), weighs in at 4.2 pounds. This is achieved through use of a lightweight carbon-fiber and glass-fiber shell to protect the screen, which has the added effect of extending the range of the wireless antenna. The bottom of the chassis is made of a magnesium alloy, which provides extra durability.
The X200 Tablet sports a full-size, spill-resistant keyboard, which of course has the comfortable, tried-and-true ThinkPad design; the keys are very responsive and seem almost to leap back up to meet your fingers. As with the ThinkPad X200, Lenovo has eschewed its usual TrackPoint-and-touchpad combination in favor of only a TrackPoint to streamline the system. That may seem like an odd choice to some, but veteran ThinkPad users and novices should have no problems navigating the 12.1-inch display with just the stick.
Above the keyboard are keys for raising, lowering, and muting audio, and the familiar ThinkVantage button, which launches Lenovo utilities for managing power, wireless, and other settings. The perimeter of the X200 Tablet features three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, 5-in-1 memory card reader, ExpressCard/34/54, Ethernet, modem, and headphone/mic jacks. The left side of the machine has a switch for toggling Wi-Fi on and off. The system lacks an optical drive, so if you want to watch Blu-ray discs or DVDs, you’ll have to invest in the ThinkPad X200 UltraBase ($219).
X200 Tablet Touchscreen
Unlike previous ThinkPad tablets, which only allowed users to rotate their screens in one direction, the ThinkPad X200 Tablet offers the ability to swivel the screen a full 360 degrees, which should prove a technological godsend to southpaws. In addition, it sports a low-reflectivity panel that keeps the screen legible in sunlight. The 1280 x 800-pixel resolution screen served up a minimum amount of glare when we watched Hulu or YouTube clips in the morning sun, and had a wide viewing range.
According to Lenovo, the touchscreen now requires 28 percent less pressure than before to register inputs, and it can better detect the stylus. The stylus, which slides into the right side of the chassis, is very light and has a slightly rubberized skin, making it comfortable to hold. Although the X200 Tablet we received had an LED-backlit screen that recognizes only stylus inputs, two other options will be available: a traditional CCFL panel that also recognizes only pen inputs, and an LED-backlit panel capable of pen and fingertouch input. When we rotated the X200 into tablet mode, the screen quickly responded, changing its orientation in just under 2 seconds.
The X200 Tablet sensed the stylus when it was nearly three-quarters of an inch away from the screen—an improvement over the X61 Tablet. Handwriting detection was very accurate; the writing pad application understood almost all of our chicken scratch. If you would rather peck away at individual letters, you can opt to use an on-screen keyboard.
Adjacent to the screen are easily accessible buttons that complement the tablet functionality. These allowed us to rotate the screen, access menu shortcuts (for managing connections, brightness, volume, and more), power the machine on and off, and disable the tablet buttons.
Lenovo placed a greater emphasis on multimedia with the X200 Tablet, adding stereo speakers (on the bottom of the chassis near the palm rests) and dual microphones, which, used in conjunction with noise-canceling technology, helps eliminate ambient noise—including keystrokes—while a user is on a VoIP call. On our Skype test, friends and colleagues reported clear and quiet audio when we engaged in video chats using the 1.3-megapixel webcam (which also provided acceptable visuals that were neither too light or too murky); they didn’t hear the hustle and bustle of our busy office while we were engaged in a conversation. We enjoyed very loud and crisp audio when playing our favorite Slacker tunes, but as in most non-multimedia machines, the low ends were weak.
CPU and GPU Performance
Our configuration came with a 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L9400 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 160GB hard drive that produced a score of 3,012 on PCMark Vantage (which measures Vista application performance), which is about 600 points below the X200’s PCMark Vantage score (which sported a 2.4-GHz engine), but still roughly 300 points above average for ultraportables. We saw snappy performance whether we were working in documents, streaming audio from Slacker, or watching television shows on Hulu.
If the 7,200-rpm, shock-mounted 160GB hard drive isn’t enough room to house your documents, spreadsheets, photos, videos, and music, Lenovo offers more-spacious traditional hard drives (up to 320GB), and as well as 64GB and 128GB solid state drives for those that want to take the plunge into the world of flash storage. On the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying and moving a 4.97GB folder of mixed media), the X200 Tablet copied and read files at a rate of 16.4 MBps, which is slightly above the 13.4-MBps ultraportable average. The system booted into Windows Vista Business in exactly 1 minute.
The Intel GMA 4500M HD graphics card wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t horrible, either. Its 3DMark03 (which tests DirectX 9 performance) score of 2,429 was about 50 points lower than the X200, but nearly 1,000 points higher than the category average; the X200 Tablet’s 3DMark06 (which tests DirectX 9 3D graphics, CPU, and 3D features) score of 805 was both lower than the X200 (929) and the average (836). Predictably, the F.E.A.R. scores were low: the system chugged along at 18 frames per second in autodetect mode (800 x 600-pixel resolution), which dropped to an unplayable 10 frames per second with the settings maxed out (1280 x 800-pixel resolution). World of Warcraft fared much better, as the system as able to maintain a relatively smooth 35.3 frames per second (1024 x 738-pixel resolution).
Wireless Connections and Battery Life
Being a Centrino 2 system, the X200 Tablet features Intel’s Wi-Fi Link 5300 802.11a/b/g/n card, which moved data at a rate of 19.5 Mbps when we placed the system 15 feet away from our access point; when we took throughput measurements at 50 feet away, the system kept us surfing the Web at an 18.0-Mbps clip. Both scores are far better than the 16.7-MBps and 13.5-MBps ultraportable averages.
You can avoid the hotspot hunting blues by outfitting the system with mobile broadband using Qualcomm’s new GOBI technology, which features GSM and CDMA WWAN global roaming through AT&T ($80) and Verizon Wireless ($150). ThinkVantage GPS is included with systems with mobile broadband, which came close to nailing our midtown Manhattan location. Staying on top of the latest wireless trends, the X200 Tablet supports Ultra Wideband and WiMAX technologies.
On our LAPTOP Battery test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the X200 Tablet’s eight-cell battery endured for 5 hours and 54 minutes—22 minutes below the average for an ultraportable, and far short of Lenovo’s claim of 10.3 hours. As with other Lenovo notebooks, the X200 Tablet contains the Battery Stretch utility, which automatically dims the display, disables the wireless radios, and mutes the audio—it even tells you the estimated increase in battery life.
For those looking to extend battery life even more, an ultra-low-voltage processor will also be made available as an option. Lenovo doesn’t offer slice batteries for the X200 series, but if you purchase the UltraBase dock, you can use it to charge an extra six-cell ($159) or nine-cell battery ($179).
Security, Software, and Warranty
The security-conscious will appreciate the inclusion of a biometric fingerprint reader, TPM 1.2 circuitry, and the ability to disable all of the ports to keep sensitive data from snoopers. Other security features include an optional Smart Card reader, Softex OminPass (login security software), and Utimaco SGE (hard drive–encryption software).
Preinstalled software includes Adobe Acrobat Reader 8, InterVideo WinDVD, McAfee VirusScan Plus (with 30 days of virus-definition updates), and the Window Vista Business operating system. Lenovo insures the system with a one-year warranty and 24/7 tech support.
Pricing and Verdict
Priced at $2,323, the ThinkPad X200 Tablet is yet another excellent business machine from Lenovo. It contains all of the security, durability, and performance you’d expect from the company, in addition to smooth tablet functionality. If you prefer pen inputs complementing your normal keyboard strokes, this tablet makes for a compelling choice.