Since its original publication, this review and the Editor's Rating have been updated to reflect additional test results.
Spend a bit of time with the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet, and you're likely to become a fan of pen-based computing. This update to the company's ultraportable X41 Tablet includes a few key upgrades on the usability front, including a touch screen display, an improved stylus, and the new Active Rotate feature (more on that below). When it's not folded into a tablet, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet also makes a good ultraportable laptop, with a Core Duo processor and decent-size 80GB hard drive. You'll have to pay to have the best tablet on the block, though: the X60 Tablet's price starts at $1,699, but our review unit included a number of upgrades that brought its price to $2,299--and that still didn't include even an external optical drive. If you're looking for a laptop with an optical drive that you can occasionally use as a tablet, look to larger systems such as the Gateway M285-E. But for those who can afford it, the flexible, highly portable ThinkPad X60 Tablet combines the best features of a tablet and a laptop.
Measuring 10.8 inches wide, 9.6 inches deep, and 1.1 inches thick, the ThinkPad X60 tablet is nicely sized for using as a laptop or for taking handwritten notes. Its 4-pound weight is a bit bulkier than its predecessor's but is lighter than the HP Compaq tc4400; in our use, the ThinkPad felt light enough to carry around every day and even hold in one arm while taking notes in tablet mode. Its candy bar-size AC adapter adds 0.7 pound to the tablet's total weight.
Arguably the most innovation on this new ThinkPad tablet can be found on its 12-inch XGA display. The touch screen (available as a $200 upgrade) 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 new 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 off the system, during our tests it almost always aligned correctly; a user can disable this feature. Lenovo includes 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.
Our exact ThinkPad X60 Tablet review unit, with the upgrade to a touch screen display, won't be available until later this month. A version of the system with a standard tablet display and otherwise identical configuration, however, is available today for $2,099. That price includes decent specs for such a lightweight tablet, starting with a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo L2400 processor; 1GB of swift 667MHz RAM; an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and integrated Intel graphics. On CNET Labs' performance benchmarks, the X60 Tablet wasn't quite as good at multitasking as its ultraportable competitors, the Asus S6F and the Dell Latitude D420, and it fell between the two systems on our Photoshop tests. But when it came to the processor-intensive iTunes encoding test, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet's slightly higher processor speed resulted in performance that was at least 10 percent faster than that of the Asus and the Dell, all of which adds up to an ultraportable tablet that feels and acts like a real laptop when it comes to typical productivity and maybe even some light number-crunching.
We were able to test the ThinkPad X60 Tablet with both the standard four-cell battery and the optional eight-cell battery ($50). While the standard battery lasted an average three hours on our drain tests, the extended battery delivered nearly seven hours on a single charge--almost enough for a full day's work. If you can afford the extra cost and weight, we highly recommend buying the extended battery.
Fixed-configuration models of the ThinkPad X60 Tablet (including our review unit) are backed by a lengthy three-year warranty, during which you must carry in your system to an authorized repair center; upgrades for onsite repairs are reasonably priced. Configurable models of the tablet will start with an economical one-year warranty. 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 and the chance to chat in real time with a technician.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)