Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2

What a thorough disappointment this thing has been.

On paper this tablet held promise as it had a few things I was looking for: good battery life and a stylus.

I know, I know, Styluses are not popular, but if you’ve ever tried drawing with your finger as opposed to using a stylus you know why one is desirable.

Years ago I owned a ThinkPad x41 Tablet PC, which was just before IBM sold the ThinkPad brand to Lenovo.  The x41 was a remarkable device for the era – a convertible laptop with a pressure sensitive sylus and Wacom digitizer.

This was back when Tablet PCs where a relatively new thing so there were definitely rough edges in the system, but one thing that worked nearly flawlessly was MS OneNote with stylus input.  It made taking digital handwritten notes so straightforward and simple.  Searching through them worked surprisingly well, finding search terms in roughly scrawled handwriting.

The ability to add diagrams and doodles and take notes free form was incredibly refreshing and I’ve yet to find anything that matches up with it.  When I found out about the ThinkPad Tablet 2 I thought it had everything I was looking for – stylus input, OneNote, long battery life, higher res screen and faster processor.

Unfortunately this combination fails to create any magic.  Almost every element of the experience is a disappointment.

First off is the screen – it’s higher res than the x41 which is nice, but its smaller, with a giant bezel that’s wastes tons of device space.  The 16×9 aspect ratio is unpleasant as everything feels like its squeezed between that fat bezel.

Then there’s windows 8.  I’m sure it works fine for lots of people, but it doesn’t feel like it’s there yet for me and I don’t feel motivated to put the time in to getting used to it.  It uses lots of whitespace which looks great when there’s room for it, but right now I’m typing this up in the evernote app and that whitespace means that this content is using only about 2/3rds of an already too-small screen.

Now how about the keyboard? yeah, this tablet has a keyboard which is one of the reasons it appealed to me.  The convertible format of the x41 meant that I could use it as a laptop and then fold the keyboard underneath the screen when I wanted to use it as a tablet.  The thinkpad Tablet 2 keeps the keyboard separate, which makes sense for keeping the device lighter, but yech.  Not an ideal setup.  The keyboard is a thick lump of plastic that connects to the tablet via Bluetooth.  Its has a surprisingly short battery life.  And unlike any other laptop the angle of the screen is completely unadjustable.  You have one angle to work with and that’s it.  Not ideal.

The keyboard weighs almost as much as the tablet and takes up at least as much space.  Contrast this with my 15 year old ThinkOutside Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard which is made of metal and yet weighs less and is more compact.

Finally we come to the processor. Obviously the Atom processor is not meant to be speedy, it’s meant to be good on battery life, which it generally is.  Yet I was expecting better from a performance standpoint.  My expectation was that even with a more efficient processor it would still ace the processor in my 10 year old tablet PC, but unfortunately it just doesn’t feel like it does.  Scrolling web sites lags and it just feels too underpowered.

Maybe I bought a year or two early, I don’t know.  As far as I’m concerned there still isn’t the ideal artists tablet out there. Maybe it’s too much of a niche market, but the ideal device would be the right balance of responsive and inexpensive with great battery life.  The frustrating part is the X41 was so close that I hoped we would be there by now.  We aren’t.

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