Lenovo ThinkPad X41

18 Oct 2005

Product: Tablet PC
Prce: €2,299
Even before you get to the many features of Lenovo’s ThinkPad tablet PC, the thing that strikes you on first grappling with it and again on repeated operation, is just how easy it is to use. It’s not an intimidating piece of kit by any means.

Lenovo has wisely opted to make the X41 a convertible that works either as a standard laptop or as a tablet PC. The screen tilts on a single pivot, so that even when in traditional mode it can be adjusted depending on the user’s sitting position. At a push it could be used for one-to-one presentations, as the screen tilts through 170 degrees. When used as a true tablet or ‘slate’, the display locks into position flat on top of the keyboard.

Basically you get a perfectly serviceable notebook or a tablet PC for when you’re feeling adventurous. It’s light yet sturdy with a decent-sized display relative to the computer as a whole. The keyboard is extremely comfortable and I have to confess to being something of a fan of the pointer, preferring them to trackpads or trackballs.

To get the tablet down to its fighting weight, some trade-offs were inevitable: the X41 runs on a low-voltage processor that is lighter and takes less out of the battery, but there’s not quite as much poke in it as some other laptops. In general though these occasional technical shortcuts don’t feel too much like compromises. Wireless connectivity comes built in, which is another plus.

The X41 isn’t too heavy when cradled in one arm while writing. It comes with a stylus for inputting text and once it’s near the screen, the stylus is intuitively sensed and the mouse cursor moves according to where the pen goes: a nice touch. The tablet responds differently depending on what hand you write with. The windows menu appears on the left-hand side of the screen for a right-handed person and vice versa.

Tablet PCs are your classic niche hardware – they tend to be found in places such as schools or hospitals (Tallaght Hospital in Dublin uses them). But with handwriting recognition up to this level it’s not a massive leap of faith to imagine, say, journalists toting them at press conferences, where they could transcribe speeches or presentations directly into a usable electronic document.

While the software learned to interpret my scrawl, early attempts at handwriting were a source of amusement as much as anything. It had a few problems beefing – sorry, that should read ‘keeping up’ – with my notes but it settled down before long to being very reliable. I’m not sure I’d ditch the paper notebook just yet, but the day that I do has suddenly got much closer.

If you’re not prepared to take the plunge and use the X41 as anything other than a standard laptop it’s possibly a bit pricey, but if the work lends itself to pen input then it’s an option well worth considering.

By Gordon Smith