Unfortunately, compared to its earlier X200t, Lenovo seems to have taken a small step back when it comes to usability of the X220 as a tablet. Starting off with the hinge, though its action is perfectly smooth and solid, it is no longer bi-directional – one of the main factors that set its predecessor above rival convertible tablet laptops.
The number of buttons below the screen has shrunk from four to three, dropping the rather handy orientation-lock button (at least when screen rotation is set to automatic and uses the tilt sensor). Also, the power button is now the same shape and size as the other two (manual screen rotation and the equivalent of Ctrl+Alt+Del), making it too easy to press the wrong one. We can't help but wish Lenovo had given us a programmable button, like with the Packard Bell Butterfly Touch.
The X220T's screen supports both capacitive touch and a stylus through Wacom's digitizer. Touch is very responsive and the screen's solid glass front makes moving your finger around effortless. Naturally, multi-touch and gesture control are supported, though we found gestures didn't register quite as easily as with some other devices we've tested, such as the Galaxy Tab to pick a random example. The screen coating is very good at minimizing the effects of greasy fingerprints, and after a full day's use smudging was only distractingly visible against dark backgrounds.
Lenovo's customizable SimpleTap software can be launched from a permanent tab, or through a gesture on the screen or trackpad. It works well, offering quick touch control over volume, brightness, wireless radios, screen rotation and letting you disable capacitive touch altogether. You can also add launch icons for any software you wish. It's by far the least obtrusive and most usable touch interface we've come across barring HP's TouchSmart suite on its tm2 convertible.
If you don't want to get prints on your screen or wish to engage in some writing or sketching, a stylus awaits in its spring-loaded compartment, and you can just press its red eraser head to pop it out. Thanks to Wacom's patented Penabled technology it doesn't need batteries, and hovering it near the screen prevents the tablet from recognising input from your fingers or palms, allowing you to scribble without worries.
The thin pen is quite comfortable, and is coated in the same soft finish as the lid and inner screen bezel. It will recognise 512 pressure levels, which might not seem like much compared to the 2,048 levels of a Wacom Intuos 4 graphics tablet but is adequate for sketching and light drawing. Considering the price of a Cintiq (a monitor with Intuos built-in) this is an interesting alternative for artists who want to see what they draw where they draw it, with the added advantage of mobility.