The ThinkPad X220 Tablet is Lenovo’s latest and greatest convertible laptop. As part of Lenovo’s recent ThinkPad X series refresh that includes the excellent X220 notebook, this Windows 7 tablet features a 12.5-inch display, Wacom digitizer, and Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processor. It’s also a tough son of a gun, passing eight US military testing specifications for notebook-killers like humidity, shock, sand, and temperature extremes.
One look at the pedigree and specs, and you know the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet is good, but is it good enough to justify a starting price of $1,200 at launch? Read this Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet Review to find out.
The X220 Tablet’s design does not deviate from the last generation X200 Tablet or the rest of the ThinkPad lineup, stylish Edge series excluded. The X220 Tablet is dressed in all-business black, with a magnesium alloy and plastic build featuring slight texture. The base unit is boxy, but features a slight protrusion on top of the display that serves the X220 Tablet’s wireless antennas, and the six-cell battery that shipped with my review unit adds significant bulge to the back, which provides a nice gripping point when carrying the tablet from meeting to meeting while adding a bit of distinction to a very attractive and professional device.
It’s also a very tough device, and when held, feels like it was carved from a solid hunk of plastic. There is no noticeable flex or creek when held, and Lenovo claims the X220 Tablet passes many mil-spec tests for humidity, temperature, and other harmful elements. While it’s probably not as tough as some of the rugged convertibles we test at TabletPCReview, the X220 Tablet will handle everyday wear-and-tear with no problems.
The screen hinge is particularly tight and well constructed. Unfortunately, it only rotates 180 degrees in one direction, and I accidently attempted to rotate it in the wrong direction more than once. Thankfully, the X220 Tablet shrugged off the attempt and the hinge showed no sign of strain. The display also opens up a full 180 degrees.
Finally, IT departments and tinkerers will be happy to see Lenovo included easy access to the RAM slots and hard drive. The hard drive latch is only secured by one screw and the RAM slots are hidden directly under the main access panel. The review unit we received shipped with a 4GB chip in one slot while the other was vacant.
Screen and Speakers
The X220 Tablet features a 12.5-inch IPS display (1366 x 768) and ships with optional Gorilla glass for increased ruggedness. The display does a good job of shrugging off glare, but it also isn’t exceptionally bright. Office workers will find it perfectly acceptable for indoor use, but its relative dimness make it suitable for only the occasional outdoor excursion.
As with most other touch-enabled screens, there is a very fine but noticeable grain overlaying the display. I’ve heard some users refer to it as a slight haze, which is an apt description. Otherwise, viewing angles are superb and the colors never invert, with about a 10-degree sweet spot in front of the X220 Tablet where brightness and contrast are best. Outside of that zone, the screen appears to dim and contrast lessens.
The display supports up two touch inputs, meaning fingerprints can accumulate quickly. The anti-glare screen does a great job of also shrugging off smudges, but they eventually will build up and have a noticeable and negative effect on the screen. A microfiber cloth is recommended, and thankfully, Lenovo included one with the review unit.
Perhaps I'm spoiled by my iPad 2, but like other convertibles on the market, the Lenovo X220 Tablet does not feature an orientation sensor, which I find disappointing. This means that the screen will not automtically orientate when placed in tablet mode. Users have to manually adjust to landscape or portrait mode via a button under the display that rotates the display 90 degrees when pressed.
(Update 5/13/11: Some very knowledgeable TabletPCReview forum members pointed out that the X220 Tablet does feature an active orientation mode, and the setting is available in the SimpeTap settings.)
The X220 Tablet ships with a pressure-sensitive Wacom pen. Because it’s Wacom, the pen does not require a battery, and the pen features one button on the grip and a eraser nub at the end. It’s very light and just long enough to rest comfortably in my hand when inking.
The pen slots directly into the X220 Tablet when not in use and the display registers the pen curser when the pen floats upwards of three or four centimeters about it. I found the pen to be highly accurate with no lag following calibration. Excessively fast scribbling will throw it off a few millimeters, at which point a quick manual calibration is required to right the ship.
The pressure tip is not nearly as severe as the one found on the Fujitsu LifeBook T580’s N-trig pen. The X220 Tablet will register even the lightest strokes, and heavier strokes result in only a slightly thicker line. Of the two, the N-trig pen is definitely more suitable for artists and designers, and I’ll take this Wacom offering for my every day inking needs.
Touch sensitivity is also acceptable though does not match the fluid experience found on the iPad or rival Android tablets. The X220 Tablet supports up to two inputs, which works well for pinch-to-zoom and other gestures including a series of flick-based shortcuts. Lenovo also applied the SimpleTap OS skin that calls up a customizable set of shortcuts, each represented by a large, tap friendly icon. Users can change common settings and call up favorite programs through SimpleTap, or simply ignore it. I found it useful, but recommend sticking with the pen or touchpad for most X220 Tablet navigation given the precision required with Windows 7.
The speakers do a suitable job of spitting out sound, though didn’t wow with volume or fidelity. They are fine for personal use, be it a webcast or video call, but business users will have trouble filling up a larger conference with sound come meeting time. I do like their placement on the display as they direct sound at the user both in laptop and tablet mode, which is preferable to the X220 notebook’s speaker placement on the lower front edge.
Our review unit of the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 Tablet features the following specifications:
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