When we first looked at the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet in November 2006, we were impressed by its usability features, including an indoor/outdoor touch-screen display, an improved stylus, and the Active Rotate feature. Since the release of Windows Vista Business Edition, though, we were curious to see how our favorite tablet performed with the new operating system. To that end, we got our hands on an X60 Tablet that had been refreshed with a faster processor, more RAM, and a larger, faster hard drive. These enhancements were enough to sustain the X60 Tablet's reputation as an excellent tablet with enough power for demanding business use. It's still expensive--our review unit cost $2,467, and that still doesn't include even an external optical drive--but the ThinkPad X60 Tablet remains one of our favorite convertibles for highly mobile business users. If you're looking for a tablet with a built-in optical drive and are
willing to carry a few more ounces, the Fujitsu LifeBook T4215 offers similar features and performance for a nearly identical price.
Measuring 10.8 inches wide, 9.6 inches deep (10.5 inches with the extended battery, which also makes a handy grip), and 1.1 inches thick, the ThinkPad X60 tablet is one of the best compromises on the market for those who want both a full-featured laptop and an ultraportable tablet. Its 4.4-pound weight (with the extended battery) is a bit lighter than the LifeBook T4215's and the HP Compaq tc4400's; in our use the ThinkPad felt light enough to carry around every day, though the extended battery made it a bit too heavy to hold in one arm while taking notes in tablet mode. Its candy bar-sized AC adapter adds 0.7 pound to the tablet's total weight.
As with the previous ThinkPad X60 Tablet we reviewed, this updated version includes a 12-inch XGA display with a touch screen that lets you use your finger or the included stylus to navigate menus. We appreciated the additional mode of input, especially when we were surfing the Web in tablet mode. The touch screen's indoor/outdoor viewing capability meant we were able to use the tablet in direct morning sunlight that washed out the displays on other laptops. Neither of these features are unique to ThinkPads, but the Active Rotate feature, standard on all ThinkPad X60 Tablets, is a true innovation. Most convertible tablets include a rotate-screen button so that users can manually adjust the screen from landscape to portrait mode; the Active Rotate feature on the X60 Tablet uses the computer's internal accelerometer to detect the tablet's angle and adjust the screen position accordingly. This feature is convenient for showing notes to a colleague or toggling back and forth from note-taking in portrait mode to reading in landscape mode. Though unusual angles or uneven surfaces can throw the system off, during our tests it almost always aligned correctly; users can also disable the function. Lenovo does include a manual screen-rotation button on the display bezel, along with standard tablet navigation features, such as a button that calls up a convenient tablet shortcut menu, power and Esc buttons, a circular four-direction navigation button, and a fingerprint reader.
The display's surface provides enough drag to make onscreen writing feel natural, if not exactly like pen and paper. The ThinkPad X60 Tablet's stylus has a bit more heft than its predecessor's; Lenovo also added a rubberized finish for comfortable gripping and a digital eraser on the top that works just like a pencil eraser. For working in laptop mode, the X60 Tablet includes the supercomfortable ThinkPad keyboard, as well as a red TrackPoint pointing stick; beneath the keyboard are three mouse buttons (the center acts as a scroll button).
The port selection on the ThinkPad X60 Tablet is about average for an ultraportable and includes mini-FireWire, VGA, and three USB 2.0 plugs (two side by side), plus headphone and microphone jacks. All that's missing is an S-Video port, as found on the HP Compaq tc4400. Networking options include modem, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth, and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi; 802.11n wireless and WWAN are available as upgrades. A Type II PC Card slot reads ExpressCards via an adapter, and there's a handy Secure Digital flash card reader, though not the multiformat flash card reader we're used to seeing on traditional notebooks. While we understand Lenovo's decision to save on size and weight by forgoing a built-in optical drive, we do wish at least an external drive was included in the ThinkPad X60 Tablet's price.
Though the base price for the X series tablet is $1,823, our ThinkPad X60 Tablet review unit included a number of upgrades for a final cost of $2,467. That price includes decent specs for such a lightweight tablet, including a 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo L2500 tablet; 2GB of swift 667MHz RAM; a fast 7,200rpm, 100GB hard drive; and integrated Intel graphics. The X60 Tablet performed admirably on CNET Labs' performance benchmarks, racing ahead of two other Vista-based tablets, the HP Pavilion tx1000 and the Toshiba Portege R400, on our multitasking and office productivity tests, while holding its own on our Photoshop and iTunes encoding modules. For the most part, though, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet couldn't keep up with the $2,429 Fujitsu LifeBook T4215, which included a faster, 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a less resource-intensive operating system (Windows XP). Nevertheless, the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet provides great performance for pretty much any business task.
With its extended eight-cell battery (which accounts for $50 of the high price), the ThinkPad X60 Tablet excelled in our DVD battery-drain tests, lasting exactly three hours on a single charge. (During our anecdotal use running typical office applications and browsing the Web wirelessly, the X60 Tablet lasted beyond four hours.) The Fujistu LifeBook T4215 lasted 11 minutes longer, while the HP Compaq tx1000 and the Toshiba Portege R400 both bowed out at the two-hour mark. Clearly the extra bulk and weight of the extended battery are worth it if you want to use the X60 Tablet for extended mobile use.
Our ThinkPad X60 Tablet review unit's price included an economical one-year warranty, during which you must carry in your system to an authorized repair center; an upgrade to three years costs a reasonable $149. The company's support Web site includes a handful of troubleshooting topics as well as the expected driver downloads; the site lacks interactive features, such as customer forums or the chance to chat in real time with a technician.