To bring you this world-exclusive review we're using a pre-production sample, but it should reflect the quality of the final product.
As you may have noticed, there has been a surge in the popularity of tablets recently. Thanks largely to the original Apple iPad, the tablet market is seeing innumerable entrants, a few of which we covered in our recent iPad2 VS the world article. However, for those who are serious about work as well as play, and who want something that can be a 'proper' computer when necessary, the rarer convertible tablet laptop is still the way to go, offering a swivel screen which can fold down across the keyboard to morph into a slate. With a glorious 12.5in capacitive IPS screen (the same panel type found in professional monitors like the HP DreamColor LP2480zx and, for that matter, the iPad) and Wacom digitizer, rugged exterior, all-day battery life and Intel's Sandy Bridge processors inside, Lenovo's new ThinkPad X220 Tablet may well be the one to rule them all.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of choice in the convertible laptop field. We've looked at quite a few of the available entries: the Packard Bell Butterfly Touch and Acer Aspire 1825P TZ are both decent choices if you're on a budget and must have a tablet, but their Core 2-based CPUs felt slow even last year and they don't offer pen input. The HP TouchSmart tm2 also suffers from dated graphics and processing power, and though it has a Wacom digitizer built-in, its screen's dreadful viewing angles let it down badly.
With the X220T, all these shortcomings are not applicable. Lenovo has fixed our issues with the original X200t to make for easily one of the best convertible tablet laptops available – in fact, it wouldn't be far wrong to say it's one of the best laptops in general.
Design-wise, the first word that may spring to mind is utilitarian. If you think the traditional ThinkPad angular black lines look good, this latest model isn't likely to change your mind, but it may be a little too industrial for some people's tastes. Though its protruding battery (at least if you go for the larger eight-cell option) does add an unsightly bulge, it's also moulded to be a comfortable handgrip for holding the X220T in tablet mode.
It sports the ThinkPad trademark soft-touch finish on its lid, which lends it a premium feel that's both ergonomic and very rugged. The inside is entirely finished in lightly textured matt black plastic, except for an inner bezel around the screen which is soft-touch like the lid, making it more comfortable for tablet use. Two soft but sturdy protrusions that slot into matching slots in the bezel ensure the screen will never rotate accidentally, while a protruding lip at the screen's top makes it easier to open.
ThinkPad build quality is legendary, and for good reason. We're glad to say that the X220T is no exception: plastics are as solid as they come, there's not even a hint of unwanted flex or creak, and the rotating screen hinge is strong and sure. The only exception is the extra button strip above the keyboard, but that could be due to the pre-production nature of our sample.