Coffee break- first mobile impressions of the ThinkPad x61 Tablet PC

Coffee_manThe initial shock of having a Lenovo x61 Tablet PC show up unannouced on my doorstep has worn off and today I’ve taken Mensa out for a full day of mobile goodness.  Bear in mind this is just a series of random thoughts off the top of my head and not a review nor anything worthwhile like that. If I had to come up with one word to describe the x61 experience it would be "instantaneous", as in that’s how fast everything happens on this Tablet PC.  Before I embark on some first thoughts here are the specs of the particular x61 Lenovo sent me:

  • Core 2 Duo 1.6 GHZ
  • 2 GB memory
  • 100 GB 7,200 rpm HDD
  • SXGA+ (1440 X 1050) with SuperView coating
  • Vista Business
  • Intel Turbo Memory
  • SD slot
  • Ultrabase
  • PC Card slot
  • 3 USB on device
  • Firewire on device
  • 8 cell battery

Read on for the initial thoughts about the x61 from the coffee shop.

It didn’t take me very long to grow very fond of the x61 in laptop mode.  It is a ThinkPad, after all.  Even though I am a big fan of smaller Tablet devices the high resolution 12" screen is very nice, I must admit.  It’s very enlightening to have so much information on the screen at once and still have the device be so small.

Oh my god, the keyboard is to die for!  I do a lot of writing and keyboards are very important to me and this one is sweet.  The layout is outstanding and the tactile feedback of the keys are just right.  The integrated TrackStick is very nice too and the 3 mouse buttons are optimal for a good keyboard experience.  I haven’t even wanted to connect a mouse to this baby, and that says a lot.

The 8-cell battery is fairly large and heavy, I suspect it weighs almost as much as the Tablet.  Unscientific observations tell me it will last about 6 hours which is not shabby.  It does make it a little difficult to hold the unit, at least until I get used to it.  I am using it in Tablet mode mostly while sitting on a table.  Lenovo has put a very nice battery guage on the taskbar.

ThinkVantage utilities.  There are so many of them I won’t list them in these first impressions but just let me say they are all useful.  From the Tablet settings menu to the ThnkVantage utility menu they all put good stuff right in front of you.  The only crapware I uninstalled was Norton Internet Suite.  Like really fast.

Does. Not. Run. Hot.  And that’s cool.

The D-Pad is extremely useful in slate mode, I use it in the browser all the time.  Can’t wait to install eReader on this puppy.

The blue ThinkVantage button can be pushed during boot-up taking you to the Recover and Rescue software that can save your bacon should the system reach a non-bootable state.  Nice touch.

The accelerometer lets you rotate the screen orientation by turning the device over to the orientation you want.  It can be calibrated for accuracy.  The fingerprint sensor is pretty standard, and like most I’ve tried doesn’t like my right thumb for some reason.  I have a dickens of a time with all readers with that thumbprint.  I blame the sloppy job by the Witness Protection program, personally.

The x61 is one of the few Tablet PCs I’ve seen with two separate power buttons- one above the keyboard and another on the corner of the screen bezel.  This insures you can sleep, hibernate or power the device on and off whether in laptop mode or slate mode.  The power button on the bezel has a lock switch to prevent accidental power events, although that power button is very recessed and I don’t think you could hit it accidentally.

Using the x61 in Tablet mode has been a mixed experience so far, no doubt due to my lack of time to get used to the device.  The screen has a coating on it which I assume to be the new SuperView from Lenovo that makes it viewable outdoors and at almost any angle.  It does those two things quite well but it is a smudge magnet that is very hard to clean.  Even the standard microfibre cleaning cloths that I use on all my devices don’t seem to touch these smudges so I’ll have to come up with a solution soon.  You can’t see the smudges unless the screen is off for the most part but they get so bad so quickly that they do become visible while on.  It is quite annoying.

The Tablet is a joy to use with a nice inking experience.  The pen is plastic but feels nice in the hand and I love the way it fits into the silo only one way.  I have been using the Cross Executive Pen too.

These are very brief observations and of course I’ll be giving you good information down the road.  Which is where I’m headed right now.  Kendrick out!

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