Let’s take a quick tour around the sides of Lenovo’s Android tablet. Discreetly tucked away on the left you’ll find the stylus slot, which is simply a hole in the tablet (with a rubber plug for those who don’t opt for the optional stylus). There’s also a responsive volume rocker, while the power button resides up top. On the right we have both full-size, encrypted SD card reader and SIM card slot behind a hinged flap, followed by a proprietary docking port, microUSB, mini-HDMI, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Finally, on the bottom a sliding door protects the USB 2.0 port. Unfortunately, the tablet’s bottom is a very awkward place to have a port that you’ll want to use to plug in memory sticks or peripherals. Its location is to accommodate the aforementioned Folio Keyboard case, which works over USB rather than Bluetooth, but we wish Lenovo had placed the docking port on the tablet’s base and used that instead, leaving the USB port on the side or top. This niggle aside, the ThinkPad is the best-connected tab on the market barring the Toshiba Thrive.
Getting to the ThinkPad’s screen, IPS and other high quality panel types are becoming the de facto standard on premium tablets and this one is no exception. The 10.1in 1,280×800, IPS display used here shows all the expected strengths including excellent viewing angles, subtle gradients and reasonably accurate colours. It’s roughly comparable with that found on the first-generation Asus Transformer, though a little backlight bleed does somewhat spoil the party – but it’s only noticeable when displaying very dark content. It’s also worth keeping in mind that though the screen is quite bright, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Transformer Prime. Still, compared to most rivals it more than holds its own.
As is standard for tablets, audio is mediocre. Unlike some the ThinkPad manages audible volume levels, but we would still recommend headphones for a bit of punch and detail.
Of course front and rear cameras are also part of the package, and though the rear 5MP one produces the usual mediocre results we’ve come to expect from tablets, the 2MP shooter at the front is slightly above average, and just about usable for video chatting or conferencing.
An unusual feature for a Honeycomb (Android 3.1) tablet is that Lenovo has given its ThinkPad physical buttons, many of which essentially duplicate the virtual ones already present in the OS. Along the right/bottom (depending on if you hold the tablet in landscape or portrait) edge we have Home, Back, Internet and Orientation buttons.
Orientation is undoubtedly handy, and having a dedicated button is a life-saver. The others also come in surprisingly handy; when navigating in landscape mode especially, it’s easier to press one of these than Honeycomb’s soft equivalent. The buttons offer a nice click and are designed to work only when pressing inwards, which helps to avoid accidental presses when holding the tablet with your right hand.