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ThinkPad Tablet holds its own against iPad in enterprise, says review

Oct 3, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Lenovo's 10.1-inch ThinkPad Tablet is a reasonable alternative to the iPad 2 for enterprise users, says this eWEEK Labs review. This capable Android “Honeycomb” tablet offers business-focused extras like built-in enterprise software, full-size ports, and an effective digitizing pen.

The newly released Lenovo ThinkPad tablet flips the "consumerization of IT" paradigm by adding business-class features. These include management software, full-size peripheral connectors — including a USB 2.0 port — and an optional digitizer pen.

The ThinkPad tablet debuted Aug. 23 and comes with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB RAM. The configurations are priced at $499, $569 and $699, respectively, for the Wi-Fi-only version. Pending radio approval, a broadband mobile edition of the ThinkPad tablet appears imminent but was not available at the time of this review.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

I tested the ThinkPad tablet at eWEEK Labs, and found the device a worthy competitor in terms of performance and capability when compared with the widely used Apple iPad 2. The tablet runs Android "Honeycomb" on  a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core, 1GHz ARM processor, and features a 10.1-inch display.

Device wake was instantaneous, and applications and screen swipes were snappy. I encountered one instance when using the Notes Mobile application when the simulated page-turn was draggy, but I was not able to consistently reproduce this effect.

ThinkPad Tablet in optional keyboard dock

The ThinkPad Tablet has slightly larger dimensions and is marginally heavier than the iPad 2, and the rated battery life is about 90 minutes shorter than the premier Apple device. Even so, I had no trouble using the ThinkPad Tablet all day on a Wi-Fi connection without needing to look for a power outlet. Although I didn't test it, the tablet can also be used with an integrated stand/keyboard/cover accessory (see image above).

A pen in the hand

One of the most obvious differences between the ThinkPad Tablet and most current tablet designs is the digitizer pen. Although the optional pen tether ruins the sight lines of the tablet, I was easily able to work without getting caught in the tether line. The digitizer pen makes jobs such as sketching or precisely marking an area on the screen easy, compared with using a finger to perform these tasks.

The included Notes Mobile application aptly recognized my hen scratching, and almost immediately turned it into readable text. I don't like the clattery noise made when the stylus is used on the Gorilla glass display, but the noise will only be noticeable in quiet meetings and is no louder than keyboard typing.

ThinkPad Tablet ports

In addition to the digitizer pen, the ThinkPad tablet has a number of connection ports that should please business users: full-size USB 2.0, micro-USB, mini High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), and a three-in-one SD media card reader. Using the USB file copy utility worked as expected, enabling me to move files on and off the tablet.

Overall, the fit and finish of the ThinkPad Tablet carries on the business-class durability found in ThinkPad laptops. The Gorilla glass display resisted scratching during regular use.

The four physical keys on the lower edge of the ThinkPad Tablet have a counter-intuitive upward press action, but are otherwise unremarkable. The covers for the external ports were easy to open and had a positive feel when latched shut. The single speaker resulted in a fairly mediocre listening experience, but the headphone jack provided very good sound output.

What's good for business?

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet comes with a number of business-first applications already installed, although the applications verge on being bloatware. Most of the included "free" software actually consists of trial versions.

For example, the PrinterShare application is limited to printing 20 pages before the user needs to buy the application. I was able to set up and use PrinterShare in under five minutes, although IT managers will need to locate printer drivers for users to successfully use the application.

Similarly, the included Docs To Go application, which enables users to view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, is a trial version.

Other applications are full-featured, but will only benefit organizations that are already using particular enterprise applications or back-end systems. For example, Lenovo has long had a relationship with LANDesk, the endpoint management tool-maker.

Lenovo says the ThinkPad Tablet can be managed through the ThinkManagement Console and the Lenovo Mobility Manager add-ins for the LANDesk Management Suite version 9. The LANDesk integration enables IT managers to push applications and security policies through the LANDesk system.

Lenovo also enables shops to set up a private application store so that employees can get approved software.

IT managers who are in a position to recommend a tablet device instead of just accepting whatever walks in the door would do well to consider the ThinkPad Tablet. More images and review notes on the ThinkPad Tablet may be found in this eWEEK slide show.

Cameron Sturdevant is a technical director and regular reviewer for  eWEEK Labs.

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