The originalIBM/Lenovo X41convertible has been our favorite ultralight Tablet-notebook combo since it premiered nearly two years ago, but its poky CPU has long since been outpaced by the competition. We are happy to see that everything we loved about the X41 is still here in the new X60 Tablet. Lenovo introduces some impressive and unique Tablet features here that put even more distance between it and the competition. And while it's not perfect, the X60 Tablet overcomes some shortfalls to make sure Lenovo remains king of the convertible hill.
With its signature matte black finish, bulletproof build quality, and superb keyboard, the 3.7-pound X60 Tablet (with stock four-cell battery) is more compact, usable, and sturdy than any ultralight convertible we have used. Unlike some lightweights, this one is well balanced, so it doesn't teeter on your lap, and it feels firm under a good key pounding. The keyboard itself has oversized Enter and Shift keys on both sides, an offset directional pad, and that great Lenovo/IBM feedback. Nothing beats it.
On the other hand, we wish Lenovo had included a touchpad, since there is room for one, even in this small form factor. Alas, users who are averse to navigating with a pointing stick and three action buttons may have to rule this model out. Thankfully, the TrackPoint stick does let you activate "press-to-select," which recognizes taps as clicks. Another compromise to size is the lack of an optical drive, which Lenovo offers as an external option with its Tablet UltraBase docking unit ($199).
In Tablet mode, this machine is superb. The pen-sized stylus and bright display are very responsive and produce a reasonable hover zone for easy gesture commands. The 12.1-inch display is as good as any slate we've tested, and it remained viewable at extreme angles. Lenovo bests the competition in two ways, however. The MultiTouch screen uses both stylus and touch to activate keys and move windows, so you don't need to pop out the pen for quick interactions. And the Active Rotate feature has an embedded sensor that automatically rotates the screen orientation to match the way you are holding the Tablet. Both features worked exceptionally well and are conveniences you won't find elsewhere.
We had only two reservations with Tablet mode. The new NavDial four-way pad is harder to use than some scroll stick designs; the pad is so well embedded in the display border that you may easily hit the center Enter key instead of a directional command. Second, while the SoundMax audio system produced excellent voice-recording quality, we had to play with the microphone audio levels to prevent feedback when we flipped or closed the lid.
ThinkPads have never been speed demons, but the Core Duo T2500 here worked with the 5,400-rpm 80GB hard drive and 1GB of memory to deliver snappy performance without burning our thighs. (There is a small and barely perceptible fan in the X60.) We were disappointed in the battery life; the X60 Tablet's standard four-cell battery lasted less than two hours on our DVD rundown test. A $50 upgrade to an eight-cell battery is available and should give you at least double that runtime.
Lenovo pours on the network, system management, and fingerprint security utilities, so enterprise users can easily tie into any network and manage the hardware. Options for a docking bay ($179) and mobile broadband connectivity through Verizon Wireless ($249) give this unit tremendous versatility.
The low capacity of the four-cell battery is our chief reservation with the X60, which otherwise raises the bar for business-class convertibles. And unlike some competing models, the Tablet implementation here is no afterthought.