Computer manufacturer Lenovo is a little later to market with an Android-powered tablet than its PC-making competitors Asus, Acer and Toshiba, but not so late to have missed the boat. Has Lenovo spent this extra time wisely?
Lenovo comes to market with two tablet options: the consumer-focused IdeaPad, with its colourful plastic chassis, and the much more sombre ThinkPad. The latter is encased in black, soft-touch plastic, not unlike the BlackBerry PlayBook that we reviewed several months ago, so it feels nice to grip, and it doesn't get covered in a multitude of greasy fingerprints.
This tablet's display measures 10.1 inches diagonally, and sports in-plane switching (IPS) tech for a sharper image on a wider range of viewing angles and Corning Gorilla Glass that should protect the panel from most nicks, bumps and scratches. Its WXGA resolution (1280x800 pixels) appears to be more than enough to display high-definition content on this smaller screen.
The ThinkPad is noticeably heavier and marginally thicker than Apple's iPad 2, but it also accommodates a lot more tech. The width of the tablet, for example, is only just thicker than a full-size USB port, which the ThinkPad has and the iPad 2 does not. At 715 grams, the ThinkPad can feel a little too heavy after long periods of holding it up to read, but this is par for the course for 10-inch tablets this year.
Around the edge of the ThinkPad is an exciting array of plugs and switches. Alongside the standard volume rocker and power button, you'll also find the aforementioned USB port, a micro-USB port(for charging and PC syncing), a micro-HDMI port for outputting the display to a larger monitor or TV and an SD card reader slot for expanding the tablet's 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage capacity. Our review unit also had a 3G SIM card slot, although this is an optional extra.
Lenovo takes the clean canvas of Android Honeycomb, and has added a few neat tweaks to enhance access to a user's favourite apps and tools. In the centre of the standard Android taskbar, at the bottom of the screen, is an icon that launhces a carousel-like shortcut wheel. This wheel is user customisable, so you can load in your favourite tasks and jump to them quickly from within any app.
Lenovo also pre-loads a stack of popular and useful apps, otherwise downloadable for a price through the Google Android Market. Alongside a small collection of games, media and communication tools, Lenovo has also included some excellent business applications. Documents to Go is standard, as is Citrix Receiver, McAfee Mobile Security, Printer Share andfrom Nuance — makers of the excellent Dragon Naturally Speaking software for PCs.
Better yet, you also get free access to ComputerTrace software for tracking and deletion of data if the tablet is lost or stolen, plus IT managers will love the geolocation tools available, and the flexibility of configuration for tablets issued en masse to employees within an organisation.