Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Review - Interface, Stylus and Software Review

Getting to the ThinkPad Tablet’s interface, mostly it’s standard Honeycomb (Android 3.1), but Lenovo has made a few very welcome and carefully thought-out customisations. The central home screen, for example, has a fully customisable central launch panel providing access to five “zones”, which by default are Watch (AKA Video), Listen (AKA Music), Email and Read, around a central browser launcher. To either side of this panel, mini buttons let you set the zones to launch anything of your choice and access Android’s Settings menu. The optional digitizer stylus works perfectly throughout the interface, so is a complete alternative to your fingers – unlike on some rival devices where the styli only work for notes and drawing.

Indeed, the stylus is what really sets Lenovo’s business tablet apart from most 10.1in competitors, and is a viable reason to get one over the award-winning Asus Transformer Prime. In addition to Documents To Go for word editing and productivity, Lenovo provides Notes Mobile for turning hand-written into machine text, and overall the combination of stylus and software do an admirable job, even with some of the worse handwriting in the office.

Though Lenovo has been a long-time supporter of Wacom’s digitizers (as found on the ThinkPad X220 Tablet), unfortunately the company has gone with N-trig for its Android tablet – as, to be fair, has nearly every other manufacturer to offer a non-capacitive, pressure-sensitive input on a device sporting Google’s OS. Compared to Wacom’s solutions, N-trig styli lack a dedicated eraser, are heavier and bulkier, and require an AAAA battery. More importantly for artistic types, the N-trig only supports 256 pressure levels, compared to 512 on Wacom’s mobile offerings. Still, we gather Samsung had to put in a bit of effort to make the Wacom-based SmartPen on its Galaxy Note work with Android, so we can’t blame Lenovo too much.

So what’s the ThinkPad like for artists and designers? The tablet’s smooth glass surface isn’t as nice to work on as the likes of the Samsung Series 7 Slate 700T’s softer screen, the available software isn’t as powerful as Windows solutions, and the pen is not as responsive. Sometimes the N-trig stylus didn’t pick up our movements accurately, and unlike Wacom solutions palm rejection doesn’t always work.

However, having said all that, it’s still perfectly usable even for some relatively delicate drawing. The screen’s 1,280 x 800 resolution is nice to work on, and being able to use your fingers for zooming and other commands while drawing (thanks to N-trig’s DuoSense tech) is very handy. If you adjust your style to suit the technology’s limitations and use a proper application that supports the stylus’ pressure sensitivity like SketchBook Pro, we would go so far as to say that this ThinkPad is probably the best artist’s tablet for its price (the Galaxy Note’s screen is a tad too small to be ideal).

It’s also worth quickly mentioning some of the pre-installed apps. Highlights include McAfee Mobile Security, which provides anti-virus and malware protection; Absolute Software, which can remotely wipe data if your tablet is lost or stolen and hopefully track it; Mobile Notes for handwriting with the stylus; and Docs to Go for office productivity including spreadsheets, presentations and documents.

Perhaps even more welcome is the Lenovo App Shop. While the standard Google App Store includes many potentially harmful apps as there is no control on submitted content, the selection available at Lenovo’s Shop has been vetted to ensure it’s virus and mal-ware free. Potentially, businesses can also limit which apps employees will have access to.

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