Regarding general performance, the ThinkPad puts in a similar showing to most dual-core Tegra 2-based tablets. The Asus Transformer Prime has moved the goal-posts with its more powerful quad-core Tegra 3 internals, but to be fair most rivals, even if they’re new entrants like the Motorola Xoom 2 and Sony Tablet P, still use Nvidia’s ‘last-gen’ platform.
In practical terms, most tablet applications will run just fine. All Android games will play smoothly, though they won’t look as pretty as the enhanced titles for Tegra 3. Video is the only area where Tegra 2-based devices really suffer. Using the correct video player you may coax smooth 720p play back from the ThinkPad Tablet, but intensive 720p or Full HD video won’t be on the menu.
You would have thought that the ThinkPad’s bulk would have allowed Lenovo to squeeze more battery life from its Android tablet, but when it comes to time away from a plug this device is comparable to most rivals at around eight hours of video playback at 50 percent screen brightness (HD video playback with Wi-Fi turned on resulted in just over five hours).
You can just about squeeze out nine with less intensive usage, disabling wireless radios and keeping the screen dimmer. It’s a real pity Lenovo didn’t follow the Asus Transformer’s lead in giving its keyboard attachment an extra battery, especially since business users are more likely to need lengthy battery life than your average consumer.
So finally, how does Lenovo’s premium tablet hold up in the value stakes? For the basic 16GB Wi-Fi edition you’ll pay £420 direct from Lenovo (retailers are selling it for far more, oddly enough), though adding 3G puts this up to £500. The 32GB and 64GB versions with 3G are £580 and a whopping £660 respectively, but we would just use the tablet’s memory card slot to add more storage rather than pay such amounts.
The ThinkPad tablet in its Folio Keyboard Case (bottom) compared to the original Asus Transformer (top).
Of course, £420 for the tablet alone is already more than many rival devices – even the 16GB iPad 2 is under £400. However, only the Toshiba Thrive can match the ThinkPad’s connectivity, and doesn’t begin to match its screen. That aside, it’s the optional extras that really make Lenovo’s tablet.
The pen will set you back £28, while the Keyboard Folio is £68. With stylus, a £448 ThinkPad tablet is a very attractive option for those who like to sketch, draw or doodle, while the entire package for £517 will give you the most versatile (if not the best) tablet going. It’s also worth remembering that a 16GB ThinkPad with pen and 64GB SDHC card will only set you back around £500 for what is essentially an 80GB device, while a 64GB Wi-Fi iPad 2 costs £560.
If, on the other hand, you don’t need the pen, 3G or business features of the ThinkPad, the £499 Asus Transformer Prime is a more attractive and powerful proposal.
Its chunky profile and weight mean Lenovo’s executive ThinkPad Tablet isn’t for everyone, but its unique combination of class-leading connectivity, ruggedness, charging over USB, a pressure-sensitive stylus and keyboard folio accessory make it the most versatile option on the market. It also offers many business-centric features such as pre-installed Anti-virus and a vetted Lenovo app market that makes for worry-free downloading. As a tablet the Transformer Prime is superior, but if you’re a business user or a consumer who wants a stylus and the best typing experience going, the ThinkPad comes highly recommended. We can’t wait to see a slimmer sequel with Tegra 3 and a Wacom digitizer.