Tablet PCs have traditionally been a niche concern. With a few notable exceptions, like the HP Pavilion tx2050ea, they're made exclusively with business users in mind and particularly those who, in marketing parlance, work in "vertical environments" - otherwise known as people who stand up a lot! This could be a supervisor in a factory, warehouse or shipping depot, an architect on a building site or an executive moving from meeting to meeting, but whoever it might be, the needs and usage are very specific, often requiring bespoke software to get the job done. And, when it comes to Tablet PCs, Lenovo and the ThinkPad brand is oftentimes an obvious port of call.
Today we're looking at the ThinkPad X200t which is, believe it or not, the first widescreen Tablet PC ever to don the ThinkPad name. Based on a 12.1in, 1,280 x 800 resolution display it bears all the hallmarks of the ThinkPad brand: it's black, it's adorned in soft-touch plastic and it's built like a Roman road.
Indeed, outside of genuinely ruggedized notebooks, such as the ToughBooks from Panasonic, it's hard to think of a notebook brand that's as reassuringly rugged as a ThinkPad. Its magnesium alloy chassis and high quality plastics ensures every element of the machine is reassuringly sturdy and robust, while the 360 degree hinge for the screen has a smooth but secure action.
Nowhere is this quality more apparent, though, than in the keyboard. Though the X200t will obviously live or die on the quality of its tablet functionality, if being used as a conventional notebook its keyboard will serve it well. Keys have that firm and positive feel that defines the ThinkPad brand, setting the standard to which all other notebook keyboards are judged. There are desktop keyboards that can't even approach the level of comfort and feedback on offer here.
This is matched to a near flawless layout, the only blemish being the Fn key sitting outside the Ctrl key - an old tradition among ThinkPads. This keyboard is also spill-proof, so can deal with the occasional accident and won't be phased by the occasional spot of English rain or even snow, as has been the case recently.
One thing you will note, though, is the lack of a touchpad. This, in truth, seems an odd omission, but there still remains the traditional ThinkPad TrackPoint and accompanying buttons. These are hinged to provide the ideal tactile feedback, while the button in the middle enables you to scroll documents using the TrackPoint. As for the TrackPoint itself, it's ergonomically sized and more than accurate enough for regular use on the move, though most will probably want to use a mouse when deskbound.